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!

 

 

4 Days Until the Mini!

I’m four days away from running the Indy 500 Mini, and those crazy thoughts are starting to creep in. As I’ve gotten older, it is so much more difficult to run without some ache. I’ve already had knee surgery after an IT band issue and some arthritis. I’ve also been to the chiropractor and physical therapist because of hip pain. Right now — and this could change tomorrow — I have no major issues, but I have had some soreness. I’m praying that I can make it through Saturday with no pain.

It was five years ago that I began having IT band problems. I fought through training, getting cortisone shots to get me through the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon, but it didn’t work. At about mile eight, as I was attempting to run through Churchill Downs, my knee just gave out. I had to call a friend to come get me. Though I knew it was certainly possible that I wouldn’t finish, I was crushed. I had helped several friends train for their first half marathons that year, and I was the one who couldn’t finish. In the whole scheme of life, I’ve learned that there are so many worse things. So, I didn’t finish a race. There would be more races. After therapy, rest, and surgery, I ran that race the next year, and I finished. No one is exempt when it comes to the possibility of injuries. And sometimes we just have to listen to our bodies and acknowledge that we just can’t do it at that moment.

I’ve tried to determine my goals for this race. I’d like to finish without walking, but I am not going to beat myself up if I have to walk. I’d like to place in the top 100 in my age group (I think there were over 800 in my 50-54 group last year). If I don’t, it’s fine; I will get my medal regardless. Saturday is my nephew’s birthday; he would have been 33. He died almost seven years ago, so this race is for him. I will run in gratitude that I am able to do so.  I will run knowing that my nephew and my dad are cheering me on.

Although the race is my husband’s and my main reason for a weekend in Indy, I am also looking forward to a little shopping, and to seeing Wicked on stage Friday night. Staying out late the night before the race might not be the smartest idea, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Set some goals, Folks! Do something that makes you uncomfortable. Be nice to those who are hurting. Stand up for those who are mistreated. Remove the people from you life who only bring negativity. And most of all, love yourself!

Over 50 and Training for a Mini

I haven’t blogged about running in quite some time, and there is actually a reason for that. Throughout the winter, I was a slacker. Like most slackers, I have a host of excuses, and some pretty valid reasons. Both my brother and my mother became ill at the same time. Trust me – I have told them how much I appreciate their timing. My brother was in the hospital an hour away for 27 days, in a rehabilitation facility for 10 days, and then he lived with us for four months. My mother hasn’t been hospitalized, but has had numerous doctor appointments, also an hour away, and I was her transportation and her advocate. I was exhausted, and despite the fact that exercise probably would have done my emotional state some good, my time was limited.

Before all of this, I had quit teaching Tabata Bootcamp classes at the gym. After four years of early morning classes, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Two mornings each week of getting up at 4:30 seemed to set the tone for the whole week, and packing all of my gear so I could get ready for work in the locker room became tedious. I had no idea what Tabata had done for my body until I was no longer doing it. Although I don’t really weigh any more, I have lost all muscle tone, and my abs are now buried under a roll of flab. I have back fat that hangs over my sports bra, and flabby arms. And my clothes no longer fit.

About a month ago, I had a dressing-room meltdown – at a most inopportune time. My husband and I had taken a romantic weekend away, and had a great time – until my meltdown. I decided to try on dresses at Banana Republic for my daughter’s upcoming graduation from college. Last kid – Mom deserves a new dress. I knew my clothes had been snug, so I grabbed a size larger than I had been wearing. Still didn’t fit. Not even close. And everything looked awful and seemed to accentuate my gut. I cussed. I fought back tears the rest of the day. I was grouchy. My husband knew not to say much, so his only response was “I guess we aren’t going to the Loft?” Hell, no, we aren’t. And that day I decided I had to make some changes. I had to take time for myself, and apparently I needed to stop eating.

I had registered for the Indy 500 Mini back in the fall, but because I hadn’t really run much all winter, my running sucked. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to run the race. But then I had my meltdown, and decided that I needed to run; I needed incentive to get out and train. The last few half marathons I ran were for other people. I ran my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and my daughter’s with her, and I ran the St. Jude Half with my friends. I needed to run the 500 just for me. After months of caring for others, it was time to care for myself.

