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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.

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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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Confessions of a Last-Place Finisher

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan

I want to show you a picture I took just before I started a 10-mile race this morning. I want you to pay particular attention to one part of the picture, okay? Here, let me point it out for you….

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Did you catch that? The smile…see it? Well, let me tell you my dears, that was the last time that bad boy was on my face until much later in the day. Why’s that, you ask?

I’ve been running for three and a half years now and today – “it” happened for the first time.

I, Melissa Edmondson, finished dead last in a race.

That’s right. LAST. 

So…as is the usual custom for me, I’ve decided to write about it.  You know – take an embarrassing situation and make it public. Because that seems to help.

I’m going to take you on a little trip. You ready? Now, you may want to sit back and prepare yourself – seatbelts and whatnot – because you, my friends, are about to take a little journey through my brain. Gentlemen, start your engines….

One heaping helping of humility coming right up!

Thoughts That Run Through a Last-Place Finisher’s Brain:

1. Man, that first mile was FAST! Get it, girl. Should we slow down? Nahhhh…we’ll need that time we just saved. You’re killing it!

2. Second mile? Fast again! Dang, girl. Now, you know you have 8 more of these to do, right? And it’s going to start going uphill. Think we should slow down a bit?  Heck no, this is a race! Rev it, baby!

3. Oh, here comes the finish line for the 5K runners. If I only did the 5K, I’d be finished now. But no way – not me! I’m a distance runner! A big, bad distance runner! Good-bye, 5Kers, I’m moving on. Woohoo!

4. Hmmm. Is it just me, or is it really quiet now that the 5K people are gone? Where’s everyone at?

5. *Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*

6. I’m just going to take a quick peek behind me and see what’s back there. This is a long straight-stretch so I should be able to get a good feel for who is behind me.

7. WTF?! Where are the other racers? No, seriously. Where are they?

8. Oh God, here come the hills. You can do this, you can do this. You’re a distance runner. You’re a distance runner.

9. It’s frickin hot out here.

10. Okay, mile 5. That wasn’t too bad. Half-way through. You can do this, you can do this.

11. *Another peek back.*

12. I’m seriously the last person.

13. Okay, here comes mile 7. Yay, a water stop!  An excuse to walk! At least I don’t know anyone out here…I’m just a stranger finishing last, no biggie.

14. Oh crap. Is that my friend running the water station?  WHAT!? Yep, that’s her. Oh no. And look at the sweet little girl handing out water. Act happy. Act happy.

15. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile.

16. I think my friend may have just taken a picture. I hope I smiled. And I hope the cops weren’t behind me in the picture since I’m last. Oh, did I mention I’m in last place?

DEATH

17.  I bet I didn’t smile. *Turning to look behind me.* And yep, there’s the po-po. Great.

18. Mile 8. You’re not dead. Keep going. You can do this. You can do this.

19. You can’t do this. You suck. Just quit now.

20. Good God are these hills ever going to stop!? Who runs a race in the mountains? And where are all the other people in this thing? Seriously!? What are they, aliens? Who runs this fast in the heat and hills? I hate them. I hate me. I hate everyone and everything.

21. I’m totally going to blog about this.

22. I’m totally not going to blog about this. This is embarrassing.

23. I need Coke. (The liquid kind.)

23. Mile 9. My phone is dying. OMG – seriously? All this work and my phone is dying? Now, how am I going to post on Facebook about how miserable I am?

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24. Oh, good – another aid station!  I hope there’s Coke.

25. No Coke. Jerks.

26. I’m kidding, they’re not jerks. These volunteers are so dang nice. I wish I wasn’t almost dead so I could actually tell them how much I appreciate them.

27. Phone just died. My life is over.

28. For the love of God, here comes another hill. Screw it. I’m walking.

29. You’re going to walk in the last mile? Hell, yeah I am.

30. You shouldn’t walk in the last mile. You’re almost there.

31. SHUT UP!

32. I know these volunteers want to go home, and I’m the sole reason they’re still out here. I suck.

33. I KNOW that has been more than a mile. Am I being punked?

34. Oh good, a cop escort. Wave at him. Wave at him. Smile. Be nice. It’s not his fault you’re last – he’s just doing his job.

35. THANK GOD! I see the finish line! I hope the cop doesn’t turn his siren on. I’ve seen them do that at the end of a race. How embarrassing that would be.  Please, please, please, let me just slip across the finish line quietly with no fanfare.

36. *SIREN*

37. I hate my life.

*Sigh*

And there you have it, folks. A dead last race finish.

