Running Back to Myself, for #GlobalRunningDay

It’s Global running day!

Last year, I was interviewed by On Being about my relationship with running, and how it’s affected my sense of self. Thanks to the amazing Lily Percy for  being a great interviewer, having a lit soundtrack, and pulling out this bit:

I would get out on the road and all of a sudden, step by step, it was like running myself back to myself in a lot of ways. So it’s nice to know that there’s always going to be this place I can go where it’s just me and the road. And there’s something really beautiful about that.

Listen to the interview below:

God Meets Us Where We Are: On Running and Meditating

It’s been a crazy few weeks, and I know I need sit down to make some space to actually write for myself. EdWeek often takes up much of my writing time and brainspace.

Fortunately, over the break, I was able to carve out a piece to submit to OnBeing, one of my favorite programs ever. This weekend, they published my piece! You can read about running as moving meditation on their site. An excerpt:

A few months later, an acquaintance learned I was a marathoner and asked, “What do you think about while you run?” Without hesitation, I responded, “I meditate.”

I surprised myself. While I’d always considered myself a mindful person, I often had trouble meditating. I would get distracted by my phone, or bugs, or the wind, or how thirsty I was or how hot I was or a million other things. Running was not the zen, silent space I imagined I could meditate in. With my feet pounding and arms pumping, how was I finding inner calm?

I’m excited to push forward in my running, spiritual, and writing goals in 2016.

Running Home: Honolulu Marathon Race Report and Running Back-to-Back Marathons

Hey! So, as I wrote about a few weeks ago after PRing at CIM, I ran the Honolulu Marathon the next weekend! And it was crazy! And somehow I lived! It was a crazy week after and things aren’t as fresh in my memory, but I wanted to make sure I documented some things for future reference.

The Lead-Up

I flew home the Monday after CIM and felt tired and painfully sore. My legs kept cramping, and everything was tight. I could barely walk at some points, and stairs were ridiculous. Honestly, I was legitimately concerned I would be unable to run the race. How will my body be able to recover in time?! I thought. I was sure I would fail.

I knew that if I wanted to have a chance, though, I would need to push past this fear and not give up. I foam rolled every day and often, even using a muscle stick while teaching during class. I covered my legs with ice packs while I slept, mostly on my knees and hips where I had ached during the end of CIM. I stretched consistently.

I also immediately began regearing my diet towards building back as much muscle as I could. I focused on carbs and protein: a lot of teri-chicken bowls (a dish from Goma Tei that’s rice, chicken teriyaki, and an over-easy egg), green smoothies with flax and chia seeds, and any lean protein (mostly chicken and turkey) I could get my hands on. I also used dotFIT Amino Boost a few times during the week to try and aid in the recovery process (the UFC gym I train at loves dotFit, and they had a sale a few weeks back. I’ve been consuming this after every workout for the two weeks prior to CIM, as well as immediately after CIM).

On Wednesday, I ran a few miles to the convention center to pick up my bib. I had been walking fine that day, but a few steps into running I was surprised at how tight everything felt. My knees ached, and I knew I was going to need to loosen everything in my body if I wanted to try and run this. Even as I was running that warm-up, I was unsure if I could do this.

Still, once I got to the convention center and my body loosened up a bit, the mood there was contagious. It was full of folks who were so hyped to do this race, and I realized how lucky I was to live here and get to do it for an incredibly affordable price.  I decided to smile and give it my best. IMG_7681

The rest of the week, I just did my best to not get in my head, foam roll, and ice consistently. That was the best I could do.

 

 

 

 


 

The Race

Just some brief thoughts, since this race flew by fast:

  • I ran to the starting line from my boyfriend’s apartment– about a two mile warm up. It sounds nuts, but I’m so glad I did. It enabled me to stretch and start the race at my best
  • I found my friend and coworker Marc and his wife Si before the race. Normally, I’m big on solo racing (and I admittedly didn’t start with them), but I’m so happy I said hi and tried to be social. I think, as someone who generally has social anxiety, I tend to take these situations, make them an even bigger deal in my head, and shut out folks completely. Then I remembered that racing is fun, and I should celebrate with folks I care about!
  • It was hot. So hot. By the time we were at mile two, I was dripping in sweat (though I’m a generally sweaty person). I made it a point to get water and electrolytes at nearly every opportunity since I ran this race without any supplemental water.
  • There is something so wonderful about running a “hometown” race. Not only because you know the course so well (I make it a point to train along the course throughout the year), but because it’s awesome to see your home through the eyes of people loving it.
  • This was the first race I did entirely without even considering music till the last half mile. I’m proud and amazed that I no longer need it, since a few years ago I definitely would never think to run without music. It was extra great because I was able to cheer my fast friends David and Kali (who was amazing enough to shout for me as she had an amazing race and placing in her age group!), and hear my coworker Marybeth and her family cheer me on the course.
  •  I was pacing solidly under 9:30 (even an 8:35 mile at one point, though as soon as I saw that time I slowed my roll) until mile 19. I even had some crazy dreams about trying to beat or match my previous course records. That dream floated away at mile 10 when my legs began to ache.
  • My data is here, and you can see where the wheels started to come off. My legs started locking at mile 19, then completely shut down at mile 21 and crept to a walk-run. I thought I’d be upset, but I just decided to smile and enjoy the course when I had to walk. “This is a beautiful day to run,” I thought as I moved. Then, I saw a woman running who was talking to herself, and laughing as she apparently felt better about her time than I did. She inspired me and made me think of the first time I had run this course, so I worked to try and draft off of her as much as I could. I made it to mile 23 when some boys with icy hot appeared magically. Thank God for them.
  • I finished the race at 4:10, only about 5 minutes longer than my course PR. I saw stars after though, so didn’t take any personal photos. I walked about a mile away from the course to meet my boyfriend (I had asked him not to try and find me at the finish line since I didn’t know when I’d finish) and nearly collapsed. Thank goodness for him and official race photos.

