Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It all fit on one page!

Kizmet.  Serendipity.  Destiny.  Meant to be.  Sometimes a gift comes along that you know you were meant to have.  

I don’t know if my running gave me her friendship, or if her friendship gave me running.  They are mixed together like coffee and cream, like sugar in tea--dissolving into each other, each making the other better.  She’s my best friend.  

For all of us, friendship matters in our quality of life, but I’ve never found this more true for me than in my days as a stay-at-home mom.  It can be a lonely time, because between the moments of blissed-out motherhood are unparalleled doldrums and disconnection.  So maybe it was desperation that made me do it.  When this preschool mom came to me with the idea of running a marathon, I said yes.  

My first impression of her was that she was petite (a body-type that has always greened me with envy), and that she possessed the self-assured friendliness (again, making me green) that puts a person at ease.  In contrast, I’m a strange breed of extroverted introvert, or introverted extrovert.  I love people; they cheer me up, motivate me, and give me something to look forward to...until I need to run away and hide in a hole for a few hours or days to recuperate from social exertion.  I am an extro-intro.  (I’m officially copyrighting the shortening of introverted and extroverted to intro and extro.)

She was a young mom too, staying home with her kiddos.  She had been a runner in high school.  She was smart, which was apparent from our first conversation, and she was nice.  (She’ll swear she’s not, but don’t believe her.)  Apparently I fooled her into thinking I had some mix of running nice-smartness in me too, so when she overheard me mention that I had run a few half-marathons (or maybe she saw me wear one of my race shirts), she suggested I step it up and run the whole shebang.  26.2 miles.  The distance between Marathon and Athens that killed Pheidippides when he ran it.  She ignored my “by-the-time-I’m-forty” delay tactic, and hammered the last nail in my coffin the next day by bringing in a handwritten 5-month plan, charting every run and rest day, that would make me marathon-ready.  And it all fit on one page!

How did she know I would be convinced by the optical illusion of fitting it all on one sheet of paper?  Do I look that gullible?  How could she guess that I was thirsty for the implicit offer of friendship and support during the process?  Did I look that desperate?  Maybe so.  I’m so glad.  Because by scratching out, with thick, deep pen-scratches, everyone of those 88 training runs on that itsy-bitsy piece of paper--okay, I skipped a couple--I made it to race day.  I became a marathoner.  And that offer of friendship?  She more than made good on it.

Better than good.  For every marathon I’ve run, she’s run the race too.  She’s speedier than the Road Runner, so she always finishes with enough time to spare to refuel, rest up just a bit, and yes even fit in a quick shower, before she retraces her hard-earned miles to meet me and run me in as I finish my race in a state of tearful, expletive-laden decay.  

And during training, she celebrates my strong long runs and talks me off the ledge when  a slow short run with lead-heavy legs makes me feel like a loser and a fraud.  

And when a little stress in my life makes me feel like I’m metaphorically running up a mountain, she reminds me to be grateful.  Because our uphill is the rest of the world’s downhill, and on a bad day I’ve got it better than 99.9% of the world, and people wish they had my problems.

And as my kids grow, she sees and knows them and their beauty and accomplishments, and she offers her own children to them as true, dear friends.

And when my dad was so sick we didn’t know if he would make it through the night, I knew I could call her so my kids could stay over at her house and Gene could sit with me through those hard and scary hours.  I didn’t even have to ask; I knew she was there for me to give me what I needed, damn the disruption to her schedule or routines.

And she understands that though I am often conflicted and confused, I can be trusted to act from conviction.  And she believes that writing my blog isn’t a waste of my time and reading it isn’t a waste of hers.  And she listens when I ramble, and laughs with me when I laugh at myself.  She’s patient with me as I learn how to be a better listener.  She’s present for me as I learn to live in the moment.

We’re different.  She’s fast; I’m slow.  She’s skinny; I’m not.  I cling; she relaxes.  I believe in God; she doesn’t.  None of it changes the gift I’ve gotten.  She’s my best friend, and I aspire to be worthy of being hers.  To listen as well as she does and support like she can and live with the hard-won, easy strength she emulates.

There is one thing I’m better at than she is.  I brag; she doesn’t.  You see, becoming a marathoner has taught me a lot about my own strength and capacity.  Therefore, I believe it is a virtue to celebrate my accomplishments loudly in the presence of others.  By doing so, I strip myself of the excuses that might keep me from trying harder or doing the right thing.  So today, I’m gonna finish this blog by bragging for her.  She deserves it:

3:05 marathon finishing time
10th female finisher overall
1st in her age division

That’s my best friend!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Kinda cool.  And Scher coined the perfect word for capturing the ups and downs of long distance running: ecstagony:-)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Controlled Crash

Not everything went my way in Portland.  I ran a marathon, my third now.  I was 8.5 minutes faster than my first, and less than 5 minutes behind my best time.  Not too shabby.  Still, I didn’t run the race I wanted to run.  I took too much for granted, and my pace suffered for it. 

I am five pounds lighter than when I ran the marathon in May.  I prioritized maintaining the lighter weight, so I didn’t eat enough in the week leading up to the race.  I took for granted that a slightly lighter running weight would lead to speed (5 seconds faster per mile per pound lost, or so I’ve read).  I certainly consumed a considerable amount of simple carbs, mac ‘n cheese, more mac ‘n cheese, bread with honey, pasta, and on and on.  That was fun!  But I skipped breakfast too often.  Thanks to bad timing this month, my appetite was low and my iron was low, and I should have just eaten a bit more.  My awesome running friend and marathon weekend partner informs me that tapering and fueling correctly before a marathon results in approximately four pounds of weight gain.  See...being fatter sometimes makes you faster.

Also, I trained well here in Colorado.  Five thousand plus feet of altitude.  Plenty of elevation gain in my training runs.  Faster long runs than I’ve ever managed before; I ran my 24-miler a month ago at an average pace of 11:05.  Typically, a person can run 30-90 seconds faster per mile on race day, thanks to adrenaline and recovery from tapering.  I took for granted that running at sea level would give me a great edge.  But I didn’t add speed work or pace runs--scary stuff those.  So the 10:20 pace I maintained for the first 15 miles blew up in my face at mile 16.  

In addition to my own training complacency and fueling mishaps, I drew a hand of plain bad luck.  On the morning of my marathon, my Garmin went kaput.  Crap-o-la! It was charged, checked and double-checked, then when I went to put it on, the display was blank.  Nothing.  I tried pressing the light button, the start button, two buttons at once, holding down for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc, etc, etc.  Total blank.  We quizzed people in the elevator, but no suggestion helped.  I was grateful for the extra stopwatch my friend had along.  She surrendered it to me for the duration of the race, and coupled with a pace chart on my wrist, I managed to run way too fast for my own good.  I’d like to say I’d have run smarter with my Garmin.  I certainly wish I could have had the chance to try.  Thankfully, the stopwatch kept me informed along the way, but it couldn’t save me when the hill at mile 16 made me face the music.

