Getting Dirty at the Filthy 5K

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, there’s a new road race.   It’s hard to find a weekend when there aren’t multiple 5K/10K/Half Marathon runs taking place.  It’s likely that the race also has a theme:  mud run, color run, zombie dash, night races, relays… just add a crazy twist on any distance, and viola, you have a race.  In recent years, we’ve seen a multitude of these themed races crop up, and it’s turned into big business.  The Color Run, Warrior Dash, Color Me Rad and other corporations have taken the themed race across the nation.

It all seems a bit… much.   Prom dresses, ugly sweaters- what’s next? It seems that each one tries to outdo the other, and I just don’t want to get to the point where I’m leaping over Jello ponds, navigating herds of goats, or cartwheeling to the finish of a 5K.  I’m not here to knock these events; I’m just saying things seem to be getting a little out of control.  As prices increase and the calendar becomes more crowded, companies are working to stay in the race business.

So, it  may seem a bit hypocritical that I am currently working to promote a little race Beyond Running started back in 2007 – the Filthy 5K.

When Beyond Running was just starting out, we thought it would be kind of cool to host a trail run.  So we marked out a course in MB Johnson Park in Moorhead, MN and called it “The Filthy 5K”.  40 People showed up, and we were thrilled.  The following year sparked the beginning of the Filthy 5K as most people know it now.  That year, we had record rainfall in the weeks before the race.  This left the park a muddy, dirty, wonderful mess.

We thought people might shy away from a muddy trail run.  But, happily, people arrived to run the race, some dressed in costume, some starting their own teams… and everyone got dirty.  On purpose.  Mud baths. Mud fights. Mud -slinging. And so for the past seven years, we’ve been hosting The Filthy 5K, one of our favorite events of the year… all because the runners made it the way they wanted it.

We didn’t set out with a gimmick.  We have no major corporate sponsor.  You’re not going to be charged an arm and a leg.  You won’t even get official results.  Our goal was to promote people having  fun while running.  It’s an event about family, friends, and good, clean, filth.

It is, beyond a doubt, my favorite event of the year.   I love to see the people that come to the park, dressed in costume, with teams, friends, family members – just to run our little race in the mud.

Because, there’s something magical that happens that really makes this my favorite event (no unicorns are involved, I promise).  Running with a sort of freedom that mimics that of a child- splashing in the mud, pushing your friend in a puddle – well, it is probably the pure joy I see on many people’s faces that makes me love this event so much.

So, with the competition of big corporate race management companies stacked against us, it is becoming more difficult to promote the event – and recruit runners that are already inundated with events galore.

But, I assure you, running the Filthy 5K is more than another race.

So, get your friends and family together and join in on October 4th, 2014.  The race starts at noon.  For $25, you’ll receive a comfy t-shirt of good quality, along with a stainless steel pint cup.  You can take the cup to the Old Broadway after the run and receive one free beer or soda during the OB’s Oktoberfest celebration – featuring all sorts of fun events – including wiener dog races.

Take the time out to participate in the area’s original mud run, you won’t be disappointed.

More info at: www.gobeyondrunning.com

Happy Running!

Sally

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Contents Under Pressure

Ok.  So I haven’t been blogging much lately, but as I sweat through these hot and humid summer runs, I’ve finally been inspired to get back to the blog.  I’d say I’m about to write about something inspirational, or motivating, or even mildy educational.  But instead, I’d like to tell you about my recent “worst run”.

It was a Thursday.  I had busied myself all day long at work (don’t act so surprised), and I had neglected to eat lunch.  So, by the time I reached Target at 3pm to pick up some essentials, I was famished.  Being the smart, healthy, nutritious gal I am, I thought I’d just pick up something light for a snack, as I had intended to run later that evening with the running club.

And then, like a beacon of light.  No, like the sound of a trumpet.  No, like a vision in a dream… my hunger pointed me in the direction of what I NEEDED to have in my belly.

Cheez-Its.

I’ve been trying to eat healthier, so obviously I opted for the “Reduced Fat” version.  (READ: Reduced Taste, but still close enough).   I filled my cart with my other essentials and checked out.

Upon arrival to my humble mode of transportation (a 2002 Chevy Malibu in Driftwood with custom cracked bumper and duck tape detailing), I swore that I was not going to dig into the Cheez-its until I arrived home. I simply refused to be “one of those people”… you know, no -self-control- driving -with -oranged -fingers -and -crumbs -on-the-floormats people.  Pah-LEEZE.  I was hungry, but I wasn’t a monster.

