Tag Archives: marathon

Epilogue

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

So, I wrote a blog last week. It was about a race I ran. But it wasn’t just any ole race, mind you. It was a race in which I finished…DEAD LAST.

Now, I struggled with whether I should hit the little “publish” button when I was finished, but in the end decided to go ahead and bite the bullet.  I blog plenty about the great moments in my life, so I figured it was time to blog about one of the not-so-great.  Time for a little honesty, ya know? A little humility. How would it be received? I didn’t know. But I did know that I was putting myself out there for public embarrassment. And yet, somehow, I didn’t seem to care. I felt like I had something to say, and so I said it.

So, what happened?  How was it received?

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Hunter’s Heroes race – Mile 9

I was blown away (to put it mildly) by the response. It has been viewed almost 8,000 times now and shared and posted over 1,000 times.  A women’s running site featured it.  Many running groups on Facebook shared it and a few even contacted me requesting me to join. I was contacted by runners all over the world who thanked me for being the voice of so many “back-of-the-packers.” I was even contacted by one person who ran the actual race I was blogging about.  He was one of the first finishers and admitted that, even up there in the front of the pack, he felt so many of the things that I felt too.

Wow. I’m in awe. All this time, I’ve been trying to do awesome things so I could blog about them – and it turns out that blogging about a “failure” is what ended up resonating the loudest. Who knew!?  I guess suffering through misery and embarrassment and then rising back up to tell about it maybe isn’t quite what you’d call “failure” after all.  (I think a lot of us need that reminder every now and then in our lives – we don’t give ourselves enough credit for all the times that tends to be the case.)

So I decided it was time for a little epilogue. What happened to that runner who finished last in that race? Did she ever run again?

Yep. She sure did.

MOJE

Just before the start of the MOJE race (Mount Jefferson is behind me.)

In fact – only 6 short days after that race, I ran a race called the MOJE. This is a 6.6 mile race, in which 3.3 of those miles are straight up a mountain.  (The other 3.3 are back down – but I probably didn’t have to clarify that.) MOJE is short for Mount Jefferson – which is a 1,342-foot climb. (Add 100 more feet to that for the training I did because I thought the course went even further – leave it to me to make a hard thing even harder!)

Now, I’m not going to lie. That MOJE race was front and center on my mind as I finished last in the race less than a week prior. I remember thinking there was no way I was actually going to do that race. I was going to show up, get my shirt, and leave. Now, I’ve never actually done that before, but this time was going to be an exception. No mountain climbing for a last place race finisher, sheesh. What was I thinking? I couldn’t hang with the big dogs. Was I insane?

But, like it always does, time healed the sting of that last-place finish and by the time the MOJE rolled around, I knew I could do it. I trained. I trained hard. And now, I had learned what it felt like to be last. I already knew that being last was not the most horrible thing in the world that could happen. I survived – big deal. And I would survive this one.

MOJE3I wasn’t last in the MOJE, but I was close. And you know what, who cares? As the faster runners were making their way down the mountain while I was still hoofing it up, I got more “good job”s and high fives than I could count from them as they passed by. This was the friendliest race I’ve ever been a part of. And I finally…FINALLY…earned one of the coveted MOJE race t-shirts. (And we all know I only do races for the t-shirts. I’ll pretty much do anything for a t-shirt, but that’s a blog for another day…)

You know, I ran my first full marathon back in November and I can honestly tell you that I was just as proud (if not prouder) of myself after I finished this mountain race as I was of that one. Not only because it was tough (and that’s an understatement!) but because it followed a time in my life when I could have easily given up, yet chose to keep going instead. Like my shirt says in my race finish photo, I made the choice to keep moving.

And I’m so glad I did.

And that, my dear friends, is what it’s all about. Truly.

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MOJE finish line. Time: 1:21:31

***
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Next up…50K

“The only limits are those we place on ourselves; and it is possible to overcome those limits to achieve more than we ever thought possible.”
– Chrissy Wellington

Okay. I’m gonna do it.

Me. The girl who almost died doing my first marathon back in November? Remember her?

Well, that dummy just signed up for Another Dam 50K.

No, really, that’s the name of it. Another Dam 50K.  See?

Dam50kSigh. What the heck am I doing? What’s my problem? Wasn’t 26.2 miles of torture enough? Why, oh why, do I want to add 5 more miles to it? What on earth am I thinking??

