“Have you ever had people discourage your running?”

Have you ever had people discourage your running?

Either by telling you you shouldn’t run as often as you do or as far as you do, or they tell you how running will wreck your body? Maybe they even warn you about focusing so much of your energy on your running? Why is it that so often it is a person that knows virtually nothing about running? Why do they feel the need to discourage? Some would say they feel threatened by your physical fitness and success. They might question why on earth you feel the need to run while on vacation; they just don’t understand that running is a part of you, and when you can’t do it, you feel incomplete. You are excited to run in new places and make new running memories. You will feel like you know your surroundings so much more and you will feel more like a part of that community. It isn’t something that we HAVE to do, it is something that we GET to do.

I, for one, need to remember not to take other people’s criticism or advice personally. For me, this is so hard. It is hurtful when I’ve worked so hard and I feel so good to hear why what I’m doing or how I’m doing it is silly. For some reason, instead of feeling good about what I’ve been feeling good about, I start to repeat that one person’s criticism over and over in my head and internalize it. This is not okay. I need to be my own cheerleader and cheer everyone around me on. Enter Twitter & Instagram. Honestly, these two social media platforms have been life-changing for me. I found inspirational blogs & live running chats. I also realized that I needed to be writing myself. Enter this blog. What the writing and the social media involvement have taught me is that I need to celebrate, not only my accomplishments, but the accomplishments of those around me. I feel stronger and more confident than I ever have, and this what I need to remember; not the unsolicited negative advice that I get from others.

“New shoes. It’s like Christmas morning.”

New shoes. It’s like Christmas morning.

Last week I opened my beautiful new Wave Rider 18s in deep lavender. See unboxing video here. I am starting to get over that feeling of loss I was experiencing when I first retired my previous Wave Rider 18s. What a peculiar feeling … so happy to be running on new, springy, smooth shoes, but sad to let go of those familiar, worn-down old shoes.

Running shoes are such a symbol of hard work and dedication. They honestly almost feel like some sort of a companion to me. My new shoes feel like a new acquaintance right now. I’m still getting used to the feeling of them. I have a sort of tentative touch with them. Still figuring out how tight to tie them and still getting used to the feel of the stiffness of the laces and the tongue. Still staring at them a beat longer than normal because at first I don’t recognize them as mine. There are no stains on them yet … those will come. These shoes will be with me for several months and hundreds of miles. They will go through puddles and through mud. They will go over concrete and asphalt, grass and crushed pebble. They will go over bridges and through parks. They will run the streets of my neighborhood and unfamiliar out-of-town streets. They will become my running companion just as all the others have and then it will come time to retire them too. I will mourn the loss of these, but I will welcome the next pair, tentatively, until they too feel familiar and natural.

“National Running Day.”

National Running Day.

Four years ago I probably would have called that a bogus holiday. Today; however, I consider it an observance of a rewarding activity that has given me a new lease on life. Particularly this year, NRD was extremely special, for I had the opportunity to participate in Twitter chats with very knowledgeable runners, many of whom are my idols. I also submitted a picture as part of a contest to the Chevron Houston Marathon of me ecstatic about finishing the marathon the previous year, donning my finisher shirt and a huge, goofy grin. Said picture is below.

I actually won first place (behind the grand winner) in that contest and I could not have been more thrilled. I find it extremely rewarding to share my running passion with others, and I also find it cathartic to record my thoughts about running here in this blog.

So, Why do I love running so? I think mainly because It reminds me of my childhood. The feeling of movement is nice. After an hour of running, I start to feel at peace. After 2 hours, I feel completely free. After 3 hours, I feel transcendent (adj. going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding). Yes, transcendent. Time stops. I forget I am running. I began my life as a runner at the age of 35 and I have learned so much about myself in these last few years. For me, it is a daily discipline. I cannot go a day without thinking about it. It certainly doesn’t get easier, I just get better and I get used to the struggle … maybe even enjoy it a little. Running is quality time with me. Even though it can be so very difficult, I truly cannot go a day without thinking about running. National Running Day is a day to observe the power of the run.

“About to get new running shoes. Yes!”

About to get new running shoes, yes!

I’m a bit past due on purchasing these new running shoes. Do you do this? Go over mileage because you either …

A). want to wait to spend the money? (always my case) or

B). get too busy to go by the running store and get new ones? (never me … I can’t wait to get into the running store and get a new pair).

My main issue is that my husband and I are not wealthy. We make good livings and we live in a nice, modest, neighborhood and enjoy many nice luxuries, but between my daughters’ competitive soccer bills, groceries, bills, vacations etc. we feel our budget gets a bit overstretched. But, it’s time and I’m getting ready to bite the bullet and go buy the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 in deep lavender from my favorite local running store Wild Pear Running. But, is it weird that I’m a bit sad to say goodbye to my current Wave Riders?

