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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Last night was the final class of my spring Learn to Run session.  I am always a little sad when these things end.  I’ve spent the last 12 weeks getting to know these ladies, encouraging them, and running with them, and now that the class is over, I have no idea if I will ever see them again.

Chances are, I will see many of them again and they will regale me with stories of races they’ve done or ask me serious questions about training or come into the store to get new shoes or gear.  But still, I have mixed feelings about the end of a class.

To celebrate the end of the class we went on a three mile run and then had a little something to eat and drink at ZZest.  Unfortunately, only two of the ladies in my class showed up for this final run, so it was just the three of us making our way down the trail.  It was a beautiful night for a run, so the trails were busy.  The pace was very slow for me, but that’s the purpose of these runs with the class.  I don’t want to injure them by pushing them too hard too fast.  After we finished the first mile, one of my students commented that it was a record pace for her: 11:55 minute mile.  She was so excited.

About half way through our run we were passed by a runner dude probably doing a 7 or 8 minute mile.  When I say “passed” I really mean he pushed his way through us without saying a word.  Now, runner’s etiquette will tell us that a runner approaching a group should call out his presence so that the group is aware of him and will move over.  Granted, we were running three abreast which is also a no-no for running on the trail, but had he called out “Runner on your left!” we would have moved over with plenty of space for him to go around.  As it was, he bounded right between all of us, (giving us a little bit of a scare I might add as we didn’t even see his shadow approaching) and continued on with his Flash Gordon pace.  One of my runners commented on his form (see how much they are learning!), “I hope someday I can run with my feet kicking my butt.”  We used the opportunity to talk a little bit about form and getting faster.

But after he passed us I couldn’t stop thinking about how miserable he looked.  Yes, his form was great and he was definitely moving, but he didn’t look like he was having any fun.  And yes, running is supposed to be fun.

For serious runners, of course there will be days when your training is not fun.  Nor is it really designed to be.  You are doing hills or speed work, and pushing to get through that last mile of a 20 mile long run, and you feel a little like you signed yourself up for torture.  But not every run should feel like that.  Every once in a while, you need that slow, social run with friends to remind you why you love to run.

Yesterday was that run for me.  The ladies that I was running with are about twice my age and this class was their first time running.  Listening to them brag (with good reason, I might add!) about their fastest mile ever or their longest run was a reminder of what it felt like when I first started running and saw those kinds of accomplishments come fast and swift.  Post-run we hung out at the cafe, sipping on cold drinks and eating fresh, local food.  The ladies chatted about their lives and told me some amazing stories about the places they’ve been (China! Singapore! London! Mexico! Nigeria!) and the things they’ve done.  When I got home, I felt good.  Not just, “I’m glad I went for a run today and didn’t stay home sitting on the couch eating potato chips” good, but “wow, my body and soul feels amazing” good.  I haven’t run that nice, slow pace in a while, and boy did it help me get my mojo back.

Running has been good for me.  It has given me a purpose in life, goals to accomplish, and two great jobs.  It has taught me important life lessons about perseverance and hard work.  I’ve also met some amazing people and made new friends.  I needed to remind myself of that, and last night’s run was just the ticket.

So thank you, Robyn and Pat, and for being great running partners last night and for reminding me that sometimes, it’s okay to slow down.

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You might not feel like it, with your hair slicked back with sweat, a funky gait from a nagging injury, mud on your shoes, and sweat crystalizing on your clothes, but for someone, you are an inspiration.

Every time you go out for a run, remember this.

It might be the kid who sees you run past every morning while he’s waiting for the bus.

Maybe it’s the woman down the street who sees you run by every morning while she is sipping her coffee.  Every morning.  Rain or shine.

Or it’s your kid you’re inspiring.  She sees you lace up your running shoes every day, even when you don’t want to.  And she learns that value of determination and perseverance.  She learns that she can do anything.  And that girls can run too.

Maybe it’s someone in your running group who is just getting started and is struggling.  When he sees you at run club each week, it gives him a boost to keep going.  He’s impressed with the races you’ve finished and the amazing things you’ve accomplished in the two years since you started running.

Whoever it is, think about this person — whether imagined or real — that you are inspiring with your run.  Would you be letting this person down if you decide to stay in today and eat chocolate chip cookies instead?

I’ve been teaching running classes through the Running Room and now through TerraLoco for two years now.  In that time, I’ve met some pretty amazing people.  I love hearing their stories and finding out why they’ve decided to start running at this point in their lives.  Usually there is someone in their past who has inspired them to start running.  

And sometimes, I’m that person.

My absolute favorite part of teaching the clinic is seeing what my students can accomplish.  Many of them I don’t see again after the clinic is over (or maybe even before — yes, despite my best efforts, some people do just quit).  But so many of them I’ve stayed friends with on Facebook or am able to catch up with at the store.  I love seeing the great things they are doing.  As race season started here in Minnesota a few weeks ago, I started seeing all of my past students signing up for 5Ks and 10Ks.  Some of them I haven’t seen in years.  But all the same, taking my class was what inspired them to start running and I love seeing that they are keeping up with it.  

My “students” are my pride and joy.  Like any teacher, I am proud of my students.

Just the other day, one of my current students sent me a picture.  She was vacationing in California, so she missed a class, and she wanted to let me know that she was running, even on vacation (now that’s dedication!). Here she is on the beach:

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And last night she tells me that she has signed up for the Disney Half Marathon!  This is a woman new to running who has decided that she loves it enough to challenge herself to a longer distance.  How amazing is that?

So when I’m contemplating whether to run or not, I think about her, and about all of my students, past and present, and it’s enough to get me out on the trail.  

The question really is, am I inspiring them, or are they inspiring me?

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Warning: The following article will most likely contain TMI.

spitzone2So, I remember when I first started running, I realized I had a problem with sputum build up.  And sputum is not fun when you are wheezing along as a beginner at a 14 minute mile.  Obviously, the solution to this problem is spitting.

I am not a spitter.

I have avoided watermelon with seeds for as long as I can remember. I like watermelon, but I’m not going to sit here in front of the cute boy I like and attempt to send a projectile out of my mouth.  So I only ever ate seedless watermelon (Fun Fact: Seedless watermelon was invented 50 years ago).

So imagine my dismay when I discovered I was going to have to spit.

Let me tell you, the first year was not pretty.  Most of the time, my spit would end up just dribbling down my chin.  On the few occasions where I did manage to get the spit out of my mouth, it would inevitably land on my shoulder.  Or my shoe.

But just like with running, the more you spit, the better you get at it.

I am now really good at spitting while running.  But I still don’t eat watermelon with seeds in it.

The point of this post is that running involves a lot of bodily functions.  Many runners have bowel movements mid-run and tummy troubles.  There is  the sweat (obviously) and the smelliness.  And, of course, the farting.  All in all, unless you are a “glistener” like my sister, you will not look pretty when you come back from a run.

But you know what, that’s kind of the point.  Running is very primal.  It is something we are engineered to do.  It is something our ancestors did long before there were running shoes.  When you go for a run, you let loose.  You find your inner beast and you tackle the trail.  You forget about life for a while, and just focus on the movement.  It doesn’t matter what you look like at mile 10 — you just did something 90% of the population couldn’t, and that’s pretty unbelievable.

My wet, stinky clothes, the spit dribbling down my chin, and the sweat turned to salt on my forehead are my badge of honor.  It’s the proof that I just did something amazing with my body.

My dad is an avid bicyclist, and I remembered being amazed as a kid that my dad would work so hard that all of his sweat turned to salt. There was always a stinky bike helmet and gloves in the sink. Strange as it may sound, that is a fond memory.  I wanted to be strong like my dad.  It took me a while, and I still have a long way to go, but at least I have that sweaty, stinky badge that can only be earned by hard work and quite literal sweat, spit, and tears.

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This is one of my favorite inspirational running quotes.  It puts the temporary discomfort you feel while on a training run in perspective.  Today, that is even more true.

Today I run for Boston.

I run for the child who will never be able to run in his own marathon.  I run for those injured and killed.  I run for the spectators who brave the elements to cheer on their runners.  I run for the people who have lost loved ones.  I run for the marathoners who didn’t get to cross the finish line.  I run for the people who will never run again.

Runners are a strong and resilient bunch.  We will come back stronger than ever, with new recruits, a new passion for our sport.

It’s something small, but today you can run for Boston and for everyone who can’t run.  You can push just a little harder, remembering all of the suffering that happened yesterday.  You can run just a little longer, to finish the marathon for those who didn’t.  You can push aside that little voice in your head that tells you that it is too hard — because you can do it, and it’s not too hard.

Today, I run for Boston.

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Why I Run

Nothing eloquent or difficult today.  Just a list of ways that my life has improved since I started running.

  1. My resting heart heart rate
  2. My blood pressure
  3. My eating habits
  4. My ability to fall and stay asleep
  5. My relationship with my husband
  6. My job
  7. My self esteem
  8. The fit of my clothes
  9. The cleanliness of my house
  10. My mood
  11. My ability to follow-through with tasks and goals
  12. My self-control
  13. My patience

Okay, maybe a little introspection… Even though I was fired from a job last year and I make a lot less money than I did the previous year, and I lost 4 family members in the month of October, I can honestly say that my life is so much better today than it was a year and a half ago.  I feel like so many of the difficult things that have happened in the last year could have been a lot worse had I not picked up running.  I am able to better handle disappointment and tragedy because I have something in my life that makes me feel better no matter what chaos is happening around me.  My only wish is that I had picked it up sooner.  So many things could have gone better in my life had I kept running past my first year of college.  Now I can only promise myself that I will continue running for the rest of my life.  But I also hope that by sharing my story and inspiring others, I can pass that therapeutic activity on to others.

