Monthly Archives: April 2014

Marathon Monday

The funny thing about significant moments in history is that the memory of where you were when they happened never fades. Not ever. I remember last year on Marathon Monday, I arrived at work and there was a buzz in the air because the Boston Marathon, the pinnacle of a runner’s career, was underway. My friend Katherine had an amazing race that day and came away with a huge PR. I was still waiting to hear from several others.

And then it happened. A customer walked into the store and said, “Did you hear about the explosion in Boston?” Wait…what?! She had gotten a text from her daughter that there was some kind of explosion near the finish line. She seemed to think it was related to a gas line. And then she got another text. Another explosion. I was in denial. I desperately wanted to believe that this was an accident. A freak thing. Not someone targeting the running community, the people who I consider my extended family.

Katie was in the office and she pulled up the information on the computer. We couldn’t believe what was happening. We sent frantic messages to the people we knew who were somewhere on the course.

It took several hours before everyone I knew was accounted for. In the meantime, I cried. I cried a lot. I wondered why. Why would anyone attack runners?!

It’s Marathon Monday yet again and as I type this I am wearing a “Boston stands as one” t-shirt and listening to Katie Couric talk to the victims from last year. I’m getting all the updates I can about today’s race. Currently, Shalane Flannigan is leading the elite women a full minute ahead of the course record. Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi are hanging at the front of the men’s pack.

Over the years running has taught me so much about myself, my own resilience and my ability to stand up in the face of my fears. Running has taught me how to keep going even when it hurts and it feels impossible. Given the events in Boston last year, and what’s happening there today, I know that I am not alone in my lessons from running.

Last night, Farrell called me while I was driving home from a weekend in Chicago with my kiddos. We stayed with my friend Leslie, who a few short years ago thought I was insane for running marathons. This weekend she will run the Christie Clinic half marathon as a training run for an Ultramarathon she will complete in Switzerland this summer. And now, thanks to that phone call from Farrell, I will be able to join Leslie, Lindsey and many others I know at Christie Clinic this weekend, including my friend Ray, who has been training for his BQ. Linds called me last night so that she could get me signed up before registration closed.

On Saturday, I will be toeing the line of a course that is somewhat symbolic. I am not fully trained to run a half marathon yet, so it won’t be fast. And it might not be pretty. But it will represent my resilience, my capability to come back from the worst of myself and to look deep inside to find the best of myself.

3 years ago, my friends Emily and Stephanie went to Christie Clinic and qualified for Boston. I was supposed to be there with them that day. My training had been flawless. But three weeks before the race, my life crashed and burned. When I received the text from my girlfriends with their smiling faces saying that they qualified, I was under a blanket on my couch wondering how I could even go on with life. Literally. I was in the depths of despair. I was at a point of complete devastation and distress. I was contemplating never eating again so I could just waste away and be done with it.  It sounds morbid, it is.

But weirdly, it was that very same day, that night actually, that something changed. As I sat pushing my dinner around on my plate, I hit a turning point. I found my inner strength and I was ready to push on and persevere in my struggles. But I knew my life had to change to be worth living.

Since that day, Stephanie went to Boston and ran in 2012, when it was so bloody hot. In 2013, Emily and Stephanie were both there. Emily had made it through the finish before the bombs went off. Stephanie was stopped just short of the finish line, where her girls were waiting for her. They were right between the two explosions. I am happy to report they are all fine, but I cannot fathom how agonizing that had to be for them until they were all reunited a few hours later at the hotel.

Emily is out there running again today. Like so many others, she went back. They are looking evil right in the face and saying, “You don’t scare me. And you can’t stop me.”

There is so much strength emanating from the city of Boston today, it can be felt all across the world. This makes me proud to be a part of the running community; a community of people who lifts each other up. We encourage and help each other. We push each other to be better.

In the past few years, I’ve faced a lot of challenges. Through that, I’ve run a lot of races. And I’ve had several races that have concluded with a finish just minutes shy of my Boston qualifying time. I’m close. I’m so close. It makes me a little sad that I am not out there today taking to the streets of Boston. However, considering that I’m coming back from an injury, I am reminded that everything happens for a reason.

But here’s what I know: I won’t stop striving. I won’t stop running. I won’t stop living. And I won’t ever stop dreaming big dreams. My day is coming and I know that when I get there, it will be glorious.

To everyone running Boston today: Thank you for being the personification of strength and courage. Thank you for putting your heart and soul on the line and showing the world what passion looks like. Thank you for representing the best of humanity. #bostonstrong

The Forest and the Trees

The other day when I left work, I was desperately in need of a run.  After a crazy weekend of working the GO! St. Louis Marathon Expo, Trivia Night at the kids school that went until 11pm, the Home Depot kids workshop, Ethan’s baseball game and driving all over God’s green earth, I was ready for some solitude.  Throw into that the fact that my anxiety was at an all time high in anticipation of a pending meeting on Monday.  To say that I needed the calming effects of endorphins would be an understatement.

Sometimes when I “need” a run like that, there are certain places I go.  When I’m angry or frustrated, I need hills.  Those are the times I run Babler.  Sometimes I just need to run fast and furious with no one around.  Those are the times I go to the “secret place”.  But on Sunday, I was in search of peace.  There is one place that has been like my second home since I moved to St. Louis a few years ago.  It’s my safe place.  Ironically, back in the days where my physical home didn’t feel safe, I would go lose myself in the woods and I felt like the scariness of the world would just melt away.  In light of the anxiety I was facing on Sunday, I needed Castlewood.

What is it about running that makes me feel like I can solve all the world’s problems?  Endorphins? Maybe.  Perspective?  Absolutely.

I’ve had a lot of conversations about perspective lately.  The first of which was on my short, spontaneous run with Kristen a few weeks ago.  I said, “Ugh.  I feel fat and out of shape.”  Her response was something like, “I know you aren’t where you want to be, but most people would kill to be in the shape you’re in.”  She was right.  I knew it.

Last week I joined Steve for a bike ride through the extreme hills of West County.  In reference to the 112 miles I will face in November at the Ironman, he yelled, “Hey, 10 Miles.  Only 102 more to go!”  I said, “You have 10 miles?  I only have 9.”  He responded, “Eh, 9, 10, whatever.”  True, when you’re talking about 112 miles, what’s another mile more or less?

So, on Sunday, Barb and I closed up shop at FLEET FEET Town & Country and in the parking lot we parted ways bidding each other a good run.  As I drove down Manchester, I changed from my work shoes into my trail shoes.  And on Reis Road, I did a quick change of my shirt at a stop sign.  I threw my visor back on my head and strapped my Garmin on my wrist.  By the time I pulled into the third parking lot on the right in Castlewood, I was pretty much ready to roll.  I set my ipod, locked up the car and I was off.

I had a route mapped out in my head that would give me about 8 miles.  But as I have often said, things don’t always go the way we plan.  I started running out the road, under the railroad tracks and made a sharp left onto the trail to run the River Scene.  After about half a mile, I started hitting water where the river had breached its banks.  Now, I’m all for getting muddy, and I’ve run through the creek at Castlewood so many times I’ve lost count, but this was totally impassable.  I started climbing on downed trees and crossed one like a balance beam before I decided this was going to be more trouble that it was worth.  I was there to run, not lead an expedition.  So I went back across the tree, jumped to dry ground and proceeded back the way I had just come from.

I got out to the road and headed out to the river along the railroad tracks.  I was aimed for the stairs.  I was planning to stay along the river if it was reasonable and head out into more of the flats, or run up the stairs if it was too flooded.  About halfway to the stairs I was met with a total flood.  Drat.  I had to turn back…again.  So I ran back along the railroad tracks, across the field, along the river as long as I could and then back up the road to the parking lot where my car sat.  I had only gone 3 miles.  This run was not over yet.

I pushed myself up Lone Wolf hill.  I’m used to starting out on that hill when my legs are fresh, not fatigued from a full weekend of activities plus a 3 mile warm up.  My steps were short and slow, my lungs wanted to explode, but in true RRG fashion I reminded myself, I don’t walk.  The reward at the top of the bluff always makes it worth it.  I ran along the ridge to the top of the stairs.  I paused my Garmin, walked out to the overlook and took in the scene.

The Missouri landscape is beginning to turn green again from the vast amount of rain that has been dumped on us already this month.  You know what they say, “April showers…”  More like April showers accompanied by multiple trips to the bomb shelter in the basement while the tornado sirens scream at us several times a day.  But I digress.

From the overlook I could see the swollen river, bursting over its banks into the woods that I cherish so much.  It was obvious from that vantage point that the route I had been considering all day was, in reality, not an option.

What’s the saying about the forest and the trees?  You can’t see the forest through the trees?  Something like that.  The point is I had to do that literally, in order to get it figuratively.

Sometimes we map out in our heads what things are “supposed” to look like and when they don’t go exactly that way we freak out.

True, my training for Ironman Arizona has so far not been what I pictured.  I thought I’d be running a marathon at the end of this month, but since I accomplished my longest pain-free run of the year yesterday totaling 8 miles, we all know that a marathon is not in the cards for me this spring.  Yeah, that sucks.  But there are other, more important things that require my attention right now.

Like that meeting on Monday.  I stressed about it.  I cried about it.  As parents we always want to do right by our kids.  We hold their bright, amazing, wonderful little futures in the palm of our hands.  What if I make the wrong choice?  Will I screw him up even more than I already have?  What IS the right choice?  We agonize over the decisions we have to make for our babies so that we can set them up to succeed.  But what if we fail them?  Well, what if they fail?  Will we love them any less?  Of course not.  So if I fail one of my own, will they love me any less?  Uh, maybe.  In the short term anyway.  I haven’t hit the teenage years yet, but I’m sure there will be days my kids definitely will not love me when we get there.

I left that meeting with a line from a movie ringing in my head, one that I’ve quoted before.  At the end of Bye Bye Love, Vic says, something to point out that all we can really do is just love our kids the best we can.  “That’s all, just love ‘em.”

Nothing about the path of parenthood has looked anything like the picture I had mapped out in my head.  And this is just one of many times that I will question what is the right thing to do.  The reality is I will fail my kids on occasion.  But in those moments where the path gets blocked and I have to turn back or go a different direction, I hope that just like on Sunday, I am ultimately led to a place where I can reap the benefits of seeing the bigger picture.  And hopefully, I will allow myself to pause for a minute to see the forest, not just the trees.