While I’m super excited to get my new pair of running shoes … to feel that springy padding and enjoy that smooth ride, I’m also a bit sad to let go of my old shoes. Do you experience that? These are the shoes that I ran my first marathon in. Marathon. 26.2 miles. I honestly NEVER thought I’d do that. I actually used to tell people that I’d never be able to do a marathon. I’d say, “Oh, I’m just doing 5ks,” which turned into “Oh, I’m just doing 10ks,” which turned into, “Oh, I’m just doing half marathons.” Eventually, I knew it was time to do a full marathon, and I couldn’t wait to do the Chevron Houston Marathon. These very shoes are the shoes I ran that marathon in. It kind of hurts to toss them aside for a newer, fresher pair.

Is it weird that I feel a certain loyalty to them? They are, indeed, inanimate objects. But they are a symbol of my hard work. They are a constant reminder of the thing that I accomplished. That thing that I never thought I’d do. Would it be weird to put them in a shadowbox and display them in a discreet location? That would be weird, right? I think I may actually have to do this. Just for this one pair. Goodbye Mizuno Wave Rider 18s in blue silver. December 22, 2014-June 2, 2015. Rest in Peace.

“My inner cynic was reluctant, but now I’m a believer.”

My inner cynic was reluctant, but now I’m a believer.

Yesterday I attended my first yoga class at the gym. I was skeptical, but I will be going regulary from now on.

Running a lot without lifting weights, strength training, stretching, or cross training made me succeptible to overuse injuries, and that is the ONLY reason I started doing all of those things. I had a nasty case of IT band syndrome. I had been reading up on how important it is to strength train and stretch, but I just wasn’t compelled to do those things. I just wanted to run. I eventually sucked it up and joined the gym. I was so intimidated by the machines and the gym rats around me. I thought that surely they all knew what a newbie I was and were all secretly critiquing my every move. I could almost hear them thinking to themselves, “Look at that lady. I can’t believe she’s using the machine like that. Gosh, she really isn’t doing very many reps with that little amount of weight.” I kept going, though, because I’m a grown up and I have to do things that I don’t like to do every day. Additionally, I HAD to find a way to keep running, and at the rate I was going if I didn’t make some changes I wasn’t going to be able to continue.

I now do lunges, squats, donkey kicks, planks, hip bridges, hamstring curls, etc., lift weights, swim, and most recently, yoga. All of these activities are making me stronger and I can feel it. These things are also helping me with my running and keeping me injury free. I can’t wait to learn more about yoga. I felt my tight muscles loosening during that hour long class. I don’t stretch enough and that class was essentially one hour of stretching. I can really see how yoga will be a nice complement to keeping my body healthy and injury free. I wasn’t sure yoga would be worth my time, but it most certainly is. My inner cynic was reluctant walking into that yoga class, but now I’m a believer.

I guess the most important thing to remember, in life, as well as in physical acitivty, is never to come to a situation as a skeptic. We are much happier when we approach every new situation with an open-mind and with excitement. Our attitude and approach to life has a whole lot to do with how fulfilled we feel.

“Runners are the most positive, encouraging people.”

“Runners are the most positive, encouraging people.”

All runners have had negative thoughts & felt they could have pushed harder in a race or training session. Pessimism is the most formidable roadblock for runners. Perhaps this is why running so captivates us … it’s like we are having a love affair with running. The running frustrates us, but it also validates us. We make it a priority in our lives and we constantly work at it. I think runners are connected mainly because we all feel the same way when we lace up our shoes and head out the door. Every time I’ve asked an accomplished runner for advice they have always responded with a warm, helpful, encouraging response.

It’s just so hard at times to find other people that enjoy running as much as we do. It’s so fun to talk about running with someone who gets it. We find ourselves stifling our non-stop runner musings from most of the people around us, because guess what? We are kind of annoying with our peppy, frenetic running blabbering. But when we encounter another run lover, it’s as if we haven’t spoken words or shared a conversation with another human for decades. We are cave people, encountering outside stimulus finally. Time stops, we forget where we are and what we are doing. We blather incessantly about distance runs and speed work. We talk about gear and various races. We discuss what we do to prevent injury and what we know we need to work on but struggle with. We wish each other luck and we truly mean it, for we know how difficult, but also how rewarding this activity is. We are instant friends with this virtual stranger, for we share an inexplicable connection. Speaking with other run lovers makes me remember, completely, how fun running is.

“Willpower and self-control are not magic entities that only some people have.”

“Willpower and self-control are not magic entities that only some people have.”

