It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green is my favorite color.

As a poetic type, I really adore imagery and symbolism. I love the way that in literature, for instance, inanimate entities represent much larger ideas. So, naturally, the fact that I am drawn to the color green intrigues me. So, I sat down and thought about what the color green might symbolize. First, I began with the positive, naturally. There are many positive associations to the color green. Green leaves on plants signal that the plant is growing; therefore green symbolizes growth. Green leaves are the anticipation of things to come; green symbolizes hope. Plants need great care; green symbolizes nurture. In the Spring, plants begin to turn from brown to green; green symbolizes resurrection. In short, green renews and restores depleted energy. Well that all sounds really good, and while it’s just so much fun to concentrate on the pretty stuff, this little dreamer must consider the negative now.

Upon careful consideration, I have discovered that there are some pretty negative associations to the color green, unfortunately. The phrases “green with envy” and the “green-eyed monster” immediately jump to mind, meaning jealousy and envy. Green is associated with money, and therefore symbolizes greed, materialism, possesiveness, and selfishness.

Now, pause. You might be asking yourself, “why this sudden fixation on green and its meaning?” Well, that, naturally, has a little something to do with running, as everything in my life finds its way back to my running. You see, this past week, Boston Marathon applications were accepted. I, by a 21 second cushion, earned the right to submit my application, but it will most certainly be rejected, and I am completely prepared for this. Many of my hard working friends have been accepted, and I am thrilled for them. I am truly thrilled, but I am also dealing with this conflicting feeling of envy. I am, as it were, green with envy at the moment, and while it is uncomfortable to admit that, it is the honest truth.

So, lets back up a little here. If you’ve followed my story, you know that gaining entry into the Boston Marathon is most certainly on my list of long-term goals. This past year, my goal was to run a 3:45 marathon, period. I had no Boston Marathon goal set. I met my 3:45 goal with 21 seconds to spare. Success! The fact that this earned me the right to submit an application to run the Boston Marathon was simply an added perk. So, if applying for 2019 wasn’t even a goal, why am I suddenly saddened by the fact that I won’t be accepted?

Well, that is due to envy. Plain and simple. I look around and all I see are little Pacmen bolting around gobbling up PRs, age group wins, and BQs. These little yellow circles are constantly gobbling them up before looking for more. As soon as one is gobbled up, another target is thrown out instantly. It is very easy to get swept up in the ego of it all. Essentially, it sucks the joy out of running. With the help of writing and a good friend, I am starting to reconcile it all in my mind. I am reminding myself that I have a plan. A very systematic plan that I have been honing since 2013. I have gotten stronger each year and learned more, and I simply refuse to compromise my original intent: to use my passion for running to inspire and motivate others, and through this, become a better person myself. This small rejection is an excellent opportunity for me to motivate others. To let others know that it is normal to feel inferior and inadequate at times. While it’s a secret feeling that is impolite to admit, envy happens to everyone.

I mean, who hasn’t been touched by envy, right? The key is to allow the envy to be used as motivation and not as competition with another. The positive in envy is that it spurns ambition, enthusiasm, desire, and initiative. So I will use this envy to celebrate those that have been accepted to run Boston. I will celebrate them like no other; for, while I hope to one day join their ranks, that simply won’t be in 2019. It will happen, but I’m not sure when it will happen. I will wait in gleeful anticipation and know that my success will be counted sweetest after much hard work, dedication, and patience.

In Chinese philosophy, the yin and yang symbol represents two seemingly opposite or contrary forces and how they attract and complement each other. Neither side is superior to the other, as evidenced by the equal parts and small dots in the opposite colors. The idea here is that when one side increases, the other decreases, and the goal is for a balance between the two in order to achieve harmony.

So, yes, while green means envy, greed, selfishness, etc., (yin) green is also a positive color. It gives us the ability to love and nurture ourselves and others unconditionally (yang). It is the blanket of soft grass beneath our feet. It is the leaves on the beautiful, fragrant flowers we enjoy. Nature wears the colors of the spirit, and green is the color of nature. Perhaps green is the great balancer of the heart and emotions.

Advertisements

Discipline is the Bridge Between Goals and Accomplishment

1kemahbridge

I’m racing a 10K this weekend across a bridge. Now, it is important to note that this will not be my first experience with this race, nor this bridge. Oh no. This bridge and I know each other pretty well at this point. You see, I toed the line of this race five years ago when I was a beginning runner. At that point, I had about a year under my belt of running experience and I had consistently run 10K races at a pretty competitive pace. I was pretty confident going into the race. Definitely way too confident.

