Reckless abandon is fun … until you get caught.

I love music. I love to sing to music. I love to listen to music while I run. Often, it serves as a sort of background soundtrack to the internal monologue I have going on while I run. Running is certainly my time to think and hash things out, but it is also my time to feel free and happy. I have a wonderful life, don’t get me wrong, but I also have daily stresses and issues that cause me to worry. I mean, who doesn’t? Am I fulfilling all of my obligations as a wife, mother, daughter, librarian, and friend? Am I doing enough? Will I look back on my life years from now wishing I had done things differently? Am I selfish? Do I show my family enough love? Do I work hard enough? Running is my escape from all of this and a chance to hash all of this out in my mind. It’s where I reconcile things and make plans. It’s where I pinpoint the areas I want to change and celebrate the things I’m doing well.

It’s also where I sing with reckless abandon and embarrass myself as others encounter me on my run.

The run always starts out innocent enough. I don my headphones, start up my music, and ease into it. I look around and enjoy my surroundings. I remind myself to relax. Breathe. Relax those shoulders. Relax those arms. Let those feet softly land on the ground with an easy stride. Use those arms appropriately. Relax. Then I start to feel good. Happy. I’m running. I’m traveling by foot. Getting exercise. I’m doing this thing that I love. I’m doing this thing that has brought me an immeasurable amount of joy and satisfaction. I’m going to have a great day. Look how sleepy this town is right now, but I’m out here gettin’ it! This is fun. It’s like I’m accessing a secret portion of the day that others don’t know about. I know something they don’t know. I’m feeling free!

This is when I start singing along to the music pumping through my headphones. Now, I promise, I don’t realize sound is coming out of my mouth. It starts out as lip syncing. I’m enjoying the music so much that I want to sing, but I know that to a passerby that would be weird, so I stifle the sound from coming out. Until I don’t anymore. I actually don’t know when it happens, but I know for certain that it does happen because about seven different people on seven different occasions have told me that I sing as I run. Many of these people were strangers at races. How embarrassing. It’s just like finding out that you talk in your sleep, which by the way, I also do according to my husband and my childhood friends.

So, this whole notion of trying to stifle the song is fascinating to me. Apparently, I have a real urge to sing once I’m lost in my run and completely enjoying myself. The sound just escapes. I don’t exactly realize that I’m making sounds, but it also doesn’t exactly surprise me when I’m told I do this. It just embarrasses me. The fact that I get so wild with reckless abandon that I sing like some maniac is kind of cool to think about … for someone else, but very humiliating when it’s me who happens to be the wild, reckless, maniac.

All of this has made me realize the real reason I run. I think I can finally, maybe, answer the “why do I run?” question in a succinct manner. I run to get out of my head and feel free. You see, I over analyze things in my day-to-day life. I love to analyze things. This serves me well in most situations; however, the constant thinking and dwelling on things does not always improve my mood or well-being. Enter running. When I get in that “zone” while running, my mind is wandering and free. I think about things, but then I jump to other things, and then I get lost in my music. I’m still analyzing things, but I’m doing it in a haphazard, disjointed, wonderful way. Then, at some point, I’m not thinking at all. I’m just moving, enjoying music, and, apparently, singing aloud.

I guess singing, like running, is natural. We can all do it. It’s in our genes. It’s human nature. Singing, like running, opens up a range of emotion and is a wonderful release of passion. Feeling makes us sing and singing makes us feel.

Also, as someone who lives in her head too much, singing while running is where I completely let go of my inhibition. I am fully present in my run. I am a lioness, or a lean, hungry she-wolf, unbridled and free. The running rouses an enthusiasm in me that makes it necessary for me to sing.

So, while it’s embarrassing, if I run near you and I’m really feeling my run, chances are you will hear me singing. 

I Hate You, I Love You, I Hate That I Love You: Track Workouts

Yep, I hate you track workouts. But I also kind of love you. I love how you hurt so good sometimes, but then other times I hate how you use me up.

I am nervous each time I toe that line on the track. It’s a different nervous than when I’m running cross country style. The track is all smooth and level with no barriers or terrain changes to impede my running. I have no excuses for slower running. I have nothing to look at to distract me. It’s just me focusing on my speed and it’s horribly wonderful, or is it wonderfully horrible? Either way I’m challenged and I’m forced to work on getting better. There is nowhere for me to hide. I’m on total display.


