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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Happy Valentine’s Day, Running- 14 Reasons I Still Love to Run

Don’t running and I make a good-looking couple!

I might always love running, but I don’t always like it.  Sometimes we just need a break from each other, but we always end up back together again.  Initially our relationship felt very one-sided.  I was faithful, but running let me down: injuries, burnout, perceived lack of progress.  Most of the issues were my fault.  I demanded more than my fair share.  I expected running to reciprocate my affection in ways that just weren’t mine to claim.  I wanted fast legs, shiny medals, and a body made of steel.  I saw others reach these goals in their relationships with running, so why shouldn’t I?  Time and time again running tried to tell me I was unique.  Our situation was one-of-a-kind.  I wasn’t like all the other girls.  I didn’t want to hear that.  I blamed my injuries and fatigue on running until one day it dawned on me.  If running was treating everyone else fairly, maybe the problem was me.  Maybe I needed to change. Maybe the problem was more one-sided than I thought.  When it was good, it was really good.  When it was bad, well, whose fault was it, really?  I needed to own my part in this dysfunctional partnership.  I needed to quit playing the victim and look for ways to make our bond stronger.  I needed to reassess what I really wanted from running.  I needed long-term perspective rather than instant gratification.

Fast forward to today and I think we’re in a good place now.  I respect the recovery running demands from me.  Instead of focusing on what running isn’t giving me, I appreciate what it does.  I understand we need some time apart, but when I take a day off, the make-up runs are so great!  Our relationship is stronger than ever now that we have mutual respect and understanding.  So, to running, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Click on the link below to read all about the 14 reasons I still love running after all these years.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865673241/Reasons-I-still-love-running.html

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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My Recovery Routine

 

Ali’s first downward dog.

Come to my group X classes long enough and you’ll hear me say, “What you do after a workout is just as important as what you do during.”  The older I get, the truer those words ring.  Proper recovery allows the muscles to repair stronger.  We are humans, not machines.  We need to replenish the well before we drain it again.  Physical and mental recovery from tough workouts will make us stronger in the long run, and really, that’s why we move.  We aren’t getting ourselves into shape to impress old friends at a reunion or strangers on the beach during our vacations.  We are getting in shape to improve our daily lives and increase our longevity.  Recovery is a critical part of our overall health.  Click on the link below to see what I do to recover.  Take a deep, cleansing breath and enjoy.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865672137/How-I-recover-from-a-tough-workout.html

We Can Come Together

The scarf given to me on Easter Sunday 2014, the day before the Boston Marathon.

 

Almost four years ago, two terrible people committed a horrific act of terror that impacted millions of lives.  Out of that tragedy emerged some of the most profound acts of kindness I’ve witnessed.  Residents giving away coats to freezing runners; hotels offering shelter to those who couldn’t make it back to theirs; strangers sharing food and hugs.  That’s not to mention the heroics of medical personnel, volunteers and fellow runners.

The Boston Bombings in 2013 shook my world to its core.  I knew terrorists existed.  I saw the planes crashing into buildings on 9-11.  I watched the news and tried my best to keep up with current events around the world.  Yes, terrorism was real, but not.  It’s one thing to see bombs exploding in countries across the globe from the comfort of my own living room.  It’s another thing entirely to hear those explosions, feel your hotel room shake and listen to the windows rattle.  It’s another thing to receive a phone call from a friend asking in panic where another friend is.  It’s another thing to emerge from your hotel room only to be greeted by soldiers with large guns telling you to turn around and go the other way.  It’s another thing to sit on the floor of your hotel lobby with hundreds of stranded runners, many of whom never finished their race and who can’t get to their hotel, and watch President Obama talk directly to you through the media in an attempt to soothe our fear and console our hearts.

I don’t think about that day much.  I don’t plan to see the movie.  No judgement towards those who do, but the previews alone leave me in a state of panic.  It was the worst day of my life.  The location of the first bomb was in the exact spot my family stood while I ran my first Boston in 2010.  While my friend and I ran in 2013, our husbands stood across the street from that first bomb, waiting to cheer us on that last .2.  After celebrating our own finish, my friend and her husband went back to cheer on other runners and were directly across the bomb when it went off.  I was back in my hotel room nursing a sore hamstring.  The plan was to let 2013 be my last Boston.  The moment those explosions happened, I knew I’d be back in 2014.

For a year I carried the weight of that day on my shoulders, and I didn’t even realize it.  I did what I always did: drive kids; teach classes; run errands; train for Boston.  Life goes on.  Before I knew it, my friend Shelly and I were flying to Boston where I would meet up with my running partner Tyler and run the marathon one more time.

The day before the race was Easter Sunday.  The Old South Church, located at the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St.  traditionally holds a service the day before the race and offers a Blessing for the Athletes.  I’d never been, and seeing as it was Easter Sunday and the last time I’d be in Boston for the foreseeable future, Shelly and I decided to attend the 11am service.  It was beautiful.  People from every background packed the pews.  Every race, religion, and gender represented.  Different backgrounds and different stories, but we were all looking for a little peace.  There were a lot of runners wearing their 2013 Boston Celebration jackets.  It was comforting to see so many of my fellow runners who’d lived the same day I’d lived.  Our shared experience made us almost like family. I felt like I was a part of a club, although I never wanted to be a member.

