Monday Memory- Kathrine Switzer

Me with Kathrine Switer at the 2011 Boston Marathon Expo. What an honor to speak with one of my role models, not just in running but in life.

 

Fifty years ago Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.  Bobbi Gibb had run it before, but rebel style.  Switzer had an official bib.  Her run famously included a “run-in” with race director Jock Semple.  If you haven’t read her book Marathon Woman, get a copy now, find a comfy chair and prepare to be amazed in the truest sense.  Kathrine’s belief in herself and other women have made so many of my own dreams a reality.  It’s not just her physical accomplishments, but her dedication to helping all women around the globe open doors to their own success that inspire me in my own little sphere of influence.  At the young age of 70, she is running the Boston Marathon today to commemorate that historic run in 1967.  I can only hope to continue to follow in her footsteps.

Thank you, Kathrine, for all you have done and continue to do.

Boston Marathon Tips

My 2013 Boston Marathon bib signed by five of the six 2012 Olympic marathoners. Prized possession.

A week from today, some of you will be basking in the glow of Boylston St.  It’s a race like no other.  While I won’t be there this year, I do have a few tips to offer those running for the first time.  Here’s to making the most of Marathon Monday!

Click on the link below to read more.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865677447/10-tips-for-running-the-Boston-Marathon.html

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

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.

Top of Utah Marathon Returns for 2017

Top of Utah Marathon
Moose medals!

Could not be happier to spread the word that the Top of Utah Marathon is returning for 2017.  Click on the link below for more details.  Utah wins!!!

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865667177/Top-of-Utah-Marathon-will-continue-in-2017.html?pg=all

Tips on Running an International Marathon

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Marathons are hard.  Traveling can be exhausting.  Combine the two could potentially be a recipe for disaster.  But it doesn’t have to be. My favorite races have been those in places completely unfamiliar.  There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot, running shoulder to shoulder with thousands of locals.  You can learn a lot about a culture during 26.2 miles.  Here are a few tips if you plan to run a race in a different country or even a different state.  Click on the link below to read my column, then pack your bags and choose your own adventure.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865666575/Running-races-internationally.html?clear_cache=1

The Amsterdam Marathon

 

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Click on this link below for a short video of the Amsterdam Marathon finish line

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Time is a funny thing.  It feels like I’ve been gone forever, and yet never left.  For 8 glorious days, I had the good fortune to wander around the Netherlands.  I ate many waffles, Dutch pancakes, Belgium chocolate, and poffertjes (look it up- they’re heavenly), but it was all good because I ran off every last carb during the Amsterdam Marathon.

Poffertjes with strawberries and ice cream. This is dinner.
Poffertjes with strawberries and ice cream. This is dinner.

The beauty of this course can’t be exaggerated.  The friendliness of the volunteers, fellow runners, and race organizers can’t be overemphasized.  This was a larger race with 16,000 marathoners and 18,000 half marathoners.  There was also an 8K the same day with around 3,000.  As large as it was, it felt like a small town race with all the small town feels.  In short, I loved it.  The course was flat which meant my legs weren’t beat up and I was able to walk the city for the rest of the week with little pain and discomfort.

A view of the Amsterdam Marathon course at Mile 20
A view of the Amsterdam Marathon course at Mile 20
The Amstel River. Mile 10 of the Amsterdam Marathon.
The Amstel River. Mile 10 of the Amsterdam Marathon.

 

This is good because there were many chocolate shops to visit along the way.  No time goals for this race.  I took video and pictures and soaked in the atmosphere.  Click on the link below to read about this latest running adventure.  (Fair warning- I wrote this with a jet-lag hangover, so it’s not my best work).

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865665476/The-Amsterdam-Marathon.html

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All You Need is Friends, Shoes and Chocolate

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Sometimes this is the ONLY reason I run. Those pastries are all filled with chocolate FYI

In three days I’ll be on a plane with my two friends, Shelly and Tonya, on our way to Amsterdam where we will meet more friends, devour waffles and chocolate, and run a few miles around a new city.  Two years ago Shelly, who works for Delta Airlines, let me know that Delta now has a direct flight from Salt Lake to Amsterdam.  What I heard in my head was, “Quick!  Look to see what marathons happen in Amsterdam and start planning a trip ASAP!”  And here we are with bags half-packed, text messages about what to wear and what to eat pinging back and forth, and a head full of plans.

Rick, Kim and Elfi at the finish line of the Berlin Marathon
Rick, Kim and Elfi at the finish line of the Berlin Marathon

We’ve traveled to New York, Berlin, and Boston.  These dear friends don’t mind that I pee three times a night.  They understand and support my need for all delicious European pastries.  They take me seriously when I throw out ideas for crazy adventures.  Most importantly, they are on board with them.

Kim, Shelly, and Tonya in the middle of our first century bike ride.  So innocent.
Kim, Shelly, and Tonya in the middle of our first century bike ride. So innocent.

I don’t believe in luck, but how else do I explain how these people came into my life?  These women are the sisters I never had.  Rick and Elfi, the other friends we’re meeting, entered my world by a hair’s breath.  I just happened to be subbing a cycle class at a gym I almost never attend.  Our paths crossed, and we’ve been close ever since.

I chose a good husband.  A man who wants me to be happy and is thrilled when I am smiling.  He doesn’t LET me go on these trips.  He encourages it and cheers me on from our living room while he and the kids eat donuts on the couch for breakfast (‘cuz when Mom’s away, I don’t ask questions.).  I always experience intense homesickness when I embark on these trips.  There’s nothing harder than saying goodbye at the airport.  I love these people and one day we’ll be rich enough that I can take them all with me.  On the other hand, taking a break from our routine (and, let’s face it, them having a break from me and my insistence on brushing and flossing) is good for everyone.

My family greeting me at the airport after the Berlin Marathon
My family greeting me at the airport after the Berlin Marathon

So, things will be quiet on the site for the next two weeks.  I’m going to enjoy experiencing a new country with old friends and soaking in every minute of it.  I’ll be Instagraming the life out of this trip, so you can follow our running adventure at kiminthegym1 on Instagram.

How I Recover From a Marathon

Classic.  My friend Elfi and I obviously NOT enjoying life post-race.  Keeping it real.
Classic. My friend Elfi and I obviously NOT enjoying life post-race. Keeping it real.

When you ask people to name their talents, you usually hear singing, playing piano, acting, sewing, cooking and the like.  My talent is a little off-beat.  My gift is recovery.  Whether from a hard workout or a race, recovery is key to long-term health.  A doctor once explained to me that running a marathon is like little bombs exploding in leg muscles.  How they repair and recover are key.  There are some recovery methods that aren’t in my control: my body hoards water to help the muscles recovery.  What does that mean?  It means the scale goes up significantly the week after a race.  We’re talking around 5 pounds for me.  No need to worry.  The body’s just doing what it was designed to do.

But other recovery methods are in my control.  Click on the link below to see what it is I do to get myself back in the game of life post-race.  Remember, what works for me may not work for you.  This isn’t a “how-to”.  It’s just me sharing what has been successful for me.  Enjoy.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865663863/Kim-Cowart-How-I-recover-from-a-marathon.html?pg=all

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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