So I went out too fast.  I planned to run a 10:30-10:40 pace for the first 13-20 miles, then amp it up if I had something left.  Instead, I blazed through the first 15 miles at a 10:18-ish pace.  I always go out too fast.  I feel fresh, fabulous, and fast.  I forget that I have 5 hours and 26.2 miles to go.  I ignore my brain and start wishing for miracles, but I didn’t get any this time around.  Instead of a miracle, I got a mountain.

There was a hill at mile 16, 1 mile long and 150 feet up.  I’ve done tougher in my training, but this time around I was depleted.  I felt light-headed, dizzy, and hollow.  The 16th mile is a scary place for a hill: too late in the race to feel strong and fresh, but way too early to attack it with my last reserves.  I chose to walk the hill.  My pace suffered for the rest of the race, and walk breaks every mile were 1-3 minutes instead of 30 seconds.  Thankfully, the gross goo I ingested at 18 helped.  Eventually.

The last and scariest challenge of my Portland marathon had everything to do with breathing.  My thin air, oxygen-deprived existence in the Mile High City couldn’t save me.  My blood sugar levels were so low by the end of the race that my emotions were leaking out of me, then flowing out of me, then pouring flood-like and torrential.  Every quarter- to half-mile, my tears would seep into my eyes and threaten to spill.  My chin would tighten and quiver.  And then my throat would close.  I truly understand now why it is called getting “choked up.”  My airway would collapse and I couldn’t get it open until I restrained my emotion.  I said to myself, “It’s okay.  Today’s not your day.  You have to let the goal go.  Let it go.  You’ll finish under 5 hours.  And you’ll keep running.”  I reminded myself that I was accomplishing a great thing, not experiencing a failure.  I would find my self-acceptance, then find a deep breath.  My best friend, who had already run herself to death in her race, came back to meet me, as she always does.  She ran me in for the last mile plus.  My first words to her were, “I’m gonna hold it together.”  And I did.

I crashed on Sunday.  Events conspired against me, my training fell a bit short, and my fueling was insufficient.  It wasn’t my fastest finish, but it was my proudest.  I call it my Sully Sullenberger moment.  He’s the pilot that landed a 747 on the Hudson, saving the lives of everyone on board.  He controlled the crash and brought ‘er in.  Me, too.  I definitely crashed, but I controlled it.  The last five miles were faster than the five before them.  I cried like a baby...after the finish line.  And now I have a really good reason to put my shoes back on.  I’m gonna tweak my training, reevaluate my fueling, and run another marathon.  And another.  And another.  Woohoo!  Shit.  :-)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Run for the People.

This is not a Che-MLK-Gandhi kind of statement.  This is an honest, selfish, greedy statement that lacks altruism entirely.  I run to feel good, to be healthy, to eat indulgently, and to brag boorishly.  But above all, I run for the people.  If you want to meet cool people, run.  Nice people?  Run.  Inspiring people?  Run.  If you want to have complete strangers cheer you, encourage you, hand you candy corn, gummy bears, and, yes, even Vaseline to smear in unmentionable places...run.  If you want to like people again, instead of just grumble or cuss at them on the highway or in the grocery store, run.  And Portland is a great place to do this.

Portland, Oregon is a great little city.  I love the manageable scale and the temperate weather.  We had great racing conditions.  Moreover, the spirit and ethos of Portland is lovely.  The transit system includes a sizable free zone, and functions well with an honor system for payment.  Riders jump out of their seats to offer a chair to older riders, moms, etc.  And the senior ticket is labeled “Honored Citizen.”  Lovely.  Not to mention that on race day the course was packed in downtown and in neighborhoods with loads of people, families, and volunteers (4,000 of them).  For every 3 marathoners, there was a volunteer making things run smoothly.  Thank you, people of Portland!

Then there are a few people who stand out.  At mile 18, a guy stood in the drizzle to hold a sign that said, “Go, Complete Stranger, Go!”  Sir, this complete stranger thanks you.  And at mile 24, when I was holding on for dear life, a guy on the sidewalk locked eyes with me and saw the state I was in.  He took a step forward, read my name on my bib, and said, “Amanda, you look like a train right now, passing these people.  Keep going!”  I nearly wept...seriously; this is not an overstatement. 

And it gets better!  Runners are amazing people, and I met some standouts this weekend.  On the plane to Portland, my friend and I found ourselves next to a fellow marathoner.  He was flying to Portland for his first marathon, and to propose to his girlfriend.  She had started him training for the marathon, and believing he had this feat in him, and believing he had a happily-ever-after in him, too.  But the ring wasn’t ready, and he was stewing in his own juices with disappointment and nervousness.  My friend and I jumped in, intervening with a quick trip to a department store where we found a cheap stand-in ring that we left at the expo for our new friend and his unsuspecting bride-to-be.  He proposed at the finish line, she said yes, and we got a text saying she was wearing that chintzy ring around like it was the most precious thing in the world.  Yippee! 

Then on the plane ride home, we sat next to another marathoner, all three of us a bit hobbly.  He’s a doctor, so you’d think he’s a smart guy.  Well...he ran the marathon because of an agreement made in a hot tub...real smart, Doc.  Look what you got yourself into.  So this Denver doctor, whose girlfriend is an avid marathoner and a doctor in Boston, flew out to be with other doctor friends who live in Portland.  Their reunion, and uninhibited hot tub time, led to marathon finishes all around.  Four friends marked their marathon milestone by planting a row of trees (gifts from the very eco-friendly Portland Marathon) in one of their front yards.  That row of trees will memorialize their friendships, their achievements, and their balls-out insanity, all of which I hope will grow sky-high with the trees.  Well done, Docs!

I’ll give the break down of my break down (yes, it was that kind of race for me) in the next few days, but the most important thing I can say about my marathon weekend is this.  I run for the people.  For the likes of Collin and Mike, and the guy with the sign saying, “Go, Complete Stranger, Go!”  I run to have someone look me in the eye, see that I am spent, past-spent, drained and double-drained, and tell me I can when I think I can’t.  Why should he care?  He shouldn’t, but he did.  We all care about each other, because the journey is shared.  We understand each other and support each other because we know together is better than alone.  That bears repeating.  Together is better than alone.

Monday, September 26, 2011


My head is freakishly small and my shoulders are football player wide.  My arms and thighs are thick; my eyelashes are thin.  My legs are short; my ass is large.  I’m all out of proportion.

