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.

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.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Thank You Letter to the Boston Marathon”

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?

Continue reading “From the Archives- All the Little Things”

Pennies in the Bucket

Life is made of a series of small decisions.  There’s a lot to celebrate in that statement.  Change can be difficult and overwhelming when we focus on the big picture.  But when we break up our goals into smaller steps, suddenly that giant elephant on your plate is devoured (or chips, or cookies- insert preferred snack food here).  The point is if we want change to happen, we have to make it happen.  It doesn’t have to happen in a day.  In fact, slower change is typically more permanent change.  Our family has a “Fun Bucket”.  In this bucket is where we collect our loose coins.  Before a big vacation we typically take it to the bank to cash it in for bills.  It’s amazing to me how much we accumulate throughout the year.  It’s not unusual to save in the hundreds.  The best part it we don’t even notice the impact.  Tell me to put $100 aside, I feel that.  Tell me to put $1 a day aside for 100 days, I barely notice that dollar missing from my wallet.

Click on the link below to read about some of the pennies I’m putting in my bucket now.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674327/Small-changes-make-a-big-difference.html?clear_cache=1

There’s No Such Thing as Perfection

 

This is a hard one to post.  I don’t like focusing on my physical appearance.  When I exercise, I do it for the feeling.  I’ve said it so often I should have shirts made, but honestly, if you feel good you look good.  Not the other way around.

That said, I am human.  I have days when I’m not thrilled with what I see.  More often I see someone who, in my eyes, is the epitome of strength and beauty and I don’t measure up.  We all do it.  I had one of these days last Wednesday.  The critic in me usually makes an appearance when I’m exhausted and struggling to keep up with the daily grind.  My husband had just left for a week-long trip to Chicago that coincided with Parent-Teacher conferences, history presentations at school, Valentine’s day, birthday parties…  you get the idea.

I’d just finished teaching a Total Body Conditioning class when a new member approached me to tell me how much she enjoyed the class.  She then apologized for not being as strong as others and hoped she could look like me one day.  Whoa!  Wait a second!  First off,  everyone is new at one point.  I needed her to know she showed strength simply by showing up to do the work. If she kept that up, she’d be stronger than she could imagine.  Second, while I was flattered, didn’t she realize my body wasn’t perfect?  Of course she did, but she didn’t dwell on the imperfections I was dwelling on.  She just saw a fit girl.  She was admiring the very body I was feeling down about in the moment.  Her words snapped me out of my funk and back to reality.

I’m not fishing for compliments and I certainly don’t want to be a whiner.  My point for writing this is to remind us (okay, mostly me) that perfection doesn’t exist.  While I was wishing to have someone else’s strength, someone was wishing to have mine.  Frankly, it’s a waste of time to pine for what someone else has.  That time is better spent improving what I have.  Accepting who we are doesn’t mean settling.  It simply means we stop wasting energy chasing someone else’s dream.  We focus on our own growth.

Too often I find myself looking at others feeling like they have it all pulled together.  Everything looks so easy to them.  They don’t have the struggles I have.  They don’t have to work hard to stay fit. But of course they do!  And of course they struggle.  Of course they don’t have it all pulled together!  But what struck me most that Wednesday is that others may be looking at me thinking I have it all together!

I’m here to tell you that, yes, some days I’m feeling pretty good about myself.  Overall I’m pleased with how I feel and how I look.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in running and I own the work I put into my classes.  If I expect members to show up and give me their best, I have to be willing to give my best, too.  I’m not going to shrug that off.  But there are occasions when it’s just a victory to roll out of bed and show up.

I’m posting these pics of my stomach just as an example.  It is what it is.  They’re not bad.  They’re not ideal.  They just are.  One pic is of my stomach in a normal standing state.  The other is what I see every time I’m in downward dog or tabletop position when I practice yoga.  This is a vast improvement from a few years ago when my core was much weaker, but this is where I’ve landed.  I’m putting it out there to show you that none of us is perfect.  Okay, maybe someone is, but that someone isn’t me.

When I tell people to be open to change and not to expect the changes to be the same as their neighbors’, I mean it.  And I’m usually talking to me.  My fitness journey is mine, and mine alone.  If we can learn to stop measuring our progress  by someone else’s measuring stick, we will find true freedom.  If we can see ourselves the way others see us, we will find peace.  If we can accept who we are and revel in our strengths, we will find joy.  And joy lasts longer than a six-pack.  It’s about progress, not perfection.

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.

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.

Continue reading “From the Archives- Gimme A Break”

Surgery Recovery Update

Me, pre-op trying my best to look sad and despondent. Instead it just looks like a failed duck-lip attempt.

A week ago I was in the hospital’s pre-op room wearing nothing but a surgical gown and hospital socks accessorized by the latest and greatest in IV’s and patient bracelets.  It would be another two hours before my scheduled hysterectomy.  Up until this point I was calm, even happy to have this procedure done once and for all.  But sitting in the actual hospital listening to the doctor’s explanations, expectations, and directions I started to literally shake with nerves.

There’s a reason I keep certain parts of my life private.  For some reason many feel the need to share their own experiences, and often, in an attempt to bond and relate, can scare the living be-jeebus out of me with their horror stories.  It happened when I was pregnant.  It became almost a contest to see whose labor was the worst.  Guess what.  No one wins that contest.

So when I learned I’d need a hysterectomy because of fibroids, I only told a few people, and many of those only out of necessity.  I’m not embarrassed.  But I didn’t want to hear the gory details of a friend’s neighbor’s cousin’s procedure back in 1998.  Alas, it was not to be avoided.  As suspected, I was regaled with tales of woe.  It seemed that every story also involved vacuuming.  Weird.  Every woman in each story started to feel fine, decided to vacuum her house prematurely and was rushed to the hospital hemorrhaging along the way.  Some, I was led to believe, never fully recovered (said in a hushed voice, head shaking).

Days before my operation I asked my doctor about these stories.  I could tell this was old news to him.  He didn’t miss a beat and went on to explain why that was definitely not going to happen to me.  I was going to have a Total Vaginal Hysterectomy (TVH) with no incisions if everything went as planned.  If it was easy to do, he’d also remove my fallopian tubes just to reduce any risk of future cancer.  I got to keep my ovaries.  His Christmas gift to me.  Thank you.  Seriously.

He gave me a 2-4 week recovery, but no running for 6 weeks.  I could lift as much as a gallon of milk without worry.  I asked about riding my bike and teaching cycle classes.  He was fine with it as long as it felt okay to me.  I calmed down a little, checked out half the books in the local library, hooked up Netflix in the bedroom and was ready to go.

Fast forward back to surgery day.  I’m telling my experience because in the days prior to mine, I scoured the internet looking for others who’d had the same procedure I had and who were as active as I was.  My biggest concern was how to deal with being bedridden and how long it really would last.  I found almost nothing.  So I write my recovery story for future Kims in the
Gym.

Continue reading “Surgery Recovery Update”

What the Numbers Really Mean

My miles summary for 2016

Stories are made of words.  Glorious words!  But once in awhile, numbers have a voice, too.  In this case, the numbers are from my 2016 run log.  My running for 2016 is done (more on why later) and the numbers are in.  More than 2700, in fact.  It’s what those numbers represent that is significant to me.  Click on the link below to read my Des News column to find out why.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865669075/Every-mile-we-run-tells-a-story.html?clear_cache=1