I was fully prepared to head home and throw my running shoes in the trash. Okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but I had seriously decided that distance running was no longer in the cards for me. I just didn’t have what it took and that was all there was to it.

But then…the next few hours passed.  And in those few hours, a few things happened.

First, I had this conversation by text with my teenage daughter:

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*sniff* What an awesome kid.

Then, I texted a friend who completely understood me and let me vent. That was nice. Yes, I finished. No, I didn’t quit. But sometimes we need those friends in our lives who “get it.” You know? The ones who just let you rant and swear you’ll never run again, but who know you’ll come crawling back like you always do.

Then, I got a message from the friend who was handing out water. (The po-po picture-taker.) This is what it said:

I am not as elegant with words as you but I will try to express my feelings. I was honored to cheer you on this morning and offer water to those who passed by. The race is only possible because of runners like you. Thank you. Running is not a gift of mine, and I would stand out there for 6 hours if it meant serving someone who is serving others. Grateful to call you friend.

Here come the sniffles again….

I’m not even going to pretend that I am happy with my performance in this race. That would be a lie. But geez, it’s not the end of the world. I was alive to run. And in this race, in particular, I should especially remember that. This race was done in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It started three years ago as a small honorary race for a fallen police officer, and has now grown into a wonderful thing that lets so many family members of other lost heroes know that the community cares for their loss and appreciates their sacrifice.

Sure, I was last. But I am alive. I was running. I was moving. I could come home and whine and complain and then wake up tomorrow morning and start all over. Some people don’t have that luxury.

I will live to run again. It was just a bad race, that’s all. It happens. I just need to take a breath, relax my aching muscles, and get up and try again.

I suppose that’s what life is all about, right?

***

“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
– Proverb

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.

marathonme4

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

 

Girls on the Run

“Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way.”
– Julie Isphording, Marathon winner

So, how many of you have heard of Girls on the Run?

logo_girlsontherunNow, wait a minute. All you non-runners…get back here. Not so fast.  I know how you are. “Oh great, another blog about running. I’m not a runner. I’m out.”  Well, hold it there, missy. (Or mister.)  Stick around for a second.  I want to tell you about something pretty awesome. (Especially those of you with daughters…you’re going to want to hear this.)

I spent my day today getting to know about Girls on the Run. Now, I had heard of it before, of course, as I’m sure many of you have. And, like many of you, I assumed that this was some kind of school “running team.” I mean, it’s called Girls on the Run. It must be girls running, right?

Well, yeah. That’s partly true. But, wow. There is soooo much more to it than that.

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Girls on the Run – Westwood site coaches

I have recently been given the awesome opportunity to be an assistant coach for a Girls on the Run team in my area – Ashe County, North Carolina.  See this pretty lady here to the right?  That’s Natalie Foreman. Although the two of us didn’t know each other that well, our shared love of writing caused our paths to cross a short while back. She’s a local editor who happened to be the one reviewing an essay I’ve written for an upcoming anthology. And that essay just happened to be about…you guessed it…running.  And just before Natalie had read that essay, she had been toying with the idea of getting a Girls on the Run program started in our area. She had done all the research, checked into all the details of securing a location, etc. But what was she missing? An assistant coach. And Fate, as she so often does, just happened to drop a runner’s essay on her desk.

So, Natalie gave me a call.

And here we were today, two practical strangers, headed to a coaches’ meeting.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I had done a little research on my own, of course, but I still didn’t realize what all was involved with the program.  Again, I had it in my head that we were going to go to this coaches’ meeting and they were going to teach about us about different exercises, different methods to teach the girls to increase their running distances week-by-week, etc.  But nope. That’s not what happened at all.

I walked away from that coaches’ meeting feeling like I knew everyone in the room.  Especially Natalie.  And I walked away feeling like I could actually succeed at coaching for this Girls on the Run program.

How did that happen?  Well, it’s like this.

The program director taught us how to teach the kids. She put us in a setting that the girls would be in. She showed us the different games, conversations, techniques, etc., that the students would be going through in our program.  For today, we were the students.

We got to know each other. We got to know our likes, our dislikes. We got to know our vast array of personalities and how each of us could still get along and come together for a common goal…not only despite our differences, but because of them.  We came away from that meeting knowing that a group of drastically different strangers, could walk away a few hours later as friends.  We walked away feeling confident in ourselves, feeling special because of the little idiosyncrasies that made each of us different from one another, and feeling beautifully unique.  And most importantly, we walked away excited for the next time that we could all be together.