When the cross country girls and I run the trail or retention pond or around other areas of the school we get to explore. We have objects to dodge and interesting things to look at. When the girls and I run the track, we are right there, running circles, in full view. It’s very convenient for the coaches to yell at me, “Arms, Dendy! Use your arms! ARMS!” and other helpful corrections. When I hear this, I focus on my arms. It is good for me to have someone watching me run and evaluating my form. This is a true gift. I am appreciative of the feedback and I’m always quick to thank the coaches for taking the time to notice me and scream at me. This is true. But, I also kind of hate it. Sometimes it feels like they’re mean … then I remember that I’m just being emotional and the best runners focus on the practical, not the emotional, and I tell myself to quit being a sensitive wuss. Incidentally, this whole notion of emotion vs. practicality in running is something that intrigues me and I’ve written about it before. But I digress. I am thankful for the corrections and I earnestly try to implement all of the corrections I receive when I’m out running without coaches present.

But I still can’t help the way I feel. On the track I always feel inferior. I feel like I have no place on the track. You see, I don’t exactly consider myself a real athlete. Real athletes are fast. Real marathoners have Boston qualified. I’m over here still trying to break four hours on my marathon. Now, of course, I realize that I am a real athlete and many people would kill for a 4:10 marathon, I know this. But I still can’t help but feel that I’m not fast and I’m a fraud and everyone else thinks so too.


Now, I work hard. I really do. And I try not to give up. I really do. So all of this makes me an athlete and it truly makes me proud, but for some reason when I get on that track, any running confidence I once had goes out the window. Incidentally this also happens when I run with fast people, run in a new situation, on random neighborhood runs, etc. So maybe the common denominator is me and not the track, huh?

So, slowly, running is teaching me confidence and speed work on the track is the ultimate test of my confidence.

Emotion vs. Practicality in Running

In life you should really never follow your heart.

Think about it, when you follow your heart, all you are really doing is following your emotions. Instead of thinking, you’re feeling. Why on earth would it be a good idea to make decisions based on our feelings instead of our rational thoughts? If we followed our emotions we’d be bums living in the street with no family, goals, or aspirations. It is important to think long-term and about the repercussions of our decisions. If we simply follow our hearts, we are thinking short-term, in the moment, riding a wave of emotion. Yes, it’s fun, but we can’t live our lives that way. We’d simply never get anything done.

The mind is rational. It gives good advice. It is practical. It thinks long-term. The emotions are whackadoodle. They are wild and free and exotic. The mind records all of our past transgressions and it tells us when we shouldn’t do something or when we should do something, but our emotions tell us to do the opposite. Emotions are hard to deal with when decision-making. Emotions distract us from our goals. In running, I sometimes follow my emotions instead of my mind. This is bad. When I’m physically tired and feeling worn down in a run, I have to ignore my emotions. I have to remember the goals I have set for myself. I have to think of the long term, not the present, short-term discomfort. This is hard to do.

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I believe that people that tend to be more emotional than practical are at a disadvantage when it comes to distance running. I would be one of these emotional types. In life, I find that my knee-jerk reaction to conflict is emotional in nature. I am constantly telling myself, “Dendy, try to think rationally in this situation. Be practical, don’t be emotional.” I also tell myself, “Dendy, ignore that emotional aspect of discomfort. It’s just discomfort. Quit crying about it inside.” This is hard to do.

 

Alas, we are not robots. The world would be so boring if we were all completely logical and pragmatic. Emotions are what give our world vivid color. We are human. We have feelings. If we were to completely ignore our own feelings and the feelings of others we would be complete assholes. Pardon that crassness, but I honestly could not come up with a more fitting word. We are not robots, we are colorful humans. In running, just like in life, practicality in decision-making serves us well. We must balance our emotions and our rational thought.

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So, I’m saying it here. One of my main focuses from here on out is to be more practical and less emotional. I certainly don’t want to become a jerk who has no regard for others’ feelings and never takes them into consideration during decision-making, but I could stand to fixate a little less on my own feelings and the feelings of others. For, things don’t really need to be as big of a deal as I sometimes make them out to be. Sometimes things are clear-cut and simple. In running, for instance, I need to tell myself to focus on my run and not on how I feel about my discomfort. It’s really that simple.