I began to make exercise a priority again, but gosh, it was so much more difficult. I had not stopped running over the winter, but had run less. As I tried to increase my miles, I realized I was much slower than I had been, though I had never been very fast. I began to wonder if at 51, I should just accept that I am going to gain some weight and get flabby, and if I should just be glad I can run, and not worry about my pace. That’s all pretty difficult to accept. And I’m pretty stubborn.

So it began. Long runs on the weekends, and more consistent running during the week. My long runs have been less than impressive, partly due to the extended winter, and partly due to my being out of shape and slightly lazy. I have continued to push through, and this past weekend I ran 11 miles – without walking! That was a huge boost to my confidence. It was really slow, about an 10:53 pace, but I didn’t stop, and I felt great after. This will be my 13th half marathon, and I have run anywhere from a 9:04 pace to a 10:35 pace. I’d like to run around a 10:10 pace, but I would have to knock a lot of time off, and I should probably focus on just finishing without injury. A 9:04 pace? That was the one time I ran a half in under two hours, and it will be my only time. I still don’t know how I pulled that off, though I remember I had to go to the bathroom most of the race, so that might have contributed to my speedy time.

As I was running my 11-miler, I listened to a podcast to occupy my mind. When I train alone, I listen to podcasts rather than music. I’ve found it keeps me more entertained, and I focus less on minor discomforts. I had chosen the “Another Mother Runner” podcast. I’ve read Sarah’s and Dimity’s books and blogs, and have followed their podcast for a long time. I enjoy their honest, down-to-earth look at running, and have learned a lot from them.

As I was running and listening, I thought about how many of their topics don’t apply to me as much since my kids are grown. They talk a lot about juggling raising kids and working in runs. I am busy with teaching and extra-curriculars, but it isn’t a big deal for me to find time to run. I find my challenges have more to do with aging at this point in my life. I wish there were a podcast for runners who share those challenges, and even considered started some type of social media group or webpage for ‘older’ female runners. I’ve seen pages for females who are mother runners, runners who went from being over-weight to fit, runners who are in phenomenal shape and share workouts and nutrition information – everything but over-50 females who are now facing empty nests, menopause, grandkids, and aging parents.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know how to start a podcast, and don’t know that I have time to add something else to my schedule, but I’d consider it. I could start a Facebook group, but how do I get others interested? This blog is already up and running; I just need to write more often. I’ve been writing, but not for the blog. If you are a middle-aged female runner, share your thoughts. What would you like to see? What type of format would you be most likely to follow? Please share this with your friends, and let’s get the conversation started. How can we best reach and encourage middle-aged women who run?

The 500 Mini is in less than two weeks. No matter the outcome, I plan to have a fantastic weekend. My husband and I are going to Indy the day before, staying in one of the best hotels in downtown Indy, and we have tickets for Wicked for that night. I want to enjoy the moments without worrying about the finish. I want to take in the views and admire each step as we run around the 500 track. I want to embrace that I have legs that will carry me 13.1 miles.

Again, please give me your feedback, and share this post. Thanks for reading!

Half Marathon #12 Training

In eight days I will be running my 12th half marathon. The Indy 500 Mini Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, but it usually falls the same weekend we take our eighth graders to Washington, DC. This year our trip is the week after the mini, so my daughter Bethany and I signed up. We actually signed up when we were at the expo for the Monumental Half Marathon in November. Bethany was a little freaked out that she signed up for her second half marathon before she’d run her first. But hey, we got $5 off and a free tech shirt, so how could we go wrong?

Bethany and I have been training for a couple months. Now that I am 50, I’ve found my long runs just keep getting slower. However, last weekend we ran our longest run of 11 miles, and our pace was a respectable 10:35 (respectable for me, but maybe not for Bethany). Sunday I ran five miles with my fast friends. They make running look so effortless while I am about 15 feet behind struggling to breathe. They were chatting away, and would occasionally ask me a question, but I had no idea what they were even talking about. So why do I run with them? Because I love them, and because it pushes me. Sometimes I get comfortable just getting my miles in, but I don’t really push myself out of that comfort zone. If I want to run well, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We ran those five miles at a 9:45 pace, which at this point is super fast for me. Jennifer had already run five miles, and then added another 3.1 after our five…at an 8:15 pace. Geez.

Fast. Something I’ve never been, nor will I ever be. When I talk to my eighth graders about my running, they don’t get that concept. When I told them I was running the Indy Mini, some asked if I thought I would win. Sure, Kids. I’m confident that out of the 30-35,000 runners, I will win. I told them that really isn’t the goal of most runners. But it’s a race. Why would you enter a race if you don’t think you can win, Mrs. Stath? I tried to explain the age groups, and how my goal is usually to place in the top 20% of my age group. But why would you run over 13 miles for that? Ummm…because we get really cool medals and a shirt. I guess from a 13 year old’s perspective, the fact that a 50 year old teacher would run 13.1 miles to get a medal doesn’t make much sense. It made me ask myself why I really do it.

There are so many reasons to run a half marathon. First, there is no other feeling like crossing that finish line, knowing I did something that not many people do. I have done the work – and it is work – and accomplished my goal. Running it with my daughter? That is a pleasure that not many moms get to experience. Running this distance has been life-changing for me. I didn’t begin running until I was 42, and I ran my first half almost seven years ago at 43. I never dreamed I could run 13 miles; I thought it was silly to even want to run for over two hours. But I did it. It taught me that even as a middle-aged mom and grandmother, I could still meet new challenges. It gave me confidence to take risks. I love the camaraderie of the running community. When we go to Indianapolis next weekend, I will enjoy being surrounded by other runners at the hotel, expo, and restaurants. There’s just a different type of energy in the air.

Running long distance doesn’t come without sacrifice and sometimes discomfort. My hip began hurting a couple weeks ago. It was fine when I ran, but hurt after. It is better after a couple trips to the chiropractor, and I have three more appointments scheduled for next week, including one right before we leave for Indy. Runners also sacrifice time. Long runs take time away from family, not only during the run itself, but when I am crashed on the couch afterward. Thankfully my husband is supportive since he was also a runner. Knowing he will be there when I finish makes me look forward to the finish line even more.

Bethany, thank you for taking time to train with me and to commit to this race. There really is something special about pounding the pavement with you. I am so incredibly proud of you. Let’s rock this race! Do you think we can win?

Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.

 

 

We Did It!!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running 13.1 miles with my middle daughter, Bethany, at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It was truly a memorable weekend. We took off for Indy Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then walked a few blocks to the Convention Center for the expo. Bethany had been to an expo with me, but not as a runner. While there, we got a little caught up in the excitement and signed up for another half marathon, the Indy 500 Mini in May. We got a free tech tee for signing up early, and who doesn’t want a free shirt? It was fun just to explore the booths, but it was more fun to carb load afterward. We chose Scotty’s Brewhouse for our last big pre-race meal. While most runners would choose a healthy, carb-filled meal (Is that an oxymoron?), I wanted to try something different: a grilled cheese with pulled pork and mac and cheese on it. Yup. It was messy, but delicious. And on the side? Cottage fries with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Hey…I was going to be running over 13 miles the next morning; I needed energy. Bethany chose grilled chicken. Boring. But that might be one of the reasons she beat me!

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When running a long-distance race, there is so much that can go wrong, starting with the weather. Two years ago when my niece, my husband, and I ran the Monumental, it was 15 degrees. It was miserable. Yesterday the weather was perfect. It was chilly while we were waiting to start, but not unbearable. Once we began running, it was gorgeous. Indy is a beautiful city in which to run, and on a sunny day, it’s even more brilliant. Another obstacle to a successful race is stomach issues. Without going into gross detail, yesterday went well. Even my playlist was put together perfectly, which was a total fluke. I had tried to put ‘Living on a Prayer…Halfway there’ at about the 6.5 mile mark, and it landed exactly where I wanted it to.

Bethany seemed to enjoy every moment of the race, which is what I had hoped she would do. I told her ahead of time to take it all in.I didn’t want her to worry about her time or about whether or not she’d finish; I knew she would. The joy of the race comes not only from achieving a monumental goal, but also from enjoying the small moments, the cheers from the spectators (who were amazing yesterday), the sounds of music along the course, the funny signs, and the other runners who all have stories about why they are there. The joy comes from the scenery, the gorgeous neighborhoods, and the pounding of thousands of feet, all working toward the same goal. The joy comes when you see a firefighter in full gear, including his tank, running a marathon, runners with pictures of loved ones ironed on their shirts, and children along the route offering high fives. A few miles into our run, Bethany said, “This is so much fun!” And at mile eight she said, “Mom, I think it’s so cool that you run. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” That was my favorite moment in the race. I don’t know if she even knows how much that meant to me. We, as parents, never know what our children will learn from us. Knowing that I had a small part in her achieving something she never thought possible, and that gave her so much confidence, was indescribable.

