You may have heard that “Defund Planned Parenthood” protests are in the works for February 11. Planned Parenthood has asked supporters not to counter-protest, but to stand with them through donations and other shows of assistance.
I’ve gotten together with a group of friends who know one another primarily through running. We’re showing our love for Planned Parenthood by asking people to sponsor us as we run purposeful miles over the next couple of weeks. Some of us are scheduling a training run especially for this purpose. Others are doing a Valentine’s race the weekend of the protests–I’ll be doing the Love the Run You’re With 5K, and trying for a PR (because why not?).
We stand with Planned Parenthood, and we run for Planned Parenthood.
I’ll be running in honor of my friend Kelly Gregory, who has been kicking cancer’s butt for five years. She has written many times that Planned Parenthood saved her life, and that’s no exaggeration. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s a fierce dame. If I were cancer, I wouldn’t want to cross Kelly Gregory.)
Last year, my friend Jen suggested a bunch of us do the Bermuda Triangle Challenge for our birthdays (a milestone year for a few of us). I’m not sure whether she really expected anyone to take her up on the idea, but eight of us ended up making the trip this past weekend–four members of Springfield Moms RUN This Town; another running/triathlon friend, Marianne; and three spouses, including Robert. Four of us went for the full challenge, which is a one mile run, 10K run, and half marathon on successive days.
Two of us ran the half marathon only: Sophie, who is currently 18 weeks pregnant, and yours truly, whose body continues to reward me for not running two days in a row (exception made for Ragnar Relays). Plus, I wanted some sleeping-in mornings. Marianne was going to do the full challenge but her knee was talking to her after the 10K, so she wisely took it easy and went swimming instead. I told you she was a triathlete!
We all had a blast, and if you have the inclination and means to do an international race, this is one for your bucket list.
We did not throw away our shot!
I blame the song “Kokomo” for my ignorance of Bermuda’s location–it is nowhere near the Caribbean, nor any other island, really. But it’s super accessible from the East Coast. Bermuda is an easy country to visit and navigate. The people are warm and helpful and buses and taxis are plentiful. Businesses take US currency, so logistics are a breeze, and even in the off season, there’s plenty of stuff to do, or beaches on which to lounge and stroll if you don’t want to do much. Robert was super bummed that he was not able to scuba with Jen’s husband Fred because of some fleeting chest congestion. But the guys all went snorkeling on Sunday and on Monday and saw tons of colorful fish, old cannons, and a gigantic elusive grouper fish that became the inside joke of the weekend.
Some people have strange reactions to so-called runcations. Why would you want to run on a trip like this? Why exert yourself so much? Sounds stressful. Just lie on the beach!
My favorite kind of foot photo.
Well… People should do what makes them happy. But I think runcations can be more relaxing than trips in which you cram a bunch of sightseeing into a few days. Our group was up early each morning to run, which meant afternoons were for relaxing, and evenings were festive but finished up relatively early.
On a runcation, you may end up at the grocery store for a favorite pre-race snack or sunscreen, which gives you a glimpse of a place’s local culture. And hey. Running burns calories, so you can indulge in food and beverages without coming home with 10 extra pounds. (More like 5.)
Most importantly, there’s nothing quite like seeing a place through the power of your own two feet. No, you can’t tick off as many sites as you do from a bus or on a hectic tour, but you see them in a deeper way. You see and smell flowers:
You get a good look at real local living, like homes…
Businesses… (I’ve always loved this verse)
Even cemeteries. Running by cemeteries always reminds me to embrace the experience of running as the gift it is. I get to do this:
Better to be running past it than buried in it!
And you get a flavor for the local population, at water stops and along the course. The crowd support was fantastic all weekend. People sat in lawn chairs in their front yards, clapped, and offered high fives and many a “Well done!,” my new favorite term of encouragement. I love when races put the runners’ names on the bibs, and here, people actually used them. There’s something powerful about total strangers cheering for you by name.
As for the half marathon–it was an excellent race. Spectacular course, excellent support, great logistics (mostly).
We stayed at the official run hotel, which meant we ran into legend Bart Yasso the morning of the race. He complimented us on our skirts. But really, how could he not:
These are Sparkle Skirts, and I do believe we sold a few out on the course.
The start/finish line was modest but with all the amenities, including actual flush toilets (and soft drinks at the end, along with the traditional Gatorade and water–our group was elated). I had plenty of time to pee twice before the race, which is about right for me.
It was a beautiful morning:
Sporting our MRTT “Be Amazing” shirts! We got a lot of attention for them.
Had time for a photo with the town crier, who also led us in a moment of silence for a fallen runner whose name I didn’t catch.
Then we were off!
This is my fifth half marathon, and I wasn’t running for time. I’m trying for a personal best (PR) at the Rock n Roll DC in March, but for this one we all wanted to be leisurely, take in the scenery and get lots of pictures:
Lots of mirrors for driveway visibility on these little streets. Couldn’t resist this one.
Temps were in the 60s, but the ocean breeze kept things pretty comfortable. There was also a good bit of shade.
Here was the moment I knew I’d never forget. Crashing surf and party music:
The marathon is a double loop of the half marathon course, and we laughingly wondered when the leader would lap us. It was at mile 10. Mile 10!