But if you take me in at a glance you won’t notice the shortcomings.  I’ll smile, you’ll find me pleasant.  Occasionally, you might see the goofy.  Something will seem a little bit hall-of-mirrors, but you won’t quite be able to put your finger on it.  It’s nothing to worry about or waste time on.  These little flaws are forgettable.  Predictable beauty, perfect proportions--it’s just too obvious for me.  Boring.  Kind of a trap, really.  What happens when time, or babies, or accidental dismemberment steals it away?  I’d rather be a little odd, and able to hold on to my appearance in an open palm.  Why blow it’s importance  out of proportion?

Like my looks, my running is all out of proportion.  I’m unpredictably slow in shorter distances, then able to pull off (given slow training times) surprisingly respectable marathon finishes.  My fastest mile ever is only a minute faster than my mile pace for a marathon.  No pace wheel can predict my finish.  I’m surprisingly fast for someone so painfully slow.  Thankfully, this allows me to relax about my running accomplishments.

So I’m gearing up for marathon #3.  In two weeks, it will all be over.  I’m hoping for a personal best; most runners are at most every race.  But it could be hot.  It could be cold and rainy.  I could twist my ankle, or get a sick stomach, or go out too fast, or go out too slow to get the time back.  The Portland Hills fault zone could unleash its fury on us all in a massive earthquake.  A lot could happen that I can’t control, but I’m trying to not allow my worries to get blown all out of proportion. 

I’ve trained and tapered, I’ve fueled and focused.  Now, I just have to take this oddly proportioned, strangely paced, worry-wart self to the start line and let ‘er rip.  Portland Marathon, October 9, 2011.  Keep me in your thoughts, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Welcome to the Hurt

Or "The Painful Consequences of the Insane Pastime of Long Distance Running"
  1. winter training, which includes walking in the front door and being mistaken for the abominable snowman
  2. summer training, which includes heat rash, sunburn, and a serious farmer’s tan (there isn’t a sunscreen I can’t sweat off)
  3. a weakened immune system that invariably leads to a cold at the peak of training
  4. an occasional sore throat, not evidence of a cold but of the amount of time I spend sucking air down my windpipe like a deranged Hoover
  5. a general aura of stinkiness, in my hair, on my clothes, in the laundry basket (a morning shower has never been so important)
  6. 4 a.m. wake-up, because I’d rather run in the dark than have the glare of the sun in my eyes
  7. wearing a visor, which leaves a ridiculous tan line on my forehead and preserves for posterity the salty sweat lines and general dirty dank of my existence
  8. the knee ache
  9. the hamstring ache
  10. the quad ache
  11. the foot ache
  12. the side ache
  13. the head ache
  14. the back and neck ache (many of these have improved as my form has slightly improved...but sometimes when I’m lying perfectly still, I still feel like I’m running)
  15. the bathroom break, which produces a foul excrement worthy of being placed in a brown paper bag and left on the doorstep of Hell
  16. the wall, which I pretend doesn’t exist, but inevitably kicks in when I still have 5 to 10 miles to go
  17. the goo, meant to allow me to avoid the wall but only in exchange for activating my gag reflex...the stuff is nasty
  18. exhaustion, the yang to the runner’s high yin, which causes mild-mannered me to curse like a sailor in the last mile of a marathon
  19. the uphill to the finish line (why do they do that?)
  20. the shakes, an inevitable companion to the finish line; I think it is evidence of muscular post-traumatic stress disorder
  21. the post-race wobble; it looks something like the walk of a 9-month pregnant woman wobbling down a hospital hallway, baby fully engaged in the birth canal
  22. walking down stairs backward for a week
  23. watching my peak fitness fade in mere weeks (you gotta work it to keep it)
  24. the feeling of dread which accompanies the need to find another race (damn addictive hobby!)
  25. the time in between, when I miss the relentless training and well-earned ache...when I miss the hurt
I must be nuts!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Favorite Running Mantras

mantra [mahn-truh] noun: a word or formula chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer;  chant, psalm, hymn

There is no wall.
I can.  I will.  I am.  (Thanks, Chrissy!)
It gets done by doing it.
Head up, chest up, quick turnover.
This is my race.
You’re stronger than you think you are; you can do more than you think you can. (Thanks, Jamie!)
Get ‘er dunn.
Bragging rights for life!
Thank You.

What am I missing?  Do you have an exercise mantra?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm a running sinner!  I am a heretic to my own mantra, "Exercise is for everyone!"  I did the unthinkable, fell to temptation, and committed the unpardonable transgression.  I dissed another runner in my heart.

The Evergreen Town Race is a beautiful, downhill 5k & 10k that rolls through and gently down a mountain road on a golden morning once a year.  It is the prettiest scenery I've encountered in a race, and (Bonus!) it can be enjoyed at an easy, coasting slope downward.  Also, it is over after just 6.2 miles--a cakewalk for a marathoner like me.  Six miles is an easy run, a blip in my day, a roll-outta-bed, don't-give-it-a-thought jaunt.  A couple weekends ago, I gave myself the pleasure of enjoying this race.  What a delight, right?

Yes and no.  I finished strong. I ran my most strategic race yet, finishing with guts and gusto, earning a time I'm happy to call mine.  But in the middle of the race I turned into a devil.  The mountains were lovely, the amber sunlight warm but not hot.  I was running at a steady clip, a little fast--perfect pacing for race day.  Next to me was this guy, in long black shorts and a garish yellow tank.  With a belly that, on me, would have indicated a third trimester pregnancy.  He hung in there with me for 4 miles; he sweated, grunted, sucked air, and gave a woop of celebration at each mile marker at our respectable pace.  He is the kind of runner I relate to, and cheer for, and write this blog for.  He is answering the call to represent all runners--to prove anyone can do it, our bodies are made for it, and it feels better than it hurts.  And I resented him. 

On that day, during that race, I forgot the beauty around me, the power of inclusion, and the victory of just finishing.  I ignored my belief that big runners are the best thing to happen to running and health in America this millenium.  Deep in every muscle fiber and fat cell, I want everyone to feel at home in a pair of sneakers.  But on that day, I just wanted to run with the cool kids.  I didn't want to be the fat marathoner, still.

I mean, come on!  I've finished dozens of double-digit mileage runs.  I've completed a marathon or half-marathon for every digit on my hands.  I've suffered and worked sooooo much, and I'm still running next to "that guy."  Damn it!

See?  I suck.  I slipped.  My attitude did not reflect my faith--in running for all, in exercise for everyone.  This went way past a competitive spirit and into ugly-spiritedness.  Mea culpa.  I'm so sorry yellow-tank-man.  You rocked on race day!  I wish I'd said it to you during the miles we shared, or learned your name, or heard a little of your story.  It was way too easy for me to despise my idea of you, full of impression and assumption.  It's a lot harder to look down on an actual person.  My discomfort with you was really discomfort with myself.  I don't care about your gut as much as my butt, which still challenges my self-acceptance.

