Some of us dance

I’m a solitary gal. I like my own company, and am never afraid of time alone. I fill it with things for me, sometimes selfish things (last week’s pedicure), other times more altruistic things (having trouble thinking of one of those at the moment). Time alone for me is glorious, restful, rejuvenating.

But, God never intended for us to be lone creatures. He expects us to be part of the world, to live in it and shine His light in all the dark corners. So, while my comfort zone is definitely a carefully drawn perimeter around my sole being, I continue to try to push myself towards others, looking for those connections and trying to maintain the ones I’ve already made.

Towards that end, I joined a ladies’ growth group at my church this spring. It met all my criteria: meets during the day (lunch), is led by a wonderful friend who excels in logistics and bringing women together, and is held at a neutral location (not someone’s home, not the church). I could explain why I have these criteria, but you already know how weird I am if you’ve followed this blog any length of time, so I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, I need places/events where I can connect with other women, but don’t feel pressured in any way. Perfect scenario.

We’ve been meeting for a couple of months, and the women in our group are absolutely delightful. We run the gamut of ages and stages of life, and I confess, that’s one of the things that I’ve loved most about this group. Each of us has something to offer, and God, in His usual way, brings us together with those who can lift us up, or whose lives we can encourage in some way. I’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know some of them, and connecting with them on a closer level outside of our group sessions. I’ve been inspired by the giving spirit of these women, and how so many of them live their lives in service to others. Sometimes, our leader brings a sweet devotion, other times, we are led by members of our group, as our leader is savvy enough to know that there is a lot of talent to be mined there.

Today was led by one of the women in the group who is in my stage of life. I won’t call her an Old Broad, although that (in my opinion) is the ultimate compliment, but I will say that she would certainly qualify, were she so inclined. I’ve connected with her before today; because, wouldn’t you know it, she’s an exercise buff. She teaches classes at a local Wellness Center, and she’s fit, fabulous, and full of life. Today, she reminded me of a very important truth (although it may not have been her intent).

She began by reminding us of the importance of movement and nutrition. She emphasized that we are called to be spiritually fit, but we’re also called to take care of ourselves. This body of ours is actually a little temple, designed perfectly and profoundly by God to accomplish His will in our lives and glorify His name. It’s hard to be concerned about God’s will if you aren’t able to walk to the mailbox and back. Then, Joni led us in a short line dance. She had us all (or all those who were willing) gather around her, and she taught us some simple steps, then turned on the music, and away we went. There was much laughter and little self consciousness, and the lunch was concluded with fun and frivolity. I was blessed indeed.

I have two left feet. My mind won’t retain even the simplest dance steps long enough to finish an entire song. I am uncoordinated in the extreme and have been known to trip walking across a perfect level floor. Still, I move. I run. There’s not a lot of coordination required, just remember to make sure both feet head in the same direction and don’t get entangled with each other. And, keep your eyes on the road ahead. Running helps define who I am and how I feel, it influences my daily life, physical and spiritual. It keeps my dark clouds at bay.

The truth that Joni reminded me of was simple, but profound. We’re all different, yet the same. We all have different ways of achieving the same goals, whether they’re fitness, nutritional, or spiritual goals. One size does not fit all. We only hurt ourselves when we compare ourselves (favorably or unfavorably) to others. We’re meant to walk our own path, not veer into someone else’s lane. We can enjoy sharing the path with others, but it’s necessary to find our own way, and not be envious of another’s. We must learn to rejoice in each other’s accomplishments and achievements. Dance with them when you’re offered the chance, and don’t dwell on the fact that your clumsy feet will never enable you to move as gracefully as they do, or, that they seem to have wings on their feet that propel them at speeds you can never hope to achieve.

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I’m thankful for today’s reminder that while I run to my goals, some of us dance. And, like me when I run, they do it like nobody is watching. With joy, reverence, and thankfulness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a

I run because I know

conteffortRunners often ponder deep thoughts as we pound along, and, I guess, I’m no exception, although some thoughts are deeper than others. Some days my mind simply chases its tail as I plunk along, others it busily solves the world’s problems. Mostly, though, it just sits there in a receptive state, eager to grasp whatever little bit God may offer me, and chew on it thoughtfully.

Today’s run was one of those that I did only because I knew what it would do for me, not out of any innate desire to jump out of bed and meet the cold world head on.

So, I got to thinking about the reasons that I run, and I kept circling back to the realization that I run because I know. I guess having been a runner for several years, I have internalized some truths that keep me lacing up and heading out, even when I’m not particularly in the mood to do so.

