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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?

photo

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

What Lies in a Photo

 “I personally battled with my own body image for years. I used to tell myself, You can’t wear anything sleeveless or strapless. And all of a sudden I was like, What if I just didn’t send such negative messages to my brain and said, wear it and enjoy it? And now I’m more comfortable in clothes than ever.”
– Drew Barrymore
I posted this picture over the weekend on Facebook.

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In a very rare moment of confidence in my appearance, I decided this picture didn’t exactly suck, so what the heck?

I had no idea what kind of response this photo would garner. As of right now, I have 113 “likes.” Whoa.

Now, I’ve posted pictures of myself before, mind you. Not very often, but still…there have been a few.  (Mostly, I make sure someone else is in them. See my Selfies blog for an explanation of that ‘sneaky selfie’ technique…you’ll thank me later.) So, given those previous selfie posts, what in the world made this particular photo get so much attention? Dang!

And not only did I get all those “likes,” I also got a few comments. Oh, look at me trying to be modest. A few? More like 18, thankyouverymuch! My favorite? “That’s my beautiful honey.” Awww. (That was my husband, in case you were wondering…) And there were a few “Beautiful!” and “Sexy!” comments – even one “You look like a movie star!”

Look out, big head coming through!

And then….

Then there were a few other comments. And these are the ones that cause me to write this blog. (I know, I know, you were thinking I was just bragging on myself. But hang on, there’s a method to the immodest madness.)

First up, a comment from a dear friend who, along with saying I looked great like the other commenters, added in one extra observation.

“I wish I could lose weight.”

*sigh*

There it is. The most truthful ‘woman comment’ of all.

Why do I say that? Oh, she just said out loud what I’d be willing to bet almost every woman has thought in their minds at some point. At some point? Oh hell, who am I kidding? We think it every single day! Probably about ten times a day. A hundred, even. We look at a picture of another woman and what do we do? We compare ourselves to her. It’s like we’re born with a gene somewhere that says “Look at her…oh how I wish I could look like her…” 

I’m not even for a second going to sit here and deny that I do that too. I’m definitely my own worst critic.

So, I decided I wanted to post this picture again, and add in a few extra details. You ready?

meedit

Alrighty, then. Let’s discuss.

Just in case you might have been wondering about those fancy duds I was wearing there, I thought I’d go ahead and let you know where I got them. Yup. Goodwill. This gal LOVES her some thrift shopping. So, back to comparisons. If you’re like my friend (and me) and you decided to compare, say, your clothes to my clothes…then there ya go. There’s no way I can afford a fancy, high-priced dress. I have four teenagers, three dogs, a cat, and a husband…are you kidding me?

And let’s look at those shoes. Yup. Goodwill again. $4, people. Know why I have these? One of our dogs chewed up my only other pair of brown sandals so I found these at Goodwill to replace them. Score! And you know what else? It has taken me years to learn to wear shoes that show my toes. (Many of you may remember the blog that discussed that. See it here if you didn’t.) I HATE my toes. So, if by some small miracle you were one of the comparison lookers that decided to wish you had my shoes?….Goodwill again! And I can guarantee you your feet are going to look better in them than mine do.

Continuing on. Sunglasses? Again, nothing fancy. Dollar General. Hair? Lord have mercy, that hair is au natural – crazy curly, frizzy, tangled, and dyed to cover the gray. So (and as much as I highly doubt this) if you were one of the ones comparing your hair to my hair? Trust me. Be happy with what you have. Especially if it’s straight. You, my friend, are the chosen one.

Now, let’s look at those other stats there. Yep, I just posted my weight for all the world to see. No, I didn’t lie and remove a pound so I could be in the 140s…I promise you that’s what the scale said this morning. 149. Now, let me show you something else.

WomenSee that chart there? Guess what I am? Overweight.

Yep. Overweight.

Now if I were considered a “large frame” person, then I might barely skate in there as a person of “normal” weight. But I’ve always been taught that the way to check your frame size is to look at the size of your wrist. And if that’s the case…oh dear. I’m an extra small frame. My wrists are smaller than some newborns’ wrists. Seriously. So, according to my underdeveloped wrists, I am at least 16 pounds overweight, and could stand to lose about 29 pounds and still be healthy.

Are you kidding me?  29 pounds?  Now, I’m just like most of us, I could stand to lose a pound or two, but 29 pounds? I can honestly tell you that my frame could not handle dropping 29 pounds. I’d look like a skeleton. But wait – the chart says so.

Good grief.

Do you get what I’m getting at here?  There are NO IDEALS. And if there are, they are lies. That chart is a bunch of baloney. In fact, here’s another one I found online.

weightTableBam!  Suddenly, just by scrolling over to a different “expert’s” page, I’m magically a healthy weight! Woohoo!

Geez.

Again, I’m preaching to the choir here, my friends. I’m just as guilty as the next gal of comparing myself to other women. Wishing I was more this, more that, less this…and on, and on. Aren’t we such silly little creatures?

Before I go, back to how I originally started this blog. I mentioned that there were two comments that caught my attention. The other one said this: If I looked that gorgeous, I’d pose for a me picture too.”

