Women Skip the Gym? Duh!

I saw this article this morning that said 65% of women avoid going to the gym for fear of being judged. The article went on to explain the myriad reasons women avoid the gym, everything from not looking fit enough to worrying about the clothes they wear to not knowing how to use the equipment to being sexually harassed. While I see the need for having this research, I also can’t help but think, “Duh! This isn’t groundbreaking!”

A YouTube search of the term, “women gym fails” turns up a million and a half results — a million and a half! That’s about 400,000 more results that when you search “men gym fails”. With results like that, it’s no wonder women don’t want to go to the gym — what if you’re not perfectly physically fit and wear clothes that are unflattering and do an exercise wrong or have a mishap with a machine? Hopefully someone helps you if you need help, but it’s more likely that at best, people will laugh at you silently, or at worst, get it on video and upload it to YouTube so now there are 1 million and a half plus one “women gym fails” videos.

Or maybe you end up in a Dani Mathers-esque situation. While this isn’t the norm, it only takes one story like this to scare plenty of women away from the gym.

Even a seasoned gym rat like me gets intimidated. I fret over what to wear to work out. Hell, I am stepping way out of my comfort zone tonight and taking a boxing fitness class (with a friend because of my high level on insecurity) and one of the first questions I asked her (a cute, skinny girl) is what she is going to wear. She said just workout capris and a t-shirt. This is what I was planning to wear, too, but silently I am worrying about what shirt to wear to make sure my chubby butt and belly are covered the whole time. I worry about some other woman saying to her friend, “Did you see that chick in those green capris? She needs to cover that gut up!”

I tend to stick to the running track, bikes, treadmills, rowing, and ellipticals at my gym because those are the things I know. I used to go to some of the machines, but my gym recently remodeled and they added some new equipment and rearranged it. Now I don’t know all the machines or the layout anymore so I don;t use them. I feel too self-conscious to walk around and look at everything and figure it out. I can’t ask a trainer because I go at 5 or 5:30 in the morning and there isn’t one there. So I skip the machines.

My foray into the rowing machine is a good example of how I got the nerve to try a new machine. I would be on the running track and every time I came around and passed the rowing machine, I would see someone on it and I would make a mental note of what the person was doing in the 10 seconds I had as I jogged past. After literally months of doing this, one day, when the gym was very uncrowded, I decided to go try it out. I was terrified of not doing it the right way and someone seeing me and I;d end up a story that someone told later that day.

Sometimes I will go over to the side of the gym where there are hand weights and a bench, but I won’t go there if someone else is over in that part of the gym. I don’t want to do something wrong or look like a weakling using a 5 pound hand weight when someone else is using some big, heavy weight doing the same thing I am doing.

I know I should simply not give a crap, but like so many other women, that is easier said than done. I work in a school district where we are working hard to implement a culture of learning that sends the message of the importance of having a growth mindset and to fail forward. But when you live in a society that loves to show people at their worst and make entertainment at it, going to the gym as a woman who doesn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel who knows how to do all the prefect exercises can be an incredibly intimidating thing.

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How deep-seated is my insecurity? Well, here is a picture of me after I completed the Chicago Marathon — and I worry about what people might say about this picture. Will they ignore the medal in my hand and the smile on my face and instead ridicule me for not being skinny? Not “looking like a runner”? Will they doubt that I actually did this amazing thing solely because of my body? It’s a lousy feeling to have.

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What to Do in 2018?

It’s a new year, so that means it’s time for new resolutions. But first, I’d like to do an honest self-evaluation of my resolutions for 2017:

1.) I did indeed train for and complete the Chicago Marathon! This still amazes me. It probably always will.

2.) My eating was better on and off. It was definitely better while I was training for the marathon, but has been not so hot once the holidays hit. This is something I will likely have to deal with my entire life.

3.) I don’t think I lost any weight. I’m not sure I’ve gained any, either. This is also something I anticipate dealing with all the time.

4.) Total failure on this one. I did not go to the dentist at all last year. I am so scared of going to the dentist that I just avoid it at all costs. I need to suck it up and do this.

5.) I did get a little work done on my novel. I added probably 25 pages, which isn’t much. I wish I had more time to really work on this.

6.) I started to declutter, and then it stopped. This needs more work.

So what are my goals for this year? Some new ones, and some repeats.