Eager to race hard and win my medal, I took off like a rocket on that race course that Sunday morning in September. Silly, silly little runner girl, for fast starts are for fools! Lacking experience and knowledge, I was foolish. About halfway into the race, I realized just how bad that finish time was going to be and I completely bailed on myself. I allowed myself to walk. I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself. I allowed myself to feel hopeless. I begrudgingly collected my race medal after I crossed the finish line and had a sour attitude driving home. In the following days, I questioned my abilities as a runner. I seriously considered quitting. For, as a girl who struggles with confidence, I’d almost rather save face and not try over trying with all of my heart and failing.

Obviously, if you know me at all, you know that I did not quit running after that less than stellar experience. No, I tucked my tail between my legs, licked my wounds, kept my head down, and continued to work on my running. I consulted training manuals and read running biographies. I asked for advice from experienced runners, and I pored over all of the data my running app afforded me. I wrote about my individual runs, and every few weeks I’d go back and read what I had written and compare those earlier runs to my current runs. In short, I became a student of the sport. I rather like being a student. I’m the girl that went to graduate school twice after undergraduate school, and my life’s work has been at a high school. I love to learn and I enjoy being tested … but it really crushes my confidence when I fail a test. This 10K bridge run from five years ago was a test I failed. The reason I failed is simple: I did not study. I did not prepare for the test. I had no bridge experience. I went into the race with a bravado I had no business possessing. So, once I regrouped, I did what every good student does: I studied my ass off and I practiced. But, I have been a coward. I have been a coward because I have stayed away from this race that left such a bad taste in my mouth. The reason is simple: I have felt too vulnerable to try this race again. I have been hedging my bets. I have not wanted to commit myself to trying this race again, for fear of the outcome, but it’s time to try again.

All these years this bridge run has been in the back of my mind. This bridge has been my albatross. Certainly, the metaphor of the bridge is not lost on me. I truly believe that the metaphor of running is one of the largest factors in my running obsession, so the fact that it is a bridge run that has me all out of sorts is really quite appropriate.

Let’s break down the bridge metaphor, shall we? A bridge offers a connection. The phrase “bridge the gap” comes to mind. So, the bridge is a connection, but it’s also a sort of obstacle. What a conundrum. During difficult times we find solace in knowing that once we “just get over that bridge” we will be in a better place on the other side, with all that trouble being mere “water under the bridge,” but we have to go through that difficult time before we can truly put it behind us.  We often say “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” meaning, let’s not focus on that difficult obstacle at this point, let’s focus on our current situation, but alas, at some point we must face the issue. The bridge allows us the stability to overcome an obstacle and transition from a difficult situation to a better outcome, but it’s really freaking hard sometimes to cross the bridge!

I have avoided this race for many years and it’s finally time for me to face this challenge. I must cross this bridge. In life, facing challenges is how we grow, and regardless of the outcome, I’m ready to face this challenge.

 

Are we running or are we talking? Why not both?

I recently had a conversation with a beloved runner friend about talking while racing. You see, at my last marathon, January’s Chevron Houston Marathon, I talked, off and on, for 20 miles with my group. It was very nice. Not long, drawn out discussions or anything, just funny little observations on the race course, quick questions of my comrades, just kind of passing the time and the miles, waving at spectators, “run dancing” with the belly dancers that were out entertaining runners and spectators, you know, having an awesome time.
 
But, if we’re racing and we’re talking are we expending too much energy and wasting our breaths, as it were?
 
Hmmmm. Well, here’s the long and short of it, at least according to me.
 
The largest first portion of the race I need to remain calm and in control of my pace. I do NOT need to attempt to run on “feel.” Oh no, big mistake. It feels great in the beginning! No, the largest first portion of the race needs to be restrained. I have to be checking my watch and making sure I am not going out too fast. I need to ignore the excitiement of racing I’m feeling and ignore all of the runners around me that are zipping past me. I need to ease into it. Talking is actually a very good test of my intensity. I need to be relaxed and talking for the first 20 miles of my marathons. Now, the last 10K, no, I’m not talking then. I’m gradually increasing my speed as I get closer and closer to that finish line. The last two miles — I might be able to smile at you, but I will not be able to talk to you.
 