And that, my friends, is what Girls on the Run is all about.

Do you know a 3rd-5th grade girl that lives in or around the Ashe County area? Well, I know two women who started the day as strangers and ended it as friends, who absolutely can’t wait to show that little girl how that happens.  Life is so hard for girls these days.  Maybe it always has been, but I just feel like it’s just a tad harder now. There’s so much media and peer pressure to be a certain way, or act a certain way, or…worst of all…to look a certain way. What these girls need is an outlet. A place to come to feel safe. To feel like they can be themselves…where differences are celebrated, not shunned. And where they will get to have a fun, playful workout in the process.

Here’s a quick rundown of the details for you local peeps:

  • Meetings will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. at Westwood Elementary School.  (Students do not have to attend Westwood Elementary to participate – that is just the meeting location.)
  • Meetings technically start this Tuesday, September 9, but if you haven’t signed up by then, it’s not too late! (We have about two weeks to get all the registrations in.)
  • This is a 12-week program, that will culminate in a 5K race for the girls in all area Girls on the Run programs on December 6, 2014.
  • Coaches are head coach, Natalie Foreman (who is a runner and has a third grade girl herself), and myself (who wishes her daughter was still young enough to participate, but who is also a runner and absolutely adores working with kids!).  We will also have a part-time assistant coach, Thea Van Sickle Young, who will be available to help out on Tuesdays.
  • Sign-up and other info can be found by clicking here.  (There is a cost to the program, but reduced fees are available to kids who receive free/reduced price school lunches.)
  • Girls on the Run of the High Country Facebook link can be found here.

And there you have it, folks.

If you have read this blog and are local, please do Natalie and me a favor.  Will you share this? We just know that there is a girl out there who needs this program. (We know there are many girls who need it actually.)  And the only way they’ll know about it is if they hear about it. Help us spread the word. Without a certain number of girls signed up, we will not be able to proceed with the program. We really don’t want to see that happen.  Our hearts are in this, and we know how much the girls need it.

Help us make a difference, won’t you?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Click on the flyer below for a little more info and…share, share, share!  And, of course, let me know if you have any questions or need more info!

Let’s start a new generation of healthy, happy, confident girls, shall we?

***

“The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race.”
-Sign at the Nike Women’s Marathon

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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….

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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

Mayberry Half Marathon

“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”
– George Sheehan

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  • Second half marathon = *check!*
  • Goal time met = *check!*  (Well, my goal was 2:30 and it ended up being 2:30:44.  Those last 44 seconds don’t count, right?)
  • PR = *check!*  (My first half marathon took 2:43)
  • Miserable pain in legs and hips afterwards? = *DOUBLE CHECK!*

So, today, I completed my second half marathon in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  It was called the “Mayberry Half Marathon.”  Yep, that Mayberry. blog If you aren’t familiar with the area, this is the town that the Andy Griffith show was based on.  And buddy, let me tell ya, they sure use that as a draw to the area!  (As they should.)  You can see everything from Wally’s Service Garage to Floyd’s Barber Shop.  Pretty cool stuff.

So, my day started with a 4:15 a.m. alarm.  (Whaaat?  Seriously?  I’m getting up at 4:15 a.m. to go make myself miserable???  Yep.  Welcome to being a runner.)  blog1And not only did I get up at 4:15 a.m., but so did my boyfriend and his kids to come along and be my cheerleaders.  If you’re a runner, you know how very much this means to us.  Yes, we’re running for ourselves and it’s a very private, personal sport, but when it comes to races, there’s nothing like a cheerleader.  And I had three.  His kids had the option of staying home, but they chose to go to support me.  Talk about warm fuzzies. 🙂  They’re just as sweet as their dad.

So, after our 2+ hour trip to Mount Airy, I get all signed in and get my sweet shirt. blog3 (I was also given the shirt and goody bag – complete with running socks (super sweeeet!) for my Australian friend Zoe who earned hers as well from across the world.  Read that blog here if you missed it!) So, I’m checking out my awesome long-sleeved silky moisture wicking shirt and suddenly I notice this little phrase written up the arm.

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Um.  Say what?

