five minute Friday, running

Five-Minute Friday: Friend.

Somehow, it’s Friday again already! I’m linking up with the other intrepid souls at Tales from a Gypsy Mama for Five-Minute Friday, a community gathering of writers who write for five minutes on a prompt without overediting, backtracking or worrying too much about getting it exactly right. New voices are always welcome…please think about joining us.


Perpetually five minutes late at least, I turn into an empty parking space and turn off the car, stashing my key in a pocket. She never makes me feel guilty, even though she’s been waiting in the cold. We fall into step the way we always do, still able to see our breath on what will eventually be a warm spring day. It’s not quite light enough yet for the trail to be crowded, and chatter flows freely as we start to warm up, tucking our bare fingers into our long sleeves. (You just shouldn’t have to wear gloves in late April.)

I’m not sure how many miles we have covered together, our feet keeping time and our hearts beating strong. I’m not sure how many topics we’ve discussed, how many problems we’ve solved, how many laughs we have shared. What I do know is that I used to run alone, and now I don’t anymore…and I am almost as grateful for the pair of legs running beside me as I am for my own underneath me. Running is constant evolution, a constant accepting and reaccepting of my strengths and my weaknesses. Having and keeping company on such a journey is a great privilege.

The sun has climbed up to a respectable height as we close in on the end of the last mile, dodging a pair of ducks ambling companionably across the path…and although I expect we may never run out of things to talk about, we are quiet, warmed by robust effort and the bond of having struggled and triumphed together.

For more Five-Minute Friday, please visit Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog, Tales from a Gypsy Mama.


Five Minute Friday
Boston, running


Photo Stew Milne/AP (courtesy WBUR)

“I just can’t imagine.”

Anytime there is a collective tragedy, we say it…a shooting, a bombing, an earthquake, a fire. We look at the victims’ photos, we hug our families a little tighter, we watch the news (even when there isn’t anything new to hear), and we say it.

“I can’t even imagine.”

The thing that makes this particular tragedy different, the thing that keeps me turning it over and over in my head is that I can imagine. Maybe some of you can, too. I’ve never run the Boston Marathon. It’s unlikely that I will ever finish a marathon fast enough to qualify for the chance to wear one of those coveted blue and yellow jackets. Still, I have crossed more finish lines than I can count, and I’ve completed 2 marathons. I know what it feels like to have carefully calculated how much fuel you need to save for the end, to be coming into the home stretch, to have the finish line in your sights. I know the pain and exhilaration of having just completed 26 miles and knowing that last .2 still lies ahead before I can stop. I have crossed the line having poured out everything I had on the course…usually elated, but sometimes defeated by the race I’ve just run.

The immediate aftermath of crossing a finish line after such an enormous effort sometimes includes trembling, sometimes nausea, sometimes dizziness…usually a blur of sports drink and bananas and bagels being handed to you as someone puts a medal around your neck…the anxious feeling of scanning crowds of runners and spectators, aching to rest your eyes on the one face you’ve been seeking…a kind of strange disconnectedness as you try to convince your exhausted legs to keep walking through the hectic bustle (best case) or chaotic swarm (worst case) of the finishers’ chute.

Worst case, you throw up.
Worst case, they are out of lemon-lime Gatorade and you have to have orange Gatorade…and then you throw up.
Worst case, you can’t find your running buddy right away and end up stumbling back to the hotel on your own.

Worst case, until now, has never included the possibility of being blown up at the finish line.

And that is why I’m so angry about the bombing at Boston.

Photo Stew Milne/AP (courtesy WBUR)

This race is epic. Most of us will never run it, since runners either need to qualify with a fast time in a previous race or raise a lot of money for charity to get in.  But somehow, Boston belongs to all of us. We’re invested in its outcome. We watch its drama unfolding every year, holding our collective breath to see who will have what it takes to rise to the top. Even if we’ll never be on that bus to Hopkinton, we know someone who is, or has been, or will be, and we’re pulling for her or him. Boston is the race. It’s our race. And now, it will forever be different…and so will every other race in the world.

I know I will never again cross a finish line anywhere without thinking of what happened yesterday.

Most of us who run distances have joked at some point about what would happen in a race if our legs failed, if we couldn’t run across the finish line. We laugh about log-rolling or crawling across the finish line on hands and knees. It’s all about the finish, and we are bound and determined to get there, no matter what. I never considered the possibility of explosions at the finish, but even that wasn’t enough to stop some runners (like 78-year-old Bill Iffrig).

Runners are more motivated than most. We get things done. We donate blood to those in need. We run supplies to communities destroyed by hurricanes. We create electricity with our feet. We are at our best en masse, and we can do amazing things.

To those responsible for the bombing at Boston: Do not underestimate us. Our sport may be solitary in many ways, but the running community is strong and vibrant. Our drive, our determination, and our love for running bond us together…and if you mess with some of us, you should expect the rest of us to come to their aid. We runners take care of each other.

You should also expect us to keep on running. That’s what we do – we lace up our shoes, head out the door, and put one foot in front of the other until we are done. We don’t quit. We move forward. We will protest your act of violence by refusing to let you stop us. Marathoners are the most determined, committed tribe I know. If you were trying to crush someone, you picked the wrong group. We may be shaken, but we are not defeated. We run anyway.

And to our fallen comrades, the runners who were forced to stop and the ones who can no longer go on – we will carry you with us, always, and we’ll be stronger than ever for it.

The London Marathon is next weekend. What will we see? the reporters ask. Beefed-up security? Fearful crowds? Fewer runners? Possibly. What you’ll definitely see, though, is what you see at every marathon…a crowd of strong, fierce runners who are ready to give their best in pursuit of a goal.

No one can take that away from us.
Image courtesy of Another Mother Runner


For ways to support Boston, the injured runners, and the Richard Family (who lost their 8 year old son, Martin), check out this post at Another Mother Runner

5K, race, running, turkey trot

Giving thanks for Turkey Trots.

Today, I’m thankful for the Turkey Trot. It’s become a tradition in our family to run (or walk) a 5K together on Thanksgiving morning. The weather was perfect this morning, and running through the woods with the sun shining through the trees was just the way to start a day dedicated to being grateful.

The Turkey Trot is a funny thing. It’s not a fast race, really…but then, it’s not about the time. It’s about going outside in the morning and running or walking with a bunch of other like-minded people before we stuff ourselves full of carbs and turkey and sugar and then crash on the sofa for a nap.  The level of participation in our family varies from year to year. One year, it was almost everyone on my mom’s side. This year, it was just us – my husband, my children, my parents. 

I’m grateful for my body, for my legs and feet, for the chance to run with my family and be together today. I’m grateful for the members of my family who didn’t run this year. I’m grateful for my parents, who pushed the double and single joggers so George and I could run with our hands free. I’m grateful for the three little stroller occupants, who cheered when they saw me after the race. And I’m excited that the race is done. Soon the food will be ready, we’ll be gathering around a table with everyone, and there will be food. I think I burned the corn pudding, but George didn’t burn the pies…and since we already ran this morning, I’m planning to eat as much pie as I want. (The rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile run or walked, but I don’t normally count calories, and I’m certainly not going to start today.)

And, although this isn’t the focus of my gratitude, I’m happy about the race I ran. I beat my post-twin PR by almost a minute, coming in at 33:03. I felt good, I had fun, and I didn’t get sick. It might just be a 5K, but it feels kind of like redemption.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

