From the Archives: Thank You Letter to the Boston Marathon

Boston 2011

 

It’s April, and in two short weeks more than 30,000 runners will make their way from Hopkinton to Boston.  I won’t be one of them this year, but this race hasn’t been far from my mind.  I wasn’t writing about running after I finished my first Boston, but I was after my second.  So this week’s post comes from my 2011 write-up for the Deseret News about the experience.  The race is special in a way no other race will ever be.  Even if you never set foot in the Athlete’s Village, the experience is worth the trouble because it’s not just about the runners.  It’s about the spectators, volunteers, at-home cheerleaders, and the work behind the bib.  Enjoy.

 

Dear Boston Marathon,
I was taught at a very young age that I should always send a thank-you note to anyone who has given me a gift. In keeping with this lesson in etiquette, I just want to thank you for the wonderful weekend you provided for my family and I.

First, I want to thank you for playing hard-to-get. They say that the chase is the most exciting part of the hunt, and you sure proved them right. I’ve made it a personal goal to chase you at every marathon I’ve run. You certainly don’t make it easy. In fact, in recent weeks you’ve become even more elusive, but I like that. You seem to know that we runners like a good challenge. Tell me I can’t, and you can bet that I will. Your constant nagging in the back of my brain has given my weekends structure. Who am I kidding? It’s given my entire year structure. I have calendars with long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats and speed work all laid out in a carefully formulated plan just so I can earn an invitation to your party.

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From the Archives- All the Little Things

This column from 2012 is similar to what I wrote last week for Des News.  It’s good to have big plans, but the best way to make them happen is by taking small steps.  My 4-year-old whom I talk about in this story is now almost 10.  She has mastered the art of shoe-tying, but while her goals change, her frustrations remain.  Frankly, I’m the same.  I have to remind myself that progress is progress, whether it comes quickly or slowly.  Here’s to another day of inching forward.

Our Ali-bug.

 

The Cowarts have set a lofty goal this month. We are teaching our four-year-old how to tie her shoes.

This is a big deal. My goal as a parent is to raise children who need me less and less each day. Such an endeavor can be, and most often is, painful for both parent and child.

My pain stems from the need to feel needed, and while I rejoice with each milestone met- potty-training, cutting your own pancakes, putting on underwear not backwards- there is a pang in my heart knowing that eventually my children’s independence will march them right out the front door for good.

The children’s pain has a different root. Every milestone for them is a mountain of challenges. Hand-eye coordination, patience, and the ability to follow directions are qualities found lacking in our household, yet these are the very same qualities necessary when learning how to walk, feed, dress, and yes, tie one’s shoes.

Our daughter began her shoe journey with excitement. She has decided to do a one-mile kids’ race in April. She has learned from her mother, and rightly so, that such an undertaking requires new running shoes with real laces. Laces which require tying.

She was going to learn a skill that her big sister has mastered! This, obviously, is a skill that separates the kids from the babies. Eager to graduate from that category, she sat down with her sneakers and hefty set of expectations.

All that disappeared not two minutes later when the little girl we call “Bug” hadn’t mastered this feat with 100% perfection. After twice failing to make perfect bunny ears, she threw the shoes on the ground and commenced whining.

Have I mentioned that patience is a virtue we have little of in our house?

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From the Archives- Finding Your Mojo

 

Feeling more like Kaitlynne on the left. Hoping to find my mojo and feel like Ali on the left!

February is a dreary month for me.  Holidays are long over.  The once fresh snow is grimy and icy.  The days until summer seem to stretch on into infinity.  Even for an Oregonian who loves a cozy rainy day, I’m sick of the clouds.  I find myself looking back fondly to my surgical recovery this past December when my only job was to walk up, shower and go back to bed to read and nap.  My get-up-and-go has gotten up and left.  So I’m posting this column from 2012 today mostly for me.  Written almost five years ago, these tips still work..  Hopefully they’ll work for you, too.  We all get stuck in a rut.  It’s how we lift ourselves out that really matters.

 

When I find something I love, I tend to go overboard.

A few months ago I took my eight year old daughter to see a Cirque du Soleil show featuring the music of Michael Jackson. I was so excited to take her because I was eight years old when I fell in love with the King of Pop.

My room was wallpapered with his pictures. We played “Thriller” again and again until I knew every “hee-hee, whoo!” of every song. I memorized the “Beat It” dance moves. My brother and I rented “The Making of Thriller” video every Saturday from the local video store.

I was hoping my own kids would fall in love with “Man in the Mirror” and “Billie Jean” the way I had. They did.

In fact, they fell in love with him to the point where they, too, knew every “hee, hee, whoo!” and repeated it over and over. In the car. In the bath. In the kitchen. On the way to school. At the library. Yes, even at church.

It was too much. After years of loving the music, I have reached Michael Jackson burn out.