People say all the time that distance running is as much mental as it is physical, and I couldn’t agree with this more. I have gotten too much into my own head, for lack of a better phrase, that I have ruined my own race. It has happened. I have also ruined my own race by disregarding my training and starting my race out too fast. I’ve actually done that more than a few times through the years, and I have finally learned my lesson. Being able to utter words and phrases here and there to nearby runners during a race is a good thing, in my opinion. As a runner who lacks confidence at times and can tend to either be intimidated by other runners, or to get distracted by faster runners around me, it is good for me to relax, maintain the pace I have previously set for myself, and to remain calm and in control. Chatting up nearby runners helps me with this.
 
So, while I get that we are all different, and that is what I truly enjoy about humankind in general, chatting during long distance races is a good thing for me. It forces me to relax and remain in control and it keeps me happily distracted from this monumental task at hand. Now, I’m the first to admit that I am still learning about running, and I’m also the first to admit that my opinion on this topic could very well change, but for right now anyway, a little chatting during a marathon is THE BEST!

Running is so very difficult in the summer, and the winter, and … well, it’s just difficult, period.

07CD1949-7CCE-4D5C-B972-D56DAA64937C

This past summer I wrote about how very difficult summer running can be because of heat and humidity. Houston, Texas is a real sauna in the summer, believe you me. This past summer, I would have said that unequivocally, it is hardest to run in the summer months. However, after the cold snap we experienced where my feet were feeling the coolness emanating off the concrete and my hands were going numb from the cold, maybe winter running is equally difficult. It is certainly not an extreme cold that we experience here in Houston, Texas, but running in colder temperatures for several hours will certainly wear on a girl, regardless.

1AAEE463-2EFE-4829-94E6-4D491E10E2D5

So … which is more difficult … summer running or winter running? Or is it that running is just difficult in general?

Honestly, I guess it might depend on which month it is when I try to decide. If I were asked in the summer which was more difficult, I’m quite sure I’d say the summer, and vice versa. In life we tend to struggle with the here and now difficulties. We focus on what is hard for us at the moment and we believe that once certain circumstances change, we will be afforded great relief. Then said circumstances change, and while we enjoy some relief, we find there is a new set of difficulties plaguing us and we reflect back on that earlier time. The earlier time suddenly seems less awful in comparison to our present hell. In other words, we romanticize the past and overdramatize our present struggle. The same is certainly true in running.

Running is hard. It is hard because the runner is forced to keep going, even when his mind tells him he should stop. Even when his muscles tighten and burn and his legs become extraordinarily heavy. Even when he gets emotional and sheds tears. Even when he becomes hungry and feels weak. Even when his jelly legs cause him to slip and fall. Even when his feet feel raw and blistered. The runner keeps running. One foot in front of the other. The runner keeps it moving. Keeps going forward. Just when it seems there’s no possible way the runner could run any more steps, behold, the finish line appears.

Setbacks and struggles are inevitable in life. They just are. We must persevere through difficult times and learn from them. In retrospect, these tough times were mere blips in time that passed. It always passes. Additionally, we are grateful for the good times when we experience the bad times. Would we even think to recognize the good times if it weren’t for the bad times?

Running is challenging. Period. It teaches us about ourselves. It challenges us. It frustrates us. It invigorates us. It makes us feel alive.

Post Marathon Reflection

IMG_6003
So this year I finally decided to try the Hansons Marathon Method. I had looked into the plan several times after seeing the success of so many of my running idols, but I was always intimidated by the amount of weekday miles it included and the absence of super long weekend miles. I was very skeptical, only because it was not what I was used to.

Now, it should be noted that I have never been formally trained by a coach, never been given a “training plan,” never run for a team, etc. For the first five years of my running I scoured the internet for training plans, read books and articles, and experimented with my running. My training consisted of a hodgepodge of various training plans leading up to my first three marathons. And, every time I went out for a run, I was trying to see how fast I could go. I did not have “easy run” days or true “speed workouts.” How silly I was! Varied workouts with different goal paces is the way to go.

It wasn’t until this past training cycle that I not only decided to fully commit to training the Hansons way, but I also joined an advanced marathon training club where I was instantly surrounded by coaches and other hard working like-minded runners. Again, this was different than what I was used to. I completed nearly all of my runs solo before joining the group, so this took some getting used to.

I very quickly began to love the camaraderie and support I received from my coaches and newfound training partners. Before too long, I considered these people close friends. I can honestly say now that I would do anything, within reason, for them.

The main thing I learned through my training this year is the thing I read over and over, but never really followed:

Don’t go out too fast.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? Ease into it, then go fast at the end. Use that energy you’ve been saving up to blow through that finish chute and throw those arms up as you cross that finish line!

Doesn’t that sound fun? It really is.

You see, I have learned, through my personal running mistakes, that you can sort of “fake it” with shorter distance races. 5Ks, 10Ks, even half marathons. You can go out a little too fast with those and still salvage your race. But the marathon, that is a beast of a race. Those that are walking or barely jogging at the finish line are most likely doing that because they started out too fast, left nothing in their tanks, and are now suffering. I know that’s what happened to me at the conclusion of my first three marathons.

So, all of that being said, I chose to reflect on my marathon race with the Hansons “Assessing Race Success and Determining Future Direction.”

Was I able to complete all of the training as scheduled? If not, did I run more than scheduled or less?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except when I had the flu. Yes, except when I was out of town, got turned around, found my way, and chose not to risk losing my way again and skipped a couple of miles. So, I guess this is a no. Can it ever be a true yes? Maybe I can find out next year.

Was I able to hit all of the prescribed workout paces? If not, were there specific workout types that gave me trouble?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except for when I almost passed out after taking too many salt pills. Why was I even taking salt pills? I don’t even sweat that much. There’s an example of me trying something unnecessarily and then suffering. Stick to what works. Stick to the plan! No one told you to take salt tablets! So, let’s try for a resounding yes on this one next year.

Did I run any of the workouts, easy days, or long runs faster than prescribed?

  •     Yes. I’ve already been yelled at about this. I get it now. I won’t do this again.

Was this training cycle at a higher level of weekly mileage than usual? Higher than I’ve ever done?

  •     Yes, and hell yes!

Was the goal pace faster than I’ve ever run? Was goal pace too aggressive?

  • Hell yes! Not too aggressive. I finished right under my goal time. Yay!

Were my goals appropriate relative to recent performances and fitness?

  • Yes. Even though it seemed lofty, my goal was right in my wheelhouse.

How well did I execute my race plan? Did I start too fast? Too slow?

  • Excellent. I started out easy & opened it up after mile 20 for the last 10K. I can finally say that I did NOT go out too fast! I’m so happy to report that I trusted my training & ran according to my plan. Everything fell in line perfectly.

Did I have people to race? Was the crowd support good?

  • Interesting question. For the first 20 miles I ignored everyone around me except for my awesome running partners, and concentrated on my goal marathon pace and not going any faster. I sort of put blinders on, as I am ever so tempted to pass people in the beginning. As far as racing people during the last 10K, it honestly wasn’t even like that. I’m so happy to report that I was simply finally able to open it up and drop below my goal marathon pace, and that just meant I passed everyone around me. I can’t even count how many people I passed during that last 10K. The crowd support was amazing. Houston never disappoints.

What was going on in my life during this training cycle?

  • Just life. The same old, same old. Full time job, married, two children who participate in extracurricular sports and need help with homework, transportation, etc., household chores, shopping, strength training. weight lifting, cross training.

Was my life more stressful or less stressful than past training cycles?

  •  I would say it was the same amount of stress as past training cycles.

What was my pre-race routine like compared to past cycles?

  • It was the same. I like to get to the convention center early, check my bag, use the restroom, and attend Mass.

Did I get sick during this training cycle?

  • Yes, with the damn flu. It was horrible.

Was I dealing with any injuries this training cycle?

  • Nope, but strangely enough every year in the past I did. I ran more miles under a more aggressive plan, and stayed injury free. I’m going to give all the credit to the Hansons plan. That was the only thing I did differently from past years.

What was my sleep like this training cycle?

  • I’d say it was about the same. I went to bed a little later on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but still got my requisite 6 hours of sleep a night.

What was the weather like this training cycle? Did I adjust for weather?

  • It was standard Houston weather. Muggy and hot for most of the training cycle. I de-rated for humidity as suggested by my coach.

Last year’s post marathon reflection was sad for me. I missed my goal … by a lot. I regressed from the previous year. It was disheartening, but I learned a lot from it. Had last year’s marathon not happened, would I have trained as hard as I did this year? I’m not sure.

This year was different. This year I ran my fastest time yet and managed, by 21 seconds, to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and made me realize that my dream of one day running the Boston Marathon might be closer than I thought. Could I run 2-3 minutes faster and creep into Boston Marathon acceptance? I’m going to try my hardest to find out.

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.

 img_3865
 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.
DCIM107GOPROG1924479.JPG
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.
DCIM107GOPROG1864302.JPG
 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.
img_9982

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.

Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

63433-ima-dreamer

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.

img_9331-2

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.

dreambig

Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

Who Needs Sleep, Hygiene, or Sanity?

tirmonumentSo I just completed another overnight relay race and it was wonderful. Was I sleep, hygiene, and sanity deprived? Yes. Did the lack of sleep and frequent running make me weary and light-headed? Yes. Did I bond with like-minded runners exploring new terrain and learning a lot about myself along the way? Yes. Yes, all of that happened.

My husband and daughters greeted me at the finish line and my husband said what he says each time I do this: “I just could never do that. I would go crazy without sleep and a shower.” I can certainly appreciate that sentiment. I mean, sleep and common creature comforts are what help to make the world go round. It is truly the little things in life that make us comfortable and secure. One thing that strikes me as incredibly interesting; however, is that when we take ourselves out of our day-to-day existence and deny ourselves of our beloved creature comforts, we learn more about who we truly are as people and what is important in life.

So, since I’ve been back from my relay race, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly that appeals to me about a race of this magnitude, and the following is what I came up with.

  • It’s like an adult sleepaway camp or some sort of spiritual retreat.tirgirlies

I don’t want to say that an overnight relay race is a spiritual retreat exactly, but it really kind of is. Think about it. You’re out communing with nature, devoid of excessive technology and creature comforts, focusing on your passion and your community with like-minded people. You are learning about other modes of thought and perspectives and there’s really no way you can walk away from an experience like that without feeling inspired and transformed in some way. I believe this, right here, is the single most important reason I love participating in the overnight relay race.

  • You are offered a unique experience.tir finale

Participating in an overnight relay race affords a runner unique opportunities. You get to do things you wouldn’t typically get to do at home. Run down the shoulder of a highway at 2:00 a.m. with volunteers present and a van full of supporters? How unique is that of an experience? Run a prepared course that takes you through some really interesting areas full of history and beauty? Yes, please. All of the legwork has been done for runners all so that they can have a special experience. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  • It forces you out of your comfort zone.darktir

Were you all snuggled into your comfort zone? Well, this will get you quickly out of it. First and foremost, you’re out of that normal day-to-day grind that you are so accustomed to. That load of laundry, sink full of dishes, carpool drop off, etc.? That’s all being handled for you. You’re nowhere around. Being away from home and with new people allows a runner to focus solely on running. Additionally,  there is no home court advantage. Runners are all thrown in this together and must work together exploring new territory. This intimidating setup gives you confidence to try new things, and I believe confidence is a key component to living a fulfilled life.

  • You get to act like you’re 12 years old again. name tags

It’s so much fun to get to act like a kid again. No responsibilities, nowhere to jet off to, you really are only responsible for yourself … not your children, not your spouse, not your animals, not your home. You are FREE! There isn’t the hectic schedule to adhere to. Runners get to be totally selfish and it’s wonderful.

  • You are having old fashioned fun. tir2017

A race set up like this takes away a lot of the distractions. It disconnects you a bit from technology and puts you in touch with good old-fashioned fun.  Looking at things from an unconnected perspective can have a profound impact on how we approach things in life and it allows us to be more open to learning new things. But, above all that, hilarious conversations and one-liners among teammates abound an overnight relay race, and it is fabulous. It is so much fun to be silly with other runners, and being around other runners as they share their experiences is a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, and I am always most appreciative of this aspect of the relay race.

  • You make fast friends.tirgirls

I would venture to say that relay runner friends are friends for life, experiencing a connection like no other. It’s a deep engagement forged through shared experiences.  The experience is unique not only because of the quantity of time with which a team is together, but because of the quality of the time teammates enjoy. Again, this is time away from creature comforts and the day-to-day grind, so it’s uninterrupted bonding time and it’s wonderful. I so enjoy the friendships created on an overnight relay race, and even though I may not be able to visit with these relay friends in person that often, I enjoy a connection through social media with them that I cherish.

  • Self-exploration is inevitable.fly girl

An overnight relay race is a chance for you to really explore yourself. To stop being so hard on yourself and to truly think about how you can grow as an individual. It opens you up to different possibilities. My goal is always to take home things I learn along the way, and every time I do this. I learn a lot from my fellow travelers and I learn to relax and trust my intuition and to just be happy. Above all, be happy.

So, what’s not to love about an overnight relay race? If you’ve never done one, it’s time to change that.

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.

What do sports teach us about life?

As I was watching my daughters play soccer this weekend I started thinking about the spirit of competition and how organized sports help mold individuals into lifelong leaders. Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the ins and outs of the sport and to forget about the way that sports give people many outstanding attributes that they might not otherwise possess. I am happy that my girls play a competitive sport, and I started listing in my head the positive lessons I’ve noticed my girls learning. This also made me think about my sport of running and the positive changes I’ve made in my own life through my involvement in my sport. So, what do sports teach us about life?

 1. How to win and how to lose.emily dickinson

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.

2. How to handle criticism.

criticism
Perhaps one of the most beneficial things one learns from playing sports is how to handle criticism. This is something that I, to this day, struggle with. It is important to realize that it is not humanly possible to achieve perfection. We all have things we need to work on. If a person criticizes the way we do something, it does not mean that we are not good. It simply means that someone has made an observation about the way we do something and offered their opinion regarding it. That’s really all it is. An opinion. It may or may not be relevant to us, but people are entitled to their opinions. In a sports situation, if a coach offers an opinion regarding the quality with which we are performing, the opinion is relevant to us. It is not as if we are perfect; we have coaches nearby observing things about the way we perform that we might otherwise never have realized. If a coach takes the time to articulate an observation he has regarding our performance, we should take that as a compliment. If the coach didn’t think we had it in us to improve, he wouldn’t waste his time on us. In sports, it’s important to take criticism in stride and to avoid getting our feelings hurt and getting emotional when someone offers us criticism. Additionally, handling criticism from coaches ensures that we won’t let mistakes define us; instead we will learn from them.
persevere

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.

4. How to share, work together, and celebrate others.

Playing sports also teaches us how to share, work together, and celebrate others. One cannot hog all of the limelight and never share. There is enough room for all of us to shine, and instead of trying to prevent others from shining, we should cheer others on and motivate them. By cheering on teammates we are building them up and celebrating them. The simple fact is that one person cannot do everything. When we share and work together we achieve so much more than when we attempt to do everything on our own. In order to share the limelight and work well with others, we must be willing to ask for help and receive it, and we must trust others. The ability to share, work well with others, ask for help, trust others, and cheer others on are all integral attributes of leaders. They are also attributes of great community members. Truthfully, they are simply good attributes of human beings.

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.

6. How to make sacrifices.

Sports teach us how to make sacrifices. In order to pursue our passions, we must prioritize our lives and carve out time to dedicate to them. This might mean that we sacrifice idle time in order to squeeze everything in, and making sacrifices requires self-discipline. As an adult, how many times have you had to sacrifice sleep to squeeze all of your responsibilities in? How many times have you had to turn in early in order to be prepared for the following day? Playing sports forces us to get accustomed to making tough decisions regarding our schedules and our priorities if we want to accomplish our goals. Isn’t that the nature of being a successful adult? If we lazily retreat from responsibilities will we achieve all of the things that we aspire to? Most definitely not.

7. How to show respect.

respect
Sports teaches athletes to respect authority, not because they fear authority, but because they realize that their coaches want what is best for them. Showing respect is not limited just to coaches, either. A well-rounded athlete respects their teammates, opponents, officials, and themselves. Let’s face it, there comes a time in every athlete’s life where he doesn’t agree with a decision a coach, official, or teammate makes. It’s bound to happen. A respectful athlete, even when he is displeased, will show courtesy amidst frustration. Clearly, this spills over into the athlete’s off-field life as well. There will be a time when the athlete will face a spouse, boss, coworker, etc. with whom he disagrees. In sports, athletes are placed in this position with regularity, and hopefully they learn to maintain their composure and remember their manners.

8. How to hold yourself accountable, keep on learning, and take care of yourself.

excuses
Athletes are privy to team practices, strength training, and a wealth of professional coaching knowledge, but it is up to the athlete to apply all of the knowledge they gain through these experiences. A successful athlete puts in extra work on their own time. He practices on his own because he wants to improve and he does not want to lose any momentum he has gained through his practice sessions. When athletes put in extra work they are learning to hold themselves accountable. They are learning that if they want something bad enough, they must work for it, even when no one is watching them. Every single time an athlete takes a coach’s instruction to heart he is learning and becoming better. He is conditioning his mind and body and developing himself immeasurably.

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.
I am intensely proud that my daughters are involved in a competitive team sport. I truly feel that they are learning lifelong lessons out there on the soccer field. They are confident and poised and they don’t allow themselves to give up. I know that their involvement with their soccer club has been a huge contributor of the fine women they are becoming.
sports