This morning I almost skipped my before-work run. I had no good reason. My alarm went off in time, I rose and prepared for my run like all other before-work run days. I am not ill, I had enough sleep the previous night, I am not injured. I just had a bad case of the I-don’t-feel-like-running-today blues. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that once I suited up and hit the pavement I’d be fine, even feeling better than I was as I sat on my daughters’ playroom couch listening to the news and playing on my ipad. I had a good three minute argument with myself in my head, and ultimately told myself to just cut the crap and get going.

As I suspected, I felt better as soon as I walked out the front door and headed out. The air was crisp and one of my favorite songs came through my headphones. I decided what I’d wear to work that day and how I’d style my hair. I thought about how I needed to call my father that morning, as it was his birthday. I proceeded to make a mental checklist of all of the things I needed to take care of in the immediate future. I thought about how I really wanted to take a few extra moments to snuggle the girls when I woke them up that morning before I headed off to work. I took a moment to acknowledge how good my run felt. I felt good. I love running. Even when I have a hard time gearing up for my runs and I sincerely just don’t want to put forth the effort, when I do suck it up and get moving, I’m always so proud of myself.

I never regret a run, but I do feel regret if I fail to run.

“My long runs are a sort of vacation away from all of my wonderful ‘stuff.'”

My long runs are a sort of vacation away from all of my wonderful “stuff.”

As I was sitting in a faculty meeting this week and listening to my principal recount the story of Joshua Bell, famous violinist, playing incognito in a DC subway station back in 2007, I was reminded of why it is that I am so fulfilled by my running. Countless people rushed by Bell, hurrying off to very important places, completely oblivious to the beauty that was being offered to them, free of charge, simply for their enjoyment. On a long Saturday run, where I’m alone in nature for hours, I am forced to think, to pray, to appreciate the beauty around me, to open my eyes and see the many blessings I am fortunate enough to have in my life. I think about my husband, who is helpful, supportive, loving, and fun. I think about my wonderful daughters, who amaze me with their kindness, beauty, humor and intelligence. I think about my parents, who are aging gracefully and spoiling my family. I look around at my community and recognize how lucky I am to live and play in such a beautiful place. I think about my job as a high school librarian and all of the wonderful people with whom I work. I think about how fortunate I am to be able to run. I often just look … and think … and smile.

At home, I am distracted by emails, text messages, social media, television, household duties, etc. I always have something “on” in the background. When I embark on my long Saturday run, I know that I will be breaking away from all of that static. I know that I won’t need to speak to anyone, answer any questions … I won’t need to engage in anything other than what I see around me and what is in my head. My long runs are a sort of vacation away from all of my wonderful “stuff.” A way to unplug and appreciate my life. I recently discovered Kelly Roberts and her blog Run, Selfie Repeat. She is a beautiful spirit that encourages runners to enjoy their runs and to remember not to take running so seriously … to actually stop and appreciate everything about the run. I have begun chronicling my runs with run selfies, as Kelly suggests. It’s yet another way for me to remember how lucky I am to have found running, and to enjoy my runs fully.

Running at Memorial Park in Houston, Texas.

At the risk of sounding terribly trite, my principal and Kelly Roberts’ message is to “stop and smell the roses.” Not to just be grateful for what we have, but to stop and take in the beauty. To not be afraid to slow down. In our mad rush to get so many things accomplished and to receive information instantly, we forget to breathe and take in our world. The world is a beautiful place and we are fortunate to be out kicking around in it.

“Running on vacation makes me feel less like a tourist.”

Running on vacation makes me feel less like a tourist.

This past week I traveled to Austin, Texas for the Texas Library Association Annual Conference. I had the pleasure of listening to Gilbert Tuhabonye share his story. Tuhabonye wrote This Voice in My Heart: A Runner’s Memoir of Genocide, Faith and Forgiveness. Tuhabonye was the sole survivor of genocide in Kimbimba. He ran from an unspeakable tragedy and is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. He is a running legend and a philanthropist and he reminds me that I can achieve anything, regardless of stumbling blocks. Tuhabonye is an Austinite, and after hearing him speak, I couldn’t wait to run Austin. Vacation running is the best.

Running on vacation makes me feel less like a tourist. Before I leave town I research the area parks, lakes, trails or boardwalks and determine my route. I get so excited to run in a new place. Beach boardwalks, downtown streets, piney woods trails, hill country roads, Disney World trails … I’m so excited to run new places. This past week in Austin, I ran the trail around Lady Bird Lake, or as the long-time locals call it, Town Lake, and the downtown streets. Austin, home of the Capitol and the University of Texas, is like no other Texas city. Austin has the unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and is officially considered the live music capitol of the world. The city has a throbbing pulse and after running her streets I felt less like a tourist and more like an Austinite.