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From the Archives- Gimme A Break

Funny how little things change.  Six years ago I wrote about needing a break from the thing I loved most- running.  What started out as a forced recovery from injury has become a yearly tradition.  Each year during the holidays I take a break from running.  Sometimes it’s physically necessary.  Sometimes it’s mentally necessary.  It’s always a good decision.  This year I took over a month off to recover from a hysterectomy.  For the first time in almost 8 years, I have nothing planned.  No races.  No training cycles to jump into.  I’ll admit it feels freeing to do what I want.  I’ve been showing my spin bike a lot of love.  The road will be there when I’m ready, just like it was after I wrote this post.

Teaching Ali the importance of recovery. She wasn’t even two years old, but she caught on quick!

Taking a Break

Too much of a good thing can be, well, too much.

Take chocolate, for example. Most definitely a good thing, but in high doses can cause even the biggest Willy Wonka fan a stomach ache. Ask my brother.

One Easter, when we were younger and ignorant of food pyramids and nutrition labels, my brother decided that if one bite of chocolate was good, the whole basket much be sensational. Halfway home from Grandma’s house, he was singing a different tune as we made an emergency roadside pitstop. I won’t go into details, but I’ll just say that he rarely overindulged on candy after that.

I may not have a problem abstaining from baskets full of chocolate- although it is still a fantasy of mind to live in a house made of donuts- I can, and often do, overdo my running.

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From the Archives- Running Myths

My kids told me last night that they never believed in Santa.  Don’t feel sorry for them.  Their lives are more than comfortable.  But it was a myth we never had to bust.  The fact that we open all of our presents on Christmas Eve and the handwriting on the gift tags looks exactly like mine may have given it away.  For others, Santa is alive and real and I urged my daughters not to spoil someone else’s belief in him.  There’s no harm in thinking he’s real (apologies for those who thought he was until they read this!).  But there are some myths that are dangerous and should be dispelled.  From the archives, a column I wrote in 2013 about a few running myths that simply need to go away.  Read on and enjoy!

It's a myth that running is hard and awful.  Sometimes it is.  And sometimes it's just fun.
It’s a myth that running is hard and awful. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s just fun.

I was a trusting child. I believed anything and everything anyone in authority- or who was simply older than I- told me.

If I crossed my eyes too long, they would stay crossed.

Swallowed gum would literally gum up my insides.

Wearing hats will make me bald.

Boys have cooties. According to my daughters, that one is true.

Myths are often perpetuated to encourage desired behavior. Often times they discourage what could potentially be a wonderful adventure.

For many, the world of running is a mysterious, foreign land filled with goal-obsessed athletes who wear bright-colored wicking shirts and dine on GU’s, Powerade and peanut butter sandwiches for dessert.

Granted, running may not be appealing to everyone, but often times the reasons that keep people from venturing into the land of sweet sweat aren’t real reasons at all. I’m here to debunk a few of the myths surrounding my beloved sport.

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From the Archives- Gratitude

 

 

This column was originally published in 2012.  Some of the items listed are still things I’m grateful for.  One in particular makes me laugh.  That year my husband decided he, too, would tackle the marathon distance.  He entered the Ogden Marathon lottery and was accepted.  Three weeks before the race he realized that one 15-mile long run wasn’t enough training.  He was right.  I love him for his lofty goals.  I love him more for accepting reality and not killing himself in the name of pride.  Here’s to a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  No matter where your life finds you this year, I hope you find something that brings you joy.

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Be grateful for the small, quiet moments.  They are the stuff of life.
Be grateful for the small, quiet moments. They are the stuff of life.

Thanksgiving has transformed into my most favorite holiday of the year. There are no gifts to give. No cards to send. No over-the-top light displays blinking holiday cheer into the wee hours of the night. Don’t get me wrong. I love the busyness and flashiness of Christmas, but the simplicity of Thanksgiving simply can’t be beat.

Gathering around a table of food with family and friends has got to be the best idea mankind has dreamt up in a long time. Start it all off with a morning race or a blistering workout at the gym and I’ll take Thanksgiving over Christmas any day.

Of course, the purpose of the day is to give thanks. Allow me to throw in a few items I am particularly grateful for this year.

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From the Archives- First Thanksgiving

First Thanksgiving dinner. No dining room. No table. So we ate on the coffee table.
First Thanksgiving dinner. No dining room. No table. So we ate on the coffee table.

