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Posts Tagged ‘thankful’

Listening at the Midnight Run

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

After several weeks of physical therapy, cross training, and not running, I was cleared to start running again. I followed my physical therapist’s advice and literally started with five minutes of running and only increased by two minutes each day. My hamstring and piriformis were still a little painful and tight but definitely better than before I began the physical therapy and what seemed like a never ending rest period. Perhaps I was overly cautious, but I didn’t want to rush back and have another set-back.

After many weeks of doing more walking than running plus my half-hearted attempt at cross training, I soon found myself heading to Dunedin, Florida in a rain storm for the July Fourth Midnight 10K Run that I had signed up for months ago. As an over racer (recovering) I tend to sign up for races very early when they catch my interest. I was excited about the overnight trip and racing at 12:15 a.m. with friends from my S2 Timing racing team and fellow Suncoast Striders but not very excited about racing ten kilometers. I purposely did not bring my racing flats or “lucky” bracelet and earring that indicate (to myself at least) that I am in race mode.

I first discovered the phrase “listen to your body” when I read the many incredible books by George Sheehan, M.D. Since then it has become a regular part of my coaching philosophy. It is so simple, yet so difficult to do. Sometimes we may hear our bodies telling us that something is not quite right but do we really listen? That is the big revelation in my life recently – learning to really listen. I have realized that I cannot over race and get away with it anymore. Okay body, I’m listening!

At the Midnight 10K Run I had no race plan as far as goal time or pace. Coming back from this injury I decided not to put any pressure on myself. My friend Meagan was really surprised because she has seen me on a “normal” race day and I was definitely not in race mode that night. But I was not going to utter anything pace specific before that starting gun went off. I started my GPS and went out at a somewhat comfortable pace and didn’t even look at the Garmin the entire 6.2 miles. Meagan caught up to me after about a mile or two and thought that something was wrong since she is not normally so close to me during races. I felt a little surge of competitiveness but kept my effort in that somewhat comfortable range. After the turn around she caught up to me again and was about to pass me with about two miles to go. I knew there was no way I could stay with her. I encouraged her to chase down a couple of female runners that were ahead of us. She said that she couldn’t catch them and I yelled back that she could!

And she did. One of them passed her back in the last 400 meters but she still had an amazing race. She ran a new 10K PR, which is not easy to do in the hot, humid Florida summer at midnight, ran negative splits, and took second in her age group. Our other Suncoast Strider and S2 Timing teammate, Diana, won overall female. I was so proud of them and so happy for them! I truly was. I didn’t care about my time or place. I did end up placing fourth in my age group but was way more excited about celebrating their success and the fact that I really listened to my body and ran within its limits that night.

Team S2 Timing at the 2014 Midnight 10K

[Originally featured in August 2014 Running Journal]

Grateful

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

When training and racing are going well, it is easy to start to take it all for granted. I have been running and racing since 1986 when I began a run/walk program to earn a fitness badge in Girl Scouts and then joined the varsity cross country team later that fall when I entered seventh grade at our junior-senior high school. I have had my share of injuries over the years, especially in college where I missed more competitive seasons than I raced. Since college I have been self-coached, which has been quite the learning experience. I have had a lot fewer injuries but I still make mistakes despite all of my trial and error, coaching education, and just “knowing better!”

In February while racing the Gasparilla 8K in Tampa, I felt a weird painful twinge in my left thigh. It hit me about halfway through the race and would not let up no matter how I changed my stride, sped up, or slowed down. I was fortunate to be able to finish and won the Masters division. I was definitely concerned about the pain but with only eight weeks to Boston, I could not afford any time off. I continued training and racing and racing and racing. Confession: I raced way too much this spring. With over ten years of coaching experience and 28 years of training and racing experience, I should know better. Yet here I am making this major rookie mistake. I think I have become a race adrenaline junkie.

