A strong finish

For a self proclaimed anti-racer, I’ve been lining up at a lot of starting lines lately.  Blame it on the magnificent weather, which dawns a little on the too cold side, then blossoms into a beautiful sun filled day. Or, blame it on the fact that my training has been going really well lately.  So well, in fact, that I kind of overdid it a few weeks ago and ended up with some unwelcome off days to rest a slightly inflamed ankle.  Old ankle injuries apparently never really die, they just go into hibernation until you make them mad, then they come roaring back to life.  Fortunately, a week off worked wonders, and I even raced on it at the end of that rest week, to beat my 5k PR by almost a full minute.  Yes, racing is fun to me, finally.  Whatever is to thank (or blame) for it, I’m grateful.

Yesterday found me at the starting line of another local 5k, this one very small, maybe 30 racers total.  It was a benefit for Bethany Christian Services, and was in the beautiful Bellegrass subdivision of west Hattiesburg, which has a surprisingly hilly course.  I signed up on race morning, as this was a last minute decision, and the early morning cold almost made me change my mind.  I wasn’t sure I should even race this weekend as next weekend is my next “real” race, a half marathon in Orange Beach, Alabama.  But, my training schedule for the half has been erratic, at best, since Gary’s accident, so I figured, why not throw in a last minute 5k to make things shake, rattle, and roll?    Gary & I loaded up early, got coffee at Starbucks (he ate cake, I had my usual 5k pre-race meal of coffee & hard boiled egg), then headed out to find the race site.

I didn’t really have a race plan, but once I started running, I just pounded it out to the end.  Up hill, down hill,up hill again.  Past groups of chattering young women, a few men who were taking an easy morning jog, and around the beautifully laid out development to the last hill at the finish line.  Hate hills at the finish line, by the way.  Ended up shaving a couple more seconds off my PR and winning my age group again.  Not that difficult, but I also blew past a lot of women much, much younger than me.  Well, blew past may be a little on the extreme side descriptively, but I like the way it sounds.

I love how small town races reflect the diversity of the running community.  People in all sizes and shapes, in all ages and stages, with varying skill and speed levels, all line up for a good cause and a little exercise.  There were two young boys (maybe 8 or 9) who were just ahead of me for most of the race.  They were obviously racing each other and unconcerned about the race as a whole.  One made a dash into the woods and I thought, Ok, I’ll pass them now.  But, no, they easily got back on course and were pacing each other and punching each other for the next 27 minutes or so.  I would gain on them, then they effortlessly glided ahead and away while laughing and hollering.  My breathing sounded like I had on Darth Vader’s mask, and any conversation on my end was short and to the point.  They danced across the finish line a full minute ahead of me, with energy to spare and slaps and giggles all around.  Loved it!

That’s what running is all about.  Fun, camaraderie, testing yourself, pushing limits, trying new things, making new friends, and more fun.  Runners come in all sizes and shapes (thank goodness!), and isn’t a one size fits all sport.  You never have to run a race, or be particularly fast to be a runner.  I have lots of fast running friends who never talk down to my slow, plodding times.  They treat me like what I am – a runner.  I heard on a podcast the other day that a real runner never asks you what your finishing time is, they just rejoice with you that you finished.  I have to agree with that.  All the runners that I consider “real” runners are exactly like that.  They know that their only real competition is themselves, and continually strive to better their own performance.  Most of us will never win a major race, or even place in our age groups in those races, but we’ll finish all the same and be happy, content, stronger, and healthier than our non-running friends.  And, really, isn’t finishing well what life is really all about?

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Taking it to the streets

I tried to get Gary to get a cab back to the hotel on our last night after dinner. We saw this on the walk back. I hate it when he’s right.

Same Washington statue 12 hours later

The view of Copley Square from our room. Boston Public Library is to the left.

We’ve been back for a week, but last week was about catching up – on work, on sleep, on laundry. I’m finally taking the time to post about our wonderful weekend in Boston, I’ll be light on words, and just share a lot of images. I didn’t take my big camera, it was a weekend trip, and we were trying to travel light, so all the images are just iPhone pics. Will definitely take the big camera when we go back.

My favorite way to explore a city is always on foot, and Boston was probably my favorite city to explore this way so far. It is very runner/walker friendly, as it should be, I guess, being the host of the oldest footrace in the country. Over the course of 2 1/2 days, we put over 30 miles on our legs, not all of them running, but the running miles were fairly hard miles (for me, anyway). The weather was perfect, even on our first day when it rained – it was an easy, warm rain that just enhanced the beauty of the run. I could have hurt myself running in this city, it’s that beautiful. Of course, seeing that it took me a week to get back to running after we got home (except one short 3 miler last week), I guess you could say I did hurt myself. I was just tired from all the travel, though, and decided a few days off wouldn’t hurt me.

We walked all over the city, saw many of the sights, spent a lot of time at Fenway Park (sad our Braves lost 2 of the 3 games, but enjoyed the energy and history of the stadium – those Sox fans are serious!), went to see Blue Man Group, ate some excellent food, and enjoyed every minute of our trip. The lobster roll I had at Fenway ranks as my #1 meal at a ballpark ever!

Glad to be home for a while, but will, without doubt, head back to Boston as soon as I can think of a good excuse to do it. Hope you enjoy some of the sights of our trip.

First Baptist Church of Boston

Swan Lake at Boston Public Gardens

The Massachusets State House

My kind of Starbucks

As seen on my run along the Charles River

The closest I’ll probably ever get to the finish line at Boston

Fairmont Copley lobby

Fenway Park!!

Beautiful Trinity Church in Copley Square

The window seat in our room overlooking Copley Square

Finding your mojo

I’ve had several discussions this week with friends about motivation, not just in running , but about motivation in all aspects of life.  So, as usual, it got me thinking about it.  About how we so often let it define us or excuse us from something we don’t want to do.  Motivation is like that popular girl we knew in high school, the one we all wanted to be friends with.  Then, when we were actually invited into the magic circle of the pretty, popular girls, we usually learned that she wasn’t who we thought she was, after all.  She was mean and two faced.

Motivation is a lot like that.  She’s a mean, fickle girl who flits in and out of my life with reckless abandon and complete whimsy.  She sometimes wakes me up at 4 am for a run, urging me to slap on my shoes and head out to get the best of the day.  She sings praise and worship song sofly in my ear to get me going, then slams me with Queen, Steppenwolf, and Jonah 33 to get my heart pounding.  We’re breathless and sweaty by the end, but we both feel wonderful and ready to face the day.  Then, the very next morning (usually spin class morning), she sleeps in and encourages me to do likewise.  Last summer, when I was training for one of those life defining moments (the NYC marathon), she completely left me to battle the long runs in the Mississippi summer heat alone. She packed her things and went on an extended vacation in the islands.  It wasn’t motivation that kept me going that long, hot summer.  It was something else, maybe grit and determination, or maybe the thought of having to defer NYC again, or worse – not finishing something I had started.  Whatever it was, motivation didn’t play a big part in it.  She flitted back in after I spent a long weekend training with Jeff Galloway in Blue Mountain, Florida.  She was all thin and tan from her extended vacation in the islands, but lucky for her, she stayed with me most days until marathon training was finished and the bright lights of NYC finished up her job.

So what keeps you going when you really don’t want to?  It’s different for all of us, but I’ll share some of my tricks here in the hopes that you can make one of them your own.

  • Mix it up.  You may be getting bored with your workout, so try something different.  It can be as simple as a new route, or you may want to add some cross training in.  Cross training will become your best friend if you’re in this for the long haul.  It helps with burnout & injury prevention.  I do spin class a couple obscenely early mornings a week, and now that the weather has warmed up, I’ll  include some swim days as well.  To call myself a swimmer or cyclist would really stretch the boundaries of those words, they’re just something I do to keep it fresh and keep me off the injury list.  Love yoga, just don’t work it into my week like I should.
  • Sign up for a race.  That will get you focused quickly.  Nobody wants to be the last one across the finish line, although somebody has to be.
  • Get techy.  Mother’s Day is coming up, ask for an new toy.  Some of my favorites are my Garmin Forerunner (lots of different models, price points, & bells & whistles), and of couse my Ipod.  If you don’t have those, they may breath new life into your plan.
  • Read something inspirational.  I follow several blogs (see my blogroll in the right hand column), read a couple of different running magazines (Runner’s World and Women’s Running are current faves), and usually have a running book going at any given time. I’ll be happy to offer a few suggestions, or even loan you one of my favorites, if you like.
  • Find a workout buddy.  This one doesn’t really work for me, I like to run alone, but lots of people find the accountablity of knowing someone is depending on them for their workout makes a big difference.
  • Join a running group.  There are lots of great clubs and groups you can join, in our area The Pine Belt Pacers are a great group who sponsor lots of races & have group runs throughout the week.  If you’re not into that, I belong to an online group called Daily Mile that I enjoy.  There are a lot of local runners on there, and it keeps up with my stats for me, which is always fun, especially at the end of the year.  Kind of like Facebook for runners, but without all the drama.
  • Find a mentor.  There are lots of people ready, willing, and able to help.  With varying degrees of proficiency.  I’m always available for a chat, and I work cheap – buy me a cup of Starbucks & I’ll talk your ears off.  Remember, you get what you pay for; but, if it’s possible to do it wrong, I probably have, so you can at least learn from my mistakes.  I can’t recommend Jeff Galloway enough, he has lots of books available, and does workshops around the country at some pretty cool spots.  Really neat guy, too.  He’s been running longer than I’ve been alive, and that’s saying a lot.  A friend of mine, Mary Williams, offers a great workshop locally (if you’re in South Mississippi) – you can check it out on her blog here.  Both those links are on my blogroll if you don’t have time right now.

I hope something here speaks to you & helps you if you’re in a rut. I think that what helps me the most is remembering that I’m a grown up now (sigh), and, occasionally, in real life, we have to do things that we’re really not in the mood for.  Make your running a habit so that when those days come , and they will, it will come automatically.  Same in running, as in life.   Happy trails, guys!

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