Save yourselves the trouble of asking because, trust me – I beat you to to it. I’ve asked myself the very same thing. Many times. And you know what?  I have the answer to it too. I finally figured it out.

The answer is this:

I have no idea.

Yep. That’s it. That’s the answer. No idea.

Why do I run? I don’t know. Why did I start running? I don’t know. Why is each added distance just not quite enough to make me happy? Eh.

I don’t know.

I really don’t. Am I crazy? Maybe. Well….probably. [But I’m not sure that has anything to do with running…] Am I a sucker for punishment? For pain? Well, no. I don’t think so anyway. So, what the heck am I doing?

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe there is no rational answer at all.

There’s nothing rational about pushing your body to the limit. Am I ever going to have to run 26.2 miles or more in my life? Ever? I think I can safely say that the answer to that is no. So, physically and rationally, there is no reason for me to learn to go that distance.

But emotionally?

Oh man. Emotionally…there’s every reason in the world for me to learn to go the distance, so to speak. As a military brat, I am the Queen of Temporary. Nothing ever lasts. Homes, relationships, friendships, etc… it all used to be temporary to me. New starts? Now, I was always good at those. But finishes? Ha! Let’s just say that going the distance wasn’t one of my strong suits. In a life where all was temporary, why learn permanence? Why stick with anything?

Until now.

Until running.

Running is something that I’ve found that I don’t want to quit. I don’t. Sure, I get frustrated now and then. I get injured temporarily. I get tired. But each and every single time, I get right back up and start moving again. I found something that I just can’t stop doing. No matter how much life tries to throw at me to keep me from it, I always manage to find my way back.

“I ran, and kept running, because I had learned that once you started something you didn’t quit, because in life, much like in an ultramarathon, you have to keep pressing forward… I ran because overcoming the difficulties of an ultramarathon reminded me that I could overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties was life.”
– Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner

Distance running has made me a better person. It has taught me how to make up my mind about something, and stick with it. It has taught me that sometimes working through the pain is worth it because of what lies on the other side. It has taught me that I’m tough. That I’m strong.

That I’m a finisher.

So, why do I want to run a 50K now?  Well, how about that?  Maybe I do know after all.

Because I can.

50K

50K. 31.07 miles. June 6, 2015. Let’s do this.

***

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T. S. Eliot

 

That Was Hard

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”
– Jerome Drayton

Okay, here it is….a blog post about my first full marathon!  Now, I know that people who have just run their first marathon don’t generally like to talk about it much.  I mean, surely this is the first time most of you have even heard about this, right?  What?  Melissa ran a marathon?  You’re kidding!  I know, I know, we marathoners are generally kind of quiet about such accomplishments and all….

NOT!

AHHHH!!! I ran a friggin marathon, people!!!

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Anthem Richmond Marathon – finisher photo

And I cannot. stop. talking. about. it.  My friends and family are going to hate me.  I just can’t stop.  Coworker: “Hey, Melissa, you want a piece of gum?” Me: “No, thanks. You know, I can’t chew gum when I run. It’s weird. Oh, hey, did you know I just ran a marathon?…”  Oh yeah, it’s that bad.

But, in a meek attempt at trying to reign in the length of this blog, I’m going to narrow down my recap a little for you.  I’m going to tell you the top 10 most important, most memorable things about my first full marathon experience.  Okay?  Sound fair?  Short and sweet, right? Good.  Then, here we go.

Marathon Memory Number 1The friendship. Oh, hands down, this makes the list. I was so blessed to be able to make this marathon trip with two good friends and fellow marathoners, Tammy and Teresa.  This was Teresa’s second marathon and Tammy’s fourth. Not only were they incredibly supportive, but they were also knowledgeable and helped me know what to expect.  It also helped to know that they would be at the end waiting for me!  (They both PR’ed in this race, by the way!  Go Tammy and Teresa!)  It also didn’t hurt to have buddies to hit up the Cheesecake Factory with after the race!  Mmmmmm.

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Me, Teresa, and Tammy – before and after

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I would have stood up for this picture, but…. :/

Marathon Memory Number 2The awesome bling!  Okay, I know I’m not going in chronological order here.  I didn’t get the bling until the end of the race. But hey, it was important enough to throw in here at the top of the list, okay?  This race had so much cool stuff for the finishers!  I got a finisher’s hat, a finisher’s fleece blanket, and a butt-kickin’ medal.  Oh, and a bagel.