1.) Run 2 half marathons — ideally the Chicagoland Half Marathon Series. One caveat to this will be that this goal is dependent upon what I learn at the appointment I have with my orthopedist on the 15th. That left knee is kind of a mess again (and it is actually not from running — I jacked it up wearing high heels at a wedding). If I end up needing surgery, then I will need to do some revising of this goal.

2.) Lose weight. I am hopeful that I will have some more success with this since Weight Watchers has changed their plan. The previous plan was an absolute struggle for me, but the new Freestyle plan is very workable for me. I;d love to lose at least 25 pounds this year.

3.) Get my scared butt to the dentist. The biggest problem with this is that I really don;t like the dentist I see. It’s not bad — it’s just a big office with lots of dentists and hygienists so it feels impersonal. I loved the dentist I used to see because they were personal and very willing to work with my phobia. The dentist I see now is so big that I have to explain myself to someone every time I go there, and I hate that. I sadly was forced to change dentists when my dental insurance changed. I used to have a PPO and now I have an HMO, so I was forced to abandon a provider I liked to go to one I merely tolerate. Sigh.

4.) Declutter — again. I have way too much crap and I am sick of it.

5.) Attend church at least 25 times. This would mean going at least twice a month and then one extra time (like Easter or Christmas). I like the church I attend very much. It is what I envision church should be like. There are 3 pastors at my church — 2 of them are women, including the head pastor. There are same sex couples who attend my church and have service roles in the church as well. They are just as welcomed in the church as I am. I also feel a more positive energy within myself when I attend church on a somewhat regular basis. I am a better version of myself when I go to church.

6.) Somewhat related to the resolution above, I’d like to read the Bible. I’ve started this a few times and never accomplished it, but I’m going to tackle it again this year.

7.) Improve my language by reducing my use of the F-bomb. I use it a lot, and it is finally starting to bother me personally that I use it so much. I am not worried that I offend anyone, nor am I offended by people who use it. This is just a personal choice on my part to reduce my use of that word. I am going to be more cognizant of how I speak and make a concerted effort to use that word only when I really feel it will add to what I am trying to say 🙂

That’s it — that’s what I hope to accomplish this year. If you know me, feel free to ask me questions about my progress as the year goes on — I am the kind of person who needs accountability! Let’s see what 2018 has in store!

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Looking Back: 2017 Edition

I know that there are still a few more days left in 2017, but I am tempting fate and writing my year in review before the year is finished, gambling on the next few days being uneventful. So without further ado, here are my most momentous moments of the past year, in no particular order:

  1. I ran and completed the Chicago Marathon! I wrote extensively about this experience here, here, and here if you want full recaps. In short, I’ll just say this: I got to experience this event with the most important people in my life — they were there for me through all the ups and downs during training, and they were there along the course and on the course with me, and they were there at the finish line for me, too. My love for those family and friends who I count as family is inexpressible. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, “I ran the Chicago Marathon” and I am blown away. I wish I could wear my medal everywhere every day 🙂

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    Crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon.

