Tag Archives: Inspiration

THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE: Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The above picture truly captures me in my happy place: body mid-air, arms swaying strong, relaxed posture, music pumping, hint of grimace and determination on my face as I taste the finish line just ahead.  It was taken at mile 13 of the Staten Island Half Marathon last Sunday. 

Ironically, I was actually quite uncomfortable: my calves started cramping around mile 11 because I was lacking salt, I was sweating so much that my glasses were fogging, my toes were starting to get a little bit numb and my brain was trying to lure me into slowing down to a more comfortable breathing pace.  All that is not what was on my mind in the moment the picture happened.  It’s what was in the back of my mind, trying to takeover.  

What was front of mind is a very simple thought, “You are stronger than you think. The uncomfortable will pass.”  I kept saying these phrases over and over again and willing my legs to go a little bit faster, my knees to lift a little bit higher, my breathing to relax. I thought of my training runs where my coach would push me to run tempo pace for miles (a much faster pace) after an easy 10 miles. Even though I was uncomfortable I knew that eventually I’d settle down and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

 

Since January 2013 I have run five Half Marathons (13.1 miles) and all within a finish time range of 2:10-2:14.  I finished the Staten Island Half in 2:04. Not a PR (Personal Record) or the sub-2 hours I so very much long to achieve and not my best Staten Island Half time (last year in 2012 I finished in 2:02) but I gave it my absolute hardest effort. Can’t ask for anything more of myself.

I realized after finishing the Staten Island Half that my legs have two marathons on them over the past year. Although I’d like to believe this fact makes me stronger, it can also make me plateau and face more muscle fatigue. (And oh have I: shins, plantar fascia, calf pains, hamstring tightening!) None of this matters. Comes with the training. I need to just stay relaxed, listen to my body, rest when I should rest during taper, believe in my strength and go as hard as I can for that finish line.

Although I’m not smiling in the above picture, a picture that truly captures my happy place, as soon as I rushed across the finish line, I was smiling ear to ear with immense satisfaction and pride.  I just LOVE that finish line!

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WHY DO YOU RUN?

Run for Life

This is a common question to runners. “Why do you run?”  Folks will presume I run because I want to live longer and that somehow through exercise my days will be extended.  Not the case for me.  There are plenty of examples of perfectly healthy athletes that died too young or have fought to survive against disease and illness despite running countless marathons. 

I don’t run because I want to live longer. I don’t run because I expect each mile will add days to my life. I have faith that date has already been decided in a divine plan with God. I run because it helps me feel I am enjoying life to the fullest by pushing strength through my body, energy through my spirit and absorbing the beauty of the earth I run across.

I run because each step, each breath, each mile adds a beautiful life to my days.

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The Joy of Running

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The restart button worked.  After a much-needed two-week rest from running, I am relishing my runs again.

A rest period did not mean I was doing nothing towards my fitness. I still enjoyed other activities like spin, weight training and even skiing. However, not running was bringing me down. I started to feel lazy. I hate feeling lazy. I had to constantly remind myself that proper rest is not the same as being lazy. It is all part of the training. Like when you need a great vacation after a long period of hard work, not just the break of the weekend.

On Saturday I looked forward to my first morning run with excitement. I didn’t have a plan for distance or course. I just went for a run. Spring air could be felt on the kiss of a cool breeze with the temperature at +46 degrees. I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t try to go fast or pace to other runners.  I just ran wherever my legs and heart felt like going.

I ran the hilly streets near my house and over to the park for a loop around the lake. I did a second loop without realizing. I forgot I was running. I saw a path for a hill and suddenly was halfway up the incline. I saw a road I hadn’t run in a while and pranced on over to run it without giving a second thought about the distance, gradation and terrain.

My mind was clear and relaxed. My legs had a spring again. I could hear the inspiring musings of the infamous painter Bob Ross from the PBS television show The Joy of Painting calmly reminding me that it’s my world. I can do whatever I want in it.

Moving in a peaceful flow my mind started to paraphrase Bob Ross’s popular quotes to running: “The road is your canvas. It’s your world, run wherever you want. In running you have unlimited power.  See a happy little tree or a titanium white cloud floating by in the sky.”

The Joy of Running

Reflecting on The Joy of Painting lead me to think about the art of running. I was reminded of the philosophical phrase- Does life imitate art or art imitate life?  Is there any separation between running and life or are they mirror images of each other? Sometimes life is reflected in the run and other times the run is reflected in life. Or does everything come from the root of life?  A deep philosophical question to ponder during a run! (And one that has been poetically expressed in the works of Oscar Wilde.)

If I have a great run, my day is always better. If I have a lousy run, my day is never quite balanced. If I’m under a lot of stress or pressure from life, my run can sometimes imitate that sentiment causing me to drag my feet and have a tough run while other times it helps me to process and cope with stress.

When I finally got back home I had run 8 beautiful, easy miles. I felt amazing and the runner’s high stuck with me throughout the entire day.  To me, life is always better after a run.