Fast forward three blocks later.  I had ripped the top of the box open, and so began my spiral of shame.  God, Cheez-Its are good!  And these reduced fat ones were probably making me look skinnier already!

By the time I reached home, I was ashamed to admit, I’d done some damage to that pile of perfect, cheese-dusted crackers.  About a third of the box was gone. (but hey, most of that is air, right?)  As I parked my car, I stopped my ravenous raid for a moment.  Looking in the rear view mirror, I wiped the crumbs from my face.  Then I ate them.

Looking ahead to my run in a few hours, I figured I should counter my cracker binge with an appropriate amount of water.  It was hot, and I had just eaten my yearly allowance of sodium (dang!  why didn’t I go for the low-sodium box!), so I filled my water bottle and began chugging.

I should have seen it coming.  I mean, I have seen those “grow in water” toys.  A half hour after my hydration fest, and about fifteen minutes before running club, it hit me.

I looked like I was having a Cheez-It baby.  Worse, I was wearing an orange tank top (normally loose-ish, but under the pressure of Baby Cheez-It, it had lost its give).  I felt, and looked, like a bloated, pregnant, Cheez-It.  Complete with residual crumbs on my cheek.  I wonder if anyone at running club would note the bloat.

Why, oh, why, had I done this to myself?

Determined to run anyway, I set off with the group.  I just hoped no one could hear the slosshing noise booming from my stomach.  With each step, the Cheez It paste in my gut churned and bubbled.  THIS COULD GET UGLY.

And now, I could only loathe the crackers I had onced loved just hours before.   I felt heavy, and slow, and embarrassed, and ashamed.  And it was all because of those damn Cheez-Its.  They just jumped into my mouth.  Stupid crackers.  And what kind of way is that to spell cheese, anyway!

One and a half miles into the run, I felt more like I was rolling down the street.  With the taste of yellow No. 5 and cardboard lingering on my palette, I faked a “hey-guys-go-ahead-I-need-to-stop-and-stretch-this-nagging-injury”).

Happy to turn around and head back, I ran-walked the remaining distance,  and rolled into the door, and hung my head in shame. Worst. Run. Ever.

I guess we all make bad choices on the run from time to time.  Forcing distance or speed on an injury, arriving at a race underprepared, not hydrating properly, or in my case, making an ill-advised food choice prior to a run.  But in the end, the point is, we get out there the next day (or the day after that) and run again.   Because we know there will be better days ahead.

So, I learned the hard way. Turns out, Cheez-Its are best enjoyed while competing in the sport of channel-surfing.

Happy Running!

 

 

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Runners, Runners, Everywhere.

You may have noticed I’ve been a little light on the blogging lately.  (Well, at least I hope you’ve noticed, it makes me feel like someone actually reads this blog).   The reason for my bloglessness (not a real word, I know) is injury.

What a dirty little word.  Injury.  How am I supposed to write about running when I haven’t been running?  Isn’t it just the way it goes, I finally get my running mojo back and blammo, injury strikes.

I’m not a prone-to-injury runner.  I can think of 3 times in my running lifetime that I’ve been sidelined by physical ailments.  Once when I broke my foot, once for a knee injury, and now.  I’d add a fourth time, but being lazy and unmotivated would be a stretch to categorize as a physical ailment.

It’s the pain in my hip that really has me sidelined this time.   I tried to run through it.  That didn’t work.  It just made things worse. (duh.) And now, as I struggle back from injury it seems that everyone is out there running- except for me.  It is just a frustrating feeling, not being able to run.   I know it compares nothing to those that suffer permanent injury, but it is frustrating nontheless.

Last Saturday, I felt as though I was trapped in a scene from my favorite movie.  (No, not Casablanca, though that would’ve been glamorous).  No, I felt as though I was living a scene from the great motion picture “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”.  Don’t judge.  It has a good message. (See link below).

In this scene, Pee Wee Herman has just discovered his bike has been stolen.  After he regains concisousness and reports the theft to the police, Pee Wee is left to wander the outdoor shopping mall aimlessly, grieving the loss of his prized bicycle.  And then, bikes begin passing him by.  First, a single bike.  Suddenly, everyone seems to be riding a bike.  A family of cyclists.  Someone on a trike.  More bikes, a velocipede, a unicyclist. A tandem bike passes.  Finally, a remote controlled bike loops around Pee Wee’s feet, taunting his loss.

