The Blank Page

Posted on February 8, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

blank calendar

The page is almost full.  Next Sunday–in 9 days–I will be in Austin well before the sun comes up, running a half marathon, the first I have been able to run since February 2010.  At the end of the day, my last box will be checked.

When I posted my training plan on the side of my refrigerator just before Thanksgiving, the whiteness of the blank boxes and the progression of long-run miles daunted me. For a couple of weeks, I doubted I could actually do it.  Run a half marathon, geez.  What was I thinking? I hadn’t run that far in so long I found it hard to have faith in my ability to do it again.

Not only was the page too white, but there were lots of things that might get in the way of fulfilling my plan. Christmas, New Years, vacation, business trip, work. I had to remind myself that the holidays in particular were why I chose to run this particular half marathon at this particular time, why I chose to start training the week after Thanksgiving.  I chose.

I knew from past experience how closely aligned race training is with project planning. Life planning. You set a goal and a date, break it down into its parts, plant the tasks on a calendar, and check off each task as it’s complete, recording your rate of success. Focusing on the small chunks, one week at a time at most, one day at a time for certain, is what determines success. We only live one day at a time. It’s our responsibility to focus on the moment, perform to the best of our ability, because the moment is all we are guaranteed.

But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at my plan with a different eye. When I glance at it from across the kitchen, I no longer see an intimidating white page. My plan has almost reached fruition.  The boxes contain times and distances where I followed the plan, or diagonal lines where I didn’t.  I am no longer afraid of this page. Rather, I am proud. I have come so far, and there is visual proof to remind me.

training plan

When I look at my plan, penciled, erased, circled, used, I get excited.  Not only am I so close to reaching my goal, which is thrilling in itself, but I have had the joy (and pain) of reaching a goal every day.  I see the results on paper, certainly, but also in the mirror. I am not the same person who started this plan on November 26.  And I will be a different person again when I cross that finish line on February 17.

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The New Normal

Posted on January 25, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

small-dog-running

Last Sunday I ran ten miles. Ten. Miles.

To some of my friends ten miles is like a walk to the mailbox. To others it might as well be an ultramarathon. To me it’s incredible.

When I started training for a half marathon eight weeks ago my long run was five miles. Frankly, I was terrified. My friend offered to do my first long run with me, bless her heart, as long as–in her words–it was under fifteen miles. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or vomit. The thought of five was scary enough.  Anything approaching double digits seemed impossible.

Now, I run five miles in the middle of the week. And it’s almost like a walk to the mailbox.

This Sunday I get to run ten miles. Again. Ten. Miles.

I’m sure I can beat last Sunday’s time because I plan to eat better this Saturday than I did last. My mother always told me that Cheetos are not a dinner food.  I’m not sure she actually qualified it with “dinner,” come to think of it. Don’t tell her I said this, but she’s right.  Cheetos don’t seem to sustain endurance or supply energy, even if they do stain your fingers a fine shade of day-glow orange that might actually help make runners more visible to cars.  Nevertheless, Cheetos won’t be on my menu this weekend.

One of the beautiful things about running:  I’m my own biggest competitor. I just want to do better than I did the week before so that what’s normal is always new.

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Oh, to Run and Change the World

Posted on January 18, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

same Nasa url as the last one please

What would you say to someone who told you that running could change the world?  Would you think they were odd, crazy, dreaming?  Not my world, you might think.  Not the real world, where businesses and people work hard to make a living, get ahead.  Running, you might say, is a hobby for most, a pastime, an amateur sport.  It might be fun, might get or keep you healthy, but surely it couldn’t change the world.

I had the privilege this week of attending the 10th annual Girls on the Run International Summit, a conference, for lack of a better word, though it was like no conference I’ve attended.  It may have had all the trappings of your average conference—speakers, general and breakout sessions, meals and parties—but this conference was distinctly different.  What made it so was not the agenda, it’s the organization—the men and women who are Girls on the Run.

Every organization composes a Vision, a Mission, a set of Core Values it displays for all its stakeholders to see.  Most include words like customer-oriented, integrity, honesty, excellence.

What about words like positivity, gratitude, empowerment, responsibility.  Empathy, joy, love.  And more telling than words, what about actions?  Could a business be built on a foundation that includes empathy, joy, and love?

When Girls on the Run started, it was led by one woman who brought together one team of thirteen young girls to instill in them confidence, joy, self-respect, to show them their own strength and where it could lead them.  Sixteen years later, Girls on the Run is led by 55,000+ women and men across the nation in 208 councils, revealing to tens of thousands of girls their full potential.

Girls in the program learn to be authentic, strong, honest.  To respect themselves and others, to make healthy life choices, to be empathetic.   These girls will grow up to be leaders in business, education, government.  They are learning to lead with love.

The tool that does this?  Running.

Sound corny?  Far from it.  It’s quite real, and part of a movement to bring empathy, responsibility to bear on our actions, in business, education, government.

Who said that running couldn’t change the world?  It already has.

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The Busk, or why I run before dawn

Posted on January 4, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

burning-bowl

There are a dozen reasons to run before dawn.   There’s no traffic.  Car exhaust and other pollution haven’t elevated to choking level.  Running sets your metabolism, you get the day’s run out of the way, it’s mental preparation for the day.  These reasons all ring true for me, but there’s something more.  With each sunrise I am reminded that every day is a busk.

In spring when the corn began to ripen, some American Indian tribes held a busk, a cleansing ceremony whose purpose was, in large part, renewal.  Tribe members cleaned out their homes and threw all broken or unwanted items into a communal heap, which they burned. A new fire was kindled, and from it all the fires in town were kindled.  During the ceremony, all offenses except murder were forgiven, and a new year began.

The Unity Church practices a ritual with a similar purpose:  The Burning Bowl.  In this New Year’s ceremony, individuals make two lists, one of the things they need to get rid of, and the other of their intentions for the year.  The first list is burned; the second sealed, to be read later.

Both rituals serve the same purpose as New Year’s resolutions do for many of us.  A new year promises a clean slate, the potential to do things right, set new goals.  It’s a chance to start life anew. The opportunity to remake ourselves into something better, stronger.  (Faster.)

Some seem to think that if they don’t set New Year’s resolutions, they’ve missed their chance for change.  But we don’t have to wait for New Year’s Eve for that clean slate.  We get a new beginning every day.

Each day that I get to run before dawn, I am reminded of this.  A sunrise is like an opening hand, pink fingers flaming across the sky, releasing a new day.  The most brilliant dawns remind me of a fire eating through the detritus of the previous day, cleansing it of the good and bad, clearing the way for new growth.

One reason running fills me with gratitude–I get to witness this.  A new beginning, every day.  Another chance to live right, do right.  Another day I am blessed with.

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On the Cusp of the No Plan Plan

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

blank-paper-pencil.ashx

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

blog_confidence-road-sign

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

girl on grass running

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.

IMG_0435

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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Standing in the Hall

Posted on November 30, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

standing in the hall

When I was a kid, my room was my sanctuary.  No boys allowed.  I drew pictures, posted signs, and did what I could to make that abundantly clear.  My brothers, occasional literalists, came close to observing the letter of the law, but never the spirit.

They stood just outside the door’s threshold and dipped their toe into my room.

I’m in. I’m out.

I’m in, I’m in, I’m in. I’m out.

When they got brave, they jumped in, whole bodies piercing the forbidden zone. And then quickly out.  And in again. And out.

It makes me laugh now, but it made me furious then.  When my brothers entered the room, it was only for a brief moment, yet it was enough to set me off.  Still, it’s not like they were all in.

For the past few months, I’ve been dipping my toe into my life’s rooms.  There are lots of exciting, promising, and fun spaces I have the opportunity to enter; and there are an equal number of spaces that pose some daunting challenges, some rearranging of furniture and even some disposal of junk.

Rather than walking through the door and owning the room, I’ve been jumping in and out.  I haven’t been all in.

I’m not sure what this means to my family, friends, colleagues. If anything.  I don’t know how I show up in the world, through their eyes. But I do know that living tentatively feels like standing in the hall.

I made the decision to pick a room and move in.  Including owning my training.   A couple of weeks ago, I said I made the decision to run the Austin half in February, but that I probably wouldn’t register for the race for another month or more.  That’s not really playing all in.  This week, training started.  And I registered.  I’m in.

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Giving Thanks

Posted on November 23, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

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