Having been so guilty, it seems fitting to me I'm now entering the hard stage of marathon training.  It will be my purgatory.  I will use the suffering of long runs, sore muscles, and groaning knees for purification.  Expiation, really.  I haven't just become unclean; I owe amends, restoration for wrongs.  I need to rediscover a (self-)love unaffected by size.  Time to get my heart right. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Magic Hour

I mess things up in extremely consistent ways.  Whether I’m racing or dieting, I go out hard and fall flat by the end.  In the same way that racing is the competitive form of running, dieting is the competitive form of eating.  In both instances, I compete with myself and skinny girls. 

My first mile or two in a race (or the first 10 in the case of a marathon) are always too fast.  Adrenaline and hopefulness kick in and control me.  My energy stores are high, seemingly bottomless, until they’re not.  Similarly, in the first hours of every day, dieting doesn’t scare me.  After years of skipping breakfast, dining on a little something, preferably containing whole grains and a little protein, is a treat.  My determination is strong, seemingly unending, until it’s not.

So toward the end of every race, and the end of every day, all of my intentions and designs, goals and strategies, go out the window.  I slow down.  I dive in.

Because I like gratification!  I want to have my cake and eat it to...the whole thing, thank you very much, with lots of frosting.  When it comes to running, I can forgive myself because the only win I’m after is crossing the finish line.  However, my weight is a different story.  The good news is I’m not dysfunctional about it.  I have a weight loss goal in the single digits; I’ll still be closer to 200 pounds than 100 pounds.  I use the term “dieting” loosely because I actually oppose dieting.  I’m simply trying to, as Michael Pollan says, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  But given my predilection for Snickers and chocolate peanut butter ice cream, this takes actual effort for me.

I start strong, then weaken.  At the end of the race and at the end of the day.  Bedtime: the magic hour.  The kiddos are washed up and read to and tucked in and loved on.  The quiet sets in and I decide to reward myself with the very thing that I was so determined to avoid at the beginning of the day.  And it is soooo good, for the 2 to 10 minutes it takes to eat it.   At which point, the gratification is over and the guilt sets in.  Why is food my favorite reward (and it is still my favorite reward)?  When did the magic hour become the sliver of time in which I’m left alone?  After all, I love and adore my family; they are my favorite people.  Ah, but sometimes silence is golden...and gratifying.

This morning, I read about the recent London riots, about the predominance of gratification in the actions of some of the looters, looking to get a groovy pair of shoes outta the bedlam.  Let me avoid semantics (and avoid the complex issues of justice, opportunity, and class involved in the riots) by saying that by gratification I mean that desire to experience a quick reward.  I mean the need for pleasure, for something that is good to your senses.  Gratification is great; I’m all for it.  Find ways of gratifying yourself!   (Did I just say that?)  But when I talk about gratification I mean something lesser than satisfaction, which comes with effort, and for me goes a bit deeper than the senses and into the soul.  Gratification is cheap and easy, and sometimes needs to be cast aside for something better, like gratitude.  If I’m getting preachy, please know that my audience is myself.

I will continue to need to decompress after the kids go to bed, and I will still allow myself a sweet treat two or three nights a week.  However, I’m trying to shift to just a single serving of the sweet treat, maybe try a glass of wine as a happy substitute on occasion.  And I’m trying to move my magic hour to the morning.  Silence and peace accompany me on my 5 a.m. runs.  The stars fade slowly into the lavender light of early morning.  The needs of other people are temporarily shelved.  I am able to hear myself think--sometimes long enough to have a thought worth remembering, or to say a prayer of thankfulness, or to gather enough gumption to put gratification into perspective.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why Blog?

*Seems like a good question to answer, especially after taking the whole month of July off.

Why blog?  I never thought I’d do it.  In fact, I’ve long thought it is the worst medium for me.  I want to write, to be a writer.  Who doesn’t these days?  However, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and maybe a bit of a prig. 

Perfectionism: I write a little then revise a lot, then sit on the results for several months only to return to it and revise some more.  I’ve got 15 pages of a young adult novel that I still dream about working on.  Just dreaming right now, though.  In order to give it the attention I want to give it, really work it into something I’m proud of, I want to wait until both babies are in school.  I fear neglecting them if I commit to working on writing now.  Worse, I have greater fear of writing in fits and starts only to produce something mediocre.  Let me add that up for you: I fear writing badly more than I fear neglecting my children.  I’m a horrible human being.  If writing well is such a need for me that I would risk ignoring my children’s needs, writing in the offhand, frequent way of blogging is simply a bad fit.  Right?

Priggishness: I love great works of literature.  My best friends growing up were authors, and stories formed me as much as people of flesh and blood.  When I visited my brilliant and accomplished Cambridge doctoral candidate sister, I stood in the Trinity College library, before a Shakespeare First Folio, and teared up.  I was breathless; I actually lost my ability to breathe for a moment.  I aspire to write well, in the vein of the classics.  I don’t expect to achieve greatness, but I don’t want to let go of aspiring to it.  Blogging is relaxed--full of transmutation, contradiction, and mess.  As a reader, I like the informality of blogs.  However, as a writer, I am terrified of the inescapability of writing something I will regret making public.  Probably on a weekly basis.  Yikes.

So why blog?  Why now and why about my running?  Let me start with the “why now?” question.  Why not now?  My only reason to continue putting off making the ramblings public is fear, and I’m not comfortable with fear having too much room in my life.  So I’m embracing my skill at self-deprecation and self-revelation rather than hoarding it in yet another draft on my hard drive. 

Why the blogosphere?  I guess that’s obvious.  Who’s gonna publish me but me?  Besides, I like the democratization of readers choosing to follow or not without a dime of investment, marketing, or media blitz in the mix. 

And why running?  Why make this little hobby of mine the focus of my time and yours?  After all, I slog through miles ungracefully and slow.  No inspiring triumph at the end of this story; I won’t be working my way to a 30-pound weight loss and a Boston qualifying time.  But my running is my own, peppered always with moments of blissful self-forgetfulness or renewed self-empowerment. 

In writing about my running, I don’t risk those I love hating me for dragging them into my delusions of literary grandeur.  Myself as wife, mother, teacher, Christian...these identities are at my core.  However, they are not mine alone.  They are knit, warp and woof, into the stories of people more priceless and complex than my words can approach.  My  beloved babies, my heroic husband, my mom and dad, my sisters, my few friends who I hold as close to myself as family.  They are treasures that I will continue to lock in the box of my private life, safe and beautiful.  I read Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again when I was too young to see past the terrible risk of sacrificing one’s personal world to the universal good of art, which teaches us to love and understand humanity better, but in the abstract.  I’d like to keep my loved ones as concrete as possible, and let them be whole--not cleaved into pieces I can squeeze into paragraphs.