I made it through the eight weeks of training with consistent hamstring pain which also hurt quite a bit during the Boston Marathon. After Boston I took five days of complete rest before the DeSoto 5K in Bradenton that Saturday night. I had committed to run it for my racing team, S2 Timing, and I had also challenged my track team that if any of them beat me, I would treat them to frozen yogurt but if I beat them, they would treat me. They definitely had the advantage since I was just five days off a marathon. I was hesitant to race but decided to just go out comfortably and not push that hamstring at all. I ended up running negative splits, finishing second female, and winning Masters. And let’s just say that I am getting treated to frozen yogurt sometime soon! Two of my track girls set new personal bests that night, which was fantastic.

2014 DeSoto 5K with my Track girls

 

S2 Timing Racing Team at DeSoto 5K

I was making excuses for why I won Masters – it was a very small race, my time was not that great compared to what I usually run, etc. I took another week off from running to rest that hamstring but had another race commitment the following Saturday with the S2 Timing racing team (which I am incredibly grateful for!). For the Miles for Moffitt 8K in Tampa, I had the same mentality going in; I would go out comfortably and let the hamstring pain dictate my pace. I finished sixth female, second Masters, and just missed winning Masters by six seconds! I think my friend Meagan’s comment was “you’re ridiculous” or something like that.

With Meagan after the DeSoto 5K

I started making excuses again saying things like I only placed because I’m over 40 now, and then she stopped me. I should not make excuses for how or why I placed in these races. I should be thankful that I have been able to run all these years. I should be grateful that despite the hamstring injury and missing two weeks of training, I was able to run these two races and place in them. I am grateful for all of my amazing friends who have come into my life as a result of running, so thankful for the incredible support of my husband and family over the years, and grateful for all of the athletes I coach. I just need to remember to be grateful for the fact that I must have some running in my genetic code and that I am ABLE to train and race at the level I do. Running is a gift.

#runhappy

 

Close to Home

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I remember receiving all kinds of text messages, phone calls, and facebook messages last year asking if I was in Boston.  Thankfully I was not.  I could not imagine being there during the bombings.  My heart went out to everyone there and continues to go out to everyone it affected, especially those who were physically or emotionally hurt.  I wasn’t there physically, but it still hit close to home.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Yankee as a person from New England.  I am most definitely a Yankee.  I grew up in Monson, Massachusetts (about an hour west of Boston) where I spent the first 22 years of my life.  We had Patriot’s Day (Marathon Monday) off from school and always watched the Boston Marathon on television.  My dream as I became a runner at age 11 was to run it one day.  I have run it five times so far in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2011, and 2014.

After last year’s bombings, I wanted to be part of the 118th running of the Boston Marathon more than ever.  Luckily I had already run a fast enough qualifying time in January 2013 to register and make the cut.  My husband and I decided to make Boston our vacation this year and spent almost a week enjoying the true history of our great nation that can only be found in New England.  Somehow the whole experience, despite it being my fifth time there, seemed more exciting and special than ever before.  Maybe it was the fight, the spirit, and the determination to show that we were one year stronger.  It was literally all around us.

We spent four hours at the expo.  We have never spent so much time at an expo before but there were so many amazing people to meet, including Dick & Rick Hoyt, Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher, and one of my favorites “Boston Billy” Bill Rodgers.

Boston Marathon Expo with Deena

 

At the expo with “Boston Billy” Bill Rodgers

 

Team Hoyt

 

The weather was pretty cold for this Yankee who has lived in Florida since 1995, but race day warmed up to a near perfect 60 degrees and sunny.  Everything was pretty much perfect the whole trip.  Even my first half splits were near perfect; sadly, a little too perfect on those down hills.  I did try to hold back and stay relaxed like you need to that first half.  I had a pretty strong emotional moment in the first three or four miles when we ran by a large crowd outside a bar screaming, holding signs, and blaring music.  When I reached half way, I knew my legs were toast and this would not be a good second half.  Despite how annihilated my legs were with 13 miles to go, I never even considered dropping out.  I knew I had to finish and be part of the 36,000 who were there to show that we were one year stronger.  I am a very competitive runner so it was quite the epiphany for me to stop caring about my finish time or mile splits and push through the pain for something so much bigger than myself.