 

So if it’s really that simple, why doesn’t it feel that way? Oh wait, I’m not supposed to place so much emphasis on the way things feel, am I? As you can see, this might take me quite a bit of time.

Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

“May” Dendy Convinces “January” Dendy to MOVE ON!

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Okay, truth time. I’ve been moping around in a state of mourning since Sunday. Yes, I’ve been saying all of the right things and feigning strength, but I’ve been a crumpled mess inside. Now, as I read back what I just wrote, I see how completely ridiculous it is. I mean, people out there are fighting cancer, competing with physical impairments, dealing with the loss of loved ones, and all that happened to me was that I didn’t quite make my marathon time goal! Dendy, get over yourself! You don’t even have a right to be sad! But, alas, I have been sad. I trained for an entire year for my A race. On race day, I brought my A game. I went after that A goal, full effect. I was doing extremely well, all up until the point where I wasn’t. That’s when I became hopeless, and then it was all over. Now, I still finished my marathon, so that’s a great accomplishment. I recently read that only 1 out of every 100 people have completed a marathon, so the fact that this was my third time to do it is really very cool. Additionally, I still managed to finish within a reasonable time for my gender/age group, so that’s something to be proud of. Plus, I felt like throwing in the towel and quitting, and I didn’t. I kept muddling through that marathon until I reached the finish line. That is something to be extremely proud of. So, I’ve been licking my wounds and getting myself into the correct mindset. One thing I did was to go back to a blog I wrote back in May entitled, “What Do Sports Teach Us About Life?” and everything started to come together for me. I realize that sounds kind of egotistical … I went to something I wrote eight months ago to bring me solace now, but it really worked. I have to say, the Dendy that wrote these words eight months ago might as well have been speaking to the defeated Dendy that is writing this now. I wrote a lot about how a true athlete accepts her limitations and setbacks and learns and grows from them. Wow. I need to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. This, right here, is my chance to truly practice what I preach. Of the nine areas I wrote about in that blog entry, four points apply to me now. I’ve copied my own words back from May here and I underlined the points that speak to me now:

emily dickinson1. How to win and how to lose.

Obviously, one of the first things learned is how to lose and how to win. A competitor should be graceful when he loses as well as when he wins. When we lose it’s easy to become upset, and honestly, a bit of upset after a loss is a good thing. For, the goal is to come out on top; to perform well; to enjoy a victory. Often times; however, despite our best efforts, we lose. In these moments it is important to remember the bigger picture. To remember that a loss should not deter us from continuing to work hard for what we want. It is important during losses to continue to honor the spirit of competition; to respect your opponent and to allow them to make you better. Conversely, sports teach us to win gracefully. Nobody likes a gloat. The truth is, as trite as it sounds, we win some, and we lose some. It’s certainly more fun to win, but we must always remember that we cannot win every time. Besides, if we did win every time, would the victories be as sweet? I think not. Emily Dickinson in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest,” asserts that “to comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.” In other words, to truly appreciate victory, we must experience defeat.
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3. How to persevere.

Playing sports teaches us how to work hard, deal with discomfort, overcome obstacles, learn from struggle, push our body’s limits, get back up after falling, and to never give up. In short, sports teach us to persevere. These qualities are obviously necessary in athletics, and they certainly spill over and apply to the rest of our lives. In any given situation, resilience and determination are great contributors to success. When we fight through hard times and push past discomfort, we get to the good stuff. All great things worth having in life take effort and don’t come easy. The good things are worth fighting for and require perseverance, right? Sports teach us to develop that part of the brain that is in charge of perseverance, and the sooner we learn to fight for what we want, the more successful we become.

5. How to set goals and have a positive attitude.

Playing sports teaches us to set goals, and this builds confidence and a positive attitude. Achieving an athletic goal we’ve set for ourselves requires us to believe in ourselves, and each time we succeed, we become more confident. Naturally, we will fall short of our goals at times, but we learn to take those losses in stride, soldier on, keep a positive attitude, and keep fighting. Setbacks will happen, but good athletes do not let those setbacks destroy them. A good athlete takes every experience, good or bad, and learns from it. It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success. A positive attitude, even when we are struggling, will keep us working toward our goals.