*Ahhem.*  Let me just tell you a bit about the person who posted that comment.

It is a woman. (Of course.) But this is not just any woman. This is a woman that I am beyond honored to know. This is a runner. This is a woman who finishes ultra marathons before I’m wiping the sleep out of my eyes in the morning and stumbling to the kitchen for a pop-tart. This is a woman who has graced the cover of running magazines, for Heaven’s sakes. (Yes, I know a celebrity. Now you can be jealous…) This is a woman who could have easily stood by and let the women of past centuries scrub their family’s dirty laundry across her stomach and have it come out sparkling. This is a woman that I can only dream of being…the kind of runner I want to be, the kind of motivator I want to be, the kind of woman I want to be. I wonder if she has any clue how much I admire her? And here she says she says that IF she looked as gorgeous as me…puh-lease!

Oh, women.  Women, women, women. What is wrong with us? We are BEAUTIFUL. Each and every one of us. What we wish we had when we see it in others, we already have ourselves! We just have no idea. What we are constantly looking for in other faces, other clothes, other body types? Those people are looking at us with the same admiration and longing. Isn’t that crazy!

Starting today – let’s all be proud of ourselves. Ok? Let’s post those pictures on Facebook that make us feel  pretty. Better yet, let’s comment on each other’s photos too. Let’s make each other feel as good as the comments on my picture made me feel. If you see one of your fellow gals out there with a new ‘do, tell her it looks great! Like her shoes? Say so! (Hey – she may have gotten them at Goodwill like I did, who knows!?)

The next time the word “comparison” pops into your head, replace it with “compassion.” Not only for yourself (you are perfect just the way you are!) but for that person you’re comparing yourself to as well. They are just as insecure as you are. Believe me. They are.

They really, really are.

Let’s change the way we see ourselves, shall we?

***

“Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing and all in between. It’s not easy, though, because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box.… Think outside of the box.… Pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you.”
– Tyra Banks

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….)

marathonmestart

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

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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10-Minute Rule

“Each day should have a clearly marked emergency exit sign.”
– Dr. SunWolf

Whew. These past few weeks have been somewhat Stressful. (Yes, I capitalized stressful in that sentence. That word deserved a capital S in this case.)  Between work stress, financial worries, worrying over a friend’s medical issues…it just seems like it has been one thing right after the other. And amid all the stresses, there have also been time-consuming good things as well – softball games, getting a house ready for renters, taking care of that precious new puppy of ours, watching my handsome son turn 16.  All good things, of course, but whew….after a few weeks like this, I’m beat!

So, here I am (exhaustion-induced grumpy mood = check!) and suddenly it dawns on me.  I know what I’ve been doing wrong.

I have let my 10-minute rule slip.

10minuteruleWhat is the 10-minute rule?  So sweet of you to ask.

I have decided that there are a few things in my life that I absolutely love that are only about ME.  Sure, I love spending time with my family and with that wonderful man I love, etc. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the things that are about and for me only.  And for me personally, those things are acting, running, reading, and writing. (I’m guessing your list probably varies somewhat from mine.)  When I’m doing those four particular things, I am doing them for me only. They are the fundamentals of what make me me. They are my escapes, so to speak.  The places I go where I’m no one’s mother, sister, daughter, partner, employee, etc.  I’m just doing what I want to do…the things that I feel make me a better person because I’m being true to myself.

Well, obviously I can’t spend all day doing these things.  I have a job and responsibilities that I can’t neglect.  But a while back, I made a promise to myself that in every given day, I would make certain that I spent at least ten minutes every single day doing one of these four things.  A 10-minute soul tap, so to speak.

Now, luckily, I have four things on my list, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find ten minutes in a day to do at least one of them.  Now granted, I can’t just jump on a stage on any given day and act for 10 minutes (I know some community theatres that would frown upon someone just showing up and doing a random 10-minute monologue during a performance), but I can pick up a book and read for ten minutes, right? That doesn’t require any special circumstances…just a book and some downtime. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s not.  And these past few weeks have proven it.

I have not posted on this blog in two weeks. Two weeks. I think this may very well be the longest stretch of time I have gone without posting since I started this thing in February 2012. Not only that, but I haven’t been working on my novel either. (It’s starting to feel like I may possibly have an eight-chapter novel with a horrible ending sitting on my computer for the rest of my natural life.) My running has been very sporadic (too much on my mind to dedicate the time I needed to it), I’m not involved in any theatre shows at the moment, and I’ve been carrying around a book that I have barely cracked open at all.

And you know what?  It shows.

I’m stressed. I’m grumpy. I’m overwhelmed. And, of course, I’m no doctor by any means, but I wonder if maybe skipping that 10-minute rule of mine has something to do with that?  I’ve forgotten to “take my medicine.”  Forgotten my soul tap.  Forgotten to check in with me. Is that really why things have felt so haywire lately?  Heck, I don’t know.  But I don’t think I want to roll the dice anymore. I think it’s time to pick it back up and stick to it this time.

It obviously can’t hurt anything, right?

Anyone else out there need to implement your own 10-minute rule?  Hey, who knows? It may be just what the doctor ordered.

***

“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”
– Chinese Proverb