The service began.  The music was beautiful.  The minister’s words more significant than ever.  Near the end the runners were asked to stand for their blessing.  Then those who’d run in 2013 were asked to remain standing.  Men and women walked down the aisles with their arms laden with blue and yellow scarves; each one unique in its design.  The church had spent the past year recruiting volunteers to knit scarves for the runners.  People from all around the country contributed and the final result was making its way around the church.  The minister asked for the person to the right of every standing runner to take a scarf and wrap it around the neck of that runner.  An older gentleman took a scarf and wrapped it around my neck and gave me a hug.  We’d never met, but it didn’t feel that way.  I was crying.  He was crying.  There was a lot of crying.

While we stood with our scarves wrapped snuggly around our necks, the minister explained their significance.  Service is something we give someone else.  Someone had to place those scarves around out necks so they could serve us and we could receive that service.  In that act we are both blessed.  Scarves provide comfort when the world is stormy.  They give warmth on the coldest day.  Those that knitted the scarves also served as they provided comfort.  Those scarves were in essence a hug from a stranger wanting to reach out to let us know that out of that one stormy day there was still warmth.  I wore that scarf for the rest of the trip.

Marathon Monday, was equally as moving.  We had a moment of silence at the start line.  And then we began our race.  There were over 30,000 runners with 30,000 different reasons to run.  At mile 16, after the right hand turn at the fire station on our way to Heartbreak Hill, I’ll never forget the little girl holding the sign, “Remember Who You Run For”.  Underneath was a picture of Richard, the little boy who’d been killed in the bombings.  How could I forget.

Rounding the corner to Hereford and then Boylston, the crowds cheered so loudly I couldn’t hear my own thoughts.  Their energy lifted me to the point I felt like I was floating.  I couldn’t feel my legs, but in a good way.  It was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience in the secular world.  It was a triumph of spirit as we crossed the finish line.  We carried the spectators and volunteers with us.  For those 26.2 miles we were one.  Completely and utterly one.

Why do I bring this up now?  The last year has felt more divisive than ever.  I’ve seen friendships ripped apart through tweets and posts.  Families divided over politics.  Divisions in parties, genders, geography are so wide they seem too cavernous to cross.

But here’s the thing.  In the end, we are all human.  We all want peace.  We all want unity.  It’s just a matter of putting each other first and our differences second.  If the diverse group in that South Church can come together in the spirit of support and love, why can’t we all do that?  Is a political season worth the relationships with those we love?  Can we fight for our beliefs and the causes we hold dear without fighting personal battles with each other?   I’d be willing to bet that the man who wrapped that scarf around my neck and the woman who knit it don’t all agree on every issue, but in the end it didn’t matter.  They gave service and I was the grateful recipient and we were all better for it.

Sadly, it’s often through tragedy we find common ground.  I hope to find that common ground before another tragedy happens.  We all want to be heard, but if we’re all screaming at each other we never will be.  In the end, we’re all just runners trying to make it to the finish line.  It’s a lot easier to get there when we cheer each other on.

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- 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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Reasons Not to Run

My first run after getting my cast for a broken hand. It was slow and easy, but oh, so wonderful.
My first run after getting my cast for a broken hand. It was slow and easy, but oh, so wonderful.

My first writing assignment was for a blog called “Reasons to Run”.  It was an easy assignment.  I could spend days listing all the reasons that keep me running.  But once in awhile, the smarter decision is NOT to run.  There have been times in my life when I’ve allowed my love for running to cloud my judgement, take me away from family, push my body beyond its breaking point.  I’m not proud of this.  Thankfully, with age comes wisdom and I’ve learned when to draw that line and give my body, mind, and spirit a break.  Running is always there for me when I decide to come back, and I always come back fresher and stronger than ever.  Click on the link below to read more about reasons not to run.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865658689/Lots-of-reasons-to-run-but-sometimes-the-better-choice-is-not-to-run.html

Boston 2013

Boston 2013, Mile 26
Boston 2013, Mile 26

“… let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

April 2010- 114th Boston Marathon- My first Boston Marathon. I wore my name on my shirt following the advice of a friend who’d run the race many times. I felt like a rock star the entire way as people shouted out my name.

Boston 2013
My daughter Kaitlynne seeing me off as I head to the start line of my first Boston Marathon 2010.

As I reached the middle of Heartbreak Hill, I heard my name. Slowly at first, but the closer I got the the top, the louder and faster the chanting became. I looked ahead to see a large group of Boston College boys cheering my name in unison. As I reached the peak, they broke out into deafening applause as though they had conquered the hill themselves. It almost made me want to turn around and climb it all over again. Almost.

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