I’m notorious for fading out in the latter miles of long races, which is something I’ve been working on. So around mile 11 I decided to take off and see if I could pick up the pace. I was assisted by a nice downhill in that! When I had about .2 left I stopped and waited for the group so we could cross the finish line together. They were only a couple minutes behind me.
At that point our stomachs were all growling. An 8 a.m. start is very civilized–and the 10K the day before started at 9!–but brunch was definitely calling. We passed a froyo place with just a tenth of a mile to go, and I’m now kicking myself that we didn’t go in to get some, because that would have been an awesome finish line photo. But it was still pretty wonderful. (And there’s video!)
I mentioned that the logistics were mostly great. The big buzzkill was that they ran out of half marathon medals. That was a bummer. We were all looking forward to medal photos on the beach. And Jen, Stephanie and Todd (Sophie’s husband) had completed three races and were supposed to receive four medals, and we’d been laughing about wanting to get a picture of all of them on the “medal rack” in the hotel room (OK it was a tie rack, but still). I never did hear what happened, but they’ll be mailing them to us. Ah well.
Stephanie and Jen are holding teeny pics of our friends Sara and Tish, who were with us in spirit.
Finally, I need to say a big thank you to my mother, who kept the three amigos safe and entertained so Robert and I could get away. We couldn’t have done it without you.
FB memories reminded me that three years ago today I was in Orlando, preparing to run the Disney Marathon. (Here’s the recap, Every &*#@! Mile Is Magic.)
It’s something I never thought I’d do when I started running.
Last month I did something else I never thought I’d do: I hired a coach.
I’ll be working with Lena from TRF Coaching at least for the next few months, through the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon here in DC. I met Lena through Moms RUN This Town and love her energy and positivity. She is a running rockstar, but celebrates and supports runners who come from a variety of experiences and fitness levels. When I was injured and she was pregnant, we did a lot of pool running together.
This will be my third time running RnR. I’ve improved my half marathon time gradually over the years, but I’d like to see what I can do with a customized training plan and a bit of a push from someone who knows what she’s doing.
I’m a big believer in coaching in general. I had a ministry coach when I first started a call in a new church. I’ve coached or mentored people informally over the years, and will be getting my coaching certification through the International Coaching Federation this spring.
So why is working with a running coach something I thought I’d never do? Well, there’s the expense. I’m a Presbyterian, and typically we’re frugal folk. Running is theoretically a cheap sport–all you need is a decent pair of shoes. And yet… things easily snowball:
There are tons of running resources available online, to say nothing of books, and I love doing my own reading and research. So this isn’t something I need. But I’m considering this stint of coaching to be an investment in myself and in something I love to do. I’ve already learned valuable stuff about good form and proper training. And my physical and mental health are not extravagances. So, we’ll see where this takes me.
I’ve realized, though, that the cost thing is only a small part of a larger dynamic: the feeling that coaches are for other runners. Better runners. Faster ones. Not middle-aged, middle of the pack runners.
Indulge me as I drill down on this a little.
One of the ways we protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable is by pretending we don’t care that much: “That thing I love? I don’t really love it. I could take it or leave it.” We apply a thin veneer of “cool” to our lives, because to throw ourselves in with our whole heart means to risk disappointment, failure or embarrassment.
As Brene Brown reminds us in her work, wholeheartedness constantly fights against two twin messages, constantly whispering in our ear:
Not good enough.
Who do you think you are?
I hear these messages in my head from time to time when I run. Thankfully the running community is pretty good about affirming runners’ bodies in all their many shapes and sizes and speeds. (Check out I Have a Runners’ Body on Instagram.) But I’ve also heard snide comments at races, directed toward us slow-but-enthusiastic turtles. Not good enough. Who do you think you are?
So I’ve hired a coach–to support and encourage me in my running, sure. But also as an act of wholeheartedness–as a way of committing my entire self to something.
My personal goals are modest–they’ll never get me to Boston, for example. But this matters to me.
What matters to you? And how do you affirm that wholeheartedly in your own life?
This will be a quick post, since it’s my birthday.
For the last three birthdays, I’ve done a mile time trial at the track. (Do I know how to party or what?) A mile is just one measure of fitness–and even that is a snapshot in time, not the whole story–but it’s a cool benchmark to have as one starts a new year (and in my case, a new year of life).
Last year I invited running buddies to join me, and this year I did it again. This morning we had temps in the 30s and rain, but a small-but-cheery crowd braved the elements to run our hearts out. (Some just came to walk loops and cheer for the others! How awesome is that? Of course, the promise of a nice warm Starbucks afterward was a big draw too.)
Last year’s birthday mile was a mixed bag. It was better than it could have been, coming off of injury, but not as great as I secretly hoped.
Today was better. I ran my second fastest mile ever, and am just nine seconds away from a personal best.
More importantly, I paced myself well. You can see I’m wearing my “I love running, I hate running” headband. That’s the way I feel about these miles. They’re rough. I told someone yesterday that I’d rather run a half marathon than a fast mile. That’s an exaggeration, but not a huge one. I like the pace and strategy of a long race. And on the mile I typically poop out in the third lap and generally hate life. Not this time! I still started too fast but was able to end fast (for me), and the middle was consistent.