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I wrote this last summer when I was teaching the Learn to Run clinic at the Running Room.  It was published in the Running Room’s emagazine when I was profiled as Instructor of the Month.

I took on the challenge of teaching the Learn to Run clinic with a bit of trepidation.  What could I possibly have to offer to a group of people new to running?  I don’t have a degree in sports training.  I’ve only been running for a little more than a year, and honestly, have only considered myself a “runner” for the past few months.  But this summer, I accepted the challenge, with a little encouragement from my store manager; and as I crossed the finish line of a 5K with one of my LTR clinic members, I realized that, without a doubt, I loved teaching, coaching, and encouraging others.

Cee, the clinic member who completed the 5K with me, needed a lot of encouragement.  Every Tuesday, I tried to decide if I really felt like running that day.  Remembering that Cee, and my other clinic members, were relying on me, kept me motivated.  If I didn’t show up, what was the likelihood that Cee would complete the training, let alone register and finish the 5K at the end of August?  With persistence, Cee and I completed the 5K last weekend.  As we rounded a final bend, approaching the finish line, a volunteer called out encouragement.  “Great work!  You’re almost there!”  And then, almost as an afterthought, “Great job, coach!”

I didn’t have a coach when I was becoming a runner.  There is something to be said for the journey that I took, however.  Alone.   Unsupported.  Just me against the world (and the pavement).  That’s the kind of stuff sports hero movies are made of.  Certainly it made me stronger.  Making this my battle, and my battle alone, has given me a certain pride in what I now do.

But I’ve continued running because of the support I am now able to offer new runners.  I get great joy out of seeing someone return to the store again and again, describing their recent triumphs – “I actually ran for an hour straight the other night!  Can you believe it?” – and encouraging them to go farther – “Absolutely, you can do the 5K.  You’ve trained for this.”  Without the camaraderie, there is a distinct possibility that I would have quit after my first race.  Knowing that I am someone who can inspire others to do things they never thought were possible keeps me on the trail.

Recently, a running friend posted this on Facebook: “Running brings together people who otherwise wouldn’t have anything in common.”  I immediately “liked” the comment.  And it made me reflect on how many people I have met since I started running.  On the trail the other day I waved and said hello to a few people I recognized from Run Club.  At the 5K there were dozens of people who I’ve seen in the store, helped choose gear, or encouraged to register for a race.   I was part of a community, a community that I, in some small way, helped to create.

Cee and I crossed the finish line at what was, for me, a brutally slow pace.  But she was happy.  She had finished 5 minutes faster than her last 5K race.  Now she is registered for the 10K clinic, and she has made a positive change in her life.  Every time I see her, she looks happier and healthier than the last time.  I am proud to have helped her make that change and to have helped her cross the finish line for a PR.

In a few weeks I’ll start training for my first half marathon.  In the meantime, I’ve started teaching the 5K clinic, where, once again, I am coaching and encouraging, and turning someone into a runner.

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This was written a few months ago and published in the monthly U.S. Running Room magazine.

When I first started running, I would wear headphones every time I went out.  It was all I could do to get outside and trudge out 3 miles.  It was painful, and not at all fun.  Where was this “runner’s high” I had heard so much about?  At least the upbeat tunes of Lady Gaga kept me distracted from my grueling pace.

But at some point, that all changed.  Now, I leave the headphones at home.  At first, it was mostly for safety and training – too many race courses don’t allow headphones.  But now, it truly has become about getting a chance to “clear my head.”  Those 5 miles, alone on the trail, are my chance to think through anything that has been bothering me and come up with solutions to any problems plaguing me.  I’m a bit of a worrier, and at times my anxiety can get a bit overwhelming.  In fact, just last week I had a miserable day.  I was crabby and cranky, easily upset, worried and anxious, and generally unpleasant to be around.  When my running partner didn’t show up that night, I almost chalked it up to more bad luck and called it a day.  But instead, I went out for a short run.  It was only 2.5 miles, but it was in the cool fall air, with a light mist falling, and no one was on the trail.  When I got home, I realized that I was suddenly in a better mood.  I had a chance on the trail to work through everything that had been bothering me.  And that’s when I realized that prior to that night’s run, I hadn’t been out for 4 days.  That’s like a decade in a runner’s world.

When I look back at the person I was a year and a half ago, before I started running, I discover that I’m a completely different person.  Not just in size, eating habits, or physical health, but my emotional health has improved 10 fold.  I’m less irritable now, I don’t get as upset about schedule changes, I’m more patient, and I’m more determined and ambitious than I was before.  I’ve realized my own self-worth.  All of that could have taken years to do on a therapist’s couch.

Now I know that running truly is “cheaper than therapy” and I’ll proudly wear my Running Room shirt with that slogan, if only to send a message to newbies that someday they will feel the same.

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