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.