Sunday, May 4, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Take Two

I said I wouldn't do another. Training was brutal, and once was enough. I lost sleep. I lost toenails. I lost touch with friends. For half a year, I did nothing but work, eat, and run. Completing the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon ranks among my proudest moments, but it came at a cost. 

So I thought I was done. I worked hard, I crossed the finish line, and I successfully checked it off my bucket list. 

But I couldn't stop thinking about it. I tried to push it out of my mind by focusing on the worst aspects. Remember how gross your feet looked? Remember how boring your weekends were? Remember losing all small talk skills and blabbering on endlessly about negative splits? None of it helped. I still felt pangs of envy when I'd hear about friends training or when I'd see strangers in marathon shirts.  I wanted back in the club.

Portland Marathon, here we come. 

My weekends for the next five months are booked, and I couldn't be happier. This time around, I'm starting with open eyes. I know what I've signed on for. There will be no delusions of grandeur; I accept the bad with the good. Bring on the aches. Bring on the pains. I'll take it all quite literally in stride. 

It's not a romantic process, but I love it, I missed it, and I'm ready to do it all again. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friendly Reminder: Be Nice

If you've participated in any type of community race, you've run amongst tutus. They're everywhere. They're silly, they're festive, they mask imperfect butts and thighs. A little childish?  Sure. A bit stupid? Perhaps. But deserving of nationwide ridicule? Of course not. A good reason to mock someone who has cancer and runs a nonprofit? Hellllllllll no. 

If any of you read SELF magazine, you may want reconsider that subscription. SELF recently published a story on their "BS Meter" about the tutu trend, and they used a picture of Monika Allen wearing a tutu in the LA marathon. What SELF didn't learn until after publication was that the photo was taken while Allen was undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer. 

SELF's facebook and twitter pages have been understandably flooded with people posting complaints and criticism. The editor has apologized, but it may be too little too late. Even if Allen didn't have cancer, SELF -- a magazine intended to empower women -- published a photo with no other purpose than to make fun of a woman who was currently running a marathon. 

Hating tutus is fine, but it doesn't matter. None of it matters. The runner next to me could be wearing a bikini, an animal costume, or a suit of armor and it wouldn't affect me one bit. We are all running our own race, literally and figuratively. 

Running a marathon is hard enough, and tearing another runner down won't make you any faster. Just be nice. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Some days running is pure joy. Today was not one of those days.

I'm waaaaaaaay behind schedule. Way behind. I'm scheduled to run a half marathon in two months, and prior to today I hadn't trained more than three miles. Motivation has been a huge problem this spring. I've still laced up and gone running several days each week, but I simply haven't wanted to run very far. 

Tip of the hat to Jolie Kerr for introducing me to my new life motto: JFDI. Just fucking do it. 

I ran five miles this morning. I didn't want to. I wanted to stay in bed and be warm warm and cozy. But I got up, I put on my shoes, and I just fucking did it. 

JFDI does not just apply to running. Many parts of life are unpleasant but necessary. No one likes flossing their teeth or paying bills or cleaning the bathroom, but they need to be done. Of course these things are uncomfortable and gross. That doesn't make them any less mandatory.

Signing up for a race is more than a one day commitment to cheering crowds and a medal. It's a commitment to the entire process, and I voluntarily signed on to do it.  I know it will be worth it in the end. Some days along the way will be difficult, but dwelling on the hard times won't get me any closer to the finish line. I just need to shake it off and do the work. 

Quit stalling, quit complaining, and JFDI.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do You Even Lift, Bro?

I'm not afraid of much, but the weights section of the gym terrifies me. Not the equipment itself (although that can be daunting), but the the other weightlifters. They're big. They're strong. They know what they're doing. At my local gym, most weightlifters fall into one of two categories: hulking, grunting muscle bots or tan, beautiful selfie-takers who want everyone to know just how good they look. 

Now add to the mix one pale, awkward woman in glasses and you'll see my discomfort. 

Every running program advocates strength training, but for years I've willfully ignored that advice and stuck to cardio and little else. Well, I'm finally facing my fear. Call it a new year's resolution, call it a change of heart, or call it finally acting like a nearly-30-year-old and not a baby. Twice a week, I vow to get over my insecurities and lift weights. 

I've been at it nearly a month, and it's going well. To my surprise (and relief!), my presence hasn't caused nearly the stir I feared. On the contrary, no one seems to mind at all. The other lifters have been too focused on their workout, their music, or their own reflection to pay any attention to me, and I've been able to slowly navigate my way in peace. 

I'm easing my way in, starting with a few reps at a low weight, and gradually building from there.  My tiny weights look silly compared to the massive weights on my neighbor's machine, but I'm not lifting to get ripped. I'm lifting to be stronger at running hills, to be less prone to injury, and to be able to open the goddamned pickle jar without Jared's help. 

I honestly don't love lifting, but I do love feeling strong. I imagine I'll always be a little intimidated by people who are stronger than I am, and I'll need to continue to give myself pep talks and remember that I have as much right to use the weight machines as anyone else.

There's no question that I don't fit in with the other weightlifters, but that doesn't mean I don't belong. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

We Need the Eggs

"A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs."

This joke from Annie Hall refers to romantic relationships, but the sentiment also applies to a runner's relationship to the sport. Long distance running is crazy, irrational, absurd. Explaining it to a non-runner is almost impossible. 

Why do we put ourselves through the pain? Why do we battle the elements? Why do we give up our Friday nights to prepare for early Saturday mornings? Why do we spend money on organized races when we can run outdoors for free?

Because we're compelled to. Because it's worth it. Because we can't not. Because we're a part of a community. 

Every runner has bad days (or bad miles) where we question why we're even out here. Sometimes everything hurts. Sometimes we don't see progress for weeks. Sometimes running just stops being fun. 

But these times are the exception to an otherwise fulfilling rule. Running is more than just exercise. It's a lifestyle and an identity. Of course there are difficult times when we want to quit, but we just brush it off and try again tomorrow. 

Because it's who we are. Because we love it. Because we need the eggs.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Solitary Until It Isn't

A good friend recently told me he is training for his first marathon. I was ecstatic. He told me this at a party, so I responded how any rational runner would -- by completely ignoring everyone else and geeking out about marathon minutiae. We talked about shoes. We talked about diet. We talked about spreadsheets. We talked about unpleasant bodily reactions. We knew we were being rude. We didn't care.

So much of running is solitary. There are nights at home, opting to rest before a long run rather than go out with friends. There are cold, early mornings while your partner sleeps in but you are lacing up your shoes. There are quiet miles with nothing to motivate you but your mind. Marathon training is all-consuming. It's all you can talk about, but very few people want to listen. Despite their good intentions, not many loved ones actually care about your negative splits or hill workouts. (They'll listen because they love you, so be sure to return the favor when they want to talk about fantasy football or band practice).

It's a solitary event...until it isn't.  

With one conversation, my friend and I were in it together. He instantly had an ally for all the pain and the excitement, and I had a fresh excitement for the sport. The running community is large and strong. We all have our own story and our own reason for running, but the experiences are parallel. We care about the process, and we care about each other. 

I'm so excited for my friend. He'll be exhausted. He'll be sore. He'll know deeper pain and greater euphoria than most people experience. His life is going to change, and he's working toward a goal he can be proud of the rest of his life. 

By running a marathon, you are part of something much bigger than yourself. 

Good luck to you, buddy.