9. How to see the bigger picture.

Athletes know that there’s more to life than just the game. They know that family, friends, faith, and education are what holds the true meaning to life. Athletes; however, have an intense passion for their sport. Engaging in their sport brings them great happiness, purpose, confidence, and health. The sport certainly enriches their lives, but it should not be the be all and end all of their worlds. It is important for athletes to be completely engaged in their activity and to take the necessary steps in their lives to accomplish their goals, but they must remember that there is more to life than the sport. Involvement in sports enhances our lives, but it shouldn’t run our lives.

 

Well, so there ya go, Dendy! Quit being weak and defeated. Get over yourself. Aren’t you stronger than this? Yes, you are. So I had a lackluster race. Does one lackluster race negate all of my hard training? No. Did I learn an incredible amount about myself on all of those early morning solo training runs? Yes. Am I stronger for all of my training? Yes. Will I use this setback to fuel my fire? Yes.

Back in May, I wrote the words, ” It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success.” Yes, May Dendy, you are so right … now convince January Dendy of this, please.

So today I am forced to practice what I preach. This experience will make me stronger.

Marathon Mile Dedication

I will run my third marathon Sunday and I’ve decided to dedicate each of my marathon miles to a specific person or group. I have many people that are very important to me in my life. These people support me and offer me inspiration and motivation and taking the time to think about them during my race will force me to keep pushing. This will be my first year to try this, and I am very excited about it.

When exhaustion sets in, that’s when I feel hopeless. That’s when that horrible part of my brain tells me I simply cannot go on. I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted, and all I want to do is collapse on the pavement and dissolve into a pool of tears. I just want to curl up into the fetal position and sob. Like an embarrassingly loud, guttural, primal sob. A flat out temper tantrum. Naturally I won’t do that, but boy have I fantasized about doing that a few hundred times! This is where this bracelet with mile dedications will come into play. This is that moment when I need to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. This is where I remember that I should be grateful that I am running this marathon right now. This is when I need to acknowledge that there are many people in my life that are rooting for me. There are people that care about what I am doing. These people want me to succeed. These people are important to me and in this weak moment, I need to honor them. I’m not only running for myself, I am running for all of them.

I won’t publish my dedication list here … that would just be weird. Kind of like admitting my political affiliation or religion. Obviously, as evidenced by my blog, I am not afraid to share some of my deepest, darkest thoughts, but they are my thoughts that affect me. I shy away from writing about my political beliefs, church involvement, or specific people in my life. It seems rude. For some reason publishing the list seems too personal, too. But, I will tell you some of the obvious mile markers, just in case you are curious.

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Of course my husband, each daughter, mother, and father are on the list. These people are my biggest cheerleaders. Naturally, at times they resent the time I put into my running, but they are the very first people to brag about me to anyone who will listen. They are proud of me. They believe in me. They make me better. Then there are my dear friends. These people aren’t family … they don’t have to stay loyal to me, but they do. They ask me about my runs and offer me encouragement and support on a regular basis. I don’t have a long list of friends, but these people are quality people. What I lack in numbers, is made up for in quality, for sure. There is the cross country coach and the cross country girls. These people are like a family of sorts for me. No words could really ever express the gratitude I have for these people. There are all of my social media friends that inspire me to pursue my passion and cheer me on. There are my coworkers and the student body at my school. I love my job and I consider the people I work with a work family. There are the companies and organizations that took a chance on me and allowed me to serve as ambassador for them. These people opened many doors for me and created countless opportunities for me to become truly connected to the running community. Then, of course, there is me. I will run the last .2 for me and only me. It will be a mad sprint to the finish and I will be smiling the whole way. I will throw my arms up as I step on that finish line as I always do.  

I honestly can’t believe I never thought of this idea with my first or second marathon. I believe doing this will remind me to keep fighting. It will remind me to push past my feelings of inferiority. It will force me to focus on what is important to me rather than my shortcomings. It will remind me that even though I am feeling woebegone, I can ignore that emotional aspect of the discomfort I am feeling. It will give me that eye of the tiger I need. It will make me fierce.