Running down Boylston to the finish

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.  Words cannot adequately describe the feeling you get when you turn left on Boylston and can see the finish line.  You cannot hear your own thoughts.  I almost had tears running that last stretch to the finish.  I am definitely not happy with my finish time, but I was incredibly happy to have finished Boston Strong.  This city, this marathon truly inspired me.

Exhausted in the Public Garden after the finish

The Craziness of the Long Distance Runner

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was originally a short story (Alan Sillitoe, 1959) and then a film (1962).  I have not read it or watched it yet but I like the title and it influenced the title of this blog entry.  Both titles remind us that long distance runners are a little different to say the least.

My tale starts last night about this time when I was supposed to be going to sleep.  I couldn’t sleep despite being extremely tired.  So I sat up with laptop on my lap and the Hansons Marathon Method book open next to me as I reviewed my calendar of races that I am already signed up for, keeping in mind that Boston is only 8 weeks away!  I had no training plan, nothing to guide me to Boston.  That coupled with less than stellar training since the Celebration Marathon on January 26 was really starting to worry me.  I took about 3 weeks to “recover” after Celebration and then started training by basically doing what I felt like doing.  I did run several hilly runs over bridges and even a couple of hill repeat sessions but that was about it.

Sunday I ran the Gasparilla 8K, won masters, and was 8th overall female but my time was 50 seconds slower than last year and I had a couple of issues with leg/hip pain and a very bad cramp for the last 2+ miles.  All of these contributing factors seemed to hit me last night at bed time.  So I sat up trying to put together a plan.

Between planning workouts around my races and coaching/work schedule and posting like crazy all over social media, I must have stayed up until 1:30-2:00 a.m.  I don’t really remember.  Then I got up at 7:00 a.m. to start my day today with a BodyPump class and dentist appointment.  I thought for sure I would take a power nap mid day before my afternoon track practice.  But I didn’t.  I wasn’t sleepy.  So I used the time to get caught up on some work then headed to track practice.  After practice I lead a group of school board employees (mostly teachers) through a workout to get them ready for their next 5K or 10K race.  This was the last class of the six week session before their 5K and 10K races this Sunday.  As the day went on, it got colder, the wind picked up, and it started to rain.  Thankfully I packed a light jacket and pants.  By the end of class I was wearing all the layers I had and had my hood on!

After class I drove to our Suncoast Striders group run at Riverwalk.  It was cold, rainy, and pretty dreary looking.  I didn’t see anyone when I first arrived.  After changing and getting my Garmin ready to go, Leah, Laura, and Meagan joined me for the dynamic warm up.  I was still pretty chilled from being out in the cold for the past three hours.  I don’t mind running in the rain, but when I am coaching and not moving around too much, it gets cold!!!

I knew what I had hoped to accomplish in tonight’s workout but with so little sleep the past two nights and doing a BodyPump class in the morning, I was not sure I would be up for the more challenging pace.  The workout goal was a 2 mile warm up, 6 miles at goal marathon pace (GMP), and a 1 mile cool down.  My GMP runs for Celebration were 7:50.  The Hansons Marathon Method worked so well for me that I decided to up the ante a little and train at a slightly faster GMP of 7:38-7:49 for Boston.  Despite rain, wind, and cold I had an amazing run.  For 6 miles I averaged 7:38 exactly, even with going over and back on the bridge twice.  I am trying to run bridges (Florida hills) as frequently as possible as I prep for Boston.  When I finished that sixth mile I screamed inside “heck yes!!!!”  Part of me wanted to let that out but I didn’t want to scare anyone walking or running near me at the Riverwalk.  Or have them think I was crazy!  ;)

I don’t know if the reason for my great run tonight was that I was rested enough after Celebration Marathon, was inspired and encouraged by my fabulous friends/running buddies out on a cold, rainy, windy night, or if it was knowing I have a training plan in place after my late night planning session.  Maybe it was a combination of all those factors.  I think part of it was definitely knowing that I now have a map, a plan to get me to Boston.

On my cool down I found Laura and Meagan (they were doing a different workout), we stretched, then met Leah for dinner where I had the most amazing hot chocolate.  Crazy how good a day and a run can turn out!

Birthday run

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

This year I tried something new – a birthday run.  Since I was not able to go to Massachusetts this year to run the Tornado Alley 57 Miler again, the new plan was to run 40 miles on my 40th birthday.  I had trained for it and all went well up until a couple of weeks ago when I developed pretty severe blisters.  I really cannot recall having blister issues in all my years of running since college anyway.  I did get a doozie of a blister in college, but hey, we also wore cotton socks back then!

Normally I do not run super long during the summer in Florida.  I save my marathon training runs for the fall.  I think between the longer runs and the Southwest Florida heat and humidity, it created the perfect storm.  I wear really good socks, have custom orthotics, wear good fitting shoes, and use BodyGlide.  Florida weather must be no match for even the best laid plans.

I did no running at all for five days leading up to my birthday run in hopes that the blisters would heal and dry up enough to make it through 40 miles.  I felt great when I started out this morning but around 13-15 miles, my feet were soaked and it was time to change socks and shoes.  By the time I actually made it back to my car, I had finished 17 miles and knew the blisters were back.  So the blisters were very painful for the rest of the day; each step hurt and made me question whether I could finish the full 40 miles.  I changed socks several times, used Blistershield powder twice, and on the final sock change I used Aquaphor healing ointment.

Blisters aside, I could not have predicted the outcome of the day.  I was so blessed to have so many of my Suncoast Striders friends and Manatee High cross country runners out there with me.  Sarah, Meagan, and Katie were there bright and early for the 7:00 a.m. start and with birthday cards and gifts too!  Then Amber, Kristen, Canaan, and Ellen took over running duty on the 8:30 a.m. shift while Tiffany captured some great photos.  By 10:00 I had logged about 17 miles when Janet joined me for a few miles and even created a custom cadence for me!  Ellen ran out to buy me some watermelon and delivered it so I had a cold, refreshing treat at 25 miles.  At just before noon Jessica and JP joined me for my toughest miles of the day.  I had already taken one minute walk breaks after every mile completed from about mile 22 to 25 so once we reached 27, I broke the news about the walk breaks which they were happy to do.

We were heading to my favorite part of the trail just after the 27 mile mark.  It’s a nice shaded, single track trail along the water.  Shortly after running (slowly) onto this trail, I started to feel a little light headed and running became so difficult.  We walked almost the whole trail out and back and I had to make a tough decision.  I had to listen to the signs my body was giving me and tell JP and Jessica that I had to call it a day.  We were still a couple miles out from the parking lot so they graciously walked back the entire way with me.  I am so glad they did!  I think I was in worse shape than I thought.  I felt light headed and really felt I had to focus my vision on the path ahead.  And I was told later that I was slurring my words a little on the walk back.  Yikes!

When we reached the parking lot, we hit 30 miles total and saw Chris who was there to run the last leg with me.  I had to apologize to him that I was finished and could not run anymore.  He’s such an awesome guy; he ran my last 10 miles for me in the hottest part of the day at a preserve with little to no shade.  I guess I looked fairly bad because Janet and JP then proceeded to stay with me until I refueled a bit and cooled off.  I don’t remember how long it took for me to seem like my normal self again, but they hung out with me just chatting away and Janet had me sit in the back of her SUV which was cranking out the AC.  Then Theresa and Dawn and her cute crew of minions stopped by to deliver birthday cards, flowers, and balloons.

When I was finally feeling recovered enough to drive I left Robinson Preserve and took a detour on the way home for a dip in the pool and some quality time with my sister.  So refreshing.  All I could think about during the last 2-3 miles walking in the hot sun was how wonderful it would feel to be immersed in water!  I didn’t weigh myself before or after the run today, but probably should have so I’d have a better idea of the state I was in.

Deciding to stop my adventure today at 30 miles was extremely difficult.  I did not want to let anyone down by not reaching my goal.  But the most important thing I learned today is that I must listen to my body.  We all must listen to our bodies!