Now, although I don’t live “too” far from Mount Airy (about two hours away), I wasn’t extremely familiar with the terrain.  And let me just say…. Holy. Cow.  They weren’t kidding.  The hills were insane!  I started out thinking this was going to be a pretty chill course.  blog7I love looking at the little smile on my innocent, unassuming face as I took off from the start line.  That smile started fading right about the 8 mile mark as my legs started screaming at me that this was the worst, stupid, most idiotic idea I had ever had in my life.  And I couldn’t help but agree with them.  Yes, the course was beautiful, but who the heck cared!?  I was too busy looking down at my legs to be sure they were still there because the numbness was starting to make me doubt that fact.

blog6“Oh, dear God, please let me finish this thing.  I’ll do anything you say from now on.  Scout’s honor.”  (I was never a scout and God knows that, so I’m sure he realized I was just kidding.)

But alas, scout or no, God followed through and allowed me to cross the finish line.  Barely.   Nah, I’m exaggerating.  Without knowing what the course was like, I had hoped for a 2:30 finish and I finished in pretty much exactly that.  2:30:44.  (As I mentioned before, those 44 seconds totally don’t count.  I was right at 2:30, so I’m going with that.  Bam!)

Note the distinct difference in my face from before the race to after.  Ha!

Am I proud of myself?  You bet I am.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons.  One – I finished.  Two – I started.  Three – I got this awesome medal…

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(There’s that mention of hills again!  This time I knew why!)

But aside from all that stuff, you know the deeper, more real reasons that I’m proud?

“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

Keeping that quote in mind – here’s one of those reasons.

blog11That picture is the result of my friend Zoe’s half marathon that she ran, in part, because of me.  Our training together for the last few months led her to run her first half marathon all on her own in Australia.  Together, we helped each other get to this point, and she SMASHED it!  I’m so proud of her.  And I’m proud of myself for helping to inspire one other person out there in the world to feel this intense feeling of pride in herself.  There’s nothing like setting out to complete a goal, and completing it.  There’s a strength there that can’t be explained.  But trust me – it’s good stuff.

And on that same note:  I also got to witness a couple success stories at the race itself.  I spoke to one woman just before the race who was telling me that she was unsure if she would even be able to run.  She had trained hard and had started experiencing some serious pain in her hips and knees just a week or so ago.  The pain wouldn’t ease.  She said she was just going to do a little warm up and then make her decision whether to follow through with the race.  This conversation occurred in the bathroom line just prior to the race, and I lost her after that.  Throughout the race, I thought of her and wondered if she had been able to do the race at all.  At the awards ceremony, I got my answer.  She finished THIRD OVERALL.  How do you like that!?  I felt so proud of her it was almost like I knew her personally.  And that’s another reason why I love being a runner.  We are as proud of each other’s accomplishments as we are of our own – even when we barely know the person.

I spoke to another guy who was completing his 11th half marathon of the year.  One per month.  And he was from Nashville, TN, and is planning to run the Music City Marathon in April – the same one that I’ve got my sights set on for my own first full marathon.  Eh, we’ll see.  My legs still hurt too much right now to make that decision.  But either way – small world.  I just love the conversations that take place among runners.  We’re a family of sorts.  We get each other.  And we all see each other as equals – whether we finished 1st or 120th.  That’s one of the most beautiful things about this sport in my eyes.

And finally, to wrap it all up.  You know what really, really, makes me love these races?  This.

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I am so lucky to have my biggest fan by my side through it all.  He is always, always there.  With an encouraging word and a congratulatory kiss, he is part of the reason for my success.  Yes, I believe in myself – and I know that is the reason why I keep progressing.  But to have someone believing in you along the way?  That sure does add to the sweetness of the whole thing.  I’m so incredibly blessed.  I hope he knows how important that is to me.  I’m in a women’s running group on Facebook and I hear of so many stories that don’t always work out this way.  So many significant others don’t understand what it’s all about.  And without the understanding, they don’t follow through with the support and the encouragement that these women so desperately need.  I saw one woman mention that she has done everything she can think of to show her husband how much running means to her.  She has posted her bibs and medals on their bedroom wall – begged him to come to races – and still.  Nothing.  I feel so bad for her.  Support from our loved ones is a gift that we eagerly open like a kid on Christmas morning.  I am so sorry for the women like her who have nothing to open.  Thank goodness she has that women’s running group on Facebook.  Hopefully it can put a little salve on her wounds as she receives the virtual back pats from those of us who understand.

But for the grace of God go I, man.  I’m tellin ya.

blog9So.  Half marathon #2 is in the books.  I’m a happy camper.  Another success to tuck under my belt…..until next time. 🙂

Thanks for joining me on the journey.  And if you haven’t started your own journey, my request to you is this.  Start today.  It’s out there.  There is something that is going to make you feel the pride in yourself that running has allowed me to feel.  You need it.  Trust me on this.  You need it.