Marathon Memory Number 3The funniest sign I’ve ever seen in a race.  Now, granted, I’ve never done a marathon before this one. But I’ve done quite a few races and have seen quite a few signs. Not to mention the signs I’ve seen online.  But the dude that was waiting for us at the bottom of a hill during this race takes the cake.  Now, mind you, it was 26 degrees or so at the beginning of this race, and it didn’t warm up a whole heck of a lot throughout the day.  But there, standing at the bottom of a hill that I had decided to just walk through, was a man…buck naked…holding a, um, strategically placed sign that said “Run faster, or I’m dropping the sign.”  Oh my gosh, that was the funniest thing ever!  I managed to pick up the pace a tad, believe it or not, and ran up the whole hill.  How about that?  So, thank you, naked stranger man.  Job well done.  (Okay – and don’t tell Richard – but I actually peeked when I ran by and he wasn’t actually naked.  False advertising….)

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Starting line

Marathon Memory Number 4The feeling at the starting line.  Oh, there is nothing like it, my friends. Knowing that all that hard work and daydreaming had lead me to that moment.  Standing there amongst thousands of other people that I thought I’d never stand among. It was quite humbling. And oh so awesome.

marathonme10Marathon Memory Number 5: The running. Of course. The running. I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t love to run, right? That feeling of soaring along…knowing that I was about to go a distance I’d never gone before…ahhh.  It’s hard to explain if you’re not a runner. Just trust me. Unchartered territory is a beautiful thing to a runner. And I knew that’s where I was headed.

Marathon Memory Number 6Mile 20.  Although I was already tired and starting to hurt, Mile 20 was such a beautiful sight. My longest run to-date up to that point had been a 20-mile training run. I knew that the moment I stepped across that 20 mile point, I was somewhere I had never been before. And that was really cool.

marathonme9Marathon Memory Number 7The pain. Oh, the pain.  Hey, I didn’t say that every moment I remembered from the marathon would be pleasant, did I? I will never tell the story of my first marathon without remembering that pain. Oh my gosh! When all those marathon articles I read said, “Be prepared, it’s gonna hurt,” by golly, they meant it. It did. It was intense.  See this picture? Obviously not the most flattering picture of me there ever was. But it’s definitely the most real. You can even see it in my hands…they are balled into fists of determination. Honestly, I love this picture. It shows what it took to keep putting one foot in front of the other and get myself to that finish line. My legs did not want to continue, but my heart did. And this picture shows that.

marathonme11Marathon Memory Number 8The unbelievable amount of support.  Oh my gosh…I couldn’t believe all of the texts, Facebook messages and posts, phone calls, etc. that I received with regard to the marathon. It was amazing how many of you had my back through this. And believe me, I thought of all of you as I ran. I got a message from my mom during the race telling me how proud she was of me. From my fantastic husband saying the same and how much he loved and believed in me. From my teenage daughter who…okay, time to drop the sentimentality here…who said, “Have fun running and stuff.”  Hey, you take what you can get, right?  I got a phone call from my dad after the race checking on me and making sure I had made it okay, and telling me he was proud of me.  This is what life is all about really. Knowing that family and friends are there with you through it all. I never felt that as much as I felt it while I was running that race.  In fact, I broke each mile down to pick a particular person in my life and thank God for them.  That’s what got me through some of those last miles, believe me.

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About 0.05 away from the finish line

Marathon Memory Number 9Seeing the finish line.  Oh, people, let me tell you – there is nothing like that.  Knowing that the pain was so close to being over!  Knowing that I was about to join the less than 1% of people that know what it’s like to run a 26.2-mile race. (After seeing this crowd, I still just can’t fathom how that statistic can be right, but I guess it is! There was a moment after the race when I was explaining the feelings I was having to Richard and he commented, “There are very few people in this world who really know how you feel right now.” Wow. Such a humbling thought.)

And finally, here we are.  The end of the list.  (See?  That didn’t take too long, did it?) 😉

The final most important memory about my first full marathon experience?  The thing that I won’t ever forget for as long as I live?

Marathon Memory Number 10That feeling I got when I crossed the finish line. That feeling that even I, a blabbermouth writer, can’t seem to put into the right words. That knowing, deep down in my soul, that I did not give up. That I set my mind to do something so extremely difficult…so unbelievably hard…and that I actually succeeded at it.  That feeling of pride in myself.

As I crossed that finish line, I left so many things behind on that marathon course. Past heartbreaks, mistakes, health problems, self-doubt, insecurities….you name it. At that moment in time, as I crossed that finish line, I was one thing, and one thing only.

I was a marathoner.

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Anthem Richmond Marathon finish line – 5:28:12

So thank you, readers.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Thank you for reading through this and for humoring me as I went through the memories that this experience has left me with. Thank you for letting me show you how very much this means to me and how it has literally changed my life.

Now, you go out and find something that gives you this feeling, okay?  I mean it.  Go.  Right now.

Life is way too short not to have moments like this one.

***

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”
– John Hanc

 

Lead By Example

“It’s hard being a girl. There are a lot of body image issues that come up and I think the best thing we can do for our kids is lead by example.”
– Cheryl Hines

Some of you may remember me mentioning a while back that I am now helping coach a new Girls on the Run team in our area.  If you’re not familiar with Girls on the Run, we are basically what the name implies…girls on the run!  We have a team of 3rd – 5th grade girls and we meet twice a week…not only to run, but also to talk about the qualities and values we need to have to be the best ladies we can be out here in this big ole world.  And believe me, I’m learning just as much as the girls are.  No doubt about it.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog.

exampleblogOne of the things the other two coaches and I have discussed is the importance of participating in both the physical activities (running, warmups, etc.) and the mental activities (lessons about our character, etc.) right along with the girls.  It’s one thing to tell people what they should do, but it becomes a whole different lesson when you show them.  It means more.  For instance, if we expect the girls to do 20 laps, then we get out there and do 20 laps with them.  If we are teaching a lesson about the importance of not gossiping, we have to make sure we don’t find ourselves in situations where we, as adults, are doing just that.  You catch my drift?

We have to not only lead these girls, but lead them by example.

Now, I thought I was doing a pretty job of this whole concept. I mean, after all, I’m currently training for a marathon…surely I’m leading by example as far as running is concerned, right?  And when we have our lessons about character traits, I’ve been willing to share personal info from my own life (including the parts I admittedly need to work on myself…I mean, who knew that listening was actually a part of the process when I’m arguing with my fiancé, Richard? Hey…you learn something new every day, right?)  But earlier this week, something caught me slightly off guard.  My “lead by example” strategy got challenged.

One of our girls was talking to me during our laps, and she mentioned how much trouble she has with her “crazy hair.” Now, this wasn’t the first time this girl has mentioned her hair, so I know it is somewhat of a sore spot with her. Like me, she has been “blessed” with a head full of curly hair.  And, as we all know, the straight-haired girls want the curls and the curly-haired girls want to give them to them.  I understood this girl’s dilemma quite well.  Taming the mane does not come easy.

So, we had a conversation that went a little something like this:

Her:  I have so much trouble with my crazy hair!
Me:  Why do you call it crazy hair? You have great hair!
Her:  You don’t understand. It’s curly and frizzy and everywhere all the time.
Me:  Oh, I definitely understand, silly. Mine is exactly the same.
Her:  *quizzical look* No, it’s not.
Me:  Well, sure it is.
Her:  I can’t tell. You always wear it back.
Me:  Well…

And here’s where I had to actually stop myself from saying what was on the tip of my tongue.  Because you know what almost came out?  What almost spilled out of my face was, “Well, that’s because my hair is horrible and I can’t do anything with it.”

Whooops.

Didn’t I just finish telling her that we had the same hair?  If I said that, what would I be telling her about her own hair?

I can’t remember exactly how I finished the conversation. I think I told her something about how as you get older, you find more ways to fix your hair and different products that make you learn to like it better, etc.  Which is true. But you know what I usually do with my crazy curls?  Straighten them. And when I don’t have time for that, I pile them in a ponytail or in a bun. I hide them.

Here’s where I need to learn to lead by example.

If I tell this little girl to embrace her curls and learn to love them…all while mine are hidden from view, is she going to hear me?  Is she going to learn to accept herself for who she is and not try to “fix” what she perceives as an error to make herself more “acceptable” to her peers?  *sigh*  I’m guessing not.

Time to lead by example.

mehairblogSo, today, my crazy curls are flapping around for all the world to see.  When I get to practice in a few hours, that little girl is going to see that she and her coach have a little something in common…curly, “crazy” hair that we are learning to accept and appreciate.  Together, we are going to show each other that this thing that makes us unique, somehow also makes us the same.  And we are going to learn to be proud of that fact…not try to hide it.

So, thank you my little Girls on the Run student for showing this old gal a little thing or two.

Are you leading by example in your life?  Something to think about, isn’t it?  The little people are watching…don’t forget that.

 ***

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

I do.

“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.”
– Fawn Weaver

Well, hey there strangers!

So, I knew it had been a while since I had written a blog post, but I just checked the calendar and realized it has been almost a full month!  Whoa.  That is officially the longest I have gone without a post since I started this blog in February 2013.  Bad girl, Mel.  Bad. Girl.  *hand smack*

Ok, now that the punishment has been doled out, let’s get back to business.

First, thank you all for still being here.  Much to my surprise, when I finally came back and checked my blog stats, there wasn’t a single day in the last month that didn’t have at least 10 views or so.  That’s pretty awesome.  You guys are still checking out my stuff, even while I’m AWOL. My readers rock.

Secondly, a bit of an explanation. (Or, maybe I should say, excuses? Eh. Tomato, Tomahto…)

Let me start out by saying that my absence from the blog has not exactly meant that I haven’t been writing at all per se. I actually have been working on a “project,” so to speak. I was asked to contribute to an upcoming anthology of local writers in the county. How cool is that!? I’ll provide more details as the publication date gets closer, which is April 2015 as of now. When I was first asked to contribute, my first thought was, Say what? Um, hellllo? An anthology about this county? Ahhem. You do realize I’m a gypsy, right? I’m a military brat…from everywhere and nowhere…a nomad…a wanderer…(I’m out of words…) Basically, you realize that it’s hard to write about any place as if I actually belonged there. Right?

But, you know what happened? The same thing that always happens when I sit down to write something (this blog you’re reading now being no exception). The words just poured out of my heart. And through that writing, I realized something. Maybe I have finally found a place to belong.

Well. How about that.

And using that realization as an awesome segue into that other little bitty tidbit of information that I haven’t filled my readers in on during my absence…I’ll give you a bit more info as to what has been keeping me so busy over the past few weeks. Oh ya know, it’s nothing major. No biggie. Just this tiny little change that is getting ready to take place in my life….

RICHARD AND I ARE GETTING MARRIED!!!

EEEEEEEEK!

Yup. It’s official, people. On July 10, 2014, Richard asked me to be his wife.

Okay, that’s a total lie. That’s not how it went down at all. I mean, come on. Nothing about our relationship has been traditional up to this point, so why should the engagement be any different? Here’s how it really went down (or something to this effect…)

Me: (jokingly – like I’ve done many times before…) We should get married.
Richard: We should.
Me: Uh huh.
Richard: Let’s do it.
Me: *Laughter*
Richard: No, really. Let’s do it.
Me: Are you drinking?
Richard: It’s 10:00 a.m.
Me: Are you drinking?

Or something like that. (Pretty darn close to that actually.) Yes, folks, that’s the romantic way in which Richard and I came to the decision to tie the knot. Awwwwwww.

USbeachAnd while we’re speaking about the whole non-traditional thing, get this. No engagement ring. I’ve told Richard 5,716 times that if we ever did decide to get married, I really and truly do NOT want an engagement ring. My reasons are numerous, but at the top of the list are (1) been there, done that; (2) bling is not really my thing; (3) I want to spend all that money on something way more awesome. Not sure what, but anything would be better than a ring that I don’t really want; and (4) I want a wedding band. Just a wedding band. That’s it. No “rock.” Just a sweet, meaningful wedding band. And that’s it.

[Insert little aside here about Richard’s response to my “I just want a wedding band” comment… “I could probably get a few of the boys together to play if that’s what you really want.” Grrrr. Not that kind of band, doofus!! Sheesh….Musicians, I tell ya….]

Okay, back to the non-traditional wedding details.

So, am I weird? No? Okay, well about this. I think I’ve also decided to wear a RED wedding dress. Now am I weird?

Dude…me and “traditional” just never have seen eye-to-eye, ya know? I just don’t tend to be a by-the-book kind of gal. And if I ever am, it’s just because I think that’s what is expected of me. How much of tradition do we really even understand anyway? Most of that stuff, we just do because everyone else does. And, in my humble opinion, that has been the cause of lots of problems in this ol’ world as time passes. So, nope. None of that on my wedding day.

Oh, and as for my wedding day? The date will be November 1. Richard wanted a Fall wedding (at our home) so I glanced at the calendar and that date shone like a beacon. It would have been my grandpa’s birthday…the grandpa that passed away just months before I met Richard. The grandpa that Richard reminds me of so often. The grandpa that I think would have really liked him. So, there you go. November 1 it is. It will be a very small, family-only kind of ceremony, with what we hope will be a much larger, very non-formal “reception” (read: cookout) later in the day.

Eeeek! I’m getting married!!!

For those of you that have followed my blog from its early days (and let me pause here to thank you from the bottom of my heart for that), you know well that the road to this day has not been smooth. The love was always there. Always. But the common sense? Eh, notsomuch. It has taken us a very long time to finally smooth out our paths in a way that they are finally able to blend together and head in the same direction. The best things in life are worth waiting for though, right?

Oh yeah, and one more thing!  Another reason I’ve been a tad busy lately?  I started training for my first full marathon.  Guess when it is?  November 15. Two short weeks after my wedding.  So, guess what our honeymoon is going to be?  Yep, you guessed it, people. I’m marrying a man who is willing to let my first full marathon be our honeymoon.

Am I a lucky girl or what?

And there you have it, folks! The reasons (aka excuses) for my blog absence, and a quick run-down of what’s been going on in the meantime. Thanks for still being here. I hope you all know how much you mean to me.

See you soon! (And this time, I mean that!…*Ahhem*…I hope…)

***

“Where there is love, there is life.”
– -Mahatma Gandhi

Aaliyah

“I run because I can.  When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they’d give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them.  I know they would do the same for me.”
– Unknown

Hey there, Blog World.  I would like to introduce you to someone.

Ladies and gentlemen: meet Aaliyah.

Aaliyahblog2Is this not the most gorgeous little soon-to-be-5-year-old you’ve ever seen?  And now, I’m going to tell you the story of Miss Aaliyah, and how she came into my life.

As some of you may know, I’m a runner.  If you’re new to my blog, you may not realize that fact since I haven’t really talked about it in a while.  I just ran my second half marathon in November (after running my first in May), and have been a bit of a slacker ever since.  As I’m sure a lot of runners will understand and relate with, I was having a bit of a post-race slump.  But as the New Year approached, I started to remember some promises I had made to myself.  One promise, in particular.

Last year, I insisted that 2014 would be the year I ran my first marathon.

I even started a training plan and had a race picked out for April 2014.  Well, I’ll just be quite honest with you…that idea fizzled.  If you’ve never trained for a distance race, let me explain what happens.  Pretty much everything in your life has to take a backseat to training.  I’m not kidding.  Even when you’re not running, you’re thinking about running.  The things you eat and drink change, the amount of sleep you get changes (or at least you stress over the fact that you’re not getting enough), your weekend plans have to revolve around your ‘long run’ day.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  And I only know all of this from training for a half marathon.  Training for a full marathon?  Yeah, double all of that.  It’s a commitment.  A big one.  Because of the holidays and the cold weather and the release of the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, that contains my story (woohoo!) and all of the hoopla that went with it, I decided I didn’t quite have the time to devote to training for a marathon just yet.

And then, I found Aaliyah.

irun4A few months ago, prior to my running slump, I stumbled across the Facebook page for a community called IRun4.  After I started doing a little research, I found their website and got pretty excited about the whole idea.  Basically, this is a program that ‘matches’ runners with children with disabilities.  You strike up a friendship with the child’s parent and you dedicate your logged miles to the child.  It’s really a way to motivate both sides.  The parent and their child (if they’re old enough to understand) know that there is a practical stranger out there in the world who cares about them and what they’re going through, and the runner is provided with a reminder of how blessed we are to have the health and ability to do this thing we love to do: run.  Another benefit?  It increases awareness.  Awareness of some of the illnesses we’ve never even heard of that these beautiful children (and their parents) are living with everyday.

Well, yesterday, after an almost 3-month spot on the waiting list, I received notification that I had been matched.  With beautiful little Aaliyah who lives in Texas with her mommy.   After speaking online with her mom, I was introduced to a disorder that I had never heard of.  Little Aaliyah has what is called Rett Syndrome.  The best way I know to describe this is to use a phrase I have found on many of the websites I’ve researched:

Imagine the symptoms of Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and a variety of anxiety disorders all rolled into one little girl.  That’s Rett Syndrome.

This is what Aaliyah has to battle every day of her life.

Now, this is all new to me.  All I know about the disease is what I’ve read since hearing the term for the first time yesterday.  I don’t live with it every day like Aaliyah and her young mom do, so I don’t really know what life is like for them.  But I plan to learn.  And I plan to do more research and I plan to become more aware of what little Aaliyah’s life is like.  And until I can find another way to support the disease itself, I will do the only thing I know to do here in my little world half way across the country from her – I will run for her.  Each time I put on my running shoes, I will say a little prayer for Aaliyah and her mom and send good vibes and love their way.  And I will hope that they feel them.

AaliyahblogAnd….I will start searching for my first full marathon somewhere this fall.  What better reason to go the distance, right?  First on the agenda:  training for another half marathon in early May (the same one I did as my first half last year).  With Aaliyah’s little spirit cheering me on, I think this is going to be a successful running year.

So, little Aaliyah in Texas – I am going to do my best to not let you down.  I will earn the distinction as your running buddy and will do all I can to promote awareness of what you are going through.  I will keep you in my prayers and in my heart and will remember you and your mommy and hope that you know that each step I take from this moment on, is for you. 

Because, after all….

Aaliyahblog4

One little girl out there in the world is going to know that she is thought about and loved.  I won’t let you down, kiddo.

Here’s to a 2014 filled with running successes and wonderful new friendships.

***

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” 
– Albert Schweitzer

Cool Story

“Nothing’s better than the wind to your back, the sun in front of you, and your friends beside you.”
– Aaron Douglas Trimble

So.  Wanna hear a cool story?

Ok, see this pic?

MEZOEblog

That’s me on the left.  And on the right is my friend Zoe.  [Isn’t she gorgeous!?]

Ok, so it’s a picture.  No big deal, right?  Just a pic of two chicks who are friends.  Both women, both in the same age range, (both, incidentally, feeling silly taking a ‘selfie’ pic…), both smiling and happy and healthy.  I can hear you now – “Yeah?  So what?”

Ok, so we’re both runners. Is that a tad more interesting?  No?  Ok, how about this….We’re both runners training for a half marathon.  Slightly cooler, right?

Still nothing earth shattering?

Hmmm..  Alright, let’s try this – we’re training for a half marathon together.  Now, is it cool story?   Sure it is.  Two friends training for a half marathon together.  That’s intriguing, no?

Oh shoot.  Silly me.  I almost forgot the most important part.  The part we writers like to call the twist.  You ready?

Zoe lives in Australia.

I live in America.

Yep.  You read that right.

world-map

With 14 time zones, an ocean or two (I sooo didn’t pay attention in Geography class…), and a boat load of cultural differences between us (people use kilometers?  Really?  I know about the 5K and the 10K, but you mean there are others??), Zoe and I are training partners for our half marathon on November 9.

So, how did this all come about?

Well, it’s pretty simple really.  In early May, just a few short months after starting my blog, and just days before my first half marathon, I received my first comment on here that was not from someone I know personally.  It said:

Good luck! From Melbourne, Australia!

I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your writing- I found you when I was searching running blogs as I’m a new runner myself and totally obsessed. You write so evocatively and thoughtfully, and I often find myself smiling or nodding along to your musings! Best of luck with your half, you’ll smash it!

Warm regards,
Zoë

I’ll never forget how thrilled I was to get that message.  Not only did it make me realize that other people were reading this stuff (besides my ever-loyal friends and family in real life), but someone was actually reading it in Australia!?  What?!  How cool is that?  This message was the first in what would become a banter between two women all the way across the world from each other over the next few months.  And then, when I announced that I would be training for my second half marathon in November, Zoe suggested that we train together.

So, here we are.

We’re only in our first week of training, but I intend to post a few updates along the way to let you know how we’re doing.

Isn’t this great?  Someone way over on the other side of the map is my buddy.  My training partner.  We’ve never laid eyes on each other in person, never heard each others’ undoubtedly cool accents (ok, her cool accent – my southern drawl is nothing much to brag about if you ask me…), and have never even shook hands.  In many ways we’re still strangers, but in many other ways – the ways that matter – we’re friends.

We’re just truly never alone, are we?  No matter how much we may feel like we are at times, something like this reminds us that we’re not.  Somewhere out there, there is someone not only going through whatever you’re going through, but willing to go through it right beside you if you let them.

Yep.  That’s good stuff.

Ok, so now is this a cool story?  😉

And guess what?  It’s just going to get even cooler.  So, stick around!

***

“In union there is strength.”
– Aesop