Running does not have logic on its side

If you are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been asked the following questions a few hundred times:

“So what exactly are you running from?”
“Do you get the runner’s high?”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”

Am I running from something? Well, yes, most definitely, I am running as a means to escape life’s difficulties, this I must admit, is completely true. We all find avenues of escapism purely as coping mechanisms. No matter how perfect our lives might be, we all experience conflict in one form or fashion. Life is messy. Relationships take work. It’s hard to be a parent. The workplace can be a stressful place. Balancing a family budget is rough. Managing a family is no small task. Resisting temptation is a constant battle. Being a successful adult means fighting through all the hard stuff and loving those around us. It’s all about honoring the spirit of whatever task is at hand and being passionate about the end result. So, yes, I’m running from my problems.

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 Do I get the runner’s high? I’m out running, and thinking, and problem solving. I’m getting my blood flowing and releasing serotonin, thereby elevating my mood and reducing my stress and anxiety. So do I get the runner’s high? Well, yes, I guess I do. With all my blood circulating so well and all of that there serotonin I’ve got going on, yes, it does produce a sort of high in me. This is most clearly demonstrated when I come home from a run to greet my basically still-asleep husband in the kitchen and I’m talking 90 to nothing and he responds with mild irritation. That’s when I think to myself, “yeah, you’re a little fired up right now, Dendy, aren’t you? Chill out a bit.” That’s when I proceed to clean up, eat, and get on with my day. I’m able to get ready very quickly when I’ve got that runner’s high going.

 

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Do I get bored or lonely? No, never. I consider myself to be a sociable person, but I’m also quite introverted. I enjoy the quiet solitude of my runs. I like to be alone. I like my “me time.” Long solo runs are my absolute favorite. It’s just me and the road or trail. I set the pace for the run, I pick the soundtrack to accompany my epic run, I stop and take selfies if I’m so inclined, I pick the route. I’m in total control. I like to be in control. Naturally, not every run goes according to plan. I struggle on runs at times. Some runs, however, are nearly effortless. I, alone, however; am responsible for the run. I don’t have to apologize to anyone, I don’t have to wait on anyone, I don’t have to feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone. It’s just me. I have to answer to no one but me. This is about me and my running. This is about me strengthening not only my body, but my mind. No one else will carry me over the finish lines of my races, I will have to do that for myself.
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 So maybe the reason I don’t get bored or lonely on long solo runs has to do with the fact that I am an antisocial control freak. I mean, I do display those characteristics. But more than that, I am out there thinking and getting stronger. The runner’s high I experience is an added bonus, certainly, but most importantly the time alone and the increased blood flow do wonders for my overall mood and my ability to problem solve. The clarity with which I see difficult life situations while on a run is uncanny. I have solved more problems than I can count while out on a run. This is, quite possibly, the most constructive use of my time possible. I’m maintaining my physical fitness, carefully considering life situations, and improving my overall mood.
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I mean, I get it, running does not have logic on its side. There’s no ball we’re running after, no reason to run around in circles, and it just seems pretty pointless. I guess I should be flattered by the questions I’m asked by non-runners. They are in awe of me. They cannot fathom why a person would want to wake up before the sun and fuel for a run. They can’t possibly grasp the concept of running for 2-4 hours straight. They worry they would get bored or lonely if they attempted to do what we do each week in the name of improvement. Not everyone is willing to put in this hard work.

So, we runners should embrace our unconventionality. We are unique. We are runners, and … running certainly does NOT have logic on its side.

 

 

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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.

 

Fierce & Forty

I turn 40 today and it’s a very happy day for me. I am much more evolved than I was in my twenties, for sure, but the true reason I am so excited about turning 40 is that I get to move up to the 40-44 age group in races. I know, to the casual pedestrian that would sound odd, but chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you totally get what I am saying.

It’s a very beautiful thing that the female 35-39 year old age group is so competititive. What it means to me, is that for the majority of women, their kids have grown up enough to be left alone at times and just generally don’t require as much attention and care. It’s very freeing when a mother can have some independence from her children. Her children are developing their own interests and talents and this frees up quite a bit of ole mama’s time. What to do? How about develop a nasty running habit? That’s what happened to me, at least. It’s funny, when I run with the high school cross country girls, I find that they don’t have the kind of perspective I do. I’ve lived a bit more life than they have. I’ve been knocked down quite a few times and have lived to tell about it. I have gone through pregnancy and childbirth. I have had tremendous highs and lows throughout my adult life, not that my life has been that rough or anything, but life is tough and even small hardships teach us to be resilient. I believe I try more now because I believe in myself more than I did when I was younger.

So, how exactly have I changed as I’ve aged?

1. Well, for starters, I’m an open book. I tell everyone everything that is on my mind. I show all of my cards. People tell me that my face tells them everything they need to know. I also don’t try to hide my flaws from people like I did when I was younger. I used to be very concerned with people discovering I was flawed. Nowadays, I almost speak too much about my flaws to people. It’s as if I’m telling them, “look, I know I’m a mess. I really do. I am working on myself, but sometimes it’s just so much fun to be the way I am right now.” So, the positive is that I am self-aware and can admit my faults.