I know:

* that on a quiet, cool morning, when the only sounds I hear are the animals rustling the dry leaves around me and my feet pounding along, is when God’s whisper in my ear becomes audible. God speaks to me often, but I hear Him most clearly when I run.

* that running detaches that little black cloud that hitches itself to my posterior all too often, and dispels the gloom it often leaves behind.

* that, even though my running won’t detach anyone else’s black cloud, it may make me a little more capable of dealing with them, give me some insight into their clouds, and help me to know what to say (or not say) that will perhaps shine a little light into their darkness.

* that perseverance trumps talent, discipline trumps genetics. I’ll never be that speedy old broad who sets world age group records, but I’ll be dogging her heels until they put me in the ground. Then, I’ll dog her heels on streets lined with gold. Maybe I’ll catch her then. An Old Broad can dream, can’t she?

* that the only way to combat the deterioration that age inevitably brings is to meet it head on, chase it down, and wrestle it to the ground.

* that my day will go better, my relationships/work/life will flow more easily on days that begin with the quiet contemplation of a run.

* that my interactions with strangers and the world at large, the one that is filled with evil and selfishness; will be kinder and gentler if I start my day off at a trot. Somehow, I like people more after I’ve sweated and gasped for air a while. Strange how that works out.

* that in the long term, my health (mental and physical) will be improved by incorporating movement into my days.

* that in the short term, I just plain feel better when I run consistently.

* that running keeps me moving forward, on the trail and in life.

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It’s OK, I ran today

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The best thing about being sick is that, when you’re finally better, you REALLY appreciate how good you feel.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks being in the grips of, then recovering from, a nasty tummy/body bug that had me running fever, fighting nausea (sometimes better than others), and squinting with a headache.  We had two weekends in a row of absolutely exquisite weather, and all I could do was raise my head weakly from my perch in my chair, wrap another layer of blanket around me, and regret not being able to enjoy it.

Of course, by the time I was finally better, I had to play catch up at work, and the weather had taken a nosedive.  Still, this week has found me feeling, not just better, but wonderful, and gnawing at the reins to go for a little trot.  Other than a short, easy hike along the Natchez Trace with my man (one day when we found ourselves the disbelieving, but excited owners of a few undesignated minutes), I haven’t even put my running shoes on since I returned from my recent trip to Nashville, only to fall victim to the bug that infiltrated our hotel.

The Natchez Trace is always a favorite place to spend a little time and energy.

The Natchez Trace is always a favorite place to spend a little time and energy.

This week, with the return of energy and the departure of ill health, I decided it was time to get my butt off the couch and head back out. The first part of the week here in Mississippi was frigid. Ok. After seeing some of the images floating around the interwebs, I’ll rephrase and say the weather felt frigid to me. And, if you’re not a stranger here, you know that I don’t really do cold. Still, it’s time. So, I dug out my big girl panties, layered several layers of very expensive running gear on top of them, and headed to the Trace. I was the only soul there.

Cold, lonely run on the Trace

Cold, lonely run on the Trace

I’ve been back at Square One so often that I’ve set up a really nice little camp here. My favorite music, new books uploaded to my iPod, trails to get me excited about running again, my favorite running partner (my strong, silent man) and the energy to put into starting a new training plan. They’re all here, waiting for me comfortably at Square One. I’ve actually begun to like it here. Or at least, not hate it.

I know that the real magic happens when I get outside my comfort zone, so I’m heading there. It’s a journey of many thousands of steps, though, and I’m prepared. I know that starting here, at my comfy little Square One, is only the beginning. That it starts to hurt soon, that there are disappointments and setbacks waiting ahead on the trail. I know these things, and still, I start again. Because I’m going to one day be the person I pray to be, that strong, resilient woman that I envision.

And, it will be warm again. I found proof in my driveway this morning:

Promise of spring

Promise of
spring

If you don’t believe me, just watch. ;) (And, yes, that one is definitely on the playlist.)

Forever the Comeback Kid

start_finish2014 was a year of rest for me.  Not complete rest. But, no races, no set training goals, just learning to love running again and focusing on staying injury free.  After injury prone 2013, burn out, and even worse, doubt, crept into my training and combined to make me forget how much I love this sport.  So, I took the year off.  I ran when I felt like it, walked when I didn’t;  cycled a lot; hiked with my man from the mountains and beaches of the Big Island, to the urban intensity of NYC and New Orleans, and multiple spots in between.  And, guess what?  I ended the year injury free, and renewed my love affair with running to the point that I’m ready to hit the ground running (pun intended, lame as it is) in 2015.