That’s what I’ve felt like lately.  (minus the too-small grey suit and red bowtie).  Seems like when I’m in the thick of training, there’s no one else out there.  As soon as I can’t participate, everyone and their dog is running.

But I suppose bemoaning the fact that I’m injured doesn’t help the pain go away.   I think it’s written somewhere in the “runner’s guide to acting like a runner*” (*not an actual book):   Fixing an injury, I mean really getting to the root cause of it, is often not high on the runner’s list of to-do.  We just wanna get out there and run, injuries be damned!

But ignoring the fact that our bodies, like machines, have a series of connected parts that must function, does not make things better.  We wouldn’t just say, “well, my car battery is dying and needs replacement, but I think I’m just going to keep driving it, the ol’ rust bucket will be fine”.  Trust me, I did that once.  It ended badly on the side of the highway.  So why are runner’s so opposed to fixing the problem?

It takes work and, often, the input from a professional who knows about the root causes of running injuries, and how to get back on your (running) feet.  Whomever your professional of choice – a doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor – we have to admit that these people know more about the body’s workings, and unless we are willing to study anatomy and physiology (but who has the time!) – we can learn a thing or two by listening to the professionals.

I am fortunate to have guidance from a knowledgeable chiropractor, Dr. Eric Haroldson, skilled in the practice of Active Release Therapy (ART).  Through treatment, he has helped identify the root cause of the injury, and (gasp!) just what I might do to rehab the injury, and even avoid it again in the  future.

But it’s not what I want to hear.  I want him to “fix it”, so I can go out and pound the pavement, mile after mile, blissfully running towards a well deserved ice cream sundae , nary a worry about that long-forgotten injury.

I don’t want to do the extra work.  Rest, stretching, and exercise (outside of running).  Strengthen my core?  But, that sounds like a lot of work!  More planks?  Groan.   Do this, do that, blah, blah, blah.

But the truth is this.  I need to keep the parts of the whole working properly to expect to enjoy running for years to come.  The work is necessary, though not that glamorus or as gratifying as running by itself.

So I will trudge through this injury, clawing my way back to running at full tilt, one boring plank at a time.  But when you’re a runner, it’s a small price to pay in order to be back amongest “your people”.   Cause no one, not even Pee Wee Herman, likes to feel left out.

Happy Running!

Dr. Eric Haroldson ChiroRehab of Fargo

Pee Wee Loses His Bike

 

 

 

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A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.

So there I was, waiting in line for coffee.  I looked around the shop.  There, staring me in the face were a bunch of “inspirational quote” magnets.

“What are you waiting for?”;  the first one glared.

“It’s never to late to be what you might have been”; another chirped.  “Life’s too short, eat dessert first”; said the third.  “It’s not the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away”… ”Keep calm and carry on”…  ”If you lived here, you’d be home by now” (oh, wait, I saw that one somewhere else).

So many cliches, so little time.  I mean, half the quotes I was reading contradicted the one before it.  I found myself mildly annoyed, and moderately amused.  So lemme get this straight, I’m supposed to eat dessert first, but never give up on getting better while smelling the roses and giving 110%?  (the latter of which, incidentally, is mathematically impossible).  Or am I supposed to take my breath away by doing something that I always wish I would have, because, after all, babies are such a nice  way to start people?  By the time my coffee was ready, I wasn’t sure if I should be going confidently in the direction of my dreams, or dance like no one is watching.  The two didn’t seem compatible, since moving towards a dream usually means there’s no time to dilly-dally with dancing.   So, I compromised and daydreamed about dancing.

All these quoteable magnets got me thinking about motivation, and how much I’ve struggled to maintain motivation for running consistently.

I mean, if it were as easy as reading a motivational quote, wouldn’t we all be superstar athletes with a show-no-mercy-take-no-prisioners attitude?

The truth is, I’m a bit depressed about my running right now.  The usual suspect- work, has been busier than ever.  But my most recent set-back is  due to a minor injury I sustained while in cycling class.

It was 2 weeks ago, and I was feeling great.  I had a few great runs under my imaginary belt, the weather was turning around, and I had made the committment to cross train with cycling, yoga and body pump classes.  Lookout, Suzanne Sommers, Sally’s back in town!