  2. I had knee surgery in March, which almost derailed my whole marathon dream. I had a torn meniscus repaired on my left knee, and my recovery was slow because the surgery also caused my IT band to act up, so that had to be handled before the real work could be done on rehabbing the knee. I fought knee issues throughout training, but I stretched, strengthened, rested, and iced — and limped and hobbled sometimes, too — but the knee performed beautifully on October 8, which was the day I needed it to cooperate the most 🙂
  3. I presented at my very first real conferences! After sitting through so many conferences myself, I finally got the nerve to apply to present at one myself. My first one was in August at the SAMRi conference in Aurora. The second one was with a coworker at the Raising Student Achievement Conference in St. Charles earlier this month. The topic was the same for both — Copyright Compliance Made Easy with Google Tools. Riveting stuff (maybe not) but important stuff!
  4. Badges - Learning Center - revised 9-1-03I became a Google for Education Certified Trainer. This was no easy feat. I had to acquire Google Certified Educator Level 1 and Level 2 status, complete an online course, pass an online exam, and submit a no more than 2 minute video about me professionally and demonstrating a Google tool. It wasn’t an easy process, but it was worth it. All this Google work has really helped my grow personally and professionally.
  5. Jim had knee surgery, too. He also had a torn meniscus, but in his right knee. he just had the surgery a week ago and he is recovering so much more significantly better than I did. He is having the recovery I wanted for myself. I am happy for him and jealous of him, too. There are some things that just come so easy to him, like this, like his running. He never seems to have problems doing those things and I’m over here like, “This is killing me!”
  6. Becky got her first big girl apartment! She finally had to move from her furnished student apartment in Edwardsville to a real apartment in St. Louis. She found a nice complex about 10 minutes from where she works. Her apartment is right across from the on site laundry facility and the adults only pool. It’s nicely shaded by a large pine tree which will help with the electric bill when she doesn’t have to run the A/C as much. And since she had been in a dorm or furnished apartment all the time before this, she got literally all brand new furniture — kitchen table and chairs, couch, love seat, end tables, coffee table, bed, dresser. She had to live there for the first few months on her own until her boyfriend got back to St. Louis, and she had never lived alone before. On top of that, when she first moved in, the furniture wasn’t due for a few days, so she had only one lamp and an air mattress along with her TV at first. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was leave her alone in that apartment. She was scared and a little lonely, and all I wanted to do was tell her to forget all this adulting crap and come back home and live with me. This parenting gig is hard sometimes 🙂
  7. While this isn’t really an event per se, it’s still important to me. I would say that this is the year that I formed a really solid relationship with my brother and his family. My brother and I always got along, but didn’t always spend much time together outside of occasional dinners with my mom. But this year, I feel like something really clicked and now I would say that we are friends as well as family. The time I spend with my brother and his wife and son is really enjoyable. I don’t know what happened to make me feel this way, but one thing I wanted for many years was to have close relationship with my brother, and I feel like I’ve got that. I genuinely enjoy being with him, Lucy, and Ethan.

I am so fortunate to have the things, people, and experiences that I have in my life. I am grateful for all the wonderful things I experienced this past year. Let’s see what next year has in store!

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Sexual Harassment?

Since the whole Harvey Weinstein story broke, there has been a surge of stories about high profile men accused of all kinds of sexual misconduct. This has got me thinking about how common this behavior actually is and what exactly constitutes sexual misconduct. Here are some of my musings on this, realizing I can only speak for myself and I certainly don’t speak for all women.

It is starting to seem like sexual misconduct is something all men do. But is it really? I just find that hard to believe. I think about all the men I have worked with over the past almost 30 years in my professional work. I can say with certainty that I have never been sexually harassed at all by any of the men I have worked with. Have men told me jokes that are off color or sexual in nature? Sure. But these jokes also came from men I consider friends and have/had friendly relationships and friendships with outside the workplace. They were never said to intimidate me, make me feel uncomfortable, or harass me in any way. I have never felt uncomfortable around any of the men I work with professionally. So when they made these jokes and I was not offended or intimidated by them, that can’t be harassment. To me, it’s harassment if it makes the other person feel uncomfortable or uneasy or mistrustful, if it’s unwanted.

Now, back in high school and college, I worked a number of retail jobs. One of the jobs I had was at Spencer’s which is notoriously known for having products that are sexual in nature, including things like vibrators and edible underwear. I worked with plenty of guys at Spencer’s, some older, some younger, some my age. Out of all the males I worked with there, only one ever did anything that I would call sexual harassment. He was a little older than I was (maybe 2 years?), and it was clear what he was trying to do. He would make explicit comments to me about my body that were sexual in nature. He would directly speak to me about wanting to use some of the sexual products at the store with me. It would happen every time I worked with him. I hated working with him. I was uncomfortable around him. I was scared of him. But I never reported it to my boss or anyone else I worked with. I never told him how it made me feel. I never told him to stop talking to me like that. I never told my boyfriend or friends or family about it.

Why didn’t I tell anyone? I know exactly why. I was scared and embarrassed. So I kept it to myself and endured it in silence. I was afraid no one would believe me. I was afraid my boss would say something to him and then he would be mad at me and it would get even worse. I was afraid he might get fired and then he would be so mad that he would try to get even with me somehow. I didn’t want to repeat the things he said, especially to someone like my mom or dad. So I just kept quiet about it. To me, this is a clear example of sexual harassment. The guy said those things to me specifically to make me feel uncomfortable and powerless. And it worked.