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As the race went on, I could tell that Bethany could run faster. I was settling into about a 10:35 pace, which was fine with me, but she kept easing a little ahead. At mile 9, I told her to go. I did not want to hold her back if she could go faster. She hesitated, but then a lady running near us also encouraged her to go. She told her that it would make it harder for me if I knew she was waiting, and that if she felt good, she should take advantage of it because it might not happen again. She took off, and I relaxed knowing she was running her race. I was tired those last few miles, but kept a steady pace. Crazy things can run through a runner’s mind when exhaustion sets in. At one point I thought maybe I’ll get a 13.1 tattoo after this. It’s my tenth half marathon, and geez, this is hard. I deserve to have a tattoo. When I told my husband that had run through my mind, he just rolled his eyes. At mile 11, I reminded myself that I was NEVER going to run a full marathon. I couldn’t imagine having another 15 miles to go.

Bethany ended up finishing about five minutes before I did. I am so proud of her! Running is hard work. It takes dedication and determination, and it’s physically demanding. It takes time to train, and with our busy lives, carving that time out isn’t always easy. Completing a race can be life-changing; it gives us confidence in all areas of our lives. I am so thrilled to have shared this journey with my daughter. Congratulations, Bethany!

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Half Marathon #10

On November 5 I will run my tenth half marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It’s been two years since I ran an entire 13.1 miles; the last three I worked some walking in for various reasons. I need to know I can still run the whole route – that my knee can endure 13.1 miles of pounding.

However, accomplishing that goal is not the most important aspect of the race. This race is special because I will be running it with my daughter Bethany. She began running in January of this year, and has since run a couple 5Ks and a 5-miler. She decided this summer that she was ready to take on the challenge of running her first half marathon, and I agreed to train and run with her. When Gary and I began running almost eight years ago, our hope was that we would be a positive example for our kids and grandkids. We wanted to show them that it is never too late to live a healthier lifestyle; it is never too late to set and achieve goals. Since that time, all of the girls have worked fitness into their lives. Gary’s daughter Tamara and her girls have participated in Girls on the Run; Morgan has run a few races and was recently certified to teach yoga; and the youngest, Addie, has now begun running and hopes to work up to a half marathon. Gary’s son Bryce has always been active. He and his wife run, ski, and climb. I don’t know how much we have influenced our children’s choices, but I hope we’ve had at least a little impact.

bethanymom

Training for this race has been interesting. I haven’t worked as hard as I should. It stayed hot so long that my runs suffered. Our long runs have been slower than I would like, but we’ve kept running. This past Saturday we ran 11 miles, our longest training run. It went better than our previous long runs, and I feel that Bethany is ready for this race and will run well. I feel that I had better quit eating junk for the next two weeks and increase my water intake or I’m going to struggle. No matter what, I wouldn’t trade these past weeks of sharing this experience with my daughter. I cannot wait for her to experience crossing that finish line because I know it can be life-changing. I know she will gain a confidence she’s never experienced. I know she will feel a sense of pride that is unlike any other. I know she’ll want to sign up for another!

I have had the unique pleasure of running two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and felt so blessed that they wanted to share that time with me. After running a couple 5Ks and a 10K together, Erin and I ran the Monumental two years ago – it was 15 degrees that day. Emily and I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington. Despite being held April 9, it was 20 degrees at the start, and it did not warm up (I won’t even get into the hills). Now I have the honor of running 13.1 with Bethany, which I hope will take place on a perfect 55 degree day. There is something special about running a longer race with someone. If you run, you know that some of the best, most honest conversations take place when we are drenched in sweat, our muscles are aching, and yet we carry on…together.

I’ve written before that sometimes a race is about so much more than a PR or personal goals. My best runs have been when I’ve run for a greater cause, whether it was to help someone complete her first half, or to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. The medals earned represent time spent training and sharing in a common goal. The medals represent not giving up, even when it hurts. They represent achieving something that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Bethany, I am so proud of you! You’ve accomplished so much this year, and it is truly my honor to run with you. I pray for clear skies, perfect temps, strong legs, and settled bellies. Heck, maybe someday you, Morgan, Addie, and I can run one together. That would really be a miracle! Let’s eat healthy foods the next two weeks, okay? Good Luck, Bethany! Thank you for allowing me to be your running partner. Thank you for loving yourself enough to take on such a monumental challenge. Now go #BeMonumental!