So, on that fateful morning in cycling class,  I decided that I was done “giving up”.  NO, I was going to “give 110%” or at least 100%.  I vowed when the instructor told me to increase my gear, I would actually turn the knob, instead of pretending like I was.  After all, as the saying goes, “you’re only cheating yourself”.

“Dig! Dig! Dig!” chanted the instructor.  YES.  I ‘m all in! No pain, no gain!  Feel the burn!  Sweat ran down my forehead.  I was going to make this happen.   Shorts season was just around the corner, and dammit, I was gonna look goooood!

The next day, walking was tough.  Turns out I had “Dug! Dug! Dug!” a little too much, much, much.

And there began the downward spiral of injury.  I pushed forward through a few runs, convincing myself that I could “run it off” (when, does that ever work?).  I couldn’t.  And soon, it was easy to say, “I should just give it one more day”.

So goes the fine line between pushing yourself to great achievements, and just pushing yourself too hard.  And at the end of injury waits all the running you’ve missed, and the cruel reality of the fitness you’ve lost.

It’s defeating.  Starting over again. Again.  and Again. It seems that every third week, I’m writing about some set-back.  Why is this so hard?

I guess, it’s because I expect too much.   I’m trying to do 110% of things, and, as I pointed out earlier, that’s impossible to do.

Recently, at dinner with my ex-husband, we got to talking about running.  We discussed how hard he’s worked to realize his potential, and that it’s taken years of hard work and sacrifice.  And that is hasn’t come without a price.

He encouraged me to re-evaluate my goals for the Fargo Marathon events.  For some reason, I feel that anything less than the half marathon is unacceptable.  But then, he pointed out just how busy I would be in the days leading up to the race with my work.  He suggested that I should just take some of the pressure off and run the 10K for fun.

I’m not sure yet what I’ll do.  But it was a good reminder to not let the poetic, though unrealistic, nature of motivational quotes get the better of me.  I can push myself within reason, but there is no reason to push myself to frustration – life is too full of other important things.   And how lucky am I to have so many things to do?

I guess that final magnet I read before gathering my latte and heading off to work made the most sense.  Never, never, never give up.

Baby steps back to running.

 

 

 

 

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Most Runderful Songs

With the Grammy Awards just passing and Whitney Houston’s untimely death it’s clear to see what an important impact music has on our culture.  It got me thinking about how much I’ve relied on music to get me through the run. 

I haven’t had the opportunity to run with friends lately, so I’ve had to hit the road solo.  In order to mask my heavy breathing (no, that’s not me on the phone), I turn to my trusty iPod and favorite “running songs”. 

It’s funny how music brings you back to a place or time.  And since I started running, way back when, I’ve used music to keep me going.  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I can recall the days when I started out running with my Sony Walkman, tuned into the local radio station.  There are songs that take me back to that time even now.  I can’t listen to “Closing Time” by Semisonic  or “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers without thinking of that first summer running, trying like anything to run continuously for 30 minutes.

So, when my iTunes library was wiped clean, it’s safe to say I panicked a bit about losing my “running” playlists.  I decided to compile a list of my favorite tunes to hear while running, so when I screw up my computer next time, I have a reference point from which to begin.

Please note, it is with a bit of trepidation that I post my favorite running tunes.  I love music.  Lots of different types of music.  So it’s a little like bearing one’s soul to admit the music that moves you.  Please don’t judge me on the basis of these songs.  I know some do not fall under the realm of “oh-have-you-heard-this-band-they-are-so-obscure-and-cool-and-I-can’t-believe-you-have-never-heard-of -them”.  I just like running to them, which is why I will defend my decisions to the very last mile.

1.  Where the Streets Have No Name – U2.  Quite possibly the best tune of all time, this is the ultimate pump-up song for me.  But it has to be the “Live from Boston” version.  Yep, I’m a U2 geek.  I just can’t slow down when I hear Bono say “I wanna run…”

2.  Lose Yourself -Eminem.  I know, I know.  Kinda cliche for this gangsta from Fargo.  But when I run to this song, I can’t help but feel tough.  The pounding beat at the beginning drives me forward.  And then Slim Shady says, “Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, Would you capture it or just let it slip?” I feel like I should be wearing a velour baggy sweatsuit.  Yo!

