Tag Archives: New River Marathon

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

Advertisements

Now what?

nowwhat

Ok.  The half marathon is over.  I have officially achieved the goal that has been in the back of my mind ever since I started running about a year ago.  I put in the training.  I put in the sweat.  I put in the fear and worry.  And now here I am.  I did it.  I’m a half marathoner!

Sigh.

Now what the heck do I do with myself??

I’m telling you, I was barely home from the race before I was doing an online search to try to find another one.  This girl is hooked!  Now that I’ve felt that euphoric feeling at the finish line, I want to feel it again and again and again.  And I don’t just mean more half marathons.  Yep, that’s right.  I’m even looking into a full marathon.  If I can do a half, I can do a full, right?  Let’s do this!  I’m stoked!

But……I have to be patient.

Sigh.  The biggest dirty word in my vocabulary, and it starts with a “P.”  Patience.  Blech.

I have oftentimes made reference to how running and relationships have a lot in common.  Especially for me.  And I think this is going to be another good example.  (And, as I’ve discovered since I’ve started blogging…this will probably ring true for a lot of you as well.  I’ve never been more aware of how alike we all really are until I started this blog and got so much feedback from all of you about how you’ve identified with so many of the things I’ve said.  Isn’t it nice to know we’re all in this together?)

So, I have often felt myself feeling this same feeling of euphoria at times during a relationship.  You have a good night out together…a sweet, tender moment…a milestone of some sort, and suddenly, you start to get a little ahead of yourself.

“Look how well we look in that picture…we are PERFECT for each other!”

“Look what a good weekend we had…I want to spend every waking moment with him/her!”

“Look how much we enjoy being together…we should get married!”

Whoaaaa now.

I’m not the only one who has been guilty of these thoughts, and I know it.  I have female friends.  I’ve heard them echoed from them as well.  Why the heck do we do that?  Why do we get in such a hurry to push past the happy moments of “now” into what we think will be the happier moments of “tomorrow”?

Chill!

Ya know?  Just chill.

Bask in the moment.  Enjoy it for a while.  Enjoy this stage and celebrate this victory, this success, and don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next stage.  Because you know something about that next stage?  That next stage is hard.  Getting to this point you’re at now wasn’t all that easy, remember?  There were tough times where you thought you wouldn’t make it.  Obstacles that almost stopped you.  Outside influences that almost kept you from your goal.  Am I talking about running or relationships here?  What’s the difference really?  Whether we’re talking about sore muscles and sweat in training, or awkward misunderstandings and arguments with dating, this same thing stands true.  Each phase takes work.  Hard work.  And yes, the end result is rewarding and it is worth it.  It’s wonderful.  But there are no shortcuts.

None.

So, rather than being in such a hurry to jump to the next phase, maybe it’s ok to hang out here for a while.  The next phase will be there when you’re ready.  In fact, the more time you decide to wait to start that next phase, the more prepared you’ll be.

And the more prepared you are, the more glorious the result.

***

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
Beverly Sills

I did it!

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

racecollage7

Well, it’s official.  I’m a half marathoner.

And let me tell ya…it was HARD!  This course was definitely no walk in the park.  (Ok, admittedly there was some walking, but there was NO park. I swear.)

I really am so proud of myself.  Somewhere deep inside of me, I truly wondered if I could do it.  During my long training runs, my legs were so heavy and so weak.  I never made it up to a full 13.1-mile run in training (11 was my furthest), so I was so scared that I might not actually be able to make it that far.  Especially on this extremely tough course.  It helped me though to see quotes like the one by marathoner Alberto Salazar:  “I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we’re all cowards.”  Made me feel less alone.  Made me realize that what I was feeling was what most everyone feels or had felt at some point in their running process.  Even elite marathoners.

But, alas, I did it.  I made it!

And here’s a short list of awesome things from the race:

  • I made a running buddy along the course.  He was an older man from the Winston-Salem, NC area.  Silly me – I didn’t even ask his name. Nor did he ask mine.  But we leap-frogged each other throughout the race.  Kept each other company at times.  Chit-chatted about our jobs, our families, etc.  It was nice running a half-marathon and having a conversation every so often.
  • I saw a shirt that said “Slow and steady, my ass! This is my top speed!”  That made me giggle.
  • I saw a shirt that said “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1).”  That made me smile.
  • I saw my friend Kelly who broke her foot during training for this race, out there running anyway after only having been out of her cast for about 2 or 3 weeks now.  I was in awe.
  • I got “I love you” and “You got this!” texts from the man I love during the race. Priceless.
  • I got “Run Forrest Run!” texts from my coworker during the race.  Sigh.
  • I got close to the finish feeling like I might not make it, and rounded a curve and saw my boyfriend Richard’s friends (ok, my friends) standing on the side to cheer me on – the same people who I cheered on during their half marathons and marathons in New York last year. That made me cry.
  • I got to the finish line and saw Richard and my son Jeffrey waiting for me (after their own 5K race) with smiles and cheers.  And saw my son (who never ever EVER remembers or cares to take a picture of anything) poised with his camera waiting to snap a picture of me crossing the finish line.
  • I got this from my boyfriend as a post-race gift:

meshirt

The shirt says “13.1 wuz worth it.”  And yes, it was.  Awesome gift.  Awesome man.  Lucky girl.

And probably my favorite moment from the race:

  • My son’s dad called him to see how the race went.  And without missing a beat, Jeffrey immediately began telling him my finishing time and details from the half marathon.  Momentarily forgetting that he himself had just finished second in his age group in his own 5K and won an award for it.  Talk about a proud mom.  That definitely started the waterworks flowing, and I’m not sure he even realized what he had done.  In fact, I’m sure he didn’t.  Feeling my son’s pride in me was like nothing else.

I know there are a million more things I could list that I loved about this race.  But those are the highlights.  Point is – this was a beautiful experience that I won’t soon be forgetting.

So, in honor of all that I have overcome in training for this race, and in life in general – two divorces, two bouts with cancer, a bad car accident during training, a breakup at the beginning of training (which ended up in a glorious reconciliation mid-training), and just a general past filled with doubt and uncertainty about myself and my abilities – this race is for you.

I can do anything.

And so can you.

***

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
-John Bingham

So Long, Comfort Zone

“The further you can get away from yourself, the more challenging it is.  Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.”
– Benedict Cumberbatch, actor

Well, here it is.  My last official blog entry before I become a half-marathoner.  Originally, I planned for yesterday’s post to be the last.  But I decided I had just a little bit more to say.  I know….shocking.

I saw the above quote and it really made me think.  First of all, the quote is by an actor.  I’m an actor too, so I really identify with it.  Each and every time I step foot out onto a stage, I am terrified.  It’s true.  I’ve been acting for as long as I can remember, but still…it happens every single time.  And yet I keep going back for more.  Why?

This is why:

comfortzone

I step out of my comfort zone and on to the magic of the stage.  And I’m transformed.  Before I know it, the fear is gone, and I become whomever I’m supposed to become for those two hours under the spotlights.

And now, this weekend, it’s time to do that again.

Tonight will be the first forage out of my comfort zone.  I’m singing in public for only the second time in my life, aside from musicals.  Musicals are different though.  I’m someone else when I’m singing in a show.  But in front of that little microphone on that little stage in our local restaurant/bar, I’m just Melissa.  And let me tell ya – that is SCARY.  The first time I did this, I was terrified.  (I may have even fumbled a word or two but don’t tell anybody…)  But I did it.  And it didn’t suck too bad, I don’t think.  Tonight, I’m ready to do it again.  And you know what’s funny?

I’m not really all that scared this time.

Why is that?  Well, I guess it’s because I’ve already faced that demon.  I faced it, conquered it, and now I know it’s no big deal.  Now I’m ready to get up there beside the man I love and make some music with him.  It’s worth the nerves because it makes me happy.  It makes my heart happy.

It’s magic.

I know now what it feels like outside of the comfort zone when it comes to singing there.  I know the joy that comes from walking away from that microphone after having done something that I thought I couldn’t do.  I know the pride that comes from overcoming fear and just throwing caution to the wind in order to just go for it.

Which brings me to tomorrow.  I’m ready to feel all of that all over again.  Only this time, my “stage” will be a 13.1-mile running course.

I’ve never run a half marathon before.  I’m scared.  It’s outside of my comfort zone, for sure.  But just like overcoming the fear to sing, I’ll overcome this fear as well.  And I’m going to have fun.  And I’m going to love it.  And I’m going to be proud.

Just like stepping onto the stage in theatre, it’s time to step across that starting line of fear.  For a few hours (hopefully not too many!), I’ll again be transformed.  I’ll take that leap out of my comfort zone into new and unchartered territory.

Time to step into the role of a half-marathon runner.

Time for some magic.

***

“Magic is believing in yourself.
If you can do that, you can make anything happen.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Community

community

Com·mu·ni·ty \kə-ˈmyü-nət-ē\:  a unified body of individuals
–         Merriam Webster Dictionary

The more I get into running, the more I realize what a community we runners really are.  And these last few weeks have driven that point home for me more than ever before.

First of all, of course, there was the Boston marathon bombing.  Have any of us ever seen such an outpouring of love and respect among our fellow runners?  So many runners donned their printed out “bibs” in honor of Boston and logged mile after mile in honor of all who were affected.  Each and every one of us knew how easily it could have been us.  I have never witnessed the Boston marathon, but I did travel with a group of friends to watch the Wineglass Marathon in New York last year.  The place I was camped out to get pictures of my friends as they finished, was exactly the spot where the bombs went off in Boston.  It easily could have been me.  Or someone I love.  And every runner feels the same.  We are empathetic towards our fellow runners and their families because it hits so close to home.  We don’t know what to do to help, so we run.  We run in honor and respect for the members of our community, whether we “know” them or not.  They are our family.

And on that same note, I have made a few dear friends through running whom I have yet to even lay eyes on.