Running Newbies

Friday evening, I needed to do a long run, and I had to do it by myself. Most of my running friends would be running the Kentucky Derby Half or Full Marathon the next morning; I would not. I had accompany a group of students to Academic Bowl, so I had to opt out of the race. Given the rainy weather that morning and that my team placed 2nd, I was happy to be at the academic competition.

After working all day, I didn’t really feel like listening to music as I ran, and didn’t really want to listen to a podcast, which is usually what gets me through solo runs, so I had plenty of time to think. I spent some time thinking about…running. I thought about what advice I would give new runners, even though some days I still – after seven years – feel like a new runner. It was then I decided my next blog would be an advice blog. This advice has absolutely no medical or professional standing; it’s based upon my personal experience, and on the stupid mistakes I’ve made over the years. So, below you’ll find my advice, or in most cases just random thoughts, on running.

  1. Running sucks. But then it’s great, and then it’ll suck again. Seriously. I’ve heard many people who try running say that they just don’t enjoy it. I hated running for the first six months, but when I finished a run or met another goal, I loved it. I felt accomplished. I felt invincible. I still have runs that are really hard, and I don’t enjoy the run itself. When I push through and finish the run, I feel proud that I stuck it out despite how difficult it was. My favorite mantra is ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it.’ Running is not easy. Stick with it and it will be worth it!
  2. Body parts are going to hurt. When I began running, my youngest daughter was young enough that she was happy to massage my legs and feet – thank goodness! I was sore for months. I don’t have any running friends who haven’t had some sort of running-related injury. I’ve had knee issues that led to surgery, but I still run. Those friends who have had injuries? They still run. Runners are pissed that they can’t run when they are injured, but they don’t give up. Take care of yourself, and take a break if necessary, but don’t give up. And the chiropractor will be your friend. Find a good one!
  3. Don’t be apprehensive about signing up for a race. I’ve run nine half marathons, a few 10Ks, and a whole bunch of 5Ks. My first race was a 5K, and my goal was to not be last. It was in July, and it was hilly; I was prepared for neither. I ran that race, and I was not last. I wasn’t fast, but I finished. When you run in a race, no matter the distance, you will see people of all shapes, sizes, and speeds. No one cares how fast or slow you go, as long as you keep going. You need to walk? No one cares. You cross the finish line last? No one cares. Think about how many people never cross a finish line in their lives. The support and camaraderie of the running community is amazing. We all started somewhere, and everyone appreciates the effort it takes just to get out there. And races are fun! Spending time with a group of people with a similar interest is very rewarding. Some of my best running memories are of races that were particularly hard. I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with my niece Erin, and it was 15 degrees at the start (and finish if I remember correctly). We were cold, but running my niece’s first half with her was so worth it. This past month I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington with another niece, Emily; it was her first half. And, despite it being April, there was about a 20 degree windchill that day. It was miserably cold. Again, sharing my niece’s first half marathon with her was worth freezing my tush off (but I did begin to wonder if I should stop running with my nieces).
  4. When my husband and I began running, we thought it would be a cheap form of exercise. Do not fool yourself. Running is not cheap. Plan on spending at least $100 on shoes, which will need to be replaced every few months. One thing we decided early on was that we had to take care of our feet. I’m very picky about what I wear. I have to be completely comfortable or I will obsess when I run. Chafing is serious, so the right shorts, shirt, and bra matters. I’ve chafed when wearing certain shirts. On that recent Friday run, I actually chafed on my inner thighs, and I was wearing my favorite running shorts. The only reason for chafing that I could come up with is that I’ve gained a few pounds, and now my inner thighs rub. What the hell?! Rather than lose that weight, I bought new shorts. It was easier. Socks. Good running socks are expensive, but gosh, they are worth it. My husband kind of scoffed when I first told him he should get some better socks. He didn’t think socks mattered. Once he tried them, he found out I was right (duh).
  5. The benefits you’ll reap from running go far deeper than health and weight loss. Of course, any type of exercise will help you get healthier, and running torches calories. But the mental impact of running is even better. Running makes me happy. I can have a terribly stressful day at school (I do teach eighth graders), and when I go out for a run, that stress seems to leave my body in the form of sweat. I can process my problems, think about my students, plan lessons, or just think about my blessings. Running has given my confidence in every area of my life. If, in my forties, I can run 13.1 miles, I can pretty much do anything I work for, or at least I’m willing to try.
  6. While running, I have laughed, talked out problems, listened to friends’ joys and trials, and cried. I have run when I am celebrating, and I have run when I am mourning. I’ve run when I needed to be alone, and I’ve run when I needed the comfort of my friends. I’ve run to see how fast I can go, and I’ve run to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve run for myself, and I’ve run for others. Finding your reason, even if that reason changes, is critical. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you won’t have the will. When I started running, it was because I was out of shape and needed to get fit. Now I run to stay in shape, and because it’s become who I am.
  7. Running friends are the best friends! Just about all of the friends I spend time with are runners. I have wonderful non-running friends, but we don’t really spend time together. I’m not one to just go out with friends for an evening, but I will go for a run with my friends. On a run, we can talk about anything. We can share our most embarrassing stories, our heartaches, and our joys. Or we can fall into cadence side-by-side and not talk at all (that really doesn’t happen very much). I truly love my running friends, and value their love and support. I’m proud of their accomplishments, and hope I can always be a source of support for them. They keep me accountable. Even when I don’t feel like running, a text from one of them can get me out the door.
  8. Read running materials. Subscribe to Runner’s World or Women’s Running, order books about running. They are very motivational and can offer some super advice. Ask lots of questions. Runners LOVE to talk about running! But be sure you have lots of time because we have lots to say!

Running Life

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and I haven’t written for entirely too long. This week is spring break, and while my friends are in Florida on the beach or at Disney, or in Georgia enjoying the warmer temps, I’ve been home. Honestly, I don’t mind. I’ve redone our living room while scoring some deals online shopping (Wayfair? Wow…a new favorite! My husband is not so happy I’ve discovered this plethora of everything for the home!). I’ve also cleaned my frig, which is in my top five of most detested household jobs. Seriously, there was more moldy food than edible. Since my mother is coming for Easter, I figured I’d better not risk her disappointment in finding I’m not the clean freak she is. The woman still scares me.

Today I shampooed our family room carpet, which I do on a pretty regular basis. This also makes the top five just because I am so disgusted when I empty the water and see how filthy our carpet was. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t clean it so often. We don’t even have small children or large dogs. Just big kids and a little wiener. .

So, about running. After seven years, I still haven’t quit, which completely amazes me. There have been times when I wasn’t running as often as I should, and times I felt invincible. I am currently training for the Hoosier Half Marathon, which is April 9; it will be my ninth half marathon. My niece Emily, who is a student at Indiana University, hasn’t run a half and asked me to run it with her. How could I say no? I had the honor of running my niece Erin’s first half with her, and am excited to share this experience with Emily.

I am not very excited about the hills. The website describes rolling hills, and Bloomington is quite hilly. I’ve worked pretty hard the past couple of months to prepare. I’ve incorporated challenging, make-me-swear hills into every long run, and have been going to my husband’s Spinning classes in addition to teaching Tabata classes. Gary has taught Spinning for a couple of years, but it was never a class I enjoyed. I thought the hill work my improve my running, so I sucked it up and went (and I dragged my daughter with me). It was tough. If you’re a girl and you’ve never taken Spinning, you should know that your girls parts (undercarriage) will hurt. I mean really hurt. But after a couple classes, it doesn’t really hurt anymore. Thank God. I’ve come to enjoy the class. Gary plays great music, which can seriously make the class. There’s typically at least one or two points during class that I don’t like my husband. When he instructs us to turn up the tension more when I can hardly turn the pedals with my already-burning legs, I want to yell at him to shut the hell up. But then when the class comes to an end, I feel pretty amazing. And I love him again.

My running has gone well. I’ve run more miles on my long runs than usual. My last three long runs have all been 10 miles, and I’ll run 11 or 12 this weekend. My knee has done pretty well, but I take Aleve and some homeopathic joint meds before heading out. I’ve been very lucky to have some friends run with me. When I do a long run alone, I listen to podcasts; they seem to keep my mind occupied and the time goes quicker. I really don’t know what to expect come race day. Considering Emily’s literally a foot taller than I, I just hope to be able to keep up with her long, young legs. I also hope I don’t die on a hill because that’d probably ruin Emily’s first half marathon.

In May Gary and I are registered for a 10-mile race that goes across a bridge over the Ohio River. We’ve always talked about running this race, but usually had kid activities that day. Now that the girls are grown, we don’t have to plan our weekends around their activities, which is reason #101 why I don’t have empty nest syndrome. Don’t judge. I became a mom at 21, and I did my time and enjoyed it. It’s time for Momma now.