At first I was disappointed with 30 miles but after Chris texted me telling me that he did the last 10 for me and I had time to reflect on the day, all the people I was able to spend time with, and read all my birthday cards, texts, and messages on facebook, I knew that today’s birthday run was a huge success.  I am truly blessed to have so many amazing friends in my life and we have found each other through running.  This is certainly a birthday I will never forget.  And several people have told me that 40 is the new 30…

A mile or two

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Holding the fence as I squeezed under

Brushing the dirt off each other

Sneakers wet from the morning dew

Stretching, as I listened to you

Explain the morning’s adventure.

A light warm up, a mile or two

Then peel the sweats.

Off I went around the track

At blazing speeds, or so I thought.

Half way ‘round, “speed up!” you’d yell

And sometimes “slow down!”

At workout’s end, you gave results

And always encouraging words

Ending with “a mile or two”

As you walked across the field.

Minutes later we squeezed back under,

Leaving our place until next time

Never thinking that our adventures would end.

If I only knew…

 

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

 

My dad was my high school cross country and track coach.  I wrote this in college when I was away from home for the first time in my life, missing my family, and being coached by someone new for the first time.   While my dad does not coach me anymore or run anymore, I feel that the lessons I learned from him as a runner and coach have helped me become a better runner, coach, and person.  I decided to post this poem as a blog entry for Father’s Day weekend as a way of thanking him and remembering those special moments.  I would also like to thank my mom for being the most amazing, patient, and supportive mom, team mom, and volunteer assistant coach ever.  She was there at every meet no matter how far away or how bad the weather.  She would help injured runners out of the woods, take pictures, and be there at the finish never knowing what to expect.  One of the two most memorable races with my mom was a home cross country meet when I was trying out a new insert in my shoe.  The insert bunched up so badly and caused me so much pain that I literally crossed the finish line, pulled off my shoe, and threw it.  Let’s just say I was a little frustrated and uncomfortable!  I did not throw it at my mom, but she jokes that I did…it may have been in her direction since she was waiting for me past the finish line.  The other was my junior year when I ran the mile in track and my mom took me to the WMASS championship when my dad was out of town.  I ran as an individual since my school did not have a track team.  We arrived at the meet and I was headed to the infield to pick up my packet and competition number when the coach from a neighboring school told me I would be disqualified if I went on the infield.  I was so nervous since I had never been to such a big track meet before.  My mom was not about to let another coach intimidate me so she took charge, went to the infield, picked up my packet, and I ended up winning and qualifying for state.

Once I figured out that I wanted to be a running coach, all I have tried to do is be like my parents and do all the amazing things that they did for me.  They kept it fun, always pushed me to be my best, and were supportive, caring, encouraging, strong, and understanding no matter the outcome of each race.

1988 WMASS XC

1988 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

 

 

The Darlings of the team

The Darlings of the team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 weeks

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Two weeks ago I received an email from a woman who needed help getting faster so she could pass the physical test for law enforcement school.  She had one more shot to pass.  Since time was of the essence I skipped the usual first meeting I have with coaching clients and we got to work.

She had to shave 11 seconds off her 300 meter time and 1 minute 1 second off her 1.5 mile time.  At our first workout I told her that the 1.5 mile time goal was likely but the 300 meter time would be tough in just two weeks.  I could not guarantee anything.

We worked together twice a week for two weeks and she ran on her own and cross trained the other days.  I showed her how to properly warm up and we worked on improving her form to make her a more efficient runner.

Two weeks is such a short time but during those training sessions I saw her form improve, her confidence in her running improve, and her ability to embrace the pain that comes with running fast improve as well.

I was able to be there the morning she retook her test.  We warmed up just like we did during our workouts and even did a timed 100 meters to remind her what her 300 meter pace would feel like.  Then she left to check in, take the vertical jump test, then returned to the track with the instructor and other students who were also retaking the test.  She passed the sit ups portion of the test then it was time for the 300 meters.

I timed each 100 meter section of it for her and called out her times so she knew exactly where she was.  She finished in exactly her goal time.  Passed!  Then on to the push ups.  Passed.  Now the final test was the 1.5 mile run.

I reminded her where she needed to be at each 200 and 400 meters.  She started slower than goal pace and gradually picked up the pace.  With a lap and a half to go she really started to push.  I could see the effort on her face and hear her labored breathing.  She learned to embrace that discomfort and in doing so she beat her goal by 24 seconds, which was 1 minute and 25 seconds faster than two weeks ago.

I don’t know who was more nervous and excited that morning.  I felt the adrenaline pumping through my body and I wasn’t even running!  Even her instructor who was giving the test came over to me afterwards and told me how impressed he was with her improvement in such a short time.

I don’t know if there is anything more satisfying than helping someone achieve her goals…especially in just two weeks.

Uncharted

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Back in March The Tornado Alley 50 Miler race director emailed me back to let me know that I could run the entire distance myself and that I did not need a relay team but I would need to provide my own crew and fuel.  Okay, now how do I train for this thing?!?

Talk about uncharted territory!  26.2 miles is the longest I have ever run in a race or a training run.  So I did some research on how to train for ultras.  I took some of the ideas I found along with what I have learned over the years and created a training plan that looked great on paper.  I kept the 3 month training schedule right next to my desk so I would see it daily and stick to it.

Consistency is key.  That’s probably the most important tip I can offer.  And that does not mean the schedule is set in stone.  Definitely listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and revise the schedule to fit your life.  But be consistent.

In March and April I had quite a few races on my calendar so I used those in place of some of the tempo and speed workouts.  I started doing back to back long runs in order to teach my body to run on tired legs.  This worked great for many weeks in this pattern – rest day, long run, long run, rest day and then the remainder of the week filled in with some easy runs, tempo or speed, and maybe a race.  But as the long runs got longer and longer I found that I sometimes I needed two rest days in a row before or after my longer efforts.  Some weeks when I was putting in 4-5 hour training runs (25-31 miles) I could not handle them back to back.  So I made the schedule fit what my body could handle.  I was training in Florida which featured many hot, sunny, and humid training days.

I trained at various times of day so my body could adapt to running at the different times.  I was ready for any sun, heat, or humidity that race day might bring.  I trained using all of my drinks and fuel options so I would know how my body would react to them all.

Once I reached the start of the taper, about three weeks out from race day, I was a little concerned that my longer runs were single day runs with two rest days around them and I was not able to do as many back to back long runs as I had originally planned.  But I have found that over thinking things is pretty typical for taper weeks – too much time on my hands so I start to question everything.

But I headed into race week healthy, well trained, and rested.  I had some of my best sleep the week before the race.  I have never felt so well prepared before.

Why do I run?

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

At mile 11 of my long run today I stopped and walked onto the beach since it was low tide.  I looked north across Tampa Bay to see the Sunshine Skyway bridge.  It was so calm, peaceful, still, and cloudy with a light rain.  I just looked around at all the beauty and felt at ease.  Robinson Preserve is one of my favorite places to run because of how calm and peaceful it is.  I love taking in all the sights and sounds of the wind, birds chirping, fish jumping out of the water, pelicans diving in, and unknown little critters scurrying in the bushes.

I started my run slower today and decided not to focus on pace since I raced yesterday.  I ran easy and really enjoyed letting my thoughts wander.  My marathon training plan calls for very specific paces on all three of my key runs each week.  But since I did race yesterday and ran a total of 8 miles I gave myself a day off from pace so I could enjoy a true Long Slow Distance run with no pressure.

At the end of this 18 mile run I actually ran faster.  My last two miles were the fastest of the day at 7:59 and 7:47 respectively.  I just ran how I felt.  I guess I was feeling negative splits!  My long run goal pace was supposed to be 8:40 for this run…if I hadn’t raced the day before.  I ended up at 8:47 pace without checking the Garmin during the run, starting out slower, and just running how I felt.  I was totally amazed.  I was able to just run, let my mind wander, enjoy the experience, and still be pretty close to my scheduled pace.

Runs like today remind me why I run.  I think it’s important to find meaning in running.  “Running one might say is basically an absurd pastime upon which to be exhausting ourselves.  But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you’ll be able to find meaning in another absurd pastime:  life.” – Bill Bowerman

Today reminded me of one reason I run.  Why do you run?  To inspire others?  To win awards?  To set Personal Records?  For personal satisfaction?  To slow down the aging process?  We all seek peer recognition from time to time but ultimately, is what others think of us our reason to run?  Why do you lace up those shoes and head out the door each day, week, month, year?

Becoming a runner

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The first book I discovered by George Sheehan was “George Sheehan on Running to Win:  How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running.”  I was browsing at Books-A-Million back in 1997 or 1998 and stumbled across it by accident.  I can admit that at the time I was not aware of this running guru or his amazing books.  I was only a couple of years out of college and had just jumped into marathoning without really knowing what I was doing.  I read the front cover, the back cover, then started reading the first chapter right there in the store.  After the first couple pages I could not believe that what he wrote applied so directly, so perfectly to me.  I had to buy it!

From that point I read everything I could get my hands on written by George Sheehan.  And even his early books that were out of print, thanks to Phil (now husband, then boyfriend) who was a computer and Internet whiz even back then.  This is before I was doing much online, never mind shopping.  I am now the proud owner of all of George Sheehan’s books and even a rare audio tape of one of his lectures and a VHS but we don’t have a VCR so I haven’t actually watched that yet.  But that’s a whole other story…

I have read all of his books and some twice.  After just 22 pages of “Running to Win” I am already inspired again and don’t want to put it down.  He starts out talking about the difference between a runner, a jogger, and a racer.  I won’t go into all the details – you should definitely read the book!  One of the most fascinating parts (so far) is about becoming a runner.  According to Sheehan, “running has become an accepted method of taking charge of one’s life and becoming one’s personal best.”

The premise here is that people become runners for the basic reason of changing themselves.  It can be a physical change they seek or a psychological change or both.  Sheehan goes on to say that every runner has a “before” and “after” story.  I have heard many great stories about lives changed by running.  They are dramatic and amazing and important.  The funny thing for me is that I started running when I was 11 years old.  Still a child.  My Girl Scout troop was working towards a fitness badge and the sport we chose was running because my dad was a runner, my mom was our troop leader, and running was a sport we could do without a lot of people or equipment.

Now at age 37 I honestly don’t remember what I was like “before” running.  I have been running for 26 years.  The longest lay off I had from running was 4 months recovering from an injury.  I have been a runner for my entire adult life, teen years, and some of my childhood.  I don’t feel like I really have a “before” story.  I am blessed to have been a runner almost all of my life.  I could not even imagine what my life would be like without running.  I guess that is why I encourage anyone and everyone to try it.  I promote and educate, support and give back.  Running has given me so much.  I hope others find that gift as well.

Rather than a “before” and “after” story I think I have a long and varied journey through running, through various training methods, through various obsessions, and what I call “before” and “after” coaching education.  Training smarter after the coaching education was really key for me.  I think that is why I was able to PR at the half marathon at age 36.  Some PRs like the 5K and anything shorter than that are definitely behind me but I feel like the longer distances are still within reach.  And after 26 years of running and racing, it’s good that I can still go after these goals.  We all need purpose, right?

Sheehan answers the question of what makes runners run with this great quote from a 39-year-old runner:  “Running is the most important thing in my life.  It’s given me the freedom to be myself, to live a life I deemed not worth living.  It has freed me from the hang-ups of my youth.  It has matured and strengthened me.  It is the most important thing I have ever done.”  And he goes on to say “This runner has done what millions of other runners have done:  They have accepted a moral imperative, the necessity of being a good animal, and have become a good person as well.”

If you have not read George Sheehan, you are in for a real treat.  His focus is on being the best YOU, an experiment of one.  Not the fastest on race day or beating a training partner or rival, but comparing yourself to yourself and trying to be the best YOU that you can be.  Competing and winning are definitely great and can keep us excited, interested, and challenged, but truly becoming a runner is about you and the run.

Running to Win


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