3.  Remember the Name – Fort Minor feat. Styles of Beyond.  Ever heard of those people?  Me neither.  But I have to admit, this is a guilty pleasure song for running.   I don’t know who Fort Minor is – frankly, it sounds more like a place on the Oregon trail than a person, but just trust me.  The chorus “This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, 15 percent concentrated power of will, 5 percent pleasure, 50 percent pain…” really seems like the song is about running.  And yes, it adds up to 100.  I checked.

4. Hysteria – Muse.  You cannot run slow to this song.  Well, at least I feel like I can’t run slow.  My watch may disagree.

5.  Gold Digger- Kanye West.  This song makes me laugh.  I’m not a huge fan of Kanye, but this song has a good beat, interesting lyrics, and it sounds tough. “Get down now, go head get down!”  Any song that can work “GEICO for your money” into the lyrics gets points from me.

6. Since You Been Gone- Kelly Clarkson.   Yep.  It’s totally a chick song, (until you get a few beers in some of my guy friends who then will admit they love it too). 

7.  The Distance -Cake.   ”Reluctantly crouched at the starting line.”  That’s me.

8.  Just like Heaven – The Cure.  An oldie but a goodie, you can’t deny that awesome guitar part.  It makes me smile, and I’m all about anything that will make me smile on a run.

9. Keeps Gettin’ Better- Christina Aguilera.   Some days I’m a hmm hmm hmm!

10.  Bust a Move – Young MC.  Because I know all the words to the song.  Every last one.

As I began to compile this list, I realized there are far more “favorite running songs” on my list than anyone would ever care to read about.  Why?  Because, just like running is personal, so is music.  You can’t always describe why you love something, you just do.  And I think that’s why running and music go so well together.  They are two very personal experiences. 

And on that note, I think I better Bust a Move and get to Running Down a Dream.

Happy Running!

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Running Fearless. For Sherry.

I didn’t know Sherry Arnold.

But, because she was a runner, I can imagine what a little bit of her life might have been like. 

Sherry Arnold rose early on a Saturday morning to go for a run, as so many of us do.  As she laced up her shoes and headed out the door,  I can imagine that her thoughts wandered to her activities planned for later in the day.  I can hear her footsteps creating that familiar crunching sound as she began the run.  I can imagine the fresh air of Sidney, Montana she breathed and the relaxation that likely washed over her as she settled in for a nice run.

What I can’t imagine is the terrible thing that happened to Sherry next.   She was kidnapped and murdered by two men, less than a mile into her morning run.  She leaves behind a husband and 2 young children.   As news of this awful and evil act spread, an outpouring of shock and sympathy for Sherry, her family, friends, and community could be found all over social media sites, blogs, and news outlets. 

Sherry’s cousin, Beth Ridson, launched an idea in her blog to do a virtual run in Sherry’s honor. The run is scheduled for this Saturday, Feburary 11th.  The idea is simple: Run with Sherry on your mind.   Gather friends, family, running partners – people that you love and appreciate and go for a run, to honor someone who loved running, just like we do.

When terrible events like this happen, it isn’t surprising that so many people ask, “why”?   Personally, I don’t believe that anything like this happens, ‘for a reason’, as some may say.  There is no reason for any human being to suffer like Sherry suffered.   I don’t find sense in the senseless, and I think that is why it’s so unsetteling.  I think evil decended upon someone that was good.  And I am sorry that her husband, children, family, students, friends and community are grieving. 

I can also understand the desire to do something – anything- to help make sense of the senseless.  Tragedies like this remind us all how random and fragile life can be.  It can send us to a place we don’t like to go – one that makes us face our mortality.

Recently, I read a blog post from someone that vowed her days of running alone were over, her decision coming on the heels of Sherry’s awful death.   While I can respect the  idea that we can use Sherry’s story as a reminder to run with vigilance and safety in mind, I cannot agree with the idea to never venture alone on a run. 

When tragedy strikes a stranger, a stranger that is in someway like us -a runner, a mother, a wife, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a teacher - it give us pause to think – “what if that happened to me or someone I know?”   It is a natural, understandable feeling.  

But then I remember something my mom told me long ago:  “If we went around thinking every day was an opportunity for something terrible to happen to us, we simply couldn’t function”.  We couldn’t bear that emotional weight.  We develop a sense of security because that is how we survive.   If we go through life looking over our shoulder, we miss the opportunities that lie ahead.

While I  know that running with vigilance and safety is important,  I also know that tragedy can strike the most vigilant of runners.   Because life can be random and cruel.

But I also know that to run, is to be free and fearless.  I don’t know why Sherry Arnold loved running, but I can imagine that it was not unlike so many of our reasons.  Reasons like health, challenge, community, friendships, fearlessness, freedom, experiences, and living fully.

I plan to run on Saturday morning to honor and remember Sherry Arnold, fellow runner, fellow human.  I hope you can join me.  A group will be leaving Beyond Running in Downtown Fargo at 9AM on Saturday morning.

I think the idea to run for Sherry is a beautiful one.  It gives us all a chance to remember why we run.  It gives us a chance to appreciate family and friends.  It give us a chance to live today and run fearless – for Sherry.

I didn’t know Sherry Arnold.

But I know she was a runner.

And that means, that some part of her, was like most runners- fearless. 

PLEASE JOIN ME

WHAT: A RUN FOR SHERRY ARNOLD

WHEN: SATURDAY, FEB 11, 9AM

WHERE: BEYOND RUNNING, 516 Broadway, DOWNTOWN FARGO

Print a bib here: http://www.races2remember.com/images/previews/Sherry.pdf

Beyond Running, in partnership with Brooks,  will be giving Brooks Run Happy Bracelets for a $1 donation, along with a donation raffle for Brooks gear.   100% of the donations will go directly to a fund established for Sherry’s children.

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(Wo)Man with a Plan

Have you ever declared a goal aloud only to think later:  “What have I done?”

Last week, I decided to run the Fargo Half Marathon.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about it.  I need to have a goal.  And more, I have the opportunity to do something meaningful with the race, by raising money for the American Cancer Society.  But getting from here to there will take some training.

And it’s been awhile since I’ve actually trained for anything.

There was a time in my life when I was pretty good at keeping a running schedule.   Then came the days when I had a running schedule, and I mostly ignored it.  And now, I have no plan.  I run when I feel like it.  For awhile, I think that’s what I needed to do.  Looking back on my past blog entries (someone has to read them; after all), I can see that I had become frustrated with the pressure to achieve more on the run.  I rebelled, spawning a series of personal worst race times, sporadic training, and general distaste for an established plan.  Yes, for the past year or so, I’ve been somewhat of a running hippie, minus the bell bottom running pants.  Running when I want, how I want, never wanting goals to harsh my mellow.   

Dude.

It’s time to give up the “wherever the winds may take me” attitude.  I’m no longer satisfied to have no control over my running and fitness.  Goals are good.  Realistic goals are better. 

I remember the first marathon training plan I ever tried to complete.  My then-husband, Eric, told me that I should not expect to complete every workout scheduled on the plan, and that missing a few days shouldn’t discourage me.   Even the best of the best runners have to modify their running plan.  Life happens, and plans can change.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan.   It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse.  I can’t expect to get better unless I do the work. 

Running without training, turns out, is a kind of unfulfilling for me.  Choosing to not to challenge myself is not who I am.   Though I hesitate to admit it, I am competitive- mostly with myself, but with others, too.

Feeling jealous of other’s fitness has been an unwanted feeling I’ve been having lately.  I try to explain away other runner’s successes – luck, natural talent, cheating, – but deep down I know that these others reach their goals because they train to succeed. 

A wise person once said:  “If we waited for a perfect day to run, we’d only get to run three or four times a year”.

Turns out, that person was me.

 I said it a few years ago when I was interviewed about running in the winter.  I guess I should practice what I’ve preached.

So, I am going one step further this week.  Not only am I running the half marathon, I am going to train with a plan.   And now that I’ve declared it in writing, I better make it so.

Gulp.   Here goes!

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Purpose

This week, someone I know well was diagnosed with cancer.  It’s stupid and it’s maddening and it’s not fair and I don’t know what to say.  I feel helpless.

Usually, I can go for a run to clear my head and find a solution to a problem I’m having.  But if going for a run cures cancer, I’d be a rich – and fit- lady.   So, instead, I decided to have a little conversation with cancer.

“Hey Stupid Cancer,

I am sick and tired of you disrupting the lives of my friends, family, co-workers, aquaintences and total strangers.  Your need to be in the spotlight is annoying and wrong.  I can think of all the cliche things in the world to say to you.  But mostly, I just want to say:

SHUT UP, Cancer!

I want you to go away.  Forever.  No one will miss you- you stupid, stupid rapid growth of cells.  I want a cure.  I want to call you a distant memory, a thing that can never touch anyone I love again.  I want your hold on people to be released.  I want you to be irrelevant.  You are an ugly monster, in case no one told you.

I feel helpless against you, Cancer.  And I hate that feeling.  You make it so I don’t know what to say to those that you take hostage.  You make it so I can’t enjoy this time on earth without wondering where you will strike next.

But you know what?  I’m not helpless, Cancer.  Too bad for you.  I’m not a scientist, I’m no doctor (sorry, mom and dad) and I don’t remember how to use a microscope.  But I’m still not powerless to help find a way to WIPE YOU OUT for GOOD.

Here’s what I’m going to do with you, Cancer.   I’m going to run with purpose.  I’m going to give money to the smart people that are working to destroy you.   And I’m not ever gonna quit hating you.

I am going to be a Team Determination American Cancer Society Charity Runner.  Watch me.   I will recruit all those I know that hate cancer as much as I do.  And together, we are going to do something about you.

Be afraid, Cancer.

Thanks for listening.”

Sally

It felt good to have the conversation.  And although I can’t say I feel any better about cancer itself, I do feel better that I’ve chosen to do something that’s beyond myself when it comes to running.

So, I have a new goal.  I am running the Fargo 1/2 marathon for the ACS Team Determination.

It’s not the ideal race for me to run.  But the point is, getting cancer is so far way less than ideal.  It just plain blows.  It’s not fair.  And I don’t care if it’s not my best race time wise.  It will be a race with purpose.

And with the fragility of life in front of me, purpose is all we’ve got.

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Inside Out

Inside Out

Well, we are well into the “this-year-I’m-gonna-really-get-in-shape” season.  The gym is bursting at the seams, people are everywhere walking and running in our “spring during winter” weather oddness, and commercials featuring celebrities like Marie Osmond and Charles Barkley endorsing the weight loss system of their (agent’s) choice are in high rotation.

Sigh.  I don’t know about you, but after a few weeks of this, I feel a little discouraged.

Getting in shape is a lot harder than getting out of shape.  That may be stating the obvious, but it’s true.  And in this instant-gratification-there’s-an-app-for-that society, getting the body you’ve always wanted just takes a whole lot longer than it appears in the movies.

You know the scene.  Movie star picks an admirable, plot enriching task.  Win the boxing match, start a fight club, get sexy.   Then, during a 3 minute musical montage (insert Rocky Theme here), said star “sweats it out” in various scenes -running, doing sit ups, boxing, whatever.   And bam – the star is transformed.  Our hero prevails and we learn that hard work pays off after all.  He gets the girl, she gets the guy, and the endearing old coach that “always believed in you” sheds a proud tear just before the credits role.

Yeah.  No wonder we wish it were easy.  I could definitely commit to a 3-minute music montage of sweating and grimacing and sit-ups, if the end result meant I’d look like Demi Moore in GI Jane.

It’s no surprise that it’s not that easy.  For anyone.  Not even Demi Moore in GI Jane.  Take this, for example.  I was watching the Biography of Natalie Portman the other day.  The narrator was describing how Ms. Portman got in shape for her role as a ballerina in “The Black Swan”.   She worked on her ballet for 5 HOURS a day, before “working out” by running and swimming afterwards.   I don’t know how her already tiny little frame stayed afloat after all that.  It sure sounded like a lot of work.

My point?  As many of us go forth in the New Year with hopes of a total body overhaul, I think it’s important to remember to focus on the ultimate goal: looking good on the inside.   This ain’t no movie scene.  It’s real life, and the last time I checked, most of us have jobs beyond working out.  This year, I’m going to try something different.  Instead of loathing whatever stupid little thing I wish were different about the outside me, I’m going to focus on the inside first.

It’s crazy how wrapped up we can all get in our outward appearance.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s no secret that when you look good on the outside, you feel good inside. And if I could look like Natalie Portman, I wouldn’t turn down the chance.  But I think the reason so many people get discouraged and give up is simply because the outside doesn’t change overnight, or week, or month. Transformation takes time.  And even then, genetics plays to our faults.  It doesn’t make me any less annoyed when some long-legged, tan, incredibly thin swimsuit models giggles about how she loves pizza and cheeseburgers and never works out.  But it does remind me that the best way to a good outside is a healthy inside.