Unsolicited Advice


I’m sure, if you’re reading this, you are a pretty dedicated runner and have had your fair share of unsolicited advice from non-runners, occasional runners, or ex-runners. Don’t get me wrong, advice on running is something I always listen to. I will always listen, I just may disregard the advice and move on with my life, but I will certainly listen and carefully consider running advice. I’m still figuring this whole running thing out and I’m always looking for ways to improve my running. If a knowledgeable person can give me some advice that will help me to improve, I am all ears. It’s the negative comments about my running and words of discouragement I get from non-runners and bitter ex-runners that really gets my goat. Why must you, person who knows nothing about running, tell me that I am running too much? Why must you, person who, for whatever reason, got burnt out on running, tell me that eventually I will be just like they are? Why discourage me? Why offer negative advice? Why make me question what I’m doing? Why? What is the purpose?

Maybe it just boils down to the fact that people enjoy putting their two cents in on topics, whether they have any business doing so or not. People like to feel like experts on a topic … they’ve been there, but this is our first rodeo, that type of thing.

 
Would you ever tell a woman who is celebrating her first wedding anniversary, “Oh, honey. You may be happy now, but check back in with me ten years from now. It won’t be all rainbows and unicorns then, let me tell ya!” I’m guessing that most people would never dream of saying such a horrible thing to a newlywed, but whenever we squash other people’s dreams, burst their bubbles, tell them it will all go down in flames, it is rather like telling a newlywed they are destined for unhappiness. When you think of it that way it’s a really horrible thing to tell a runner that she can’t possibly sustain her running, isn’t it? It’s kind of like saying to her, “well, you might feel really strong and accomplished right now, but you just wait … you’ll be miserable soon enough.”


Now, not all advice is negative advice. There are many wonderful people out there, with various backgrounds in regards to running, that are spirited cheerleaders for us runners. These people build us up, cheer us on, and celebrate with us. These people might warn us to “listen to our bodies. Don’t overdo it. Make sure you take care of yourself so that you can continue to do what you are passionate about for as long as is humanly possible.” When these people offer us this advice, it is coming from a place of love and sincerity. These people get it. These people know that whatever their story has been, the person standing in front of them has her own story, and they don’t want to dampen that story.


I have a beautiful story about a woman who cheered for me when I needed it the most. It was at mile 24 of the Chevron Houston Marathon and my body felt like it was about to give out. I was so tired and I was feeling incredibly emotional. This woman, appearing like an angel, held a sign that read, “FREE HUGS.” I stopped, went towards her, and as she took one look at my pitiful face, she opened her arms to me and gave me an awesome bear hug. I cried a bit on her shoulder and she squeezed me harder. She told me to “keep going. Don’t stop.” I am tearing up as I type this. This woman, who owed me nothing, supported me when I needed it the most. This is the type of runner I want to be. That woman gets it. When I ran off I heard her cheers loud as could be and I knew she was rooting for me. I vow to stand with such a sign at mile 24 of a marathon at some point. I want to offer the kind of advice and support that that angel did for me.


So, I plan to run for as long as my body will let me, but more than that, I vow to be an inspiring, motivational advice giver. I vow to build others up rather than tear them down. I will not be a bubble burster. I will not wish future ill on another.

Rest Day Restlessness


We work hard. We train in the wee hours of the morning when our families are still asleep. We train in the heat, cold, and the rain. We train when we are sick, stressed, and unmotivated. We often don’t much feel like getting out the door and pushing our bodies to their limits, but we do it because it’s important to us and we are dedicated to our sport. We are athletes. We follow a plan. Rest days are part of the plan. We have earned our rest days through much hard work. So why do we have trouble resting on rest days? Why can’t we enjoy the rest day? We abuse our bodies on purpose to build them up and resting them is part of the build up process. We know we need to rest. We even dream of rest days when we are struggling and feeling tired. Then the rest day comes and we suddenly feel restless. Such a weird phenomenon.

So why do we have such a hard time resting? I have a few ideas.

  • Training gives us a sense of purpose.