half marathon, OBX, race, running

Race report: OBX Half Marathon

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Long story short: This wasn’t the race I thought I would run; therefore, it’s not the race recap I thought I would write.
I told myself (and you) that my goal was just to get across the finish line this time. I said that it didn’t matter how slow my time was, that this was the beginning of my comeback after having the twins. I said that I was grateful just to be able to do the race, given that I had to sit out of my last half-marathon because of complications with the twin pregnancy.
I believed those things were true.
It turns out that I wasn’t being completely honest with myself (though I believed I was being honest with you!).
So, how did it go? 
Not the way I hoped. I struggled nearly the entire time. It might have been my worst race ever.
Because of horrible, unprecedented stomach upset that attacked around mile 2, I ended up walking a big chunk of the second half and visiting a higher percentage of the porta-potties on the course than in any previous race. I have never been so sick on a run. Even now, as I’m sitting here telling you about it, the mere thought of lemon lime Gatorade is making me nauseous. I ended up finishing over 3 hours, which is the longest (by far) that I have ever taken to complete this distance.
Does my time matter? Maybe it shouldn’t, but it bothers me.
I know. I should give myself a break. Three different people have been in residence in my body in the last four years. With the double occupancy of The Sisters, I ended up with 12 weeks of bed rest, which erased all the hard work I had done in 2010 to train for my last marathon. This race is like starting over for me- a reset button for everything.
Writing about the race has been harder than I expected. I really left everything I had on the course. It was the most difficult, most demanding race I have ever run, and although it’s been over a week since I ran it, I still can’t manage to rehash the whole thing.
I do want you to know two things:
1. This is an outstanding race. It’s well organized, the course support is great, the scenery is amazing. It has the warmth and charm of a small-town race, but every detail has been handled with total professionalism. Even with a hurricane blowing through just a week and a half beforehand, the race organizers managed to pull off a smooth race. Not only that, they used the event to entirely restock the Outer Banks Food Pantry (which was wiped out by the storm) by coordinating a food drive at the race expo. Additionally, 100% of the net proceeds from their race events go to charity. If you have never done a race run by Outer Banks Sporting Events, you definitely should consider it. They are a class act.
2. I have already started looking at my training plan for another half marathon. This race (which felt like a failure in some ways and a victory in others) is a beginning, not an end. I will be back, stronger than ever…and I’m going to do more of my long training runs with lemon lime gatorade (or whatever they will have on the course for Shamrock) so my stomach can adjust.
Random race highlights:
  • I started the race with a good friend, and it was her first distance race. I remembered my first half-marathon (Rock ‘n’ Roll in Virginia Beach in 2005) and how nervous I was. She was as calm as I’ve ever seen her.
  • In the first mile, my friend and I ran behind someone with a shirt that said “Mormons on the Run.” I’ve seen a lot of race t-shirts, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen one of those.
  • In the second mile, the sound was blending into the sky in an unbroken band of shimmery blue…it was impossible to tell where the water ended and the sky began. It was incredibly beautiful. The bridge up ahead was hidden by the fog that obscured the horizon, but I loved this part of the course more than ever before.
  • In the fifth mile, I passed a sign that read “Run like Gerald is chasing you.” I have no idea what it was for, but I thought of the only Gerald I know, my children’s godfather, running along with me as I went. Also, someone (seeing my “Virginia is for Runners” shirt) yelled out, “Good show, Virginia!”
  • Going up the bridge over the sound toward Manteo, I looked out over the water. It gave me chills to look back over to Jockey’s Ridge, where we had started, and see how far away it was.
  • They had coconut water at the finish instead of sports drink. Since I kind of never wanted to see sports drink again, this was a delightful surprise.
  • The best part of the whole thing was when George showed up, having just finished a hard-fought 26.2 himself, and handed me my discarded striped knee sock arm warmers. He had seen them on the roadside and picked them up to bring to me, even though they were covered with sandspurs. What a guy.
So, am I glad I did it? Yes. Mostly, though, I just want another shot at it. I wasn’t expecting my time to be fast, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so slow. I’m working on processing things and seeing this one as a success. 
I did it. I did okay. And I feel okay about telling you that I’m not totally okay with the whole thing yet but expect to be more okay as time goes on. I’m working on it, and I’ll get there.
Thanks for all your support and for the race playlist ideas…the music was one of the best parts!

7 quick takes, OBX, running

7 Quick Takes: OBX Racing Love

Serious anticipation is crackling in the air at our house right now. Even though there is still a pile of laundry (okay, multiple piles) to be done before we can pack our stuff, we are all tremendously excited (according to SuperSam) about our race at the beach this weekend. So that you can share in our fluttery stomach feelings, here are 7 reasons I can’t wait for the OBX Marathon/Half-Marathon this weekend:
— 1 —

The playlist. I have taken all your suggestions into account, have looked them up on iTunes and/or Spotify, and have crafted the most beautifully perfect race playlist ever. This is my first big race in two years, so the music is very important to me. When does a stay-at-home parent get to listen to all her own music without interruption? Answer: when she’s running a really long way by herself. I can’t wait. Which brings me to number 2…

— 2 —

Babysitting by grandparents. This course is not baby jogger-friendly. I am going to be totally by myself for about three hours (from pre-start to finish) on Sunday morning. I honestly can’t remember the last time this happened. It’s felt like Christmas Eve all week long. All I have to do is run 13.1 miles to get this privilege. Why don’t I do this every weekend?

— 3 —

Water stops. While I am on the course running, someone is going to hand me drinks every couple of miles if I want them. (And no one is going to ask me for any juice, then change his mind and say he wants milk, then spill it on the floor and refuse to help clean it up, either.) This will be a nice reversal of how my days usually go.

— 4 —

Water stops, part B. The sound of paper cups crunching under thousands of running shoes is one of the greatest sounds in the whole world.

— 5 —

Donuts. Duck Donuts. In one word: amazing. I’m going there, and I’m going to be burning 1300 extra calories on Sunday morning. Logically, I should be able to eat as many donuts as I want, and I plan to do exactly that.