To that end, I’ve set some goals.  I usually set my yearly goals on my birthday (in October), but I even took the year off from that last year.

Fortunately, I’ve been a runner long enough to know that comeback is the name of the game.  There will always be another injury or illness to recover from, always be down time to rev back up, always be another race down the road to make up for the one you bailed on when you had chills and fever.  New years, new challenges, new goals.  I live in conscious and constant thankfulness for that truth.

As always, my goals are simple.  I’m a pretty uncomplicated gal.  Unless you ask my man.  So, here are my goals, for what they’re worth.  I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments.

1) Get back to racing form/weight/endurance.  As I think back over decades of struggles with weight, I realize that the desire to be “thin” left me when I started running.  That’s weird to think about now, but my goal has gone from being that “perfect” weight that society or some doctor decreed was “normal” to being the optimum weight to feel good, run well, and race faster.  I would share my goal weight here, but it’s a constantly moving target as I move forward and decide what feels right.  The number isn’t that important to me anymore, the way I feel is.  And, of course, I would like to be faster.  I heard or read the other day that for every pound you lose, you shave 2 seconds off your time.  So…  losing a thousand pounds ought to be just about right.  ;)

2) Remain injury free.  I’ve learned the best way to do that is to ease back into a training plan and listen, listen, listen to my body.  I’m not a runner who can race a lot, for whatever reason, so I have to be very conscious of selecting races/training plans that challenge me, but don’t require me to run myself into the ground. Because I love the half marathon distance, I don’t sprinkle many 5k’s or 10k’s in my year.  I hope one day to run another marathon, but I have some very specific criteria for myself about deciding when or if to do that.

3) Read more.  I have at least six books stacked on my shelf, calling my name, and a list of titles on my iPad at least 5 times that long.  So many books, so little time.  So, I’m going to use my time more wisely.

4) Connect with friends more.  I tend to be a solitary soul, given my choice.  But, whenever I connect with my friends, I remember how much I love good company. I have terrific friends and I’ve joined a couple of groups toward that end.  More on that later.

5) Seek God’s presence in my day to day life in a more intentional way.

6) Accept where I am, dream of where I want to be, work like heck to get there.

Simple list.  Ongoing goals that I’ve set before, and come back to again and again. Yep, forever the Comeback Kid.  I’ll take that.

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2014 in selfies

Gary loves making selfies!  Headed to our favorite place in the world (besides home) - the Big Island

Gary loves making selfies! Headed to our favorite place in the world (besides home) – the Big Island

I’ve been sadly neglectful of my blog this year. One of my goals for the New Year is to be better about posting. Blame it on… whatever. I haven’t raced in over a year. My training has been spotty, but a much needed rest year, after a year of injury and burn out. I’m excited about a New Year with new goals and new training plans.

As a photographer, I’m sadly neglectful of making sure I’m in family images. So, I decided to look back through the year and see how often I had taken “selfies” or allowed others to take pics of me. In over a thousand iPhone images, these are the only ones I found. Another New Year’s goal: take more selfies; have some professional images done. We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, here are the ones I found. If I find more, I’ll add to them later. As a professional, I’m sad I haven’t documented my own life a little better.

My man taking care of me - chills and fever over Thanksgiving

My man taking care of me – chills and fever over Thanksgiving

Running in Central Park

Running in Central Park

Top of the Rock, NYC

Top of the Rock, NYC

One am in Times Square

One am in Times Square

Supporting my girl - Southern Miss Golden Wings!

Supporting my girl – Southern Miss Golden Wings!

Haze and his favorite aunt  ;)

Haze and his favorite aunt ;)

