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?

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.

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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!

A Mom, Two Daughters, and a German Go to Chicago, Part 2

Day 2…
As I said, this was to be a quick trip, so we crammed a lot in on Wednesday. We were up early, and hailed a cab to go to the Field Museum. Cab drivers are in abundance in Chicago, as one could imagine, and we didn’t know what we were going to get until we were well on our way. When we arrived Tuesday night and grabbed a cab at Union Station, the driver wore earbuds and didn’t speak at all. The driver who took us to the museum was a plethora of interesting facts. He described the sights as we drove along. I liked him!

The last time I was at the Field Museum was when I was in high school and my sister took me; I was bored. I hoped that as an adult, and as a teacher, I would have a greater appreciation for all the museum had to offer. I knew that Addison would like it as she enjoys history. We began in the animal section. Every species of bird, fish, mammal, etc is represented. At first we were fascinated, but soon became bored by looking at animals. The Egyptian display, especially the mummies, held our interest. The Native American section was also intriguing, Addison and I spent some time in Native American museums in Alaska, so we were particularly interested.

Even if one has no interest in history, just the building is incredible. It is massive, well-kept, and simply beautiful. Add to that the backdrop of Lake Michigan, and one is in for a memorable experience.

And speaking of memorable, we walked along the lake to Navy Pier (a little over a mile) when we finished at the museum. The girls weren’t thrilled about this, but I was not going to keep paying for cabs when we were capable of walking. Besides, when better way to really experience and appreciate the city but on foot? We walked along with the gorgeous skyline on our left, and the crystal-blue lake on our right. Yes, it was cold, but the sun was shining and the day was beautiful.

We had lunch at Navy Pier (along with about 50 small children), browsed the shops, and then walked (the girls are loving me by now) back to Michigan Avenue. We spent a couple hours shopping (more browsing than shopping since most of the stores are expensive), and then it was time to get ready for our big night out.

After dinner at Cheesecake Factory, it was time for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! My girls and I love musicals; Bethany and Addison have always wanted to go to a ‘real’ Broadway show. And this particular musical was the one I saw in high school when the band went to New York. Just walking in the theater district was a treat for us small-town girls. And the musical? Wow. The Cadillac Theater was breathtaking, and the show was outstanding. It couldn’t have been better. Wait…it could have been better had the three women behind us not been obnoxious. They were not too bad during the show, until the end. Apparently they memorized the lyrics and then felt the need to sing along! Seriously. I can understand singing along at a concert, but at a Broadway musical? I certainly didn’t pay to hear three drunk ladies’ rendition of the finale. Other than that, the evening with the girls was perfect. It’s a good thing…things were about to fall apart.

Day 3…

Thursday morning. It was time to head back to reality…and a bus. We hailed our final cab, and arrived at the bus stop 30 minutes early. And waited. It was freezing and dreary, but our wait was not to be long, until the man who loads luggage announced that our 9:30 leave time had been moved to 11:00. Shit. We are on a street corner in Chicago with a lot of not-so-happy travelers, and didn’t know what to do. One of the reasons the Megabus is cheap is that they don’t have a terminal; everything is done online, so there aren’t even people to answer questions. They don’t give you a phone number to call because then they’d actually have to answer questions and explain their shortcomings. The luggage loader knew nothing. We went into the Dunkin Donuts across from the bus stop, sat on our suitcases, ate donuts, and waited; at 10:45 we went back to the stop. The temperature was dropping. And the luggage guy had another announcement. The time would now be noon. To say we were annoyed would be a massive understatement. The day before we loved Chicago, loved the diversity of people, loved the hustle and bustle of the big city. On Thursday morning, we hated Chicago, were sick of people, and found the impatience of drivers and constant honking of horns terribly annoying; we longed for our cozy, quiet, country home. And warmth. We really wanted warmth.

We went into Union Station and sat on our bags. Some young man was going around asking people for 62 cents. He was trying to get it from 100 people so he’d have $62 to pay for train fare. It was not the day to ask. Another girl came up begging for money. I really try to be compassionate, but these were young, able-bodied people. I wish I knew their stories so I could understand. As it was, I really wanted to tell them to get jobs.

The 9:30 bus finally arrived at about 1:00. Three and a half hours late. We managed to get seats together, and were finally headed home. The Megabus employees were impatient with passengers who had been standing in the cold for four hours. The first half of the drive wasn’t bad, but by the last half, I was really sick of loud people, and of young people who have no respect for others. Our area might be full of people who use poor grammar, but we are (overall) respectful of one another when we speak. Many of the people we were around on the bus threw the F word and every other swear word around with no regard for anyone, including small children. I am not a prude, but that just drove me crazy. And then there were the people who talked on phones so loudly the whole bus was in on their conversations; we needed off that bus! It was the ride from hell. Finally, we arrived in Louisville; I sprinted off that damn Megabus. We gathered our bags, and the prayed – really hard – that Bethany’s car would be where we left it. Thankfully, it was, and the tires weren’t flattened and the windows were in tact.