I’ve had some memorable Thanksgivings.  There was the year my husband and I traveled to Arizona to see U2 after 9/11.  We spent Thanksgiving camped outside the arena to get front row seats.  We dined on donuts and adrenaline.  There was the year we moved into our new home 6 days before Thanksgiving- we were hosting Thanksgiving that year.  Nothing motivates you to unpack boxes than the threat of large groups of people coming to visit.  But our first Thanksgiving together was perhaps the most memorable.  It was my first holiday away from my parents.  I lived in a tiny apartment in Las Vegas.  I had no dining room or table.  We ate on a coffee table.  I didn’t know how to cook for two, so I made enough to feed an army.  The gravy alone was more than enough to bathe in!  Next week we are hosting Thanksgiving again.  My parents, my brother and his wife and their kids, three of whom they adopted from Ethiopia.  My daughters.  I have more than enough blessings to count for days.  The following column was written in an attempt to try to capture some of my gratitude.  Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.  Enjoy.

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Thanksgiving wasn’t always my favorite holiday. Growing up, Christmas was always number one. Staying up late to watch Christmas specials on t.v. because there was no DVR, an endless supply of cookies and fudge, presents- what’s not to love! Fourth of July came in at number two mostly because it’s also my birthday. Not that I’m not patriotic or love fireworks, but again, the presents thing. Halloween and Easter tied for third. Again, endless supplies of sugar. Thanksgiving fell somewhere between Valentine’s Day and Labor Day- in other words, I hated it. Forced to dress up, smile, and pretend to like Grandma’s “gourmet” asparagus side was a lot of fuss for little payoff. At least there was pie.

Nowadays, it isn’t the mountains of confections that beckon me, or the piles of gifts that twinkle my toes. It’s the chance to eat food I love with people I love, giving thanks for all the things and people I love.

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From the Archives- What Fitness Instructors Wish You Knew

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Published last January as fitness classes, predictably, filled up with unsure but eager members.  These words still apply and are a good reminder to all of us, instructors and members alike, how we all have a part in a class’s success.  Enjoy!

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I love my job as a fitness instructor. When I was younger I would get up early to watch Denise Austin “pump it up” on ESPN. Occasionally I would even do the workouts along with her. But mostly I would watch and wish my life to be like hers. She got paid to workout and once in awhile she got to work out on a Hawaiian beach. She got paid! After 25 years of envious viewing, I’m now living that dream (minus the Hawaiian beach- but I’m not dead yet).

That said, I love this time of year. It’s an opportunity for me, as resolution time rolls around once again, to show others how motivating group fitness classes can be. I realize it can be a bit intimidating for some to dive into that sea of change. Results happen best when instructors and members are on the same page. So, I wanted to share a few things fitness instructors wished their members knew, as well as a few things members wished their instructors knew to make 2016 the year good change happens.

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From the Archives: The Bigger the Hill, the Better the View

the bigger the hill the better the view

I wrote this back when my daughter Ali was just about to start kindergarten.  Today I drove her to her fourth grade class.  Time slips through out fingers like fine sand in a sieve.  But the words I wrote are truer today than ever.  We run because we can.  We challenge ourselves and our bodies because we can.  To back away from hard things is to deny ourselves the opportunity to grown.  To turn our backs on the things that scare us is to stunt our progress.  We will never see who we are if we refuse to look in the mirror.  Tough races force me to face myself- to see what I’m really made of.  Enjoy.

 

Some of the hardest moments in life are also the best.

Like many parents, this time of year brings me great joy mixed with a little sadness. It’s back-to-school time and this go-round, I’m sending both of my kids. My youngest is now in kindergarten and couldn’t be happier about it.

I, on the other hand, find myself more than a little teary-eyed at the prospect of what my husband and I call “The Beginning of the End”.

Ali is more than ready to take this step. She’s ready to be challenged. Her curiosity is bigger than my capacity to fill it. My companionship is no match to her friends who offer the excitement of bug catching and gold digging in the sandbox.

And the truth of the matter is, if Ali weren’t ready, I’d be more distraught. These milestones may be difficult, but they are necessary. She’s becoming more independent and that’s how it should be. While I’m sad that my little bug isn’t by my side all day, I’m thrilled to see how she is growing. It’s all good.

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From the Archives- Boston 2012

Boston 2012
My friend Tracy and I at the Boston 2012 start. Notice the absence of any warm clothing. Ugh.

This is an article I wrote for the Deseret News the day after I ran the 2012 Boston Marathon.   It was a special day since my parents and my grandmother were all out to watch me run.  My grandmother had never seen me race before.  Sadly, my grandpa had already passed away.  I thought of him a lot and of how proud he would have been to watch me run.  It was an awful race.  80 degree start.  90 degree finish.  Factor in the heat radiating off the pavement at the end and, well, it was ugly.  It’s the only Boston Marathon where I’ve sought medical attention.  I was woozy and sick to my stomach at the end.  The medics doused me with water, forced me to eat a bag of magical potato chips and VOILA!  I was better!  Kind of.  It was a long and rough recovery.  Because it wasn’t the greatest of days, I immediately made plans to return in 2013.  I’ll post that recap later.  For now, enjoy.

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