New 'do

New ‘do

Where's Haze?  Another great - my sweet, beautiful Haze Hendrix

Where’s Haze? Another great – my sweet, beautiful Haze Hendrix

The last day on the Big Island

The last day on the Big Island

Snuggling in the cold at the top of the mountain.  Sunrise, Mauna Kea

Snuggling in the cold at the top of the mountain. Sunrise, Mauna Kea

Sunrise above the clouds - Mauna Kea

Sunrise above the clouds – Mauna Kea

Pololu Valley Hike - the view from the top

Pololu Valley Hike – the view from the top

Top of the mountain - Pololu Valley hike, Big Island

Top of the mountain – Pololu Valley hike, Big Island

Kait and Apollo - fun on the Gulf

Kait and Apollo – fun on the Gulf

Fun with greats - niece Kristianna

Fun with greats – niece Kristianna

Fun with greats - nephew Gatlin and niece Harper

Fun with greats – nephew Gatlin and niece Harper

Kayaking with the fan

Kayaking with the fan

Fun with Rick and Bubba

Fun with Rick and Bubba

Running  on Mother's day; Longleaf Trace

Running on Mother’s day; Longleaf Trace

Another favorite face, my great nephew, Gatlin

Another favorite face, my great nephew, Gatlin

Kait and Harper, two of my loves

Kait and Harper, two of my loves

My three favorite faces - Misty, Gary, Kaitlyn

My three favorite faces – Misty, Gary, Kaitlyn

Grandaddy's apron helping cook our holiday meal

Grandaddy’s apron helping cook our holiday meal

Kait and I; sad because our beloved Connie wouldn't join our family meal

Kait and I; sad because our beloved Connie wouldn’t join our family meal

Two old goats in Natchez

Two old goats in Natchez

Gary and I celebrate 34 years in NOLA, first in the cathedral, then caroling in Jackson Square, also in LOTS of NOLA restaurants.

Gary and I celebrate 34 years in NOLA, first in the cathedral, then caroling in Jackson Square, also in LOTS of NOLA restaurants.

Love the one you’re with

To be honest, I never liked that song. If you can’t have the one that you want, love the one you’re with? Really? No, get over yourself and go for the one you want and let the one you’re with go find someone who appreciates how amazing they are.

…Anyway…

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This past weekend, my man took me to NYC. You may remember, this blog started during my training for the 2011 NYC marathon. The first Sunday of November each year in NYC finds thousands of runners of various abilities pounding the pavement through the five boroughs of NYC, aiming to win, hit a personal best, or to simply finish. I was one of those brave souls then, and I’m proud of my less than illustrious finish, even if it wasn’t the time goal that I had originally sought. For me, it was about setting a goal and finding the mental strength and the determination to see it through to the end.  I did that.

This year, when I learned that Meb would be running NYC after his historic Boston finish, I knew I wanted to go watch him run. So, my man and I booked our trip, and last Friday , we headed to one of my favorite places to watch one of my favorite races and try to chase Meb through the boroughs. We had a blast running around Brooklyn, trying to find the best spot to see the elite men and women, then hopping back on the R train and heading back uptown to try to catch them again.

What on earth does that have to do with loving the one you’re with? Let me explain.

I love NYC. Since my very first trip there in 2006, it’s been my favorite city to visit and explore, and I’ve made trips there at least once a year since then. Each trip has various goals, but some goals are the same every time. I always want to: see at least one Broadway/off Broadway show; run a new route; visit at least one new historical icon; run in Central Park; eat lobster ravioli in Little Italy, a hot pretzel, and a Nathan’s hotdog at least once each; go to a new museum; and simply walk the city as much as possible. We achieved each of these goals (some more than once), except the Nathan’s hotdog. That’s ok. I’ll eat two on my next trip. :) And, I’ll spare you a pic of the half dollar size blister on my heel from walking around the city.  You’re welcome.

New York City was one of the first trips I made when I began running again. I visited with my sister and got up early (while she talked business on the phone and blew cigarette smoke out the window of our No Smoking room) to run in Central Park, by myself, with no fear and tons of amazement. I ran a bit, took a few pictures, and dreamed. I dreamed of being a faster runner, of running new paths, of exploring the world through running, and of becoming the woman that I envisioned – one who pursued her dreams while raising her family and being the woman that God wanted her to be. Big city, big goals. I’m still working on those goals, all these years later, but one of those goals I met in 2011 – to run the NYC marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun, and I finished with a smile on my face.

This year, as I watched the amazing athletes (elite and real people) run the boroughs and reach for the stars, I was awed and humbled. We made the journey to see Meb run (hey, you have your celebrity crushes, I have mine), and were able to catch him at the beginning of the race (around mile 2 in Brooklyn), and close to the finish (around mile 24 in Central Park – geez, those dudes are fast). We were able to see some of my other celebrity crushes, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher among them, as we waited for the elite men to zoom through.

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair as I shot with my GoPro)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair on the bottom left – the wind was brutal!)