— 6 —

The Outer Banks is one of my very favorite places.  This race in this place is special. It’s beautiful, of course, but it’s more than that…the people who put this race together have made it a great community event, and the whole community comes out to support it. People here are tough and resilient, just like marathon runners – it’s a natural fit. Besides, you can stick your legs in the cold ocean when you finish running, which beats an ice bath any day.

— 7 —
The end…and little hugs and kisses. They’re going to give me a medal at the end. When I cross the finish line, no matter how slow my time was, someone is going to put a medal around my neck. It makes no difference how many times I have this experience- it never gets old. I feel like an Olympian. Or a superhero.

Baby SuperSam and me after 2009 Ukrops 10K
After it’s all done and I have my medal and my runner’s high and my complimentary sports drink and banana, I will get to see my children and hug them. I’ll remember that part of why I do this is to be the best mom I can be to my three little ones, because that’s what they deserve. And seeing all three of them there together will remind me that what I’ve just done is a big achievement for someone who had twins after 12 weeks of bed rest just over a year ago. That woman is pretty amazing. A lot has happened since she last covered this distance. 
What I’m doing this weekend is a big deal, and I’m proud that I’ve fought my way (almost) to the starting line. The race itself will be great, but I’m already feeling like a huge success.
Thanks for following along. I’ll let you know how it goes.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Calling for reinforcements

Image credit: Sports Backers

Waiting in the corral, I feel the familiar flutters in my stomach. Feet shuffle all around me as runners shake out their legs and arms, take deep breaths, study their watches, test their iPods. People jump in place. (Why do they do that?)

There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie of a distance race. Hundreds or thousands of people line up together. We have all come from different places, all prepared in different ways, but now that the race is here, we all share the same goal – to get across the finish line. There are lone runners, pairs of runners, big groups of runners. Someone in an Elmo costume. A girl in bright pink argyle knee socks. A daughter running in memory of her dad. Guys wearing fuel belts and headphones with Philippians 4:13 on their shirts. The inevitable people without shirts (no matter how cold it is that morning), their race numbers pinned to their shorts. No matter who we are or how we got here, we’re all waiting, standing together at the start.  We will travel together across the miles, and we will all finish in the same place. At the end, most of us won’t care who finished ahead of us or behind us as we grab our bottle of sports drink and bagel or banana, giddy with the elation of just having completed the distance, checking our watches and calculating mile splits, replaying the great moments of the race as well as the awful ones, already thinking about the next one we’ll run.

I have a big race coming up in just a few days. I can’t wait for the swarm of runners, to become part of that moving mass of humanity putting one foot in front of the other until we reach the goal. Community is created during the hours on the course. Even if I don’t speak many words to the other runners (which I usually don’t), we still share something important. We have dedicated ourselves to a common purpose.

I’m not a chatty person (maybe even less chatty as a runner than in my non-running life). I normally run alone, both during training and during races. There are notable exceptions: my sister (though it’s a very rare treat), my excellent running friend (once a week or so), my husband (every now and then when we hire a babysitter). Once I ran with an old friend from elementary school at the end of a race when we were both hurting (an unexpected but awesome encounter). Usually, though, it’s just me, and it can get lonely sometimes. On occasion, I’ve imagined Jesus running along beside me for miles, keeping me company. I think he’d be a barefoot runner, probably, and fairly quiet. Not chatty. Running buddies, even imaginary ones, are great for motivation. They don’t even have to say anything, just keep me company on the way.

This is where you come in.

I’m about to run further than I have run since 2010, and I’m going to be by myself. I can rely on my legs and my training to get me part of the way to the finish line, but a big part of distance running is mental. Over the years, I’ve learned that it helps me to think of other people at each mile marker. Focusing on someone else (and how grateful I am for that person) is good for keeping me moving ahead.

If you’re willing, I’d like you to be my running buddy for a mile of my race. You agree to think of me/pray for me/send me positive vibes and love next Sunday morning, and I will be doing the same for you while I run.

I am grateful for each person who reads this blog…you have been on this ride with me since I announced I was training for this race months ago, and you have helped keep me accountable. It is only fitting for me to take you along in some way on race day. With GU and sports beans in one pocket and all of you (figuratively, of course) in my other pocket and these people in my earbuds, how can I go wrong?

Leave me a comment here or on Facebook with what mile you’d like, from 1-13, if you want to help me out with this. Mile #2 is the only one that’s not up for grabs, because I’m dedicating that one to Sierra Forder and her incredible running mother, Missy. If I get more than 13 of you, I’ll break the miles into pieces (which might be a good idea, anyway).