When I first started running a little over a year ago, I used the Couch to 5K Running plan to get started.  I then “liked” the Facebook page of the same name so I could watch other people through their struggles and successes to know that I was not alone.  Before long, I began posting as well, sharing my own stories and milestones.  It quickly became my primary source for motivation and inspiration and is, without a doubt, the reason I stuck to the plan and was successful.  On this site, I interacted with many people, but a few in particular stood out.  One of whom is my friend, Connie.  Connie was a non-runner who was determined to run a 5K for her 60th birthday.  I was inspired by her story, so I followed her closely and soon began to chat back and forth since we were at the same point in the plan.  We “graduated” almost simultaneously, together with our other e-friend Kristen, and have since all remained close friends and fellow runners.  We are even making plans to all meet in Rhode Island to run a 5K together in the fall.  (Kristen is from Massachusetts, Connie from Rhode Island, and I am from Virginia).

Yesterday, I went to my mailbox and found this:

shirt

A gift from Connie.  A running t-shirt that says “EyeBeeLeaf.”  The note says:

“We believe anything is possible.
  We work hard to achieve our goals.
  Here’s a gift from Connie to wear when you run.
  Eye Bee Leaf.”

How amazing is it that this friend, whom I have never even met, cares enough about me and about running in general to so generously reach out and provide support to another runner?  This truly is a community.  A family.  And it was no coincidence that this shirt arrived just a few days before my first half marathon that is coming up on Saturday.  As my friend Connie likes to say, “It’s Kismet!”

I so can’t wait to meet my friends in person in September!

And while we’re on the subject, check out this message I received on my last blog entry about my fear of this upcoming half marathon:

“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 “

Wow.  Just wow. 🙂  All the way across the world, in Australia, is another member of my “community.”  And I didn’t even know about her until today.

I also received this message from my local friend Shannon this morning with regard to this half marathon:

“There will be a great adrenalin rush in the beginning, but remember to pace yourself and run your race.
There will be people who pass you and you’ll feel you are not doing good enough, but pace yourself and run your race.
You will worry that you won’t be able to finish at some point, but just keep going at your pace and run YOUR race.
There will come a time when you will think “I got this!”  But still pace yourself…and run your race!
It’s a lot like life.”

I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing her poetic words.  They were too good to keep to myself.

So, see what I mean?  We are such a caring community of runners.  Such a family of like-minded individuals from all over, who all know what it is like to change our life one footstep at a time.  I’m so honored and humbled to be a part of such an amazing group of people.

I am a runner.

***

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week.  It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.”  
– Richard O’Brien

The Wait

Well, it’s here.  This is the final countdown to my first half marathon – a 13.1-mile scenic race filled with unbelievably steep hills in the mountains of North Carolina.  It’s only 3 days away.  And how do I feel?  Prepared?  Upbeat?  Optimistic?  Ready to apply all of these weeks of training to what I know will be an ultimate success?

Ha.  I wish.

I am TERRIFIED.

I am wondering what the heck I was thinking signing up for this thing!  People come from all around to run in this popular race.  Real runners.  People who have been running for longer than the measly year that I have been running.  People who are fast.  People who are fit.  (People who didn’t just drink a Strawberry Sunkist for breakfast.)

I’m thinking I should have bought this to wear during the race:

runningshirt

Because that’s how I’m feeling right now.  Can I really do this?  Am I really prepared?

Anyone who has ever trained for a race knows that the last week before the race is what we call “tapering.”  No more long runs.  No more real “training,” per se.  It’s basically just waiting.  Yes, you can do a 2 or 3-mile run here and there.  But those long runs that prove to yourself that you really do have what it takes to put the time and effort into it that’s required?  Yeah, those runs are gone.  It’s time to relax.  Rebuild.  And wait.

Sigh.  Wait.

That, my friends, is something I am NOT good at.

This waiting is driving me crazy.  I feel like I should be out there every day trying to run 13.1 miles to show myself that I can do it.  I feel like I should go to the gym during every spare second of my day.  I feel like I should only be eating tofu or something.  Oh heck, I don’t have a clue what I should be doing.  But sitting here waiting just feels…wrong.  It goes against my nature.  And it’s making me grumpy.

Here’s another shirt I need:

runningshirt2

So, yes.  It’s a rough week.  This can definitely not be chalked up to the finest week of my half marathon training, that’s for sure.  My positive mood and my warrior attitude is taking a temporary hiatus.  But that’s all it is.  Just temporary.

Because I know what will happen Saturday.

Saturday, I will be standing amongst thousands of other runners who have had the same kind of week I’ve had, more or less.  Who have also had the ups and downs of training.  Who have also, at times, doubted their abilities but yet rose above that doubt and walked to that starting line anyway.  Just like I will.  I will stand among fellow runners, fellow humans, fellow fighters.  And I will do what I didn’t think I would be able to do.

“Tears streamed down my face as I crossed the finish line. I was a new person, a runner.”
-Thomas King

This will be me.

I will add a check mark beside the “half marathon” entry on my bucket list.  And I will be proud.  So very proud.

I am prepared.  I am ready.

patience

***

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
– Napoleon Hill