But most importantly, I got to be around friends who came out to support me and run with me, and who give me a birthday banner for my car:
Running is such a numbers-driven sport, but numbers only tell part of the story. As a confirmed middle-of-the-packer, I’ll never be the fastest runner, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves it more. And a big part of that is the running community and the lifelong friends I’ve made. I wish the same for you, whatever your fitness journey looks like.
This is an annual post, with a new bit at the end!
Resolutions get a bad rap. There’s a lot of guilt in play, as people feel like they should make them. Other people make them and quickly break them: more guilt. Still other folks genuinely want to follow through but don’t know how.
As for me, I love setting a direction for the upcoming year. (I created a whole workbook-playbook for this purpose, called “Still Possible”! If you subscribe to my email newsletter you should have received it. It’s available to new subscribers too; click here.)
If you want to make some New Year’s goals stick, here are some tips that have worked for me and other people I know:
Set an intention instead. Resolutions have always felt too brittle for me. (After all, when we don’t follow through, we say we broke them.) Intentions are more flexible. Listen to the difference between “I resolve” and “I set the intent.” The former feels like one of Harry Potter’s Unbreakable Vows; the latter points you in a worthwhile direction. Maybe you need the force of the former, but I like the latter because it can bend as our lives shift. And we can set intentions again and again. There’s a reason people in 12 step programs take things one day at a time.
Make it a story. Most resolutions are vague goals that lack context. Donald Miller suggests we come up with stories instead. Stories are compelling, and they take us somewhere. According to Miller’s definition, a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. What could be a better framework for a New Year’s improvement project? “Lose weight” is a worthy goal, but without a concrete story to hang it on, it’s too easy to give up. So instead of getting in shape, a story-based resolution might be to complete a road race or do a big hike with friends.
Explore the 5 W’s. In ninth grade journalism class I learned the basics of a news story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. (Also How.) If you want your resolutions to stick, you need to spend some time with these questions. Say you want to cook at home more instead of eating out. Who will support you in this effort, and whom will be impacted by this lifestyle change? What will you do to make this happen? When will you plan, shop and cook? Where will this happen—do you need to de-clutter the kitchen? Stock the pantry? And most importantly, Why is it important that you do this?
Take things monthly. Gretchen Rubin is a pioneer of this approach. Her book The Happiness Project chronicles a year-long self-improvement project with a different emphasis each month (money, home, family, etc.). Why not pick something modest to work on in January? Then on January 31 you get to celebrate your success (or shrug off your failure) and move on to something new in February.
Pick a word. Many of my pastor friends hand out stars with words on them to their congregations on Epiphany Sunday—I’ve done it myself. These words become a prayer or meditation focus. For folks who find self-reflection tedious, there’s something serendipitous about being given a word to live with for a whole year.
Let the resolution grow out of a deeper reflection. Ideally, a resolution, intention, or story will grow out of a period of reflecting on the year to come. In other words, don’t go for the same knee-jerk resolution you pick every year—it may not fit your life right now. If you’re about to move across country or get a promotion at work, it’s probably not the right time to take on a new hobby or join that CrossFit class. Or because of those changes, it may be the perfect time to take care of yourself. But the point is, your resolution needs to grow out of a realistic assessment of the year to come. I’ll be using the workbook I created to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017 (see above or subscribe here), but there are tons of tools like this on the Internet.
Build in some No with your Yes. I’m convinced that a lot of resolutions fail because people add on habits or practices without taking other things away. So you want to spend 20 minutes each morning in prayer or meditation. OK… but what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? (Additional sleep? that bleary-eyed early morning Facebook session?)
Tell people. Every December my writing group would get together for a Christmas luncheon, and we would go around the table and share our writing goals for the coming year. Stating our goals aloud in the company of trusted friends was powerful. We are communal creatures—only the most disciplined among us can make a major life change without any support, encouragement or accountability from friends and family. If you’re one of those rocks or islands that Simon and Garfunkel sang about, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us, tweet or Facebook your goals. Blog about them. Tell a friend. Heck, tell me in the comments—I will cheer you on!
Take two steps, not just one. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people who take only one step toward an exercise or weight-loss regimen (like joining a gym) were more likely to engage in activities that were counterproductive (like bingeing on brownies). Meanwhile, their peers who took a follow-up step (working out right after joining the gym) were more likely to stick with their plan. So while Lao Tzu is right that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, don’t neglect the second step either.
Focus on systems, not goals.I love this reflection from James Clear, in which he talks about the process as opposed to the destination: “I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress… Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.” For example, the one year I set a mileage goal for running (1,000 miles) I got injured. Coincidence? Perhaps. But since then I’ve adjusted my approach and set different kinds of intentions: to run three times a week and to participate in various races along the way. In James Clear’s parlance, those are actually systems I’m putting in place rather than goals. I suspect they will result in a great end-of-year total mileage, but if they don’t, the journey still took me to great places, and that’s more important.
Do you have intentions or hopes for 2017? I’d love to hear.