2. I do pretty much everything with passion and heart. I invest everything into whatever it is I am working on. I sometimes get “tunnel vision” where I become completely consumed by things; however, I find that when I am truly invested in my task it shows in the end result. I like to be creative and successful and my key to this is the passion with which I operate. Overall, this is a good thing. I’m striving to do the things I love and to love the things I do.

3. I am much more decisive now than I was when I was younger. I believe a lot of this stems from the fact that I now know what I want. I find that I don’t grapple with decisions as I might have in my youth. I am starting to realize that I spent a great deal of time fretting over things that were pointless and not worth the stress, and I worried too much about making the wrong decisions. I find that I now trust my gut and I try not to feel guilty if things aren’t perfect.

4. While I still struggle with my confidence, I believe I am much more confident now than I was when I was younger. I tend to put myself out there much more. From rocking fashion risks to admitting my weaknesses, I am learning to do things for myself, not in order to look a certain way, and I enjoy laughing at myself. I believe this has all made me much more secure. But, in the spirit of honesty, I still tend to be quite insecure. Perhaps I can overcome this by my 50th birthday. Maybe 60th or 70th?

5. I believe I am more fierce at 40 than I have ever been. Fierce and forty … now that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I feel healthy, strong, beautiful, driven and dedicated. My perseverance and tenacity have given me more guts, for lack of a better word. I feel better, I respect myself, I’m starting to become less emotional and more practical. In short, I’m learning to like myself.

So, for these reasons, I’m happy to start this next decade of my life. I wish for PRs and happy moments with family and friends. I wish to forge a deeper connection with those that I love and admire. I vow to live my life with passion and purpose and to continue to strive to become better.

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

Running the world’s luckiest fishing village

imageThere’s nothing quite like vacation running, is there? I’ve written about vacation running before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. I enjoy exploring new areas and when I’m on vacation, running makes me feel less like a tourist and more like a local. Last week my family and I enjoyed a beach vacation together in Destin, Florida. Destin, dubbed the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” is on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida panhandle. The beach  is white and the water is emerald green. It is truly a breathtaking place. We stayed in a very comfortable and spacious condo with a beautiful ocean view. It was the most relaxing vacation I have ever been on. We woke up each morning without alarms; I woke a few hours before the rest of my family each day. I’m not complaining about those hours alone, not at all; I rather enjoy rising early and preparing for my run. Often I’ve come back from my run and everyone is still asleep. This happened most mornings while we were in Destin. I enjoyed runs along the boardwalk and beach. I got to see and hear the crashing waves and seagulls. I could smell the salt and feel the sun kissing me. It was wonderful running at the beach. I highly recommend it to every runner. It is beautiful and peaceful and it made me extremely happy.

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Each day I ran the boardwalk enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, and then as a post-run ritual, I removed my running shoes and jogged, frolicked, and took pictures along the edge of the water allowing myself the refreshing feeling of getting wet by the salt water.  Some days, when I got to the beach early enough, I made the first footprints of the day. That’s a pretty cool feeling, I must admit. I learned many things from my time running on the beach. The first thing I learned is that beach running is challenging, and that running on soft sand creates an unpredictable terrain, providing excellent resistance work, much like trail running. Wet sand, while still difficult to run, is easier to run than soft sand because of the harder surface. I learned that a sunrise is even more beautiful near the beach, and that running on the beach before the sun is all the way up is much cooler than after the sun is up … that water will really reflect that sun! I learned that there is nothing quite like the sound of the ocean. I also felt both of my feet and the surface below me with every barefoot step, and this allowed me to feel more in tune with my running and my universe than ever before. This type of running really forced me to be present with my running and my surroundings. The beach run is a very zen experience, that is until you feel the exhaustion of exerting twice as much effort as you would road running. It was at the point of exhaustion that I would call my run over each day. For, there was fun to be had with my family! We went on a day cruise, saw dolphins, found seashells, ate amazing food, built sand castles, surfed the waves, swam in the ocean, rode bikes, went searching for crabs at night, went on walks on the beach, bought souvenirs, and laughed. It was an excellent vacation.

imageIf I casually mention my running in Destin with friends many will say, “you didn’t take time off from running while on vacation?” At first, I found that question odd, but then after much thought, I realized that this whole running thing has become a large part of who I am, and for many others fitness is a chore. In many ways running now defines me to some extent. I am many things: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, librarian, and runner. Running is one of the very important things in my life. Running is not something that I have to do, it is something that I get to do. Yes, sometimes it is difficult and frustrating, but so are all of the other important things I listed. Running on vacation is a treat for me. I do not spend the miles fretting about my pace or distance. I spend my vacation miles looking around at my surroundings, smelling the smells, and learning about the place I am visiting. It’s an experience for me like no other.image

 

My Husband, the Running Widower

image I like to think that I have the best of both worlds with my job as a high school librarian. Yes, I start work very early in the morning, but I get to be home to greet my daughters’ school buses in the afternoon and to prepare dinner for my family. I get to help my girls with their homework and hear about their days at school before I rush them off to their extracurricular practices. I get to spend Spring Break, Summer Break, Thanksgiving Break, and Christmas Break with them. I get to spend my day doing a job that I love with fantastic people and I don’t have to jeopardize time with my family. It’s really been great for me as a mother. When I selected my career as a high school teacher I was in my early twenties, unmarried and childless, and had no notion of which direction my life would take. I feel fortunate to have picked a career that is both rewarding and affords me time with my family.