But I’ll tell you all about my running.  It’s just me out there, and times and distances, and embarrassing accidents, and even more embarrassing choices.  When it comes to myself, really I have no shame.  It should make for interesting reading...harmless, interesting reading.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Today running was a chore.  Yesterday and the day before, running was a chore.  I was a little sick over the weekend: sore throat, slight fever, kinda rundown, definitely tired.  The 8 mile run I did last Thursday plum near killed me...okay, I’m exaggerating, but I sure felt crummy afterwards.  I totally scrapped the 14-miler on my schedule for the weekend, and I won’t make it up.  Scrapping a long run in the middle of marathon training is not advisable.  But I was sick, and it’s summer so being sick sucks.  I rested.  That was the right decision.

So Monday rolled around and I had big plans to amp up my mileage so I could feel “back on track.”  I planned for 8 miles, then got out there and ran...3.  And they were slow, my legs were as heavy as a mastadon’s, and I felt every fraction of my feeble 1 degree fever.  Tuesday, I was more realistic, planning for 6, then I got out there and ran...4.  Ugh.  Finally, this morning, I managed 6 miles.  In a couple more days I have to slog out 14 miles one way or another.  I suspect I’ll manage it, with the help of frequent walk breaks, maybe a Snickers bar in the middle or something. 

The good news is I’m feeling better.  Healthier everyday, getting plenty of rest and hydration.  It was just a lousy blip of a bug. Still, running was a chore, and may continue to be a chore for a while.  I have never been able to anticipate which mornings would hold running magic...unexpected speed or a perfect sunrise or the feeling that Orion was perched in the sky just to cheer for me.  I hope I get a morning like that soon, but I never will if I stop running when it becomes a chore.

But here’s the thing about me and chores.  I hate them.  I feel genuine malice toward them; they do soul-crushing damage to me.  I have never met the person who enjoys them, who goes out of their way to enjoy a little vaccuuming or a good bed-making.  I’ve heard they exist, but they may deserve protected status because they are a rare and disappearing breed.  I belong to a different species:  non-home-making, would rather eat bon-bons, can deal with a little (or big) mess if it will save me a little time and energy, because even if I do it the dirt will come back and the bed will get slept in tonight anyways.  And that’s just the beginning of my problems with chores. 

Not only do I hate spending energy in the vortex of do-it-all-again-tomorrow activity, but I feel a sapping of my true nature when I do so.  I’m made for better than this, right?  I’ve heard the line about serving those you love in the small ways.  I know managing pesky responsibilities offers a reward of comfort and gratitude.  I understand that it’s part of being a good steward of my blessings.  Still.  I want to change the world, not rearrange my furniture.  If I prioritize chores, something happens in me that scares me: I find myself forgetting the sublime, only able to remember tasks.  When Martha takes over in me, Mary gets pushed all the way out.  And Martha is boring.

Some of my good friends, those women I admire for all the ways they are different than me, garden.  Some of them sew or paint.  Some of them now raise chickens for fresh eggs.  They are pioneer-strong, rocket-scientist-smart, makers-of-masterpieces, embodiments of grace and familial love.  And their houses are cleaner than mine.  But, darn it, this week I ran even when it was a chore.  So I’m not a hopeless case yet.  Gene, honey, no promises, but I’ll try to take all my chores a little bit more in stride.

Friday, June 17, 2011

S#%@ Happens.

Shit happens.  And I don't mean unexpected setbacks, like a turned ankle or swine flu.  I mean poop.  Number 2.  BMs.  I promised blackmail material, and today I intend to deliver.

Everyone should try running.  Our bodies are good at it; we are engineered for endurance and speed.  The benefits, even for casual joggers, are significant, like stronger heart and lungs and firmer asses.  It is cheap exercise that you can do right outside your door with just a decent pair of tennies.  Also, running a mile can be as personally rewarding as running a marathon.  I'm not sure what all you non-runners are waiting for, a personal invitation?  Here it is: join me in running.  I'd love to hear about all the new adventures, personal insights, and physical improvements you experience.  Listen to your body; mix walking and running til you can run straight through, then go farther.  Also, bring tissue paper.

Because, occasionally, you will need to take a dump.  Running gets the plumbing moving like nothing I know.  You and your intestines might need a little time to get to know each other.  If I can start my morning with a cup of caffeinated tea and 45 minutes of peace and quiet, then I'm almost guaranteed a good bathroom session before I start my run.  Almost guaranteed. 

However, there are times when the body rebels...or dinner doesn't sit right...or a little bug begins to wreak havoc in the tummy.  It can strike anywhere, lightening fast.  So like a good boy scout, be prepared. 

With some practice, I've learned what public restrooms are available on my running routes, even at god-awful-early a.m. hours.  And I'm on intimate terms with a few ditches.  And a little patch of shrubs along Bear Creek.  And a window well at my house when I once forgot my keys.  Gene will never let me forget that one.  He will also be horrified that I've now made the incident public; he has a much healthier sense of modesty than I do.  Sorry, honey.  And my best friend and I fertilized the same tree in the gray light of pre-dawn before our first marathon together.  Now that's bonding.

Your turn.  Are you a runner?  Got any good shit stories?  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Post-Marathon Blues

It’s not just me.  Running a marathon feels amazing, and those of us who manage it can claim lifetime bragging rights.  But something happens in the month after a race that is a little less lovely.  Post-marathon blues.  The structure of training is over.  The accumulating victories over longer and longer distances end.  The happy ache of muscle is replaced by genuine flabbiness within just a couple weeks.  My much-deserved rest turns on me and becomes apathy.  Five miles is harder than 15 miles used to be.  And I just don’t know if I want to do anything about it. 

I am still living in the wake of my most recent marathon.  (Internal chuckle.  I’ve only run two of them, so I’m hardly what one could call experienced.)  I’m proud of myself.  I’m injury free.  My immune system has bounced back, as has a modicum of enjoyment in early morning runs.  So I’m good, right?  Honestly, not quite.

The trouble with a marathon is that it transforms you, and it doesn’t.  To carry oneself such a great distance, using only the resources one contains: muscle, breath, determination.  Wowza!  I didn’t know I had such strength in me; I carry it with me into every new challenge, reminding myself that I’m stronger than I think I am and can do more than I ever imagined!  And yet...I’m still just me.  I need to lose 10 pounds.  I can’t get away with dessert everyday or a whole bag of Doritos in one sitting.  I wake up to the sound of a 5 a.m. alarm and I DON’T want to get up.  Sometimes my life feels more like obligation than privilege. 

But I’m a marathoner now!  Right?  Day to day challenges and grievances are no match for my positive attitude and can-do spirit!  Umm. 

So I sit hear wishing I were Superwoman.  I wish finishing a race was like inheriting a superpower, costume included, so that I wouldn’t be haunted by the same ol’ self-doubt, self-pity, and, yes, occasional profound selfishness.  Alas, it is not so.  The battle is never entirely won, and the runner must keep on running.

I’m reminded of something I observed as a teacher: the sad phenomenon of self-sabotage.  Sometimes it is easier to just not try than to try and come up short.  Sometimes it feels safer to follow up a success with a serious failure, just so no one will start to expect greatness all the time.  I mean, who can live up to that?  Not me.  So don’t look here for inspiration.

I remember being sad when a student couldn’t risk bigger dreams or a better future because of fear.  I wanted to scoop them up and transport them, through space and time, to a place of complete safety and acceptance.  I wanted them to know they are worthy of unconditional love.  Then they could risk it, try it, dream it, do it!  On occasion, we managed a portion of progress toward this end.  A kid saw him or herself more clearly, with an awareness of promise and potential.  Simultaneously a privilege and an obligation, they decided they owed something to themselves.

So, I am trying to embrace my post-marathon blues.  Because this is life:  the privilege and obligation of not standing still.  I finished a race, but there are more to run.  Today, I feel discouraged and a little resentful.  It’s okay.  I owe it to myself to accept myself in this moment and choose to continue into the next moment.  There is no final victory...not yet.  God lives in this space for me.  Safety and acceptance.  Promise and potential.  Unconditional love.  The race isn’t over.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Expanding the capacity of body and mind.

"The universe is wider than our views of it."  Henry David Thoreau

"In a world of prayer, we are all equal in the sense that each of us is a unique person, with a unique perspective on the world, a member of a class of one."  W. H. Auden

I like to run because it expands the capacity of my body and my mind.  I love TED talks for the same reason.  Here are tonight's favorites if you are interested or suffering from insomnia:-)

Wrong is right.  Ugly is beautiful.  Weak and exhausted is strong!

In search of a certain kind of silence.

And now I know how to tie my shoes.

Go explore TED for yourself; crazy brilliant stuff!

P.S. Post your favorite TED talk, please.  I'd love to know what you find crazy brilliant!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

There are harder things than running a marathon.

There are harder things than running a marathon.

A friend is living through a divorce.  She'll be a single mom; she'll have to learn to trust again.  She'll choose daily to shake loose bitterness and accept small gifts of love and possibility.

A young man with young children spent years working toward his dream of being an aviation mechanic for missionary organizations.  After years of sacrifice and patient prayer, he and his wife and kids achieved his dream.  He was good at it.  Then he died two weeks after a diagnosis of a brain tumor.  He was younger than I am today.

A baby boy was born with Down's Syndrome and lived with love for months, not years.  His mother loves him, remembers him, and celebrates him--daily.  A baby girl was born with Down's Syndrome and lives with love everyday, under the exceptional care of a mother who advocates and educates--daily.

A family found all of its members.  A romance, two biological children, two adopted siblings, another adoption, and 9 years in Haiti for the world to recognize the family that was already there.

A shelter in my town has 90 or so beds for women and their children who are homeless or leaving situations of domestic violence.  They are always full and turning women away.  They are bleeding funding and case workers.  Still more women call and ask for a bed...and there are 35 shelters in my town.

Many women in today's world are denied an education rather than provided one.  And some of their men believe it is okay to beat them.  And some of their stomachs and their children's stomachs are empty.

There are harder things than running a marathon.  Maybe running them prepares me just a little bit for any that may come my way someday.  Inner strength, reliance on God, daily thankfulness, and a little experience enduring discomfort...running helps me find what I may one day need.  To all of you who have run these tougher "marathons," I honor you.  You humble me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


There is a special class of runner, of which I am a member.  I'm a big girl.  When I race, I can sign up for a division that is not merely based on age and gender but on size as well.  Like boxing, running has introduced weight divisions.

I've seen two names used for my special category.  One is great; one sucks.  Athenas and Fillies/Clydesdales.  As a woman who weighs more than 145 pounds (I won't say how much more), I am officially voting for Athena runners as the go-to term for amply musclified women like me.  I am not a horse.  I'm not even 10% of a Clydesdale.  I am a goddess.  I'm an Athena.  Get it right.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's not a dirty word.

It’s not a dirty word.  Fat.  FAT!  We give this word so much power; we allow it to wound us and shame us.  I fear it is the most terrifying word for many of us and for our daughters.  You could sling any slur at me when I was a teenager, but if you wanted to truly silence me with hate, all you had to do was call me fat.  Sometimes this is still true.

I use the f-word (not that one...duh) in my blog title because I think it is attention-getting and catchy.  A few people have rightly complained about it, my husband not least among them.  After all, during his long devotion to me he has been on the front lines of my battle with my weight.  He continues the effort to help me love and honor myself; calling myself fat for all the world to read seems counter-intuitive to these efforts.  Also, the title admittedly makes it a bit tough to tell all your friends about it.  On the bus to a race starting line, a friend of mine enjoyed a conversation with a fellow-runner.  She met a mom running her first half-marathon that day.  She was, like me, not built like an olympic athlete.  By the end of their conversation, my friend thought she might really enjoy my blog.  But she couldn’t exactly say, “Check out my friend’s blog, “The Fat Marathoner!”  It’s for runners just like you!”

Fat ain’t friendly.  I get it.  The word is ugly, and we still shy away from it.  I suppose that is part of why I’m not yet ready to surrender it.  I’m hoping to demystify it, decriminalize it, disempower its negative oomph.

Let’s put this in perspective.  Fat is food.  Fat is a macronutrient.  Fat feeds our brains and gives us our curves.  A healthy woman is 20 to 25% fat.  How can we hate a quarter of ourselves and live whole, healthy lives?  I am no longer willing to run from the word fat, nor from the innumerable fat cells in my body.  They are not my enemy.  Sometimes I have too many of them--and, truthfully, too many of them can be debilitating.  I will remain an enemy of obesity, but I’m done confusing obesity with the fat the exists on my frame.  Most of it belongs there.

Women, will you join me in taking a stand against all those messages we get out in the big, bad world that teach us to hate ourselves, to desperately want to change ourselves?  Let’s take the energy we spend running from our own fat and use it for something else.  Sign up for a Run for Congo Women 5k (July 31st in Denver) and raise some dough for a fiercely good cause: www.runforcongowomen.org.  Find out how you can take a stand against female circumcision with The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project: www.fgmnetwork.org.  Inform and humble yourself by learning how rape still wrecks lives too damn much in this day and age: www.rapeis.org.  Pick an enemy deserving of your wrath, ladies.  Love yourself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Build your brain!

Here's an article that gives us one more reason to believe EXERCISE is for EVERYONE!
Get out and sweat a little today so you can better remember all of your tomorrows and yesterdays.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You can now buy a scale that connects directly to your twitter feed.

You can now buy a scale that connects directly to your twitter feed. As if these guilt generating torture devices weren’t efficient enough at stripping us of every ounce of self-esteem, you can finish the job by publishing your humiliation to every Tom, Dick, and Sally that ever breathed in the same high school hall or dorm room or office or PTA meeting or planet as you. Puhlease. I will not be tweeting my weight to the world. You see, I am not a gym rat; I'm a fat marathoner.

This brave new world of health monitoring devices (the moniker that replaces the dreaded “scale” in their marketing material) has me a little on the defensive. It doesn’t take much to put a big girl on the defensive in this world. Male actors are permitted character and age in their appearance, but their female counterparts must maintain near perfect youth and flawless femininity, but a strangely skeletal version of both. Waists are narrow, stomachs concave, legs and arms stick-thin or muscularly stringy. I miss the age of renaissance roundness. Pair this painful media-portrayed perfection with a toxic food environment: cheap, engineered-to-addict food-like substances. This is my world; I’m a little ticked off.

And now there are cyber-connected scales.

To be fair, there are a few features of this new type of device that really appeal to me. They can measure more than your basic poundage. Instead of one miserable number, these scales of the future can measure fat content, bone mass, even water weight. Now I’ll be able to know just how many extra pounds I can blame on my period. Mere weight is so passe. I suppose that means these new health monitoring whatchahoochies might actually be a step in the right direction. Except for that whole twitter thing.

After all, the last thing we need to do to each other is compare ourselves. You to me, me to you, to skinny sister, to post-baby friend, to supermodel covergirl actress. My weight is my business, and your weight is your business. If you need to get your doctor in on the conversation, by all means. But let’s not trap ourselves in the lose-lose game of measuring ourselves against anyone except the self we hope to be someday but choose to love now, extra 20 pounds and all.

I believe weight matters, obesity is physically, emotionally, and socially limiting, and health deserves to be a top-five priority in each and every American life. I want to reclaim exercise for all of us, or at the very least for myself...even though I tip the scales toward obesity not malnourishment, even though I look like a Biggest Loser contestant half way through the season, even though my baby weight has taken up permanent residence on my hips and thighs. I proudly announce that I will never wear a bikini. With confidence I declare that I can still turn on my husband when I stand in front of him naked. Yes, I looked better fifteen years ago because I weighed fifteen pounds less. Still, I am strong, attractive, and over 150 lbs.

But you’ll never read about it on my twitter feed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's your favorite workout anthem?

Here are a few songs on my soundtrack:

Wake Up (Arcade Fire)
Lose Yourself (Eminem)
Bad (U2)
Sail (AWOLNation)
In the Hall of the Mountain King (Social Network Soundtrack)
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show (Neil Diamond)
O Fortuna (Carl Orff's Carmina Burana)
Shipping Up to Boston (Dropkick Murphys)

What's your favorite song to sweat, sing, dance, or fall asleep to?

Monday, May 16, 2011

I run naked!

I run naked.  Okay, well, not literally, of course.  Figuratively...in that life-encompassing, metaphoric way.  See, in most of my life I edit myself.  For example, I just visited imdb.com to view the latest movie trailers.  I am keenly interested in seeing Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, but you’ll never read about it on my facebook page.  I’m far more likely to post my interest in Tree of Life, the latest from Terrence Malick.  It isn’t untrue, it just isn’t the whole truth.  I will see Tree of Life, and in the theater at that, $10 price be damned.  I cried the first time I saw its trailer, and I loved Malick’s The Thin Red Line.  I’m more likely to post my interest in it because it is more emblematic of me, who I am and who I aspire to me.  If my friends, family, and distant acquaintances are going to know what movie I’m excited to see, Tree of Life will be it this season.  But, damn, Dylan Dog, looks like a blast!  It may call for a date night with my husband, $25 price of a babysitter be damned.

I spend a lot of time editing myself in this manner.  I think about the impression I make, the image of me that lingers when I leave a room.  I choose my attire with some care--okay, not for a trip to the grocery store, but definitely for a trip downtown.  I suck in my tummy; I pluck my chin hairs; I pose for pictures with my head tilted down and my neck extended forwarded like E.T. to fake the facial thinness I wish I had.  I try.

Some who know me might say I don’t try hard enough.  I am no fashion plate, Target fitting my budget better than Macy’s.  I shower a bit too infrequently, which I continue to blame on my babies, though they are now 5 and 2.  I don’t get a haircut but once every few years...yes, years...it is all one length so I can just chop it then leave it to grow.  Makeup gets applied to my face once a month or so--whenever my beloved husband and I can wrangle a date night out of our busy schedules.  And when it comes to conversation, I am capable of all sorts of public embarrassments, from killing a conversation to over-sharing.  I am NOT a trophy wife or a polished queen bee.  Still, I try.  To my critics, doubters, and naysayers I say, “Imagine what a disaster I’d be if I didn’t try at all!”

So back to running naked.  One of the reasons I love running is the way it strips me of all my trying.  I sweat, pant, heave, and occassionally hunt for a sheltered ditch or thick patch of shrubbery when nature calls too strongly to ignore.  When I start a run, I feel fear, and when I finish, exhaustion.  Running leaves me with no pretense.  It turns me into a sweaty, red-faced monster.  But it also leaves me smiling.

When I run, I find quiet.  I manage moments, even whole minutes, of clear-thinking.  Sometimes I systematically sort through questions or plans that at other times of the day I can only manage to worry over.  I rehearse conversations I want or need to have.  I worship; I pray.  Sometimes, when the run is long or the body fatigued, I cannot manage thought at all.  I count my steps (especially up long, steep hills) because plodding is all I can manage.

Running strips me down and leaves me with nothing but miles and minutes.  And in those miles and minutes I have found something I wasn’t expecting: victory.  Countless victories.  Stripped of beauty and pretense, I accomplish feats of daring-do.  Underneath the tricks I rely on to manage my life and present myself to the world, running reveals that there is something left.  Under it all, I am strong.  I have a will.  I have a body, and I can drive it.  I don’t need to run in the nude to run naked.  You should try it sometime.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Think of the children!

Kudos to Denver for trying to do better by its kids!  Childhood obesity is a sad reality today, and it is a complex tragedy.  Club sports are expensive; produce is expensive and McDonald's is cheap.  I support food and exercise equality.  Check out this article from Colorado Public Radio.


Also, here's a shout out to one of my personal heroes, Jamie D.!  She encourages activity in kids' lives as a math teacher, middle school cross country coach, and in her ultrarunning mega-accomplishments.  What an example!  You are stronger than you think you are; you can do more than you think you can!  Right, Jamie?

Another shout out to Chrissy F.!  She's a dedicated high school lacrosse and field hockey coach, and she slays marathons.  Altitude doesn't scare this goddess, nor do snotty adolescents!

Finally, a shout out to my best friend, Amy L.!  Her example of bringing good health and nutrition plus fun activity to her kids' lives is my daily example.

Here's to all of us doing better by the next generation.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Come on, ass, haul!

Come on, ass, haul!  Yes, I speak to my ass in the 3rd person singular.  It is large enough to have its own social security number, so it seems only right that I treat it as a distinct individual.  The news is, sometimes, it listens.

My relationship with my ass is fraught with antagonism.  Big surprise.  It is large, and cottage-cheesy.  There is lift that wasn't there when I was a non-runner, but no one would mistake it for the ass of a marathoner.  In fact, I am the person other runners use to motivate themselves.  I can imagine the conversations: "Let's choose somebody to pick off...like her (audible smirk)...Come on, we can blow by that one...How ya doing? Have a nice daaayyyyy (fade to silence as they leave me in the dust)."

Don't get me wrong; runners are nice.  I have found them to be the nicest strangers I've ever shared space with.  They are encouraging.  They cheer for each other.  They celebrate later finishers long after their own race is over.  They marvel at the faster ones and pull for the slower ones.  For my first ever real race, a half marathon at altitude, I carpooled with a world class ultramarathoner who waited for me and ran me in the last half mile, even though she had finished an hour before and could have been off doing bigger, better things.  (She invited me to warm up with her before the race too: "My legs don't really feel strong until after the first twenty miles."  Hah.  I politely declined: 13.1 miles gave me more than enough time to warm up, run strong, then struggle and want to die all within the first 2 miles of the race.)

But runners are also wacko.  We systematize hurting ourselves; we maniacally calculate pace and predict PRs and evaluate elevation charts and scrutinize training runs.  We study our pain for the lessons it holds.  In the middle of a race, when we are pushing and panting and hoping hard to accomplish something new, we need to let go of our bodies and turn to our minds.  We play mental games.  Thus, we pick people off.  We find someone we think we can beat, but not easily.  And we chase them down like a predator goes after its prey.  My choice meal is skinny girls.  I took two out in the last half mile of my last half marathon.  One was tall and thin and model pretty...teeheehee.  Don't worry--I don't maul them as I pass. They are none the worse for wear, but I am beaming.  Feels good to carry my huge ass past their smaller ones.

My new favorite mental game is talking to my ass, commanding it like a pharaoh would slaves.  And when it listens, it is my new best friend.

So when you see me walking down the street, don't assume you know me.  That round apple that swings at my hips can probably do more than yours can.  When my quads and hamstrings need a breather, it steps in like a pinch hitter.  When I am moving slowly up a steep incline and I call out to it, it clenches a little harder and pushes a little faster.  I've decided not to care what you think: me and my ass, we've become good friends.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I am a reader thanks to my mother.
I am a learner thanks to my mother.
I am defiant against shame and humbled by responsibility thanks to my mother.
I am goofy and comfortable in my own skin thanks to my mother.
I try new things thanks to my mother.
I love bravely thanks to my mother.
She is a queen among women, but she never takes herself too seriously.
She is God’s first great gift to me, and she just keeps on giving.
Love you, Ma.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Thanks to brightroom for the awesome race photos!

Happy at mile 5.

Still happy at mile 15.

My best little guy running me in.

The agony and the ecstasy: 26.2!
(Yes, it really hurts that bad.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm going live today.

I’m going live today.  I am posting my first blog.  I’ve been writing here and there for a month now, but I haven’t been confident enough to go public.  After all, finishing one marathon (which I managed to do last year) is a bucket list achievement, not an identity.  Today, I finished my second marathon.  Now I feel I can call myself a marathoner.  I wasn’t fast or pretty.  Still, I made it from the start line to the finish line, all 26.2 long miles.

If you want to get a sense of what that means, try this little experiment.  Head out for a Sunday afternoon drive, hit the reset button on your car’s odometer, then drive the length of a marathon.  You’ll be amazed just how far we marathoner’s can travel in a morning.  I’m amazed.

I’m not a little sprite of a human being.  I’m nowhere close to the superhuman specimens, with long strides and 10% body fat, that you’ll find on the cover of Runner’s World.  In fact, though I’ve jogged for years, and I ran my first half marathon over four years ago, I’ve only ever referred to myself as a jogger.  My first full marathon gave me the courage, the accomplishment, to own my new identity.  (No, it isn’t my only, or even my primary, identity.  I’m a mom, a wife, a believer, a teacher.  But now I’m more too.)  I am (gasp) a runner.

In this blog I’ll relay some of my experiences as a runner, and I’m going to focus on my below average status.  I don’t do this because my self-esteem is in the toilet.  On the contrary, I feel freaking awesome about myself.  I just finished a marathon, for flip’s sake!  I want to be entirely honest about how good it feels to be at the bottom of a heap that still sits on top of a much bigger heap.  Approximately 1% of the population runs a marathon at some point in life.  If I walked into a room filled with 200 random people, I would be likely to meet just one other marathoner.  Who cares if that person is probably twice as fast as me?  I’m gonna gaze around at the other 198 people who haven’t finished a marathon, and my self-esteem will balloon.

So why all the self-deprecation? Why all the talk about how slow and heavy and ugly with sweat I am when I run?  Because I want to focus on how easy...probably the wrong word...how doable being part of that elite class--Marathoner--is.  I don’t look like a part of the 1%, but I am.  So maybe a few of you could be too.  For most of my life, I didn’t participate in sport or exercise of any kind.  My parents encouraged, supported, and paid for opportunities for me as a kid.  However, when I hit puberty and gained a little weight, and a heavy sense of shame, I figured such things were not for someone like me.  How happy I am to know I was wrong!  Exercise is for everyone.

If I have an ulterior motive, besides the obvious glory I’m heaping on myself, it is that I’d love to see more runners like me out there. We have more blob than bounce in our butts, and our abs resemble the jiggle of jello not a six-pack.  But if I can do it, maybe so can you.  I’m done leaving the thrill of victory to the jocks and gym rats; I want to lead an army of fat marathoners!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I ran my first marathon (Top of Utah, September 2010) in 5:00:43; I ran my second marathon, (Colorado Marathon, May 2011) in 4:46:21.  Go me!