(Note: to leave a comment, just click on the link that says “Comments” at the bottom of this post. That will open up a window for you to type your comment. You can comment as a guest if you want, but if you do that, please leave your name or something so that I can tell who you are!)

Thank you. There will be a race report at some point, so stay tuned.

playlist, running

She shall have music wherever she goes…

Running and music are inseparable.

I know people that run without music. I have even tried to be one of them. During my first marathon, I didn’t use music at all in training or in the race. I tried to be a purist, to associate fully with the run, to avoid distracting myself with songs. Five years later, even though I often leave my iPod at home on runs, I still can’t manage to run without hearing music. Even on short runs, even when I’m talking to someone else, I can’t help but have a song in my head.

Honestly, I have some kind of music in my head all day long (yes, even right now: The Goldfish Song by the Laurie Berkner Band.) My brain is my personal Pandora station. The quality of the music varies, but there are (usually) no commercials. (I did have the old “Toys R Us Kid” song in my head for about 3 hours one day last week.)

Unfortunately, my Pandora-brain lacks a Running channel. Sometimes, if I don’t have my headphones and a carefully engineered playlist, I end up with inappropriate music rattling around in my head. It can be a challenge to get rid of it. Take my last long run, for example: I struggled through the first half, partly because of the crazy hilly course George mapped out, but also because of the unhelpful people singing inside my skull (mainly the Beatles with “Carry That Weight.”) Talk about feeling heavy. When George handed me his iPod in the last three miles, it was a relief to let something else (Aretha Franklin and Kanye West, in that case) drown out that song.

Although my taste in music is diverse, I’m kind of a snob about my “regular” music. I don’t listen to commercial radio, and I’m sort of precious about what is on my iPod. For running, though, my standards are totally different. I listen to all kinds of stuff while I’m running that I would be embarrassed about at any other time. Even George has teased me about some of it (um, Spice Girls?). I used to apologize for this. I don’t anymore. If I’m going to run for hours on end, I can listen to whatever I want, even if it’s trashy. No judgment.

With the race coming up on Sunday, it’s time to start assembling my playlist. Here are some highlights, in case you are interested:

Pre-Game (waiting forever in the line for the bathroom while I second guess my choice to wear short sleeves)

  • Shine – Collective Soul
  • Down at the Twist and Shout – Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls
  • To Be Young – Ryan Adams 
  • Forca – Nelly Furtado
  • Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

The Early Miles (I’m just getting started, here, and I don’t care if you pass me)

  • Roll Away Your Stone – Mumford and Sons
  • Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
  • Touch of Grey – Grateful Dead
  • Meadow Green – Old and in the Gray
  • Crosstown Traffic – Jimi Hendrix
  • It’s the End of the World as We Know It – R.E.M.
  • Love Me or Leave Me – Nina Simone

The Middle (I don’t care if you pass me because this is the fun part, and I’m so happy to be alive!)

  • Ladyflash – The Go! Team
  • Magnolia Soul – Ozomatli
  • Starships – Nicki Minaj
  • Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon
  • Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
  • Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
  • The Horizon is a Beltway – The Low Anthem

The Hard Part (now I don’t care if you pass me because I’m just trying to get to the finish line)

  • Devil’s Dance Floor – Flogging Molly
  • Living in Colour – Frightened Rabbit
  • Hey Ya! – Andre 3000/Outkast
  • Pump It – Black Eyed Peas
  • Highway to Heaven –  Mahalia Jackson
  • Here I Come – The Roots
  • Leanin’ on the Everlasting Arms – Fontella Bass

The Finishing Stretch (I love this song! Oh, I love this song, too! I’m going to get a medal! I will NOT let you pass me now…better watch out- they call it a finishing kick for a reason!)

  • You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray
  • He’s All over Me – Whitney Houston and the Georgia Mass Choir (from the Preacher’s Wife soundtrack)
  • Go Speed Racer, Go – Ali Dee and the Deekompressors

Richmond marathon, 2010 – that’s the finish line up there, right in front of me.

I have amassed a lot of music in the past five years…23.5 hours of stuff in the “Running Music” folder on my iTunes as of last evening. Still, I’d love to have a few new songs to try out and use for this race. What are your suggestions? I’m open to anything – I’ve run to everything from Flatt and Scruggs to the JMU Marching Royal Dukes to the Soweto Gospel Choir to Smashing Pumpkins. So Really…Anything.

Leave me a comment here (click below the post on “Comments,” which will bring up a comment box inviting you to leave a message) or on Facebook if you’d like to suggest a song.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Thanks in advance.