The power of a man and a mantra

There’s a lot to be said for having a running partner.  Especially when said partner is your partner in life, as well.  Now, I DO NOT recommend this for new runners, or for the newly married. But, if you don’t get your feelings hurt easily, latching on to the competitive spirit of a man might be just the ticket.  At least, it worked for me this time.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve had a miserable training year.  The weeks leading up to this race would likely have been lost to me had my man not developed a training plan for us to follow that would get me across the finish line.  He committed to train with me, and his (mostly) gentle encouragement got me through.  We had an awful long run on Monday, and I’ll admit I had my doubts.  We felt pretty good this morning, though, so we decided we would try to run the pace that would get the PR I want, and see how we did.  Unfortunately, he hurt his leg yesterday playing with his girls on a zip line – you know the leg, the one with the expensive hardware in it that he broke a little over a year ago.  Not much stops that man on a mission, though, so we lined up in the cold this morning with the rest of the nuts and headed out.

I have an awful habit of starting too fast.  You know, fresh legs, cold start, fast runners, race nerves.  Then, I crash and burn too soon into the race.  Gary kept reeling me in, reminding me to slow down, and kept us right on pace.  We were running behind a couple of women who had on really cute skirts that I was admiring (come on, you know you check out what everyone else has on, too) when I noticed the back of their shirts.  I typically devise some type of running mantra for long races to help me through the tough spots, but  I really hadn’t thought much about it this time.  Then, I read these shirts.

photo 3
And, I had my mantra. In case you can’t read it, it is Isaiah 40:31.
“…they will run and not grow weary.”      

(And, aren’t their skirts cute?)

Every time my mind started trying to tell my legs they hurt, I repeated the mantra, substituting “I” for “they”.  I felt really strong through mile 10, then I got some Gatorade, forgetting that it’s kind of a no-no for me.  Don’t know what it is about it, but it nauseates me a little when I drink it at races.  Grabbed some water at mile 11 to try to cleanse my palate, but the damage was done.  The wheels fell off at mile 11, and the power of my man and the mantra faded a little.  We slowed the pace, walking a little.  Gary even grabbed my hand at one point, trying to transfer his power and energy (and maybe dragging me a little), but it was a tough, ugly mile.  I dug really, really deep, reminded myself that I would run and not grow weary, and gave it all I had for the last mile.  Our girls met us at mile 13 and breathed new life into my legs and tummy.  We finished strong, actually with a slight PR for me, not the one I was after, but one I can live with after this crazy year.

Not too shabby for an old broad and an old guy with a limp.

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Misty encouraging us at the finish while Kaitlyn takes pics

Mile 13 - almost done!

Mile 13 – almost done!

The racing Richards family.  Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k?  They take after their Dad.

The racing Richards family. Did I mention that both my girls won their age groups in the 5k? They take after their Dad.

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls.  Love those skirts!  (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Of course, I had to meet and thank my mantra girls. Love those skirts! (And, yes, Auburn fans, you were well represented, too)

Stormy seas

I’m racing on Saturday.  A half marathon.  13.1 miles.  Miles for which I am woefully undertrained.  This due to injuries and illness that have plagued my training this year, but somewhat made up for in the last six weeks training with my man.  We ran our last training run yesterday on the course where the race will be held, a ten miler.  The last three miles were ugly and painful, but we powered through.  Or, he did, as I tried to draft off his energy, but fell behind over and over.  Of course, he waited for me to catch up, then hit it again.  Yes, a man with a really fancy scar and very expensive hardware in his leg is faster than me, even though the break was only a little over a year ago.  (But, I’m not bitter.)

That ten miler was truly an exercise in mental discipline.  I mentioned I’m undertrained.  I’m also still struggling with injury.  Something (often everything) hurt from mile 4 until the end.  About half the run, we ran into the wind.  Queasiness set in about mile 7.  I really, really wanted to quit.  The only thing that kept me moving was that man quietly limp/running slightly ahead of me.  Of course, this morning, I’m glad I endured.  The race Saturday will probably not yield a PR for me, but hopefully, I’ll endure until the end, and come out stronger on the other side.