     

  • I was surprisingly not too sore after! I foam rolled and iced a ton immediately after. I’ve only tried to run a few times after and definitely still feel pretty tight and sore, though, so I’m planning on taking it easy for a bit to recover from a ridiculous week of racing.

 

What’s Next?

Great question! Who knows?!

No, I’ve clearly given it some thought. I think trying to hit a 3:30 marathon would require more training and discipline than I’m willing to give right now. I obviously still love running, but I also don’t want to burn out on what I’d like to be a lifetime activity. I’ve been focused on marathoning so intensely for the past few years: first to get back into it, then immediately after to sub-4.

Now, I think I’m going to try and switch up my goals a bit. I’m considering trying to hit a 1:30 or 1:40 half-marathon time and try to start building more speedwork into my life.

In addition: I actually auditioned on a whim for a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and got cast as Tintinabula! It’s a small, non-speaking featured role (I think I may have a dance solo? Maybe?), but I’m so excited. I haven’t done a musical since I was 17. That will take up much of my spring, so it’s a good way to force me to rest.

 

Overall, 2015 was a very successful year for running and fitness. Now, though. We rest and celebrate. Happy Holidays!

Limitless: A CIM Race Report


 

Reflection

When I first started running, I had no idea I would ever come to love it as much as I do now. In fact, part of the reason in my life was because so many people– myself included– told me I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. I don’t like being told I can’t do something. Most times, I make a silent covenant in my head and think, Oh yeah? Watch me. 

I know I’ve written about this before, but the biggest lesson running has taught me was not to limit my own potential. Once I ran my first marathon, my mindset changed from, “I could never do that,” to “I could try and do that.” It’s not about setting unreasonable goals, it’s about making a choice to test the limits of your brain and body because you want to see what will happen.

Running is about participating in a life-long experiment to see what I’m capable of. It’s about understanding that I may fail, but that I can always stop, reassess, and try again.

When I started this blog about a year ago, I was trying to get into the habit of writing more consistently. I was also hoping to document my running goal of 2015: to run a sub-4 hour marathon.

Today, I beat that goal with nearly 10 minutes to spare. 

I’m elated, for lack of a better word. While, in retrospect, my goal was fairly conservative (I’d run a 4:04 marathon last year), I can’t help but remember the girl I was five years ago, who looked at a marathon course and thought, “I could never do that.

Then, she made a choice and did. Then she did again, and again. Through blistered feet and aching legs, that girl ran. When it poured rain or she fell and cut up her knees, she put her head down, dusted off her hands, and kept running. When every voice in her brain said, “You can’t do this,” she remembered every step she had taken before, pounded her feet and roared back, “Watch. Me.”

So, when I crossed the finish line today, I was running for that girl. Me. Because I have to be honest: I’m pretty damn proud of her.


Race Report

Alright! Running! Yay! Final time: 3:50:28.

So, I’ll be honest, some of the reason I didn’t write much in the past few weeks (besides travel) was because I’ve been freaking out about this race. There felt like a million things that could go wrong, and I was worried that by setting this goal, I was setting myself up for disaster.

By the time I landed in Sacramento and got to hang with my family, though, I felt good. I’ve tried to be better about nutrition, so I’d been slowly increasing my carb intake (mostly with rice and, oddly, ramen since I was battling a bit of a cold) over the past few days. I had a small vermicelli bowl and tried to grab as much sleep as I could.

On race day, I woke up early to catch the shuttles to the race. CIM is great because you not only can get shuttled, but you can stay on those shuttles until the race starts. Warmth win!

Speaking of which: despite my fretting, the weather actually didn’t feel that cold. Certainly a few shivers here and there, but it was near 50 degrees when we started amidst some light showers, so I couldn’t complain.

The first few miles were wet and fast. It was mostly rolling hills that were clearly heading down. Still, the course was crowded at this point. CIM is a fast course, which means that while people are on pace, there was still a bit of weaving. I was trying to stay with the 3:55 pace group, but would lose track and get caught a little bit behind.

I realize now, this was probably a key struggle in my racing last year. Since I ran without a watch, I had no way to make sure I was starting my races off at a steady pace when I’m so focused on trying to get through. This led to lots of catching up later on previously. Glad I made the commitment to time this year!

Miles 3-6 were all pretty fast, and by the time I was at mile six, I realized I had long left the pacer and run an 8:30 mile, nearly 30 seconds faster than planned. Eep!

Part of me wanted to try and slow down. I’m a conservative racer and normally stay at a slower pace until the second half of the race. Most of my training splits, though, had been in the 8:30-8:45 range, instead of the 8:55 range it needed to be. I decided to see if I could stay in the 8:40-8:50 range as long as I felt good. I promised myself if I still felt strong at mile 15 (when the course really started becoming fast), I’d let it go.

Fortunately, miles 6-9 made me slow down since there were some solid hills (nothing compared to Kauai, of course, but certainly enough to make me be mindful of my running). Fortunately, I also took the time to prep this year by studying the course and had prepped for this.

All of that melted, though, at mile 10. I have to say: Sacramento’s spectators did not disappoint throughout the ENTIRE course. It was nearly as populated as LA, full of funny signs and adorable families and folks of all ages cheering us on. Mile ten was particularly dense, and as your round a small uphill, you can’t help but smile at all the amazing signs and shows of support.

I rode that energy for a few miles and ended up pacing at 8:35 all the way until the half-marathon point, including through the toughest hills on the course. This was… a calculated risk that I certainly felt later on. While I’ve been running 8:35 as my half marathon pace, I hadn’t considered it my marathon pace. Still, I decided this was the year to push myself and leave it all on the course.

At mile 14, I could feel myself start to slow, and was so tempted to listen to music at this point. I had run the entire race without music, but had my headphones in case I wanted to call someone or really was struggling.I made myself calm down and keep pushing, not wanting to call in reinforcements just yet. I ended up dropping my pace back down to 8:50 by the time I hit mile 16.

I’m a pretty nervous consumer of energy gels (I worry about stomach issues) and usually train without them at this point since I’ve had enough experience with Gu’s to know they work for me. I had taken in fuel at miles 5 and 10.5 I wasn’t planning on taking another gel until Mile 16 or 18. I decided I had more than enough gels to last, and took a caffeine Honey Stinger at mile 14.5. It worked, and by mile 16 I felt back on track.

At mile 16, I had a hard conversation with my body. “Body,” I said, “this year, if we’re leaving it all on the course, it means the next 10 miles are going to hurt a bit.” My legs flexed in momentary protest, but then buckled down and ground it out.

Miles 16 and 17 were fast for me (8:35 pace, and in the middle of Mile 18 I could feel my legs start to lock. I momentarily began to panic, but made myself calm down. “Don’t get in your head,” I thought. “You’re trained for this. Stay in this pace right now.” I took another energy gel and begged my legs to stay with me.

By mile 19, I was starting to feel it, and dropped back down to an 8:50 pace — not in my heart or chest, but in my leg muscles. I was nervous I was cramping, but kept telling myself to breathe and relax. “It’s  yours if you want it.” I kept thinking.

At mile 22, I started listening to music intermittently. I was really worried my pace was going to slow, and I wouldn’t make my goal time. Still, Sacramento’s crowds were so awesome, and the scenery so beautiful at this point, I had to stop listening and just stand in awe. I realized that I loved doing this– running– so much. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it.

I ran mile 24 a near 20 second slower (9:10) for reasons I still don’t understand. Honestly. Was it music? Was I just not focused? I am still bewildered.

When my watch showed me my pace for mile 24, I freaked a little. I decided that, in these last two miles, now was my time. I knew that, unless I walked, I beat my goal, but wanted to see what I can do. Mentally, the last few miles are so hard for me because it feels like I’m so close but take so much longer than I want them too. My legs were starting to ache at this point, but my heart and lungs felt strong and I knew I needed to just keep grinding.

By Mile 26, I pushed as hard as my stiff legs would let me, and by the time I made the final two turns I was flying as fast as I could. The ending split was confusing (why have two different endings for men and women?), but I ran to the end and couldn’t believe what I’d done.


So, What’s Next?

So, I am actually running another marathon…. next Sunday.

Crazy, I know. I saw the races on my calendar and felt bad canceling Honolulu. So, I wondered if trying to do back-to-back marathons was nuts.

It’s not common, but actually not out of the realm of possibility. Emily Abbate’s story in Runner’s World resonated so strongly with me, that I know I want to try. I make these important caveats:

  1. While I PR’d here, I didn’t finish feeling so thrashed I can’t move. I spent much of the rest of today walking and feeling good, just tight.
  2. I plan to roll and ice this week to recover, with one run on Wednesday just to see how I feel.
  3. I have zero time goals for Honolulu. I just want to finish. Frankly, I might walk parts of it, and I’m fine with that. If worse comes to worse, though, I’ll drop out and not finish.

The thing is, I just really want to see if I can do this and finish, even slowly. I think I can, and that alone makes it worth a shot.

Hit the Beat and Go: Pre-CIM and #SpotifyRunning Gear Review

Check out my review of Spotify Running below!

So, we’re a few weeks out from the California International Marathon.

CIM_688x203I’ve been generally quiet about it, but this is my big chance to sub-4 a marathon. I specifically chose CIM for a few reasons:

  1. The course is known for being fast, however, it’s not flat like some marathons. Flats can get really boring for me, and I tend to get in my head and slow down. This marathon features some nice rolling hills as it nets a nice downhill.Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.59.51 AM
  2. The race is in Sacramento, where my older brother lives, so I’ll be able to hang with him and my family.
  3. It’s a generally cool race, with average temperatures in the 30s. Sound strange, but I love a cold race. I tend to do better in cool weather.

I’m nervous, but trying not to get into my head about it. Still, my mind has been firmly focused on running over the past few days, which is great because the awesome folks at Spotify Running decided to give me a chance to try and review their product!


Edit: I just found these photos. Besides the awesome things they sent, Spotify made sure it was well protected and included enough bubble wrap to either eat me or make a beautiful fashion statement.

The Goods

First off, seriously, thanks Spotify. In addition to the subscription so I could try Spotify Running, I also got some delicious trail mix from Harry & David. That Mesa Verde one is delicious, and I’ve been noshing on it pretty non-stop for the past week.

IMG_7485

They also sent me a Nike gift card, and these awesome Bose headphones. I ran with them today and was definitely impressed. They stayed in during today’s windy jog.

IMG_7516 IMG_7514
The Product

So, I don’t always run with music. In fact, I’ve been training without it for a bit. However, I’ve found playing with sound useful on some shorter runs to make sure I either keep my pace up when I’m tired or just to help me enjoy a run when I don’t feel like doing it. Lots of studies show music, when used properly, can help with efficiency, so I see it as a nice tool to use.

When I opened Spotify Running app, I was impressed with its nice interface.

IMG_7488

(yes, I was listening to “Hamilton” while I was running earlier. If Spotify offered an “awesome show tunes” channel, I’d run to it)

After choosing a playlist (I chose “Latin Beats”) it prompted me to run so it could measure my speed. IMG_7487 I did, and it quickly put me around 185 BPM.

IMG_7489

Not the strongest song choice, Spotify, but thanks.

Initially, this is where I had trouble the first time I tried Spotify running months ago. No matter what speed I would run, it would put me at 180 BPM. Don’t get me wrong, 180 BPM is the goal for many, but it made me unsure if I could trust the app’s measurement of my initial speed.

Fortunately, those issues are gone. I tested the app at many different speeds and found that it was able to both detect when I was at a slow jog (around 140 BPM) and when I was sprinting (190 BPM). Any slower than that (say, a nice walk), and you’re out of luck– the app only stays between 140 and 190 BPM even when manually set, but then you’re probably not using the app at either of those speeds anyway.

A few other things to note:

  • The app will initially measure your speed, but it won’t adapt if you speed up or slow down. Slate did a great in-depth piece on this, and I agree: when you know how the works, it’s easy to be thoughtful and use Spotify running to its strengths. Tempo runs or sprints? This thing was great. It’s ALSO great for recovery. I used it today post my final long run to make sure I stayed at a slow jog throughout. However, if you’re just looking for something to read you while you go out on the road, this won’t continuously match you. If you’re not looking for something to keep you steady and more looking to run based on feeling, you may want your own playlist instead.
  • They have some pretty good song choices though it’s not perfect. I wish there was some kind of thumbs up/down function. I tried the Latin Beats playlist, which had some solid reggaeton and merengue, as well as the “Power Run” list, which actually exposed me to some trap and dubstep I don’t normally listen to. Then, I put it on the “Run This Town” list, which claimed the “freshest RnB and hip hop jams,” but mostly featured songs with dudes very graphically talking about what they do to women (and not always with love and affection). Not the greatest or most empowering music. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of hip-hop and rap I love that, unfortunately, has really disempowering language, but this was 6 or 7 songs in a row worth. It got to be a little frustrating.
  • The app promotes “gapless playback,” so your music fades in and out. I don’t have strong feelings either way on this– sometimes I like it, sometimes I wish I could get to the end of the song. Still, it’s important to remember that, when you skip a song, it will take a second for the app to fade into it.
  • The app is useful for more than running. I went to the gym to do some weight lifting the other day and decided to try the app as a way to just keep my heart-rate up. I skipped the measurement and put the BPM to 190. Gym playlist was set, and the gapless jams were great to keep me hyped up in between sets.

    IMG_7500

    Nice.

  • It will suck up your battery, which, if you’re an Apple user, is just a fact of life. This is why it would be hard to use this on a long-run, but I don’t know an alternative since, as mentioned, much of that is Apple’s battery life issue.

Overall, I was really impressed with Spotify running! I’m excited to keep checking it out as I move closer to CIM. If you’re looking for a way to shake up your workout or even find new songs to add to your own running playlists, I definitely recommend you take a look. 


Note: As mentioned above, Spotify running and 360i sent me material and products as compensation for my review. They did not, however, encourage me to review either way.

Rolling Thunder: Falling In Love With My Thighs

NOTE: This piece originally ran 3 years ago for The SF Marathon, and was edited for clarification and grammar.

But, after trying to love myself today, post-half-marathon, it felt worth revisiting.


When I woke up last Tuesday, I knew I shouldn’t run. I had injured my leg at Surf City the week before, and it wasn’t feeling any better. It was tight and kind of painful and none of it felt right.

After a few years of running, I frankly should’ve known better. I should’ve known that, even with a marathon 5 weeks away, I should rest. No, the marathon wasn’t what got me out of bed and got me to put on my running shoes that morning, despite my better judgment. Confession time:

I woke up that morning feeling a little fat.

Now, that’s a big thing for me to admit. Firstly, admitting that you feel fat or even just not-great is not sexy or becoming in any way. I try to be a big believer in loving your body (and, generally, I do). As an advocate for positive mentality in running, I also am a big believer in being happy with who you are, as long as you’re healthy and you feel good.

Still, with all my positive attitude and happiness about running and the self and blah blah blah, I have to admit that, as a 24-year-old woman who lives in Los Angeles, sometimes I wake up feeling a little gross.

My struggle with weight isn’t really a traditional one. Sure, I grew up in Laguna Beach, California, home of the perennial beach bunny. As a chubby kid, I definitely didn’t fit that mold, but I was never really picked on for my weight.  My parents were very attune to what kids deal with, and always made it a point to tell me I was pretty and loved. I’ve even been lucky enough that I’ve dated generally good guys, and have yet to be with a guy who has ever said anything negative about my weight– a huge bonus for a curvy girl.

Still, even though I had a lot of support systems and luck, I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a kid. I always felt kind of chubby and like I was never going to be skinny enough to be like “other girls” (I don’t know who these other girls were).

I remember, in middle school, a girl in my class put her feet together and her thighs didn’t touch. This blew my mind.Are you kidding me!? I thought. How can her thighs not touch in the center?! My legs touch all the way from my calves up!

Cut to my senior year of college. I was chubby and unhealthy throughout most of college (I recall lots of cookies-for-dinner nights). That year, though, I began working out– nothing crazy, just a few hours every week. I noticed my body changing. I was way hyped. I started eating healthier too. I dropped a few more pounds.

Then, I got engrossed in the stress of my senior thesis. I was so stressed, and felt so out of control that I pretty much stopped eating. Looking back, I estimate that I ate under 800 calories a day. I pretty much subsided on 4 or 5 cups of green tea, and a handful of grapes or a few pieces of fruit every day. After a few months, I noticed that my clothes were a little loose. Without having really looked at myself in a while (since I was so caught up in my work), I jumped on a scale. I was far below my goal weight, the lowest I had ever been in my post-adolescent life. I finally looked at myself in the mirror, expecting to look glowing and thin.

The girl looking back at me was a little surprising.

I had dark circles under my eyes.  When I lifted my shirt up and raised my arms, I could see all my ribs– I could count them. My collar bone stuck out in a really weird way that I didn’t like.

Ironically, my thighs still touched.

When I started training for marathons, I began looking at my body in an entirely different way. My body had always been this thing I fought against. It was this thing that I hated and that didn’t do what I wanted it to do and didn’t look how I wished it would look.

As a runner though, it was hard to hate my body and be able to succeed. My mind and my body had to work in tandem.

My body was the vehicle, and when I mentally pushed myself to run 15 miles and my legs responded by actually doing it, I finally started feeling gratitude for what my body was giving me. When I had the mental elation of burning past another runner in the last half mile of a race, it was those muscular-always-touching calves that I had to be thankful for it.

I actually started to like some things about my body. I felt good about myself. No, I was never going to be a size 0, but, after training, I could run 26.2 miles. There are definitely some trends that these hips will never pull off, but they are able to get me through 5 hours of running straight.

I knew my body image had changed one morning, when I was running before going to work. I looked down my legs. Each time they hit the pavement, I saw my quads flex on impact, pushing me forward every step, every mile.

ThighsThen, I surprised myself. My thighs are definitively not lean, tiny, not-touching thighs. I looked down at my now muscular thighs, and the first thought that came to mind was:

Damn. That’s pretty hot.

I can’t stress enough how much running has changed the way I view myself, and I hope it’s a message that I (or you!) can pass along. I wasn’t the only middle-schooler that struggled with my weight. Recently, the National Heart and Lung association polled a group of girls. 40% of them said they had tried to diet.

They were between 9 and 10 years old.

It’s not easy on men either. The same organization polled a group of fifth grade boys, and 45% of them said that they had felt dissatisfied about the way their bodies looked.

These issues, this battle with what our bodies are and what they can mean to us starts young.

When you work out and take care of your body, it’s important to not only know your weaknesses and set goals, but to show a little love towards yourself too. After finishing my first marathon, I felt limitless. I was the kid who had cried to get out of the weekly mile, and now I had run father than I ever thought I could. I had my body to thank for that feeling.

So, as I take a little break from running (oh, yeah, that run I did last Tuesday? I pulled my calf. Learned my lesson, huh?), I’m using it as an excuse to fall back in love with my body. I sit in the jacuzzi and actually relax for the first time as I love my body by letting it heal. I look at myself in a new dress, and try not to feel guilty or boastful by thinking Huh. I look good. I do cheesy, clichéd things like yoga in the park while I enjoy a beautiful day.

Oh, and I maybe reward it with some frozen Cherry Garcia yogurt too.

Gone Quiet

But yeah… running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with.

But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it. Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving. And once you break through to that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up : “You have to be in tune with your body, and know when you can push it and when to back off,” Ann would explain.

You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back; make sure to treat yourself to cool water and a salty snack and ask yourself, honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body? Sensual counted as romantic, right?    –McDougall, Christopher, Born to Run.


Lately, I have been running silently.

I fully blame this quote. Before, music was an escape. Now, I push through and try and find the sweet, subtle place where my body finds peace, grace, the quiet calm at the center.

I never really thought I’d ever be able to run silently. Like most, running was an escape, and music only aided in that. I’d jam to songs that I would eventually come to know as well as the pattern of my footsteps. I would look forward to the stop lights that forced me to wait and eventually have a little solo-sidewalk-dance party. Running without headphones felt more like torture then the dance party music made it.

This past year, however, I’ve been running more and more for the love of it. Once I stopped timing myself last year, re-centered myself around my running goals, and became stronger for it, I also rediscovered how much I actually liked running. For so long, it had been a way to lose weight, then a way to bond with kids.

Now, though, after trying lots of other types of exercise, I’ve come to realize that I just love the act of it– the rhythmic, soothing, visceral connection. Running is so unique because it requires almost nothing: just the road and your own will. There’s no bike to set up and little gear to put on. It’s just the consistent conversation between the yammering of your brain, the thump of your heart, the swirl of your breath and aligning it all with the patter of your footfall.

Once I found that, I actually stopped wanting to use music. I would pause it while I followed my breath, or zoned out and worked on a problem while I ran. I realized that music was actually separating me from the run, and I didn’t like it.

So, now I guess I’ve gone quiet for a bit. I don’t plan on giving up sidewalk dance parties anytime soon, but I’m certainly loving this reconnection with my body.

Comments and Kindness: Loving My Body (And Yours)

The problem with social media (that I knowingly accept) is that sometimes opinions from people you’d normally ignore get thrust right into your face.

the struggle was real.

the struggle was real.

So, I was looking at the photo (right) that my boyfriend posted of me last night. After some joking, wespontaneously splurged on a giant, ridiculous sundae to share while out to dinner (surprisingly well priced!) between the two of us. Obviously, we didn’t finish it, but it was pretty darn good and a rare indulgence that made us laugh. We looked at the series of the two photos next two each other and laughed even harder.

The next  morning, there was a comment that the sundae was loaded with “unwanted calories,” (my reaction) and that I should “try a kale salad instead” to feel better.

Oh.

Now, sure. Eating healthy is really important, and I don’t dispute the claim– eating healthy really will make you feel better over time. I eat pretty healthy. I love kale, I drink green smoothies (my 9th graders often comment on my “salad drink”), and if you know me at all you probably know that I like working out a lot.

Still, something about the message really annoyed me. While there’s always room for improvement, I think I’m in pretty good shape. Also, what’s wrong with indulging sometimes? Nearly any dietician or nutritionist will tell you that the occasional indulgence is part of a balanced life. While it’s important to be healthy, life is short, so I firmly believe that we should enjoy it. Sometimes that means going nuts on a giant sundae on a random Wednesday.

Why did this bother me so much? I don’t know this person. Their opinion doesn’t matter to me. I have every rational reason to ignore it.

Then, it hit me: despite all my reasoning, the comment still made me feel bad about myself. I felt guilty for eating the sundae. I took a little longer in the mirror this morning and asking if I looked okay. Like a lot of runners and (unfortunately) women, I can be a little neurotic about my weight and body. This post only made me think about that more. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the sundae. Maybe I should’ve said no.

And some of that is on me. Guilt is a choice we make. Disliking yourself is a choice. I know I can (and hopefully will) brush off these comments. I was mad at myself for not living up to my own standards of loving your body and, frankly, brushing off the negativity.

This is where I think empathy is such an essential thing– both for me towards this commenter and for whoever makes the comment. I don’t doubt they had decent intentions in saying this. Or maybe they don’t think it’s a big deal. So I want to let it go.

It points out something that I think we struggle with in the fitness community though. There’s a trainer I love at my gym  who prefaces much of his advice (when asked) with this (paraphrased): I don’t know everything and you can do whatever you want. When you get to be good at something, you want to start sharing that with other people. You get excited and hyped and when you see something that you feel you know about, you want to share that knowledge. I get it, and sometimes do it too. But unless I were someone’s specific doctor, nutritionist, coach, or they asked for advice, telling someone how to live should probably stay off-limits. We don’t know what that other person is dealing with, how much progress they’ve made so far, previous medical history or frankly what they need. I can give my best guess on, let’s say, running advice based on years of anecdotal evidence, but fitness and how to “be fit” is a relative benchmark and  topic that is still hotly debated, even amongst people who ARE experts.

Finally, it reminded me that we should be thoughtful about the things we say to other people, and it’s even harder to do online. It’s easy to quickly and breezily type and post a comment and not think how it will affect the other person– we don’t see their face or their immediate reaction to it. Even with good intentions, it’s hard to read what a person will be willing or is able to hear if you’re not in front of them. So, even if you meant it to be helpful, you may end up doing more harm than good.

So, all I will do is smile, and not beat myself too much about the sundae I had or the way I feel after. I spend much of my life thinking about calories, fitness, running, and body fat percentage, and appreciate the break to just enjoy an indulgent thing with someone I love. Instead, I’ll just focus on how much the evening made me laugh, and how blessed I am to have so much love in the world.

The Run: Stopping Time and Finding Joy Again

I don’t know if I can do this.

Maybe it’s not a good day for me to go out, I think to myself. My left leg hurts. I’m hormonal and tired and getting back into the swing of things after the first week back to teaching has been hard. Yeah, maybe today is just a rest day, I think as my left quad throbs. 

I cross the street under the hot Honolulu sun. It’s January, but one of the benefits of living in Hawai‘i is usually that our weather is good enough that it’s always alright to run. Now, though, the heat in the late afternoon sun feels overwhelming. 

I come to a stop a few yards after the corner, and rub my hands over my face. I turn back to the hill up to my apartment. I look back forward towards my route, up a different hill. This is one of the many small decisions I’ll make today, but for some reason my will to move my feet has been weighing heavier on my mind recently.


A little over two years ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run again. After admitting to myself I was in pain for quite some time after getting hit with a car by running the year before, I finally saw a doctor who confirmed my worst and obvious fear: I am not invincible.

Yoga1

Tree Pose. PC: Stephen May

My doctor reminded me of something I should have realized but didn’t want to admit: sometimes when you deal with something a little physically traumatic like, say, getting hit by 3,500 pounds of steel, it will take some time to heal.

I was sad, and bummed, and upset. I didn’t know if I would ever run the same way again– my doctor said I would likely not. So, I did what a lot of folks would do: I picked myself up and adapted. I let myself fall in love again, this time with yoga, and ended up becoming teacher certified.

Still, some part of me knew that I could try everything in the world, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I love running. After some careful weaning, and a lot of cross-training, I started to try and run again. I finally got myself back into the right pair of shoes (Lady Issacs from my faves at Newton Running), and slowly– so slowly– I started to get back into running. I jumped into my first half marathon in May of 2013, more than a year after taking a break from Marathon running.

Now, that’s a lovely story, but it admittedly glosses over some tough bits. It glosses over the nights of painful foam rolling, crying on the floor of my apartment wondering if I’d ever run the same. It glosses over the weeks of stressing out before races, worrying if I’d feel great like I used to, or fall apart before reaching the finish line.

What I also fail to mention is that it’s not like I returned to running as fast as I used to be. In fact, my pace for even a casual run dropped by about 2 minutes. I hadn’t run miles that slowly in years, and when I would hear my watch beep and look at the time, I often felt disappointed. My run was that slow? I would think, aghast. The elation I had felt at even completing a mile would almost immediately be replaced with a ticker of negative thinking in my head. If you’re going to run that slowly, why get out of bed at all?

I hate that voice. I have done everything to fight that voice for other runners, especially new runners who reach out to me. I have often written and commented to others that any run is a good run, that any pace, is good. Any time you are strong enough to lace up your shoes, you should be proud.

So why couldn’t I show that love to myself? Why was it the moment my own running wasn’t up to some invisible bar I had created that I felt like giving up?


A pair of guys, seemingly University boys, saunter by me, taking up the entire sidewalk between the two of them– a pet peeve of mine. They are chatting, and I can’t hear them over my music and internal monologue about running, but I see one of them turn back and eye me up and down. While I have no idea what he is thinking– does he think I’m cute? Or gross? Or merely making sure I’m not going to steal his money?– I project the judgement I am putting on myself onto them. Unfair? Yes, I know, but I need the motivation, and I decide what they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Just another block, I tell myself. Just one more block up the hill to smoke them, and then I’ll stop. I swear I will.


It is April of 2013. During a particularly bad run, I am thinking about Batman. The new guy I have just started seeing loves Batman, and so we recently rewatched the movie Batman Begins. 

My left hip begins to throb, and I know I need to stop and stretch, but this just makes me really mad. How can I stop now? I’m just going to have to slow down. Maybe I should just stop altogether. Maybe I’m not going to run right ever again. I stop to stretch out my hip, grumbling at everything happening to me.

When I am at my lowest, a strange thing happens: Michael Caine’s voice pops into my head. I know, it’s not exactly the Angel Gabriel speaking to Mary, but I suddenly hear the oft-quoted Alfred line:

Why do we fall…? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.

So… why was I running? Because I was being forced to by someone else? Was it going to hurt anyone but myself if I didn’t meet my old pace?

No. I ran because my heart demanded it. I ran because it gave me freedom. I ran because the mere action of moving quickly on foot brought me joy, no matter how fast I did it. I was running because pounding my feet into the pavement was the only way to hammer myself back together. I was running to pick myself back up.

If that was why I was running, then, any run was still a good run. It didn’t matter how fast I did it. It didn’t matter if it was perfect. What mattered was that I learned from it. What mattered was that I learned to pick myself back up.

I stretched my hip out and looked at my watch. It was slowly ticking seconds, each one telling me I was slower and slower, each one adding to the negative voice in my head trying to tell me I wasn’t worthy of the road.

So, I asked myself: Why am I running?


Runners–maybe athletes in general, but definitely runners– live by the watch. We agonize over split times, we think about how many seconds shaving off a pound of weight will achieve. We will scale back or up on the speed with which we are trying to fly, based on the time that a calculation has told us we should run by.

I don’t think that’s bad. I have done this to PR, this is often what motivated me to become better or beat goals, and usually exceed them more than I thought possible. In 2010, I trained for my 2nd marathon with the goal of breaking five hours. I trained hard, using that as my measuring stick. I ended up coming in at 4:25.

After that run in April of 2013 though, I did something a little bit radical: I shut off the watch. I decided I was no longer going to time myself to the second when I ran. Yes, I would still occasionally check my time and pace when I logged workouts. I would still do my best to pace myself when I ran.

I would also love myself enough to let go of something that does not serve or better me. During that time in my running career, all focusing on my time did was make me feel like a failure.

Failure, often, is a choice we make to look at ourselves and hold it up to some invisible measuring stick that often only we created to begin with. I didn’t want to approach running from this competitive aspect anymore, at least right then. I wanted to approach all my runs with a sense of joy and, ultimately, love. Love and compassion aren’t about the measuring stick– including towards ourselves. From one of the best TedxTalks from Father Greg Boyle:

You don’t hold the bar up and ask anyone to measure up; you just show up and you hold the mirror up and you tell people the truth. You say: you are exactly what God had in mind when he made you.

So, I chose to stop seeing myself as a failure. Instead, I decided I was worthy, no matter how fast I ran. I decided any run I do was exactly what I need, and all God is ever asking of me.


This method has generally served me well. I try my best to hold myself to the principle of ahimsa, which is generally described as “kindness towards others and yourself.” Before a run, I check in with my body. Before, if I didn’t want to run or I didn’t feel like running, I wouldn’t. I would do yoga. Or punch a bag really hard. Or dance.

Running for joy instead of time has eventually lead me to be a much strong runner mentally and physically than I was before my accident. Now, each run has a general sense of purpose, and it’s made running much less likely to feel like a chore and more like a reward. This means that I can normally approach race day with a sound mind to do better than I ever dreamed. While we can’t see the path we didn’t have (for me: what if I hadn’t been hit by that car?), I do know that I never thought I’d get as close to a sub-4 marathon as I did last month.

Now, though, that I am so close to new goals, it leaves me asking: is this enough? Does it still serve me to run without routine, only by feeling, and without some sort of internal drive? While it has made me a stronger runner, I‘d be lying if I said that I left each race (or even each run) feeling like I left it all on the course. I have been so focused on injury-prevention and just being happy to finish with a smile on my face that now I can’t help but wonder if I’m really pushing myself as hard as I could.

Yes, listening to your body is good, but at what point do you need the drive to push out of your comfort zone, maybe sink into the pain a little bit, and push yourself to do something you didn’t think you could? At what point do you let yourself fall and break again so that you can pick yourself back up and be even stronger?


I crest the hill and decide to go a few more blocks, then a few more. By the time I get to the edge of the beach, the throb in my leg has quieted down. After years of running, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still often am: I am surprised that my body can heal like this, that I can push past initial pain and find flight in myself again, find joy in the beating of my shoes and quiet the doubt in my own mind. 

I know I should probably turn around and let myself rest. Something in me says that I should be careful, I should stop if it doesn’t feel good.

But, right now, it does feel good. Knowing I can push past the pain feels good, and finding the high after overcoming this small wall feels great.

I smile, cross the street, and head towards the beach. Just a little bit more, I decide.

Running On and On

Oh hello world.

I haven’t written in a bit, and now here I am changing things up.

I spend quite a bit of time writing about race and education. I usually labor over those pieces: I don’t start writing unless I have a few hours (and a drink) set aside to write. I have to have a very specific reason to be writing. I have to know almost exactly where I’m going. Since I do write a bit about race, I make it a point to be very thoughtful about what I write. I stew in questions and angles to make sure I’ve considered everything I need to.

I like that about myself. I think it’s helped me produce some pieces I’m very proud of. Some pieces that I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of good readership in my bubble. The issue is that I rarely write for pleasure anymore. I rarely write for the sake of just getting things down, flexing the writing muscles, and just documenting this crazy little life I’m living.

So I’ve decided to try something out. I’m setting aside every Monday evening (the night I normally try and set aside for myself) to just write. Document something. Maybe about running– I’m trying to sub-4 a marathon in 2015– or about teaching.

So here I am. 27, running on and on. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.