My flexible work schedule also allows me time to pursue my passion of running. Who knew four years ago I would call myself a runner? Not me, certainly. The running bug got me and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve written many times about why I run. I think the most succinct answer to the question, “why do I run?” is to feel free. I feel nothing but free when I’m running. My husband and daughters support my running, but I need to be careful not to ask too much from them. Yes, I should be able to pursue my running dreams, but not at the expense of them. I simply can’t ask them to allow me to throw myself completely into my running where there’s not much left of me for them.

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img_8033-1The month of April was a spectacular running month for me. I was able to participate in two out of town running relays. The first was the Texas Independence Relay which took me away from my family from April 1st through April 3rd. The second was the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay which took me away from my family from April 14th through April 17th. These were both wonderful running experiences and both were on my bucket list, but they occurred two weeks apart. This was really asking a lot from my family. My poor husband was left alone to cart my daughters to their soccer games and other activities. He was solely responsible for homework, dinner, laundry, dishes, etc. It would be unreasonable for me not to expect my family to feel a little taken advantage of by my blowing and going. These events weren’t work-related, they weren’t religious missions, they were both all about me pursuing my dreams as a runner. I better be careful here, I try very hard to not put my running above my family, but for the month of April my running came first.

imageThere have been countless times when my daughters had soccer games an hour’s drive from our home and they needed to be at their warm up by 8:15. On those days I’d force myself to wake at 2:30 in the morning to allow enough time to eat, dress, do my long run, shower, eat, and help my daughters and husband prepare to leave. I woke at this ungodly hour so that I would not have to forsake either my long run or watching my daughters’ sports that weekend. Additionally, I squeeze my track speed workouts in most times after work but before my daughters get home from school. This way I can still help with homework and prepare dinner before it’s time for me to take them to practice. Because I must leave for work by 6:00 each workday, this means I arise at 3:40 so that I can fit in my run and some short strength training before I shower and get ready to leave for work. I do these things because I enjoy working outside of the home, but I also enjoy being around to do things for my family. I want to pursue my passion, but not at the cost of my family.

imageSo, really, what this rant is all about is just the age-old conundrum: how do I focus on my passion without forsaking my family and friends? This post is all about the juggling act we must maintain on a regular basis to enrich ourselves and to be present for our loved ones. There are only so many hours in the day and when we spend time on one thing, we are neglecting something else. That’s just the nature of life. We cannot possibly focus all of our energy on one thing and expect all of the other things to be nurtured as well. During the month of April I mainly focused on my running. My running took me out of town not once, but twice. I was not around for days at a time and I left all of the work up to my husband. I know that he is resentful of my running at times, I mean how can he not be? I also know that my husband admires my drive and passion. He appreciates the way that I am serving as a good role model for our girls. He is supportive, but even I realize I was a bit absent last month.

So, I will resolve to work extra hard to be present and engaged when I am with my family. For, running is a wonderful addition to my life, but my family is the most important thing to me. What good is success if you don’t have loved ones with which to share it? My family drives me to be better. They are the reason I am fulfilled.

How do you balance your running and your family life? Do you feel torn at times trying to juggle everything? What have you found to help negotiate the balancing act?

“Social networking has completely changed my fitness experience.”

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Social Media has completely transformed my fitness experience. I used to use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter solely with friends and family with which I regularly interacted in person. Slowly, I began to add old high school friends and new friends to my Facebook account. As I became more and more passionate about my running, my social networking feeds started to become much more fitness related. What began to happen to me is that I believe I was somewhat putting my friends, family, and acquaintances off with all of the running and fitness-related posts. Slowly I began to get more involved with Twitter and Instagram and really began to participate in Twitter running chats and following other runners on both Twitter and Instagram. I started to realize that Twitter and Instagram are great places for me to focus on my fitness interests. I can feel free to post all of my running and fitness related pictures and musings and look at other people’s running and fitness related pictures and posts. Slowly but surely I found myself limiting my fitness pictures and posts solely to Twitter and Instagram and limiting my pictures and posts of all non-fitness related items to Facebook. This has helped me reach the correct audiences.

I was at a school district librarian meeting recently and a librarian acquaintance whom I also happen to be “friends” with on Facebook approached me to tell me how I haven’t been posting pictures of my running shoes on Facebook anymore. I remember she used to tease me about all of my running-related posts, and as I’m sure she didn’t intend her comments to be mean-spirited or ugly, sensitive me always kind of took them that way. I truly felt I was putting her off, and possibly many other family members and friends. This is why I have enjoyed compartmentalizing my social networking interactions. While my librarian friend thought it was odd that I posted all of these running and fitness related items, many others out in cyberspace that I have befriended, share these interests with me and we enjoy our own unique relationship online.

So, to all my Instagram and Twitter fitness friends: thanks for being there and sharing your lives with me.