 

As my fitness takes shape again, I try to focus on the feeling I get from working out.  Sunday, my yoga class ended with “total relaxation” for a few minutes.  As I lay there, I felt my heart beating strongly.  And I thought, “It’s a good feeling to know that my heart is better off for this hour and fifteen minute workout”.   And I continued to think about how great I have felt lately, after promising to work out consistently, with various activities.  Instead of checking the mirror to see if the cycling is shaping my legs better, or running is making my butt smaller, or yoga is giving me that lean look, I’m going to focus on the inside.  Are my legs stronger after cycling?  Do I feel faster on my run?   Has my balance and flexibility improved? 

Because if I get the guts of working out down, I know that outside will follow.  And the inside benefits of exercise are instant.

And my guts look good.  Well, as good as guts can look. 

Happy Running!

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Like kids at Christmas.

At home for the holidays, I had the chance to spend some quality time with my nieces and nephew.  (Oh, and the grown-ups in my family too).   Watching them interact with the world at ages 7, 5, and one and a half years old got me thinking about how different kids are from adults when it comes to physical activity.  I wondered, when did moving become such a chore?

Consider the following scenarios.

My two nieces where happily running around the family room, when my brother-in-law raised his feet to create a “road block”.  Undaunted by the new obstacle, my nieces quickly made a game of jumping over his legs, laughing the entire time. Imagine an adults reaction to the same scenario:  Sigh.  Really, I have to step over this? Why is the world against me.  Groan.  Lift leg, step over.  Sigh.

Later, my niece Alison (7) was laying on the floor.  She suddenly decided to show off her gym class skills, and started doing sit-ups.  I asked her if she could do ten in a row.  With a smile on her face, she gleefully sat-up, as I counted off the reps.  At ten, she kept going, shouting and smiling, “eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen….twenty one!”

“I did twenty-one sit-ups, Aunt Sally!”

“Good work!”  I exclaimed.  And then I thought back to my last body pump class at the Y, where I cursed the abdominal workout, grimaced through it, and fell in a pile afterwards, being sure not to do one extra rep or hold on to that plank for one second more.

Even my one and a half year old nephew was a clear reminder of how children view physical activity as a joy.   I mean, the little dude is barely steady on his tiny two little feet, and falls down about every other second, and there he is, running around the room, forward, backward – until he runs into something- at which time, he gets up and tries again.   It looks like such – work- and yet, he is there giggling and smiling through it all.

What’s the quickest way to get from the bedroom to the family room in time to open presents?  Well, if you’re my nieces, it’s simple.  RUN.

So when does physical activity switch from being such a naturally joyus option to a perfectly detestable obligation?

For a child, each day is a new opportunity to improve his or her physical skills.  Remember when you mastered a certain physical feat?  You couldn’t wait to show anyone that would watch – a somersault, a cartwheel, how fast you could run, riding your bike by yourself.   Remember when “racing” was so much fun?  “Hey, wanna race me?”, the younger you exclaims.  No fear, no regrets, no hang-ups about challenges.   Just pure joy from seeing if you could.  Summer days spent swimming until the whistle blew and you had to jump on your bike to get home for supper.  Remember how great that feeling was?   And those days when your parents had to beg you to get inside after dark, because it was time to give up that game of “kick the can” and get to bed.   And going to bed?  That was the chore.  I can remember thinking of any excuse to stay awake.  Anything.  And when my bedtime fate was eventually sealed, I didn’t go easily.  No, I crawled down the hallway.  And to my parent’s dismay, I was always first to wake.

And while I understand that I can’t get where I need to go each day by jumping over things on the way to the grocery store and cartwheeling to my next dentist appointment, I can resolve to see the bright side in exercise.

I can choose to see each run, each class at the Y, each bike ride, each walk of the dog as an opportunity to be active, instead of a chore I must complete.  Our lives are filled with so many obligations as it is, and making exercise another one of them is probably why so many of us have a hard time getting out the door most days.

So, like a kid at Christmas, I vow to take a tiny bit of child-like joy in each day I exercise.  To move it from my “have-to” list, to my “get-to” list.  To realize that moving is a challenge that shouldn’t be dreaded, but embraced.

It’s not often that we can take pointers from children on how to behave.  I don’t think we should pick our noses when we feel like it, yell and scream when things don’t go our way, or make the fashion choices of a two-year-old.  But this is one instance in which we can take a pointer from the kids.

Run for fun – it might even make you smile.

Wanna race?

 

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