Deena Kastor, mile 24.  God bless the Old Broads.  Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Deena Kastor, mile 24. God bless the Old Broads. Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Then, came my favorites, the real people. The ones like you and me, the ones whose eyes aren’t set on winning, but on a dream, a goal. One that’s personal and private. One that makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something, one that makes them believe in themselves. One that reminds them that, as bad as life can sometimes be, there’s always hope. These are the people I love. The ones who know that life really only has the limits that you allow it to have. The ones who understand that nothing is a given; life isn’t always easy; that a life worth living is filled with dreams and hopes, even when it’s hard; and the only person who can fix it/achieve it/fulfill it is themselves. I love these people. Watching them race on Sunday; some with grins, some with grimaces; all different body types – some looking like runners, others looking like me; some in obvious pain, others with a smile of wonder on their faces; some fast, some slow; some walking, some running;, some crying, some laughing; some singing, some barely hobbling along: these people are my people. The ones who know that dreams are achievable, borne to us on the wings of hope, faith, and pain. The real people. The ones who make marathons sing with joy and hope, overcoming pain and sorrow, disease and trouble. My inspiration.

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

And, that brings me back to loving the one you’re with. One day, several years ago, this old broad decided it was time. Time to reclaim my life, my health, my sanity. Time to reach for the stars. In a life only marked by mediocrity, it was time to reach for my own personal definition of success. To embrace the body I was in and begin to seek good health, sanity, a life lived well. If I had waited to start running when I was thin enough, or fit enough; if I had waited for that perfect moment in time when it all came together, I would never have started.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, weeks, months when running seems effortless; then a long, long string of bad ones. I struggle with injury, with losing weight, with finding time. I struggle with speed, with endurance, with motivation. I just struggle.

Still, I run. I’m taking the body I have and I’m moving it forward in pursuit of the body I want. It’s an ongoing pursuit, a never ending battle. But, I love the one I’m with. I’m content in my pursuit.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0501.

 

 

A few images of our fun weekend in NYC:

I love Brooklyn

I love Brooklyn

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Central Park run -  the Reservoir

Central Park run – the Reservoir

The skyline as I left the MOMA

The skyline as I left the MOMA

Central Park in the fall

Central Park in the fall

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

And me, keeping the faith and learning to love the one I’m with.

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

A Little Bit Stronger Now

Last time you heard from me, I was in the process of getting my groove back. I’m happy to report that my groove has arrived, and is polishing itself to become at least a reflection of better days.

I spent many, many days walking; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my strength in order to fight (or race) another day. I’m not there yet. I’m still building. I’m sure I always will be. But, now, finally, running feels good again. I’m actually running (and I’m using the term loosely here), and it feels spectacular. The weather is good, all the trails are calling me; the flora and fauna are changing and morphing into their autumn selves. The colors are amazing, the fall critters are moving, and God is really showing out. Fall is one of my favorite times to run.

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Starting over is a thing I guess I’m getting used to. I know that in running, as in life, new beginnings are part of the process, and I’m learning to embrace that. While it is frustrating and annoying, I am filled with joy and thankfulness that new starts are still available to me.

As the fall racing season builds to full pitch, I’m excited about racing again. I’ve taken a year off from racing and I find myself pawing at the starting line, anxious to be at it again. Next weekend will find me in New York City; not running the marathon, but watching some of my heroes run (Go, Meb!!). That is inspiration at its finest. I absolutely cannot wait.

Renewal has come to me in a combination of spiritual revival, physical exertion, and mental discipline. Mind, body, and spirit must unite to push me forward, strengthen my resolve, and get my rear in gear. It’s fine to determine to pursue a goal, but until my body responds, it’s just a mental exercise. It’s fine to push myself physically, but until my mind kicks into gear and cooperates, it’s just empty movement. The unifying force is my spirit, which communes with my maker and reminds me that prayer and contemplation are wonderful, but unless they are combined with a body that provides “boots on the ground” for Jesus, they are useless. I want that body to be the best that it can be, whatever stage of life I’m in. So, I run. That’s the bottom line of motivation for me. Not to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way. To have the ability to use my body to glorify the kingdom, whatever that means, physically or spiritually.

So, I find myself a little bit stronger now. A weekend at the beach spent with a dear friend (who, at 54, had never been to the beach before, so I got to see it anew through her eyes!), an eight mile long run with an additional mile for warm up/cool down, last weekend spent underwater (renewal at its best), the prospect of a trip with my man for next weekend, and the spectacular weather and color that fall brings have all contributed to the renewed strength I feel.

I’m looking forward to what the upcoming, busy months have to offer. I’m learning to be fearless, embrace the slow road back to strength, and take each day as it comes. Thank you, sweet Jesus.

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