One of our goals when we began this whole fitness thing was to get our kids and grandkids interested in exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. We have had some success. As I said, the upcoming race will be with my niece, and I’ve run several races with Erin. I’ve run a 5k with my oldest daughter, and Gary has run one with his granddaughter, Molly. Two weeks ago I ran a 5k with my middle daughter Bethany. She is 23 and teaches 5th grade. This school year she has begun to make time for exercise and has started running. She is learning that it isn’t easy, and that it takes dedication. She is now seeing the results, not only on the scale, but in her attitude. Running and many other types of exercise cause one’s endorphins to just create a happier disposition. I’ve always said that running is as good for me mentally as it is physically. Bethany has committed to running the Schweizer Fest 6 mile race and a half marathon this fall. Of course, that means I’m running both with her, which will be pretty amazing. I’m thrilled to see her so excited about her running, and to see the confidence she’s gaining. Since we are all on break this week, Bethany and I made Addie go to Spinning last night. Addie said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the one thing we did as a family on spring break was a Spinning class. We know how to have fun!

I cannot fail to mention that the Hoosier Half is also my friend, fellow English teacher, and fellow cheer coach, Amanda’s first half marathon. She has been working hard and also going to Spinning. I am so excited to see her cross that finish line! I know the pride and satisfaction she’ll feel, and hope she is hooked.

If you actually read all of this, thank you. I tend to go on and on about nothing. I need to take time to write more often so my posts won’t be novel-length. Spring is here – set some goals and make every day count! Love completely, keep criticism to yourself, and build others up. The world doesn’t need any more negativity. As I tell my students, don’t be a jerk. That covers it all.

My 50th Year

How in the hell did that happen? This past Saturday I celebrated (I use that term quite loosely) my 49th birthday, and am now in my 50th year of life. This has caused me to contemplate this whole aging thing. It’s an odd process, but I truly believe that age is a state of mind, and my mind says I’m not old.

Seriously, in my head I still feel the same as I did 20 years ago. Oh, I am wiser, and some of my opinions have evolved. I used to really care what people thought of me, but now I don’t care so much. I am who I am, and I’m not likely to change at this point. I care deeply about people, and will help anyone who needs it, but I also learned not to waste my time with negativity or drama. Yuck. I don’t like mean people, and won’t pretend to. I can’t stand when people lie, and won’t be friends with people who do. I stand up for what I believe in, and am not afraid to voice those beliefs. On the flip side, I will also listen to the opposing views, as long as the opposition isn’t a jerk or a bigot.

I still set goals. I believe when I stop setting goals, I will stop living. Always having something to work for gives me motivation and purpose. I still strive to be a better person. I am working to improve my fitness level and my financial management. For this – my 50th year – I hope to begin digging out of some debt. I also agreed to run a very hilly half marathon with my niece, so it’s quite necessary to strengthen my legs and core so I don’t cuss at her the entire race. She is 21 with long legs; she’s almost a foot taller than I! Maybe I should invest in a stretching machine or some growth hormones.

Let’s talk the physical aspects of aging. They suck. I mean really suck. Although my mind says I’m not old, my body doesn’t seem to agree. Because I feel sort of young on the inside, when I look at my hands and see the same hands I used to see on my grandmother, it’s just shocking. They’re getting vainy and boney and just ugly. I used to play with that loose skin on my grandma, and now I’m that grandma. And then there’s the skin on my legs. I think I’d get a skin lift on my legs before I’d get a face lift. My legs are one of my better assets because of running; they aren’t chubby or too flabby. The skin, however, is really old looking (and please don’t message me trying to sell your expensive, magical lotion).

Eyebrows. Did anyone ever tell you what happens to your eyebrows when you get old? No one told me. I think those ahead of me on this journey just wanted to sit back and laugh as my eyebrows disappeared. The first phase was when they began to grow wildly. I’d get these long, hag-like eyebrows that needed to be trimmed. That phase lasted a couple of years. Now I’m in the lose-a-few-more-every-single-day phase. Those suckers are now disappearing. I always wondered who bought eyebrow pencils (besides the people whom I thought plucked them all out only to draw them back on – but now I’m not so sure). True confession: I now own – and use – an eyebrow pencil. I try to take it easy so it isn’t obvious, but if I didn’t use it, good Lord, it would not be pretty.

Bushy eyebrows

Gray hair is something to be expected, but that doesn’t make it cool. I actually started getting gray hair when I was in my 20s. How unfair is that? Thankfully, I was a hairdresser for 17 years, and could take care of that at work. It’s now so prevalent that I have to color my hair every three weeks. I am about 90% gray in the front, but don’t tell anyone. I am very grateful for the creator of hair color…Mr. Clairol? Ms. Loreal? Mrs. Wella?  My husband has asked me (several times) how long I’m going to continue to color my hair. Duh. Until the day they put my cold, dead body in the ground. That’s how long. And there’d better not be any gray roots showing at my visitation. And someone had better draw some eyebrows on my face. Julie Bishop, take note.

hair color

Lips. Those also fade out into oblivion. Those once red lips that appeared so kissable become virtually non-existent. Lipstick will be your friend; you won’t leave home without it. Of course, you also have to be careful with that lipstick so it doesn’t ‘feather’ into the wrinkles that are now surrounding the area where your lips used to be. Of course you’ll have wrinkles there; you can’t just have them surrounding your eyes and criss-crossing your forehead. That would look ridiculous! You should try to figure out where your lips meet your skin; drawing your lipstick on the outside of this area looks a little silly. This is valuable information; you’ll thank me someday.

dark-lips

granny kiss s

Another side effect of aging is weight gain. Oh, it doesn’t have to happen. If you don’t eat any complete meals ever, exercise every single stinkin’ day, and stay the hell away from dessert, you can maintain your pre-middle age weight. Each year, it gets more difficult to maintain a sensible weight. Each year, I can eat a little less. Shouldn’t this work in the opposite way? When we are young and feel like exercising, we struggle with keeping it off, but when we are older and just don’t have the energy, the weight just stays away? Shouldn’t there be a time in our lives when we don’t have to worry about calories? My mother is 82 and still watches everything she eats. She actually said these words: I’ve found that if I don’t eat bread all week, on the weekend I can have a slice of bread, and I won’t gain weight! Seriously, Mother! You’re in your 80s! Eat the damn bread! Her plate at the holidays is almost comical. One bite of each thing. It’s Christmas! Eat the turkey! Bask in the joy of mashed potatoes. Smother your tastebuds in pumpkin pie. I’m thankful that my mother is healthy and takes pride in her appearance, but I wish she’d let loose once in awhile and just enjoy some dessert.

dessert-for-dinner

Another unexpected aspect of this aging process is that I get up early. I have never been a morning person. I really enjoy sleeping. A lot. When I have a cold, I look forward to a Nyquil sleep all day long. Surgery? Sure. That’s the best sleep ever. I even trained my daughters to sleep in when they were small (that back-fired). Now I get up three mornings a week at 4:30 A M – that’s in the morning – to teach classes at the gym. Yes, I get up and exercise before school. Before I go to work, I workout. And the really scary thing is I enjoy it. I love my early-morning crew, and waking up to their cheerful smiles. I like starting my day out by sweating. Sometimes I still cuss as I am driving into town, but as soon as class starts, I’m glad to be there. Of course, getting up so flippin’ early means I also go to bed pretty early. I like to head to bed at 9:00, read a little, and lights out by 9:30. My mother goes to bed at 6:00 and is up when I am. I hope I never get to that point. Many evenings we aren’t even home by that time.

All-in-all, I plan to attack this 50th year of life by continuing to set goals, working to improve myself, and loving the little moments with family, friends, and students. I hope to set a positive example for my 8th graders, and teach them that one is never too old to grow, learn, or set goals. I plan to laugh, be silly, and tell- sometimes inappropriate – jokes (hopefully at appropriate times) (and parents, never to your kids). I figure I’ve got one shot at this life, and I’ve always tried to live with no regrets. When making a decision, I always imagine what I’d be most likely to regret. It generally works (and has failed me terribly a few times). So, this nana is going to be a super-cool, super-fun nana. I’m going to run and play until my body no longer allows me to do so. I’m going to enjoy every moment I have with my husband, even if it’s just sitting side-by-side scrolling through Facebook while watching Criminal Minds. Live with no regrets, Folks! Be glad you get to experience the little annoyances of aging; it means you’ve been blessed to stay on this earth a little longer. Take the gray hair, crazy eyebrows, wrinkly skin, and extra pounds and know that you’ve earned them. And for goodness sake, EAT DESSERT!

 

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