Training is very meaningful to us. We would never dream of giving it up. Without it, we feel a lack of achievement; a lack of purpose. When we rest, we feel as if we are not actively pursuing our goals. We are idle and this makes us restless. We’re like lost ducklings. What on earth do we do with ourselves? We’re used to being a busy grownup AND fitting in our training. Our schedules are filled to the gills and we rather like it this way. So a day of rest? Well, it just feels wrong, doesn’t it?

  • It has become who we are.

It is who we are. We are addicted. Let’s face it: we’re junkies. We crave that rush of adrenaline. It has become part of our identity. It is in our blood. It guides virtually all of our life decisions. it gets to a point where we make our lives fit around training. We want to do everything, but we know our training is the thing that makes all of the other things better. Training makes us feel fulfilled, it contributes to this better version of ourselves that we are enjoying.

  • Rest days make us feel like quitters. 

Training has taught us to never quit. We feel like quitting, A LOT, but we don’t. We keep on keeping on. We push past our feelings of weakness. For some reason, rest days make us feel like we have quit. Like we’re slackers. It’s a guilty feeling we experience. We’re left thinking, “I can’t believe I’m not training at all today. What if this turns into two days, and then more? What if I like it too much and I lose all of my momentum? I can’t let that happen.” I have actually thought those thoughts in my head. Typing them out makes me realize just how crazy I am. I have to let myself rest. I have to remember that I am committed to my plan and rest days are part of the plan.

  • No activity compares to it. 

We try to find suitable replacements for our training, but everything pales in comparison. I know that a useful coping mechanism when we crave a certain thing we can’t have is to replace it with another thing. The problem is that I just can’t find a thing to replace training that matches its power. I will try many things on rest days, but ultimately I find myself biding my time until the next training day. Writing about it helps some, ergo this blog post.

  • It is our stress reliever. 

It’s no secret that exercise is a stress reliever. For us dedicated athletes, training at our intensity levels and never having a day of rest is a recipe for an overuse injury. We know this. We also know that an intense sweat session would clear our heads, improve our moods, and make us feel less stressed. But, alas, we’re sitting around feeling restless on rest day and can’t get in our “de-stressification” (yeah, I made up a word).

  • It is our escape.

Not only is it a stress reliever, it is an out and out escape for us. When we train we are away from our families and our work, simply doing our thing. Of course we love our families and our jobs, it’s just that it’s nice to have a healthy activity as our escape from all of that. It is our time when we don’t necessarily have to worry about life’s hassles. It is our “me time.” It is our escape. Rest days make us feel a bit trapped.

I have to say, this topic absolutely fascinates me. I know I am not alone in feeling restless on rest days. I know this because I’ve spoken to countless people that feel the same way I do on this topic. The fact that I am not alone is comforting insofar as I know I’m not the only crazy freak out there.

So, to all my friends resting out there: hang tight, training day will come soon enough.

Peace In My Plateau

imageA Plateau is defined as “a period or state of little or no growth or decline.” I believe that in life, when people hit a plateau, it brings about a sort of life crises.  Some would define “crisis” as a dramatic upheaval in one’s life. By crisis; however, I mean “a turning point.” This is a turning point of sorts for me. I am nearing my 40th birthday, and this milestone birthday, coupled with the comfortable plateau I am currently snuggled into, has given me cause for some self-reflection.
Distance running is a godsend for a person who needs a bit more self-reflection. When I am out on a good, long run my attention drifts and my imagination thrives. It is as if I am in the wilderness, my mind wandering, and this frees up my creativity. I am somewhat aimless, enjoying solitude, discovery, detachment, and introspection. How many first drafts have I written on long runs? Countless drafts. The solitude, coupled with the rhythmic movement, create a completely cathartic experience. I think of many things on my long run and I also think about nothing. Often I think about some pretty dumb things. Silly things. Things that people have said that have made me laugh. Funny things that I have said. The witty comeback that I wish I had uttered in that perfect moment to get a laugh. Often I think about my family. I think about how I don’t deserve my husband and daughters, my loving parents, my coworkers and friends. Do I show them enough how much they all mean to me? Definitely not. I think a lot about how I need to fix this. At some point during the long run I think about how much running consumes me. Every single part of my body is active and engaged while running. There is virtually no body part that is not activated. This makes me feel strong and beautiful. If that feeling could be bottled up I would make millions of dollars. I truly believe that something happens to me on a long run. I believe I am changed a little. The running affords me a feeling of danger and the physical exertion brings out my alter ego. Suddenly I am transformed into a risk taker, seeking adventure and enjoying the feel of adrenaline. I am throwing out comfort in favor of testing my physical limits. I feel wild, free, and fierce. As trite as this will sound, running truly is my therapy. Running relieves my tension. Running improves my overall mood. Running helps me put things into perspective. Running forces me to put everything away and to focus on nothing but examining myself. It is my time to give careful consideration to my conduct, my motives, my priorities, and my blessings.
imageThere’s definitely more to running than just the opportunity to self-reflect, though. Running is also a form of escape for me. I would venture to say that this is true for many of us. It is a way to escape without packing our bags, leaving our families, and heading for the hills. We are bored. The daily life routine has gotten very, well routine. Realizing this, it’s really no surprise that many of us threw ourselves into running later in life. We get to a point where we look around and say, “wait … this is what life is? This is being a grownup?” As I sit here reading this back I realize how depressing that sounds, but it is just a natural, honest reaction that we all have. Running is a way to hold the reigns and take charge of our lives. We won’t just let our lives pass us by, conversely, we will hit the ground running. We will go after what we want and we will feel satiated. We know that by constantly upping the bar for ourselves we might very well be getting in over our heads, but we don’t care. The thrill of giving into our urges is electric and unwavering. In life, when I’m grappling with a difficult situation, I find that I choose to think about my running instead. I know that with trial and error I can improve my running. I know this because I keep improving. Likewise, when I’m on a run, I’ll think about my difficult situations, but I’ll know that at that particular moment in time, I can’t do anything about them. At that point in time, all I have to do is keep running. One foot in front of the other. I may slow my pace, but I must keep going forward. Additionally, running, unlike life, is a puzzle that begs to be solved. The goal of a marathon, for instance, is concrete. The goal is a measured, methodical, matter-of-fact entity: it is a finish time. Achieving that concrete goal is entirely up to us. We have a race date that serves as our deadline and it is up to us to do the things that we need to do to put us in the very best position we can be come race day. All of the training leading up to race day is what we thrive on. We may fail. Success is not guaranteed. We have wonderful plans, but there are many variables at work that could derail our best laid plans. We are always close to burnout, injury, and weakness, but just like in life, we struggle in running and we must work hard to keep going. Perhaps it isn’t a running escape we go on, that seems to have a negative connotation; like we are escaping our wonderful families and visiting an asylum. Perhaps it is a running retreat we continue to go on. It is our refuge. We are reenergized and restored, ready to be better versions of ourselves for others.
imageHuman beings, by nature, seek routine. Routines make us feel safe and secure. All of the things genuinely worth having in life are not just temporary gratifications, and they come with resistance and sacrifice. However, I find it somewhat ironic that the daily routine of life becomes cumbersome for us, but we rather enjoy the ritual of the long run. This seems to be a huge contradiction: we are bored by our life routine, but the routine of the long run intrigues us? Why is it that daily life rituals are stressful and annoying, but weekly long run rituals are exciting? I haven’t quite figured this little conundrum out yet. I think it must go back to the fact that the long run affords us time with ourselves for self-reflection. We need to somewhat abuse ourselves with our long runs in order to heal whatever it is that needs healing. Distance running is a healthy coping mechanism for us. The exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress and anxiety, increases bone mass, muscles, and endurance. Not only that, distance running helps us create self-awareness and confidence through the clarity with which we are able to think. While the physical benefits of running are many, for me, it is the outlet running creates that keeps me coming back for more. I am not afraid to admit it … I am quite a mess, and running helps center me and keep me on the right track. I treasure running. It is an absolute gift. Running makes me feel incredibly strong, and I remind myself of this feeling of strength when I feel weak. There is certainly a connection between mind and body with running. Running has taught me that once I push through the pain, it all becomes so much easier. It has taught me to cope with discomfort and pain. Let’s face it, pain and discomfort in life isn’t going anywhere, right? We all experience pain, it is not a unique experience. We all have our tough stuff with which we must deal. Running better equips me with the tools I need to deal with life’s discomfort. Instead of running from difficulties and discomfort, I will run towards them, head on, and deal with them. Often this will hurt, but I am strong enough to deal with the hurt. So maybe the long run is that part of our life routine where we allow ourselves to hurt and to struggle and to consequently feel the extreme gratification of overcoming such obstacles.
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So, this plateau I mentioned is not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing. I am doing a lot of things in my life well. I am comfortable. I have an amazing family and job. I have wonderful friends and a very fulfilling hobby. While my husband and I are certainly not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we live a comfortable life and are afforded many luxuries not everyone gets to experience. I am happy. Running makes me realize that I am driven and dedicated and if I want to push myself to achieve more I should. I want more running success. I am committed to pushing myself more. I appreciate all of the gains I’ve already made, running and otherwise, but I have reached a plateau of sorts. It’s time for me to start climbing until I reach the next proverbial precipice.

Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassadorship

 When my beloved hometown marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, advertised that they were accepting applications for marathon ambassadorship, I promptly began work on my application. Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Houston, running, and the Chevron Houston Marathon. There is something so magical about the way the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., comes together on marathon weekend. I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself on marathon weekend. I feel connected to my city and to my fellow runners. It’s really an inexplicable feeling I have on race weekend. The best way I can describe it is that it’s magic.

So, I poured myself into the application process. I carefully considered each portion of the application and thoroughly enjoyed contemplating each question. The questions on the application reflected ideas that I often ponder and write about. Things like, what inspires me to run, what are my main running goals, what is it about the Chevron Marathon weekend that appeals to me, how important is the running community to me, etc. These questions are at the core of why we all run, aren’t they? For, the split times, form, breathing, foot strike, heart rate, etc. is the actual running and we pay close attention to those things in an effort to improve, certainly, but that’s not what keeps runners running, is it? No. It’s the community, It’s how we are inspired. It’s our desire to inspire others. It’s the overwhelming sense of togetherness we feel on race day. It’s our desire to improve ourselves. It’s the satisfaction we feel when we accomplish our goals. It’s the feeling of being fit, strong, and capable. It’s the mental toughness we gain from doing hard things. It’s the satisfaction of pushing past where we thought our limits were. It’s our desire to cheer others on, for we know how hard running is. It’s the way we tear up when we think about running. Excuse me for a moment, I need a tissue.

So, I submitted my application, and I waited. And waited. And waited. In reality I only had to wait about a month, but it certainly felt like an eternity. The website informed me that I’d be notified one way or the other on April 11th. Good. I had an explicit endpoint to my waiting. I marked the date on my calendar and I tried not to fixate on it. Until the 11th, however. On the 11th I checked my email a record amount of times. I just couldn’t stop myself. I busied myself with my work and I pushed the application out of my mind whenever it entered that space. Then, lo and behold, the email came. I nervously opened it and was thrilled to learn that I had been selected to serve as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador. Me! They picked me! Words cannot express how excited I am. It is also worth mentioning here that I applied last year and was rejected. The rejection letter was very well written, I must say, and it urged me to try again the following year. Which is what I did. I also took a careful look at what makes a good ambassador. I saw, very quickly, that I simply wasn’t ready to serve as an ambassador for the 2016 season. I hadn’t immersed myself into the running community yet. So, I set out to do just that. I put all of my thoughts into writing and started this blog. I followed other runners’ journeys through social media and immediately gained inspiration and motivation from them. I became a part of the running community and words cannot express how fortunate I am to have found the running community. Had I not been rejected ambassadorship in 2016 would I be this connected with my running community? I think not.

 As an ambassador, I am most excited about becoming even more involved in the Houston running community. I get so much inspiration and motivation from my running connections on social media. The local Houston runners that I am connected with through social media are particularly special to me, as we take part in many of the same races and we feel privileged to run our hometown Chevron Houston Marathon. I look forward to making even more running connections through my ambassador platform. The running connections I have made over the last year are truly what help motivate me during the training season and throughout the entire year. I have said it many times in the past, and I am certain I will continue to say it on a regular basis, but the running community is simply the best. Runners are the most positive, encouraging people on the planet. Runners help other runners up when they’ve fallen, for we know, all too well, what it feels like to fall.

So, it is with great enthusiasm that I wholeheartedly accept my position as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador.