Time Out

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My Facebook feed is filled with lots of pictures of friends running. Some are doing local races and others are down for the big Princess Marathon weekend at Disney. Looking at all the fun everyone is having makes me envious and makes me want to lace up my running shoes and start training again.

But I am in time out. And it is a much-needed time out.

I learned this lesson in my early twenties after I had ankle surgery and got back out on the volleyball court a little too soon. Of course being in my twenties I was in the indestructible phase of my life so I could play through the pain (or at least I thought I could).

Time out to recover doesn’t mean a time out from an active life. It’s just a different kind of active and on a much different scale. Of course it is frustrating not being able to play but over the years I have learned to appreciate giving my body a break. I’m hoping giving myself a long break now will keep me from breaking myself when I get back out there.

Good luck to everyone running this weekend. Can’t wait to get back on the road with you.

The view from the front

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It’s December, Christmas is right around the corner with a New Year waiting right behind it. For me running is a distant memory. The last race I ran was several months ago, back when we were wearing shorts and t-shirts for running instead of dressing up like the brother from “A Christmas Story” before heading out.


As I sit in my current condition I get a chance to reflect on quite a few things. One being that last race. Instead of running the 13.1 my friend Lisa and I opted to do the relay of the Rock n Roll Marathon in Providence. The course was split between the 5-mile hilly portion and the 8-mile flat part of the course. Lisa chose the first leg.

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Looking back now I realize that was quite a special gift for me. As much as I love running I know I am a middle to back of the pack gal. I have no aspirations of trying to really increase my speed and with my knee the way it is my only aspiration right now is to be able to start running again.

 

My race pace relegates me to starting in one of the corrals that crosses the start line a few minutes after the gun goes off. I don’t get to see what things look like in the front; I don’t get to see how beautiful and graceful those runners are. This race was different.

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The relay runners waited at the transition, we were sipping coffee, checking our gear, and making last minute bathroom stops while we waited. The race started about five minutes late, and we looked at our watches and started doing calculations in our head figuring out the pace our partner would run and matching it to the new time so we would know when we needed to be ready to run.

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At almost 25 minutes after the start time, we saw the first runner go by. Yes, I have seen elite runners on television and it is spectacular. But seeing it in person is almost indescribable. This man came screaming by, holding a pace that would leave me breathless in a matter of minutes. His shoulders and face have a determined relaxation. It is as if he is both enjoying being out for a run and calculating just how fast he needs to go to finish the final 8 miles.

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A few minutes after he passed the lead woman darted past us. She had two male runners in front of her. She had a look of peace as she eyed the male runner a few hundred yards in front of her. There was such grace and beauty in her stride.

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Shortly after the lead runners came by, the rest of the racers passed the transition station. As the minutes on clock ticked by the runners began to look less like the lead runners and more like the runners I am familiar with. Runners with much less grace in their stride but with an unyielding determination to finish the race, runners like me.

 

As a participant I won’t be able to see the beauty of the lead runners. Instead I will see the beauty of the middle and back of the packers. The beauty of people who are not afraid to start a race and who aren’t afraid to finish. But it is a great gift getting a chance to see the view from the front.

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Because I Can

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One of the emails I got in preparation for the Disney Princess Marathon asked a question, why do I run? Without much thought, I clicked the link and started writing an answer. After a few minutes it occurred to me, I really don’t know why I run.

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I hear and read a lot of inspirational stories of why people run. Some run to honor a friend or loved one. Some run as part of a weight loss journey. Some run to accomplishing a goal. Some run because they overcame adversity.

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My story isn’t that compelling or inspiring. I wasn’t motivated to run to change my life. I don’t run to lose weight. There was no major life changing reason I started running. I guess the reason I started running is because I wanted to do something just for me, so without much thought I signed up for a half marathon.

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After 5 years of distance running, I’ve still haven’t come up with an answer to why I run. What is it about running that motivates me to lace up my shoes, hit the pavement, and put one foot in front of the other?

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The best answer I can come up with is I run because I can. I do it because my body allows me to run.

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One of my guilty pleasures is watching the Biggest Loser. When I watch the show I see people who are prisoners in their own bodies. Doing something like running is nearly impossible for the contestants because of the weight. My body is fully functioning; I have no excuses for not running, so I run.

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Though I haven’t worked closely with organizations like Homes for Our Troops, Wounded Warriors, Achilles International, and Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, I have worked to raise money and awareness for them. Being in the military it is nice to see organizations that help our wounded warriors when they return home or when they suffer illness or job related injury. Many of our wounded warriors come home and maintain active lifestyles, but because of injury or illness, some of these men and women cannot run. I do not have any wounds, injuries, or illnesses that stop me from running, so I run.

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Running is a gift. It is something that my body is built to do. I can either take advantage and run until my legs tell me they can’t take another step or I can pass on the opportunity, sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else do something I am capable of doing.

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This is the long answer to a short question. Why do I run? It’s not complicated or glamorous, I run because I can.

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(And I run because I love to be around my friends who run. Thanks to all who have joined me in this journey.)

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Finishing Last

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The other day I was talking with a fellow runner. We were both saying how we like to watch the last person finish a distance race. Of course the person who comes in last isn’t nearly as newsworthy as the guy or gal who runs through the tape. We love the winners. We get to hear their interview about how fast the course was and how good it felt to run today. Not to diminish their great feat and victory, but the people who cross the finish line first, should. They are runners.

It’s the person who comes in last though that sparks my interest and curiosity. These are people who for lack of a better term really have no business running, and for that fact running a marathon or half marathon. This year Jim and I finished the Goofy Challenge at Disney World, which consists of running the half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend we took the opportunity to walk far more than run. But being relatively fit we still maintained a healthy pace well ahead of the required course pace.

 

As we were trudging through the back roads and service roads of Disney World we get to see and talk to lots of people. There were all of the people who had run all 18 of the Disney marathons. One of them was injured this year and was walking with the assistance of 2 canes. But he was not ready to miss number 18. There were people running in memory of cancer patients, running to remember the military, running to save their own lives. One of those guys who was running to save his own life had proudly printed on his shirt, used to be a 2 pack a day smoker, lost 50 pounds, and now I’m running my first 13.1. I find that those in the back of the pack have such compelling stories.

 

It is very humbling to watch someone struggle to endure during a distance event. Watching someone struggle to just finish but putting their entire heart and soul into what they are doing right at that moment, people who by taking the first step began to alter their lives.

 

Unlike years past, this year Jim and I stayed and watched the very last person cross the finish line during the Half Marathon. The stands were empty with the exception of a few people. The clock was nearing 4 hours and 30 minutes. A heavy man lumbered slowly towards the finish, followed by a parade of bikes signifying the last runner. He had a crowd of friends who had finished the run earlier but came back onto the course to finish the race with him. The announcer was just as energetic as if it was the first runner to cross the finish line. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were eagerly awaiting just past the finish to give a well deserved high five.

It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t fast. There was no sprint when he saw the finish line. He just kept moving forward. And on that day in January this runner did something that he probably never imagined he would do, finish 13.1 miles.