Archive for December, 2012

On the Cusp of the No Plan Plan

Posted on December 28, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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At this time last year, I had a plan.  Not just any old plan, but a Master Plan.  I wrote out my vision of where I wanted to be in a year and then laid out corresponding goals, each month for a quarter, then six months, a year. I posted both documents, Visions and Goals, on my bathroom mirror so I would be reminded daily of what I needed to do, where to go.

By April I found that I had met maybe 1/3 of my goals.  My Master Plan wasn’t so masterful after all, it seemed. The documents came off the mirror as  I thought of Woody Allen’s line, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Nevertheless, my visions and goals were embedded in my brain.

Now, at the end of the year, I find that I have met many of these goals, even if I didn’t meet them in (my) time.   The goals I missed have more to do with focus than desire.  A fortune fished out of a cookie sometime this year waves from my fridge to remind me:  The most powerful element in the world is a focused mind.

But it’s almost December 31 again and I have no Master Plan, no vision, no list of goals to post on my bathroom mirror.

This realization set in yesterday when for the first time in a month I stood completely alone in my house, in silence.  Last December I had the luxury of time for reflection and planning.  This December, by contrast, has been a whirlwind of incidents and events, from beach time and the joy of season’s end to family illness, unexpected home repairs, the stress of season’s end, and the preparation required to begin a new season.

Oh yeah, and then there was Christmas.

For some reason, I’m not so worried about not having a plan.  December 31 isn’t the official Master Plan Deadline and, as far as I know, I won’t melt if midnight strikes and I’m on the No Plan Plan.  There will be enough time.

Among the many lessons I learned this year, two apparently contradictory principles stand out:

  1. I seem to be happiest when I forget about myself.
  2. We receive in life what we think we deserve.

I’m not exactly sure how my Master Plan will take shape, but I know I need to begin here.

Fortunately, as I begin to think about 2013’s visions and goals, I am not completely planless.  My training plan is still tacked up on my fridge, guiding me toward that half marathon in February.

At least there is this:  I plan to run.

Have a blessed New Year.

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The Best Effort

Posted on December 21, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Last Saturday, Girls on the Run of Bexar County held our end-of-the-season 5K.  104 girls, their running buddies, and friends and families showed up to complete this event, the goal the girls had been working toward for 10 weeks.

Even though we’re called Girls on the Run, we’re not exactly a running program.  That is, our goal is not to teach girls how to run, although that certainly is part of what we do.  Rather, our goal is to teach girls how to make healthy life choices, to set and reach goals, to respect themselves and others, to be confident.  Running is the tool we use to do this, an incredible tool that yields incredible results.

For this race, rather than handing out 72 or so medals to the top three places, male and female, all age groups, we decided to give out only 6:  Top 3 male and top 3 female.  We weren’t concerned about how the girls placed.  We’ve impressed upon them throughout the season that the point of the 5K was finishing, not winning.  The fact that they showed up to the 5K meant that for 10 weeks they’d been giving it their all and were already winners.  All that was left for them to do on race day was to cross the finish line.  Time didn’t matter.  Their best effort did.

The crowd gathered at the finish line to cheer the girls on as they approached, faces glistening, smiles wide.   The first several finshers were men, the overall winner a retired colonel and cancer survivor. The next two were first-time 5K runners who looked just as overjoyed as the girls did when they crossed the line.

After a few minutes, we saw the first group of girls coming up over the final hill.

What we saw from our vantage point was this.  Four girls ran hard, while their running buddies hung back, encouraging them to run.  The four girls sprinted through the line, first and second place nose to nose, third and fourth a few steps behind, also nose to nose.  First and second place were winded and flushed and smiling hard.  Later, they beamed when I placed the medals around their necks.

What I discovered later, from a different vantage point, was this.  The first two girls were in the program, completing the fall season.  The third was an alumnus, who’d been in the program twice and was running with a friend.  They all ran hard throughout the race, giving it their best, but as they neared the end, the alumnus and her friend found themselves gaining on the top two runners.

They could have passed them.  Part of them really wanted to.  But as they came up that final hill, they realized how important it might be to the two girls in front of them to cross the line first.  They looked at each other, nodded, and slowed down their pace, just a hair.

They crossed third and fourth, winded and flushed and smiling hard.  Time didn’t matter.  Their best effort did.  We couldn’t be more proud.

Or so we thought, until we saw the face of the 104th girl, who danced across the finish line, smiling all the way.

Confidence.  Joy.  The most beautiful medals to own.  104 of them last week.  How can you beat that?

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Confessions of a Lone Runner

Posted on December 14, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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I have always said that I prefer to run alone, before dawn.  Running alone gives me clarity, helps me focus on my life, my day, whatever issue ails me. It opens my eyes to all I am grateful for, including the stars and sunrise and empty streets.

But I’m sure I run alone out of habit more than preference.  I have always been a loner.  We are creatures of habit, after all, and a loner gets used to being alone.

Strange, then, that I would end up here, director of an organization that empowers girls through running, that seeks to show girls through experience that they are the arbiters of their own lives and can do anything.  Yet they need not do it alone.  They are, rather, an essential part of a team—an entire community—and without their contribution the world is much less.

Girls on the Run, this fantastic organization I am blessed to be a part of, has the power to transform lives, not only girls’ lives, but the lives of the remarkable (mostly) women who support it.  The organization cannot exist without the network of coaches and other volunteers who weave it together into a strong, beautiful, and resilient web that refuses to let girls fall.

Strange, then, that my task—the loner—at this moment in life is to connect the lives of these women and girls, to support them in their effort to build relationships and teams, to strengthen character, to grow.

Tomorrow is our season’s-end 5K.  Over 100 girls will run this race with running buddies at their sides, families and friends cheering them on.  When they cross the finish line, they will have gained the knowledge that they can do what they put their minds to.  They will establish confidence through accomplishment.  It is our hope that this confidence carries over into other areas of their lives and teaches them what it feels like to finish what they started—and that they are not alone in doing so.

This morning I ran alone, before dawn, anticipating tomorrow’s event, mentally juggling all the balls still in the air that won’t land until the race is over and the grounds cleaned up.  I often think on these runs that we are placed in life not only where we can do the most good for others, but where others can do the most good for us too.  A loner gets used to being alone and strives for independence, not asking for help. Never expecting it.  Not understanding that interdependence is a much worthier goal.

Strange that on this morning’s run I didn’t feel alone.

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Cross Training, Island Style

Posted on December 11, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Usually, I post on Fridays.  I missed last week, but I have a good reason.  No, my dog didn’t eat my post.  Better:  I was in the Bahamas.

It’s ok to hate me for a minute or two.  I can take it.

I took my running shoes with me, intending to stick to my training plan.  In fact, I wore them on the plane.  Then threw them in the back of the hotel room closet.  And didn’t take them out again until I left.

I did, however, manage to get in some training.

I walked a lot of beach.  IMG_0391

Snorkeled with my sister.  IMG_0397

Saw lots of cool sea life.   IMG_0379

But mostly, spent quality time with my mom and sister.

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This morning it’s 30 degrees, and I’m wishing I was waking up to steel drums playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” instead of the local news telling me to put on my ear muffs.

Nevertheless, it’s back to the training plan, Texas style.  Guess I better find my running shoes.

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