Life is Always Better After a Run

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PUSH = Persist Until Something Happens

I'm a Distance Runner, I've been trained to keep going, even when it's hard, when it hurts, when it sucks, when i don't want to, I look past it, relentless forward progress to the finish. call what you want: stubbornness, Endurance, Determination, Guts. Deep down i don't know how to give up. [and it's always worth it at the end]

During an empowering, long, hot training run in July for the NYC Marathon I decided I didn’t want my marathon training to end after November. I couldn’t imagine just stopping after I finished my first marathon. All this hard-work to achieve marathon status; how could I quit? I wanted to keep going. I needed another goal, another marathon.  I signed-up for the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, FL for January 13.

How do you train to run a second marathon 8 weeks post your first marathon?  I looked at Hal Higdon’s Training Plan and it included a whopping 20miler in at the midway point of training.  After reviewing with my coach he modified my plan so that I focused on the quality of my runs and less on the LSD (Long Slow Distance) training runs.  Highest Sunday long run mileage was 16miles.  And my Saturday runs were 10miles at a quick pace.

The strategy behind this plan was to get me ready for the last 6.2 miles.  My legs would remember 20 miles.  It is those last 6.2 miles that are the hardest part of a marathon.

The first two weeks after the Philadelphia Marathon I tried to relax my mind and body and live like a runner without a cause.  I went for runs but only for fun and with little structure or training in mind.  I didn’t wake-up each morning with a determined amount of mileage or pace to hit. I just enjoyed running to my daily mood.

After two weeks, I began my training and got down to business. This is the plan I followed. It included spin classes and weight/core training at my gym.

Week 6 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 6m ascending tempo, Sun 16m = 36total

Week 5–  Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed Tempo 2 easy/2 5k pace/2 easy (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @ 10:00 16m @10:40 = 40total

Week 4-  Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @10:00, Sun 12m@10:40 = 36total

Week 3 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed Tempo 2 easy/2 5k pace/2 easy (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri 4m, Sat 10m @ 10:00 16m @10:40 = 40total

Week 2 – Mon spin/weights, Tues 4m, Wed 4x 1m intervals/ 1/2m jogs (6m), Th spin/ core, Fri OFF, Sat 8m @10:00, Sun 10m@10:40 = 28total

Week 1- Mon rest, Tues 2m, Wed 3m, Th and Fri, Sat 2m, Sun Marathon

Training was tough. I felt fatigued and like I had lost my mojo. I followed the plan but at times took an extra rest day or pulled back a mile on an easy run. I would never give myself a break while training for my first marathon and here I was giving myself subtle liberties off the training plan. It felt like I was trying to cheat.

I was reminded of my weight loss journey on Weight Watchers and how the first phase is known as the “honeymoon phase”.  Everything is wonderful and going the way you want. You’re motivated and focused and seeing results.  The next thing you know you’re trying to cheat and cut corners and then you hit a wall.

I was still nursing an injured left hip sprain. After the dust had settled from the Philadelphia Marathon my left hip started aching again. I did not want to take chances and went back to PT for a few weeks of sessions. The holiday season was buzzing with after-work parties and cocktails. I tried to resist as much as I could but also felt I deserved and even needed to relax a little.

By mid-December I was hitting my 16 mile long runs again. The first 16 miler I did was all alone on a freezing cold day. I didn’t pass a single runner or walker.  Not seeing any runners I realized December is an off-season and probably intended for rest. Marathon training starts again in January, for those May marathons.  It was very hard to keep my legs moving on those long runs but I still got the job done.

I kept on chugging along with my training plan even though my mind wasn’t focused and my heart was trying to hibernate. I had no choice but to just keep on pushing myself. The Disney Marathon was coming Jan 13 and not finishing was NOT an option.  Like it or not, I had to do my training runs.

With just 5 weeks to Disney, I needed to find a way to ignite my mojo engine.

PUSH = Persist Until Something Happens.  SOMETHING.

Okay. I will keep on pushing, persisting.  Something is bound to happen.  I tried to mix things up.  I enjoyed a few long Sunday runs with a running partner. That camaraderie helped motivate me. I took more spin classes to activate different leg muscles. I updated my iPod playlist. I bought a really cute new running jacket. I tried running at a different time of day.

I told myself be happy you signed-up for Disney Marathon. It allows you the chance to stay in shape over the holidaze. I tried to convince myself that by training in the off-season, when most others were home resting, would give me a competitive edge. Like all those folks who join the gym in June expecting to prepare for swimsuit season once it is already upon them.

I had moments of doubt that peaking my training with just 16m long runs instead of going up to 20miles wouldn’t get me across the finish. And then I had moments of enlightenment that it was all about the quality. I ran hard with my legs but even harder with my mind. I kept telling myself that this kind of training is part of how I will fight through those last 6 miles.  You want to stop, you want to take a break, a long rest, but you must keep on moving forward in order to get across the finish line.  

I don’t know how to give up.  I do know how to be positive.  I reflected on my accomplishments.  The fact that I can smack a snooze button off and get out for a run is a big deal!  I looked for the J-O-Y in JOURNEY and realized I will still smile across the finish.