Find it.  And don’t stop searching until you do.

***

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.”
– Patti Sue Plumer, U. S. Olympian

Compliments

compliments

“Like most girls, Emily can’t take a compliment.  Around here, if you don’t show outward signs of hating yourself by the 5th grade, everyone calls you conceited.”
– Brian Strause, from the novel Maybe a Miracle

Ok, so am I the only chick on the planet that absolutely can NOT take a compliment?

I saw the above quote in a novel I was reading a while back and it was like a spotlight shown around the sentence with big flashing neon arrows pointing to it saying, “This! This! This!”  One little seemingly innocent sentence tucked away in the middle of a paragraph hidden deep inside a novel seemed to be the answer to this conundrum that had plagued me all my life.  Maybe that’s why I can’t take a compliment?  Maybe it’s just that it has been ingrained in me from an early age not to because I might appear conceited?

Hmmm.  Something to think about.

Are you like me?  Do you get all weird when someone says you look nice?  Do you “pssssssh” it away like I do?  I’d be willing to bet you do.  Well, let me tell ya a story.

This past weekend, I ran a 10K race early Saturday morning.  And, if you don’t mind my saying so, I did pretty darn awesome. mebrrr (Heh…no worries about sounding conceited about that one, huh?)  I didn’t get any medals or place in the coveted top 3 of any of the categories, mind you (in fact, I was dead last in my age group if I’m going to be honest), but ask me if I care?  Go on, ask me.  What’s that?  Do I care?  NOPE!  Because you know why?  The only person I was there to beat was myself.  And not only did I beat myself (not now, secret 12-year-old-boy alter-ego-self, this is not the time to make your childish jokes…let me finish my story…), but I blew my old record away.  I generally run at an 11-12 minute pace (yes, I know, I’m slow), but my average pace for this race was 10:10, with the first 3 miles all being in the 9 minute range.  Dude, I was booking it!  And you know what?  I was pretty darn proud of myself.

So, fast forward a little later in the day.

My boyfriend’s kids were in a play at the local theatre, so I had rushed home after the race, showered, straightened my hair (that’s what I consider “getting dressed up”), and hit the road again to go watch the two back-to-back performances.  Now, as most of you know from my previous blogs, the theatre is my home away from home.  I know so many people there, and most of their kids were going to be in this production.  So, walking into this little mini-reunion, I started running into people I hadn’t seen in a while – at least not since our last production a few months ago. And, in those past few months, I have been training my hind end off this upcoming half marathon next weekend.

I was immediately greeted with compliments.

“Wow, that running is look great on you!”  “You look fantastic!”  “Oh, Melissa, you’re just glowing!”  “Look how toned you’ve gotten.”

It was like a compliment smorgasbord.

And, oddly enough, instead of blushing in embarrassment like I normally would, I just graciously accepted their compliments.  I genuinely thanked them (no ‘psssssssh’es allowed) and let the compliments do their intended job – make me feel good.  Later, I thought about that, and wondered why I didn’t have my normal response.  Why was I able to accept compliments this time with such ease and gratitude?  Before long, it finally dawned on me.

I accepted their compliments….because I believed them.

That was the difference.  running2I have been working hard for the past few months.  I have felt my pants getting a little loose and saw the number on the scale dropping slightly.  Although those things are not at all the purpose for my running, they have been a nice bonus.  And, this particular day, I had put forth a little effort on my hair and makeup, and was probably still riding on the high from my race accomplishment earlier in the day, which probably showed on my face.  I was feeling pretty darn good about myself that day and accepted those compliments with open arms.

Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if every day was like that?

Hey, I have an idea.

Let’s make sure they are.

Let’s all make a silent little promise to ourselves to try to make every single day a day in which you are proud of yourself.  Let’s make every day a day that you believe the compliments that are tossed your way.  Seriously.  Let’s do it, people.  It may not be all that easy at first, but with practice, it may start eventually coming natural to you.  Just like my running.  I didn’t start out with the ability to crank out a 10-minute pace 10K.  It took lots of time and effort and, most importantly, belief in myself.  That’s all we need, right?

Easy peasy.

So, get out there in this big ol’ world and strut your stuff today, why don’t ya?  I mean, you’re looking all good and whatnot, so you might as well, right?  Come on, beautiful people.  We’ve got some work to do!

***

“For once, you believed in yourself. you believed you were beautiful and so did the rest of the world.”  
– Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon