Celebrating 10 Years

I cannot believe it’s been so many months since I last added to my blog. One would think that with our kids grown and on their own, life would slow down, but it just seems to get busier. Today we are having our first virtual school day, so I am home trying to stay warm, trying to keep our four dogs warm and out of trouble, and checking in with students as they complete their Elearning assignments. It’s a great day to write since I refuse to step outside.

Last week was my 52nd birthday. I don’t like to make a big deal out of my birthday at all, but I am pretty happy because it was also when I celebrated ten years of running. Ten years. When I started running, I honestly never dreamed that I would actually stick with it. I had never stuck with any form of exercising, and I didn’t really like running, so I just kept waiting to quit. And then something unexpected happened; it changed my life.

I didn’t plan to start running. My husband and I realized we were really out of shape in 2008. We were in Alaska on vacation, and everywhere we went people were biking, hiking, or running. We were struggling to hike. As my 42nd birthday approached, I was becoming more and more depressed. My dad died at 42 of a heart attack, and I just didn’t want a year of being 42. I finally decided to try running; I wanted to be proactive and take care of my heart, and of my mental health. I had always hated running, but I had a few friends who ran, and my husband had begun to run. I started by running on our gravel road. I had no idea what it would lead to. I had no idea that running would change our world. I had no idea the beauty I would experience because of running.

Running has done so much for me that I could write far more than anyone would ever want to read, so I’ll just give the highlight reel. First, running has given me confidence. After several months of trying to become a runner, I began to enter some races, starting with 5Ks. Crossing finish lines, no matter where I finish, has given me confidence in every area of my life. It has taught me that if I set goals, do the work, and get the the starting line, I can reach goals that I once thought impossible. Running also gave me the confidence to try new forms of exercise. I became a Zumba instructor, and taught several classes for a couple years. Then I got my certification to teach Tabata Bootcamp and taught early morning classes for four years. Through these classes and through Everbody’s Fitness, I’ve met so many inspirational and encouraging people. Most recently, I began to help coach our junior high cross country teams. Anyone who knew me in high school would find that hard to believe. Because I can’t keep up with most of the kids, I ride my bike alongside them and encourage (push?) them to keep going. I understand how hard running really is, and know the dedication these kids have for the sport.

Running has provided me with some fantastic experiences. I’ve not only run too many 5Ks to keep track of, but I’ve also run a few 10Ks, and 15 or 16 Half Marathons. We’ve run races in Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, to name a few.  I’ve run while visiting Lake Tahoe, Tybee Island, and Louisville. While visiting new places, I’ve found that going for a run is a great way to check out the area. One of my favorite runs was in Chicago. I ran along the lake and had the museums in front of me, Lake Michigan on my left, and the incredible skyline on my right. In my world, that was heaven. Another favorite run was in Lake Tahoe. We were there for my step-son’s wedding, so I took advantage of being is such a beautiful place by making sure I got in early morning runs. One year while were in Las Vegas with several of my cousins and my sister, my husband and I got up early (yes, in Vegas), and ran a 5K before the others got up. We were back at the hotel in time to meet them for breakfast. The views during the race were amazing!

One of the best parts of running is the people. The running community as a whole is so supportive. Seasoned (and fast) runners cheer on the back-of-the-packers; everyone knows how difficult it is just to get to the starting line. The camaraderie of races is like nothing else I’ve experienced. The runners are friendly and excited about the possibilities of every race, no matter the difference in goals. One can see the determination and quiet nervousness of those in front who have the potential to place, and as the line goes on, one can observe the chattiness of those who are there simply to finish, or to spend those miles with their friends. I have run races alone, and with friends. Running with friends definitely makes the miles go by faster, but sometimes I like to run alone so I have no pressure to keep up with anyone, or to wait for anyone if I happen to be having a good day.

Running has given me the opportunity to share miles with my family. My husband and I have gone to almost all of my races together. We share our struggles and our victories. He encourages me to train and supports my running. He is always there for me when I need him to cheer me on. I’ve also had the amazing blessing of running with other family members. I’ve run my niece Erin’s first half marathon with her in Indianapolis, my niece Emily’s first half marathon with her in Bloomington, and my middle daughter Bethany’s first half with her in Indy. I cannot begin to express how much those races meant to me. Sharing a race experience is one of those times one won’t forget; it will always be a special memory.

Running has become something I share with my friends. The first friend I ran with was Jackie. We began together, desperately trying to add miles. In the beginning, we couldn’t imagine how runners actually talked to one another on runs. We could hardly breathe. As we became more experienced, we began to talk…and never stopped! Jackie’s sister, Kassi, then joined us. Because of schedule differences, the three of us don’t run as often now, but they have been my friends for over 40 years, and are part of my running story. They will always be my sisters. I’ve had some other running friends, but now I mostly run with coworkers after school. Kelly and Jennifer are much better runners than I, and they are much younger. They both push me to work harder. Most of the time they are a little ahead chatting away, while I follow, gasping the whole way. The three of us, along with our other friends and coworkers, Katie and Mary Jane, have run a few races together. The most important of those was the St. Jude Half Half Marathon. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, so that race is the most meaningful I’ve done.

I will never be a fast runner. I’ll never win races. I will continue to run as long as my body allows. I hope to experience new places through running, and to continue to encourage others along the way. I hope to always challenge myself and to set goals. I want my grandkids and my students to see that one is never too old to try something new or to get fit. If you are middle-aged or beyond and have thought about doing something new and healthy, do it! Know your limitations and start out small, but don’t let anyone tell you you can’t or that you are too old.

Happy Running Birthday to me!

 

 

Indy, Here We Come!

I just read through my last post in which I stated I would be blogging about my training for the half marathon. As you all know, sometimes life gets in the way. Between school, the gym, band contests, golf matches, and cooking and cleaning, there has been no time to just sit down and write. Now the race is five days away. Ready or not, Saturday I will cover 13.1 miles; with any luck I will be running all of it, but it is more likely that I will do a combination of running and walking with my niece. Honestly, this race isn’t about time; it’s about so much more.

This will be my niece Erin’s first half marathon. I have talked to her about running one for a couple of years, and for some unknown reason, she finally agreed. She hasn’t trained much at all, but because she is young, she’ll do just fine. Erin makes everything more fun. She has a quick wit and keeps us laughing. I feel very blessed to get to share this experience with her because I know it can be life-changing. There’s something about earning a medal – no matter how old we are – that makes us keep running.

About two weeks ago, I was looking at the Monumental Marathon website, and saw that I could sign up to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve never run a race for charity, so the challenge was instantly appealing. Because St. Jude had saved the life of our friend, Katie, it just felt right. I had no idea how much money I could raise, so I set my original goal at $500. I only had a couple of weeks, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off. As of this writing, I’ve raised $1050! My friends and family have been so generous, and it is so appreciated. Every penny goes to help a child fighting cancer. I was speaking to my brother today after he had donated in honor of his children, Emily and Evan. Evan has Down Syndrome, which can come with health problems, so they have spent time in children’s hospitals. As my brother stated, no one really understands how important those places are until he has a child there, and sees all the children who are fighting. What a blessing it is to have healthy children. Saturday I will don my St. Jude shirt and run in honor of those children who are battling cancer, who experience things no child should ever have to experience. Running 13.1 miles? That’s easy. Going through chemotherapy, getting stuck every single day, having multiple surgeries, fearing death…that’s not only difficult; it’s heartbreaking.

Hillary, dancer, age 20, b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Hillary, dancer, age 20, b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Each of the five previous half marathons I have completed, I have done for me. I’ve had goals such as beating a previous time or proving my doctor wrong. It’s always been about what I wanted to accomplish. This race is not about me. Will I be proud when I cross that finish line? Heck, yeah! But this race isn’t about what I want. It’s about sharing the experience with Erin and about running for St. Jude and Katie. Katie is one of the lucky ones. She beat cancer. Because Katie beat cancer, the children in our community are fortunate to have her for a teacher and coach. She has also been provided friendship and support for others who have battled or are continuing to fight. St. Jude calls the people who are running to raise money Heroes. I cannot accept that title. The kids of St. Jude are the heroes. I’m just a runner with great friends and family.

I read a blog recently in which a guy said how annoyed he is by 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on cars. He claimed that the only reason runners have them is to brag, and that we think we are better than everyone else because we ran that far. What an ass. He said that typically when one puts a sticker on his car, it is to show support for something, such as a school or their children’s sports. He claimed that our stickers are selfish. I have a 13.1 magnet on my car, and I am very proud of it. Do I think I am better than a non-runner or someone who sticks to shorter distances? Absolutely not. Running is not for everyone. Having that sticker is sort of a rite of passage for some runners. I have several friends who couldn’t wait to earn that sticker. We’ve worked our tails off, spent countless hours pounding the pavement, and sacrificed sleeping in, greasy food, and time with our families. We’ve suffered through injuries, physical therapy, sore muscles, and ugly feet. When I see those stickers on strangers’ cars, I feel an instant bond. Running is the most selfless sport I know of. I have never been around a more supportive group of people than when I am at a race. Fellow runners cheer as loudly for the last runner as they do for the first; actually; sometimes they cheer louder. We all have different paces, and no one looks down upon slower runners. We help one another, listen to each other’s troubles, and support one another until the bitter end. Many people run for charity or share their love of running with children by volunteering at running groups. So, if my 13.1 magnet annoys anyone, just don’t look at it. You can look at my Purdue plate instead!

For the next four days, I must drink plenty of water, avoid too much candy (I can’t avoid it all), and get a couple of short runs in. Friday we head for Indy to meet my niece. If you want to donate to St. Jude, here’s the link:

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=2902756&fr_id=21100&pg=personal

http://fundraising.stjude.org/images/heroes/Hayli-St-Jude-Heroes-event-image-default.jpg

This is Hayli. She is one year old and is battling leukemia.

Run Happy!