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I’m IN to Finish 2012 ING NYC Marathon!!

My 67yo father has been running for more than thirty years.  He has run 8 NYC marathons and countless other NYRR races.  His first marathon was in 1979 when I was 7 years old.  Living on Staten Island, the start of the marathon was always an extra big deal in my house.  My mom would wake us early, my younger brother, sister and even my grandparents, and drive my Dad to Fort Wadsworth near the Verazzano Bridge and then cross over to Brooklyn to stake our first of several cheering spots throughout the race; Brooklyn and then on to Manhattan, on the East side just off the 59th Street Bridge and again in Central Park for the last 5 miles.

My Dad said that what piqued his interest in running were Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, two of the most elite and successful American runners of all-time.  The NYC Marathon began in 1970 and originally consisted of four loops around Central Park with just a few hundred runners.  In 1976, thanks to the pioneering vision of Fred Lebow, the race expanded to hit all five NYC boroughs and attracted approx 2000 runners, including Olympians Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers.

In this picture we had just dropped my Dad off at Fort Wadsworth.  The date was Oct 21, 1979.  Notice the limited crowd and the low number on his bib.  The running boom was just getting started!

It was absolutely thrilling to see him come running up to us, cold and sweaty, and hug and squeeze us at every spot!  Back then there was no such thing as gels and power drinks.  My mom would have a huge container of honey that she’d scoop into my Dad’s mouth like medicine for a baby and I would hold fresh-cut oranges in a ziplock baggie.  My fingers would freeze holding out extra oranges and then go numb from clapping so hard for all the runners.  As if that was an act of endurance?!

I also remember seeing all kinds of characters pass by.  There was the waiter who we saw at every marathon.  He wore a black jacket with tails and bow-tie and held a tray in one hand with a champagne bottle and glass.  There were those who ran backwards and the guy who ran while juggling.  To my young eyes, watching the runners sometimes felt like being at the circus.

I remember after my Dad finished his first NYC Marathon he received a spectacular poster of the Verazzano Bridge with all the runners crossing it. The shot was taken from above so you saw the full span of the bridge from Staten Island and thousands of runners charging across it.  I put this poster on the wall just to the side of my bed.  At night I would lie on my side and stare at the poster wondering where my Dad could be amongst the crowd.  My Dad told me how runners would start stripping off layers of clothes while crossing the bridge and just throw them on the pavement or off the side of the bridge.  I found this little fact about littering your clothes on world’s largest bridge to be fascinating and would daydream at the poster imaging shirts flying off the sides of the bridge.

That same year I decided  for Halloween I would dress-up as ‘Daddy’s Super-Jogger’.  My mom ironed the letters onto a sweatshirt (she lost the ‘Y’ so it actually read Dadd’s Super Jogger), gave me my Dad’s sweatband and wristbands, a water bottle (she didn’t have a real water bottle so she gave me my little sister’s baby bottle!), sneakers and off I went proudly jogging in the P.S.69 Halloween Parade.  Running doesn’t require much of any props so my costume kinda looked like I was going to gym class.  That’s me in the middle holding up my sister.

In 1981, when my Dad was 37yo, he finished the NY Marathon in his best time ever – 3:29:30.  He said that as soon as he hit Central Park he suddenly felt like ‘a firecracker was up his ass’ and he ran like the wind to the finish.  He got across the finish line faster than my family could keep up to greet him.  My Dad bought a picture of himself crossing the finish line which has lived in a frame on top of the piano all these years.

Everyday when I would practice piano I would gaze at the picture and think how casually normal my Dad looked, merely hopping, over the finish line.  But I never understood the magnitude of what he accomplished, from achieving a fantastic time to simply finishing the run of 26.2 miles!  Until now.

Back then I never felt a desire to run.  I never even dreamed of running the NYC Marathon. I just enjoyed being an observer, the daughter of someone who was a marathoner and a very driven runner.  My friends and neighbors all knew my Dad as a runner.  So many times someone would tell me, “I saw your Dad running near my house at 5:30am when I went out to grab the paper.  How does he do it?”  I would shrug and just say, “He does. He gets up and goes running.”

It wasn’t until I myself reached my 30’s, when I began very light running on the treadmill and outside (3-4 miles tops)  that I started watching the NY Marathon on TV and unravel a hidden desire to want to run this race myself.  My childhood memories of being surrounded, unconsciously, by the NY Marathon and the determination of a marathoner, came flooding back to me.  Yet I never mapped out a real goal.  Occasionally I would go for a short run with my Dad but I never considered properly training for races or making running a consistent part of my lifestyle.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mother and wife now and recognize the value of organizing time, staying healthy, and generally feeling balanced between work and life that running has become my center around everything else.

So here I am now at the start of 2012, turning 40yo in October, officially accepted into the NYC ING Marathon! I just wish I could find that poster I once had on my bedroom wall.  Only this time I’d put it on the wall in my girl’s bedroom.

Here are some more vintage pictures of my Dad running the NYC Marathon back when it wasn’t even 5 years old. Notice the light crowd of runners and the simple clothing.

 

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