About 11 months ago I finished the Bolder Boulder 10K in Boulder, CO. Several of my friends had been pushing/encouraging me to run it and sort of reluctantly I trained for and completed it. That was the longest run I had ever finished–prior to that I was a reluctant/occasional runner with a definite love-hate relationship with the sport (leaning heavily towards hate!). I had decided though, that as I approached 40 I needed to get more healthy and exercise regularly, especially since I’d found out I had polycystic kidney disease. I couldn’t make that go away but I’d be darned if I was going to sit back and just wait for my body to crash on me. Running seemed like a cheap and relatively easy (so to speak) way to accomplish these goals. When I finished the BB10K I had the following thoughts:
It was fun. Lots of fun. (The BB is a fantastic road race, BTW. I highly recommend it!) I felt great for having accomplished it and by that point considered myself to be a “habitual” runner (meaning I ran consistently 3-4x a week) and had no intention of giving that up. It also was hard…at the end of the race I was wiped and said to myself “That’s just about perfect. I feel like I worked hard but not like I’m going to die. I can’t imagine ever running more than 2x that for a half marathon (never mind a MARATHON). I will stick to 5K’s and 10K’s. I will not ever, EVER run a half marathon!” That last part was further confirmed by my friend Tammy’s experience with her half later that summer, which was really challenging for her. Nope. Not interested.
Cut to April 28, 2013. This morning I completed the Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbia, Maryland. In pretty decent time too, I might add.
So how did I get here today??? Well, first of all, running has become a habit. I missed a week or two this past fall but for pretty much a year and a half I have run at least 3 times a week. I hate missing it. I don’t like to put it off. A lot of days I don’t feel like doing it at all but I still go and I always am glad. Some runs are easy and feel good, some (even short ones) are a total slog from start to finish. But I have made it a habit like brushing my teeth and that feels good.
Secondly, I am a very goal-driven person. I like to have something I am working towards…in college one semester I had 18 papers to write. I made a big sign for the back of my door where I blacked out the numbers as I counted down from 18 to 1. It was very helpful and motivating for me. As the fall wore on I was feeling more and more like I needed some sort of goal to work towards in my running. One of my goals then, for the new year, was to run a half marathon. I wasn’t 100% set on doing it, but it was out there.
Then towards the end of February, I was out running and just, well, kept going. I was feeling good and added an extra loop to my run. I’d been running much farther distances since we’d moved to Maryland on a regular basis (4, 5 and 6 miles, as opposed to 3, maybe 4 typically), but I wasn’t sure how far I’d gone this particular day. As I mapped it out on Map My Run I realized I’d run 8.34 miles. 8 miles! I was surprised and realized that the goal of running a half wasn’t so far fetched. I started looking into races more seriously and found this one, the Iron Girl Half, at the end of April. It looked really cool, had great reviews, was all female, and the $$ went to a good cause (cancer research). After going back and forth about it one evening Bill said “Just do it!” (no, he doesn’t work for Nike!) and click, click, click–I am signed up for a half marathon in about 8 weeks.
The next 2 months flew by. I hung a training schedule on my fridge, ala college, and x’ed out each run. There were a few shorter runs I skipped (just a couple) but I did all the long ones. And then today, the race–DONE, already! Amazing.
A few things I learned today:
There is great power in groups. I ran much slower in training than I did in today’s race. I am so much more motivated at a race, so encouraged and empowered. A race is amazing, people of all shapes, ages, sizes, going out there and giving their all. I was particularly proud of being in this huge group of women out there pushing ourselves and doing this tremendous athletic feat. I wished I’d had my friends with me, particularly Shelly and Tammy, who’d been the ones to get me running in the first place. I’m terrible at actually running “with” someone…I am no good at pacing myself at another person’s pace. But I wish I’d had a friend to stand at the start with and get going with and then meet at the end and go celebrate with. If I run another half marathon–and I fully intend to!–hopefully one of you friends out there will join me! It felt so good–so good! It was amazing from start to finish. I didn’t have any of the “ohmygodi’mgoingtostoprightnowican’trunanyfarther” moments that I had when training. Driving the course beforehand was tremendously helpful. There were a couple good sized hills that I was glad I knew about ahead of time and was able to get a little reserve going so I could kick it into gear up those hills. If there is one invention I am thankful for it is the ipod. I LOVE my ipod. I love my running mix. As Britney Spears’ “Stronger” kicked in at mile 12, I busted my butt down that last hill, up that next hill and into the homestretch. A lot of people can run without music but I am not one of them. The words, the beat, the emotion all get me going and help me keep my pace.
What a great day it was! I am so proud of myself for accomplishing this. I know we’re not supposed to be prideful but this is something I did and I feel so good about it and I’d like to think that God is looking down on me and feeling pretty pleased for me too. I don’t think it’s bad to be proud of something you’ve worked hard for. If you think you could never run 13.1 miles, think again! Start small and keep putting one foot in front of the other and who knows where you will end up!
But I’m never, ever running a marathon. You can forget it.
“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” ee cummings
Tonight I’m flying to Florida with my kids to visit my dad and step mom. I’m excited for the obvious reasons–time away, fun with my kids, getting to see my dad (which has been a rare occurrence over the years), but probably I am most excited about seeing the ocean.
The ocean has always been something that has brought me back to center 100%. I think of times in my life when I have felt most like I was flying into a million pieces, and just sitting on the beach, hearing and seeing the waves, gave me a peace and calm like nothing else.
I hate the Christian-y saying that “If you were the only person on earth God still would’ve sent Jesus to die for YOU!” because it sounds so trite and unbelievable and unnecessary. But when I am at the beach, no matter what struggles I may be having or how deep my unbelief, I believe again. I can see God again. And, I confess…I feel like God made the ocean just for me. Just because he knew it would make me happy. I feel at home. I feel like me. I feel whole and complete.
Which is why living in Wyoming was not working for me. (One of the reasons, anyway…)
Some of my favorite books ever have the ocean as a centerpiece. Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. So many Madeleine L’Engle stories have the sea as a major character. I discovered this ee cummings poem (“10”) just this past month when my friend Alex posted it on Facebook and it resonated in the deepest parts of me. I always loved the end of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening when Edna just lets herself be carried away from everything, life even, by the soothing roll of the waves (is that morbid??).
It’s probably trite and cliche to say I love the ocean. And its stupid to think that God made it just for me. There are millions of people on this earth who probably feel the same way about the ocean, I’m certainly not unique or special in that regard. But I like the way it makes me feel when I am there. It is a respite from the rest of life which can get so unmanageable in my head.
When I am an old lady I want to live by the sea in a little cottage with a porch and a rocking chair and an old golden retriever. I want to sit out there with an afghan on my lap and listen to and watch the waves. I want my grandkids and great grandkids to come and see me there. And I want to die with the sound of the waves in my ears. Even if I’m not an old lady when I die I hope it’s with the sound and smell of the ocean surrounding me.
I can’t wait to see the ocean this weekend! I’m going to look for a shell that sings so sweetly I forget all my troubles. And a smooth round stone as small as a world and as big as alone.
This is likely the first of 2 blogs I’ll write today, so I apologize in advance for my verbosity (is that a word???). I may even write a 3rd here in the next few days…guess I’ve got a lot on my mind.
Anyway. So I was watching the news regarding the whole coaching incident with the Rutgers men’s basketball team. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the “secret” footage, but I saw enough to know that there is no good reason for one person to treat another one in that fashion. Especially a person in a position of authority over another. I won’t go so far as to call those basketball players “kids”, because they really aren’t vulnerable (at least physically anyway…mentally, well, that’s another story. More on that in a minute.) in the same way that my 6 year old son is. But even adult to adult–that kind of behavior is deplorable and he certainly deserved to be fired.
As I watched it though, I couldn’t believe the way those athletes let him push them around. They are men, at least physically, all of them bigger and stronger than Mike Rice. My first thought was “Why on earth did they take this? Why didn’t they punch his temper-tantrum throwing lights out??” I was reminded of when I was teaching…my tough guy inner city kids would get menacing with me if I wouldn’t let them get a drink of water for heavens’ sake. Here this guy is pushing them around, calling them names, bullying them and they just take it. WHY??
And then it all became clear–because the culture in America teaches respect for coaches but not for teachers. We could go into a long discussion about the ridiculous disparity in salaries between teachers and athletes and coaches, which would more than prove this point. The reality is that in the US, kids are taught to respect their coaches, to not question them, to trust their methods, however out there and inappropriate. Because a coach can make or break your career right? Becoming a star athlete is a highly prized achievement…more worth is placed on making the Varsity squad than making National Honor Society. A kid with NBA aspirations is going to trust their coach way more than their math teacher. Many of the kids I taught believed they were going to get to the NFL or NBA. That was way more important than growing up to cure cancer or be an anthropologist. And where do kids get these values? The grown ups in their lives, the grown ups they see on TV.
So coaches get away with murder a lot of times. The Rutgers story is not the first to come out with an expose of outlandish coaching methods. It’s not until it becomes a public outrage issue that anyone really cares. I mean, look at Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. That whole mess continued to be perpetuated because the coach was never questioned. No one wants to confront the man (or woman…you know this happens in women’s athletics as well) who could potentially make them a star.
But I know that I sure as heck wouldn’t have gotten away with calling my kids “faggots” and “c—” or throwing things at them or pushing them around. My kids at least would’ve gotten right up in my face and clocked me. Any parent who found out would’ve reported me in a hot second. And for good reason. But I would get disrespected for something as outrageous a expecting a kid to do homework. Or behave. Or not cuss ME out. And I’m confident many, many teachers could share similar stories.
We need to make sure coaches are held to the same standards of behavior as any professional and not allowed to be hateful bullies simply because sports are so revered in our culture. And we need to affirm the same respect for teachers and academics as we do for athletics–you’re going to go much farther with a good education in life. Very few people are going to be professional athletes. And, most importantly, we need to teach EVERYONE, kids, college students, and adults, that no one should be allowed to treat another person the way Mike Rice treated those kids. No matter who they are.
And yes, I realized that there are awful, horrible, bullying/abusive teachers. This is not to imply that teachers are all saintly angels. Just as not all coaches/athletes don’t care about academics. Just some thoughts and observations on this particular situation.