As I sat in our rented condo at the beach this morning, watching the rainy skies and seas pounding the surf, thinking of recent struggles in my life and the lives of those I love, I began to reflect on what makes us strong.   Have you ever noticed how calm and serene the sea is after a storm?  Or how, after a thunderstorm, the world shines with a new glow?  The same is true in our lives.  It’s the storms of life that teach us, that discipline us, that make (or break) us.  I add the “or break” because sometimes the storms do break us.  It’s always a choice.

stormy seas

I read with interest an article which dispels the notion that many of us have grown up believing, that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  The truth is He will, and does.  But, the more awesome truth is, He won’t make us walk through the storms alone.  And, when we seek answers, He always provides them.

Whatever your belief system is, the hard truth is that we will all have storms.  The “trick” is to choose to look into the storm and believe you’ll get past it.  To choose faith, and not fall into the black hole of despair.  That’s really hard sometimes.  It’s not always easy to have faith, and doubt has a way of teasing the corners of our hearts until we give in to it.  What I’ve learned through running is that you put your head down, chase the doubt from your mind, and keep moving forward.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  It doesn’t have to be fast.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’ll eventually cross the finish line.  Maybe battered and torn, but you’ll heal.  And, you’ll heal stronger than you were before.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:2-4


Finding my stride

The only thing I hate more than running hills is running in the cold.  I really, really don’t do cold.  I’m a southern gal who believes that if we have to put up with triple digit heat and humidity that makes you feel like you’re drowning in a warm, wet blanket in the summer, we shouldn’t have to put up with freezing cold winters.  I know, most runners love running in the cold and rhapsodize about the beauty of running on a still, snowy morning.  For now, I’ll have to take their word for that.   I also know that what passes for cold in south Mississippi is a far cry from real cold.  Still, it’s cold to me.

The thing about running hills and running in the cold, though, is this.  They make you a better runner, strengthening you physically and mentally.  They build character in ways nothing else does, as I was reminded by a friend yesterday.  Making your body do something it doesn’t want to do in order to improve it requires a mental discipline that far exceeds anything I’ve ever encountered before.  That bleeds over into my life in ways that ease the burdens on my heart.

This morning dawned bright, clear, and beautiful, except that it was 31 degrees and windy.  And, my running schedule called for a six and a half miler.    I won’t pretend I didn’t complain, but I also didn’t try to beg off.  Gary and I are running together these days, training for a half marathon in just a couple of weeks (yikes!).  We’re finding our way back to endurance together, easing our mileage up slowly, running a slow, easy pace with no hill training and no speed work.  I’m not looking to set a record at this half, it’ll be a victory for me to cross the finish line of this one.  So, the hills and speed work can wait until my foundation has rebuilt.

The thing is, I’m a solitary runner.  I have always enjoyed running by myself, no one to keep up with or slow down for, no one talking when I want to just breathe, or am struggling to breathe.   So, when Gary committed to training with me, I was probably a little less enthusiastic than he would have liked.    Usually not a big talker, he has sometimes annoyed me in the past by wanting to chat while we were running.  (Those of you who know him know how funny that is.)  Anyway, after some tactful and not so tactful responses from me, he’s learned the only voices I listen to when I run are the voices in my head.  We’ve had many satisfying runs over the last few weeks, the quiet of the trail broken only by the slap of our feet and our synchronized breathing.  (He can’t hear the voices in my head.) Don’t tell him, but I’m really going to miss running with him beside me when he picks the pace up after our race.  Maybe I can make him slow down for the occasional workout with me. When it comes to running partners, I may have hit pay dirt.

This morning’s cold run was brilliant.  I felt strong and solid the entire way, the sun felt good when it poured through the trees,  and the wind wasn’t blowing too much down the trace.  We both needed this head clearing run.  I hope it cleared his head as much as it did mine.

Any experienced runner will tell you, never judge a run or race by the first mile.  It takes at least that far to set your pace, develop a breathing cadence, find your stride.  That’s always true for me, in running and in life.  The first mile hurts, just as bad news hurts when it’s first delivered.  But, running hills, running in the cold (or heat), making your body move when it really doesn’t want to, build your foundation so that you understand in that first mile that by the time you hit the second mile and all the following ones, you’ll be okay, one with the world, and able to move forward til the end.  Life is like that.  Getting up, dusting off, and moving forward when events knock you down makes the next set back a little easier to recover from.

So, if you need me on one of  these cold, blustery mornings, I’ll probably be running, .  Building my character by finding my stride.

move forward

A few of my favorite things

It’s been a tough week.  Some weeks are like that, bad news on the business front, days when you don’t feel well, worries over trivial and not so trivial things.  Some days a diamond, some days a stone. You know, you have those days/weeks, too.  Everybody does.

But, today I woke up refreshed and renewed, light hearted and free from worry, ready to face life.   Love how God works; allowing the storms of life, then reminding you through people, events, Bible study, even dreams that He’s walking with you through the storm, holding your hand the entire way.

I’m a believer in rejoicing in simple pleasures.  Living a life of gratitude, always looking for the good.  I sometimes fall down on that, but usually manage to pull myself up and choose joy.  As I was reminded by Joyce Meyer this week, misery is an option.  We can choose to be happy, even in the most trying of circumstances.

So, I started making a mental list of some of my favorite things.  Reminders of God’s blessings, large and small, and I thought I would share some of them with you.

The first ones are favorite running things, the stuff I never run without.  There are other things that fade in and out of my runs, but these things go with me every time.  Keep in mind, I’m not sponsored by any of these companies (although I’m open to that 🙂 ).  Well, except the first company, which doesn’t really sponsor me, but offers me lots of perks.

Fleur de Vie lipstick

Fleur de Vie lipstick

I hate dry lips when I run, and I used to carry Carmex or chapstick with me. That is, until I fell in love with this stuff. I’m not a woman who runs in make-up, but you’ll never see me on a run anymore without this lipstick on. It’s like coating my lips with silk. I don’t coordinate with my outfit, just pull out the one that’s on top in my purse. LOVE it! You can check out their website here. And, yes, my sister is one of the co-founders. Believe me, I wouldn’t endorse a product that I don’t love, even though I love my sister. Their entire line of skin care is second to none, but the lipstick is one of my favorite products. At least for running.

I never run in anything but a skirt

I never run in anything but a skirt

I love running skirts. That came about for me after running in shorts over compression shorts and having to continuously pull and tug to keep them in place.  Compression shorts are essential for me to avoid chafing (or chub rub), but I’m kind of into keeping my assets covered, so skirts have become just the thing.  My favorite skirts come from Skirt Sports, with the skirt and the shorts all in one. I have other brands, but the Skirt Sports skirts stay in place, hold up to long runs, many washings, and come in really loud & splashy colors. Which I love. If I can’t be fast, I’ll just be loud.

Support your girls

Support your girls

Love my girls. But, they need big girl support. My go to bra for years has been Moving Comfort’s Fiona bra. Even if you don’t have big girls, a good running bra is essential. I HATE to see women running without support. It’s painful to watch. For me, anyway. The guys may like it. Notice I didn’t offer a picture of me in my running bra, but gave you their product photography.  You’re welcome.  Just protecting my assets. 😉

The final must have in my line up involves my feet. I have funky toes. If you’ve been a runner any length of time, you probably do, too. Mine are extra funky in that they touch each other in weird ways. TMI, I know. Anyway, to prevent toenail blisters and toenail loss, my secret weapon is Injinji toe socks .

Happy feet

Happy feet

Other non-running things I love:

Getting my hour back when daylight savings time ends; my Tempurpedic mattress and 1600 thread count sheets; a good hamburger; a glass of red wine savored on my deck at sunset; the way my coffee tastes in the morning; the smell of cinnamon; fresh flowers on my dining table each week; spending time with my daughters; coffee with an old friend; being on a boat (any boat) with my man; the beach any time of year; the color of autumn; Seinfeld and Big Bang reruns; a good book on a lazy afternoon; Marvel comic book movies; seeing the sunrise at the end of a run; waking up next to the same amazing man for almost 33 years.

Focus on what you love this week.