We kept telling each other it was a adventure. When one of us was ready to lose it, one of us would make a joke. Bethany had minor meltdowns, especially when she was sitting in Union Station putting socks on, and some woman yelled at her. We won’t soon forget this ‘adventure’. Would I do it again? The trip up wasn’t that bad. The trip home was ridiculous. The lack of communication was uncalled for. Bethany talked to a lady in Louisville who had been standing on a corner waiting for four hours, and Megabus had not contacted them at all. The thing is, if you are trying to return home, you have no place to go, and are at their mercy. Since our return trip fee was refunded, round trip for four was $40. You get what you pay for. I prefer to fly. Right now, nope, I could not depend on Megabus. Chicago, I still love.

Spring Break Chicago Trip is in the books. Next year I think ill spring clean.
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I am beautiful, strong, and wise

The picture below would be an awesome inspirational quote, but then whoever wrote it had to go and ruin it by putting ‘learnt’!  Really?  Learnt?  Apparently he or she ‘learnt’ nothing from an English teacher.  Okay, enough.  Ignore that error, and focus on the meaning.

I hear so many women put themselves down every day.  Heck, I hear thirteen year old girls put themselves down.  Face it, most of us have trouble accepting compliments; rather than just saying thank you, we have to counter with something negative: Oh, I’ve gained some weight; My hair looks terrible today; My face is a mess.  Why can’t we just say Thanks?  We need to be able to say that we are strong, even when at times we feel weak.  We need to acknowledge our beauty, without pointing out our flaws.  Do we have fears?  Sure, but we have many more fearless moments.  Admit you are wise.  The greatest lessons we learn come from our mistakes and from the difficult moments we face.  And every time we make it through those trying times, we become a little wiser (by this point, I should be a genius!).  And I hope we are all lovers – lovers of our family and friends, lovers of our jobs and hobbies, lovers  of the lives we are blessed to live.  I hope the hate we have felt and witnessed has caused us to love deeper.  And we need to laugh every single day (working with junior high students makes that one pretty easy).

Why is all of this important?  Because we are teaching our daughters, nieces, and other young girls in our lives to focus on their flaws.  We need to redefine what beauty is.  How would you describe beauty?  Perfect skin?  Long, flowing, shiny hair?   a thin body?  Or is it a smile that causes others to smile?  Is it a contagious laugh?  Is it when someone stops what she is doing to help someone else?  Is it a young woman who enters a room with confidence?   It is difficult to say, “I am beautiful.”  Try it.  Look in a mirror and say it.  Can you do it?  I might start, but then I see the wrinkles and the gray hair that’s fighting its way through.  And I notice the chub gathering around my belly.  And, crap, there are those brown age spots planting themselves on my face.  It’s easy to say all of that.  I can name every flaw on my body.  And when I do, my girls begin to find their flaws – I want them to see their beauty.

I see their kind eyes and their strong legs.  I watch as they step up to help others, and I see beauty.  I listen to Addison play the piano, and I hear my father’s beautiful notes echoing through hers.   I listen to Bethany talk about working with students, and see the joy in her face; that’s beautiful.  I see Morgan mothering her son – gorgeous.  I watch as Tamara talks with her kids and encourages them to stay true to themselves, and I witness pure beauty.  I see the pictures of Krista rock climbing in Lake Tahoe, and see her strength and courage, and I think nothing is more beautiful.  I want all of these amazing sisters to know the depth of their beauty, strength, and wisdom.  However, if they continually hear me picking apart my flaws, they will do the same.

We, all of us, have to strive to be better, while realizing we are enough.  Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but it’s one that makes perfect sense.  We should always work to learn more, to be healthy and strong, and to experience all we can.  We owe it to ourselves to become the best version of ourselves that we can.  But we also have to realize that we are enough.  We are beautiful the way we are; we are wise; we are strong.  We need to quit comparing ourselves to others, which many times makes us feel that we never quite measure up, and just try to be the best women we can be.  What makes you feel strong?  Do it.  I feel strong when I complete a good workout or have a great run.  Oddly, I feel strong when I am sore – that means I am able to work out.  What makes you feel beautiful?  My husband makes me feel beautiful, but I need to work on feeling beautiful without depending on his compliments.  I feel wise when I learn something new, whether it be in a magazine or book I read, or something I have randomly discovered.  I feel wise when I can share what I have learned.  Do what makes you feel wise.

So, since I am a teacher, I feel compelled to give you an assignment.  For the next week, give compliments.  Not just to your family or close friends, but to strangers or acquaintances.  It will make you feel good.  And, here’s the challenge, when you receive a compliment, just say thank you.  Don’t criticize yourself, and don’t give someone else credit.  Just say thank you.

You are beautiful.  You are strong.  You are wise.  Go out and show the love, face life with no fear, and laugh!  Goodnight, Beautiful Friends!
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