This guy at Spencer’s if he had said something once to me — something about my body, or said something sexual, or indicated a romantic interest in me — and I told him no, I’m not interested and please do not say anything like that again, and he stops, then that isn’t harassment to me. He tested the water, so to speak, and found out I wasn’t interested so he stopped. But if he continued instead, now we are at the point of sexual harassment.

So obviously this is not something all guys do to women they work with (or know or just see). I find it hard to believe that the majority of men behave this way solely based on the fact that the majority of men I know have never acted this way toward me or toward other women when they were around me. In fact, the majority of men I know have been pretty vocal about their disgust with this kind of behavior from men. I’m glad for that.

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Is This a Thing?

I have a confession to make.

Since the Chicago Marathon on October 8, I have run exactly 7 times. I went back to Weight Watchers and have hardly counted my points. Fortunately, I have not really gained any weight because I have slacked off on eating the healthier foods. I feel lethargic. I feel disengaged from life. I feel blah. I feel a little lost.

Is marathon depression a real thing? Trust me, I am not trying to be funny or make a joke or make light of people who have real issues with depression. But I am not the person I used to be prior to this marathon and it is really bugging me.

Before I started training for that race, I was mostly careful about my eating, and I happily went for runs or did other workouts because I knew they were good for me and I enjoyed exercising.

When I started training in May, that became my life. My whole life revolved around training — my exercising, my eating, my drinking, my social life, my physical activity — everything was colored in one way, shape, or form by the training.

Then I ran the race and spent a good week or two riding that high and giving my body time to rest and recover, keeping my activity down to a minimum. Then I knew it was time to get back to normal — being more careful about what I eat to drop some pounds (I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to run that race with 20 – 40 pounds less on my body……), vary my exercising to not burn out on running, get some more sleep, spend more time with friends and family without having to cut time short because I’ve got to run the next morning. And I just can’t seem to do it.

I get up in the morning, perpetually hitting the snooze and then ultimately turning the alarm off so I don’t exercise. I wake up late and lethargic. I eat crap. I come home and flop on the couch and watch TV. I stay up late and then can’t get up in the morning so the whole cycle repeats itself. It’s like I don’t know how to exist without training being the driving force in my life. I feel like I don’t know what to do with myself.

I thought maybe I need to train for another race, but I’m finding the motivation for that hard t do, too. After all, I conquered the holy grail of races, so now what? It’s not like training for a half marathon would be easy, because it’s not, but I’m having a hard time psyching myself up for doing that.

Am I alone on this? Are there other runners who have done marathons and felt this way? How do I get my mojo back?

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Marathon Recap 3 — TNT: Dynamite!

When I ran the Chicago Marathon last month, I ran for a charity — the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which meant I got all my training from Team in Training. I had a number of charities I could choose from, but ultimately I chose to run for LLS because I had done an event with LLS/TNT previously (a hike in the Grand Canyon) and was impressed not only with the work done by LLS but the training I received from TNT.

I am fortunate that I have not had anyone I am really close to experience the hell that is leukemia or lymphoma. I have had a couple of students who had leukemia, and I know their battles were difficult. So my motivation for raising money for LLS was driven more out of desire to help a worthy charity and, quite honestly, a bit of obligation to meet my fundraising commitment. I mention this only because when you fundraise for a charity like LLS, you meet plenty of people who are fundraising because they are remembering someone they loved who died from leukemia or lymphoma, or they are doing it in honor of someone currently fighting the disease, or they themselves are survivors. And meeting those people, who raise money not out of obligation, is moving, touching, and motivating.

I really enjoyed doing my fundraising for LLS because they are a quality organization. The training i received for the marathon was fabulous. I had virtual coaches who developed a training plan for me and were able to answer all sorts of questions about running and injuries and nutrition. They alleviated fears and insecurities and offered inspiration and motivation.

The coaches were not issued bibs, so they couldn’t run the course with us, but they had coaches stationed every 4 miles on the course. Every time I passed them, they always called out to me by name, checked on how I was doing, and asked if I needed anything. Once all the LLS/TNT runners had passed a 4 mile point, they headed to mile 22 so they would all be there before we got to the last 4 mile stretch.

The most amazing thing is how they stayed on course until the very last LLS/TNT runner crossed that finish line. They would meet a runner, stay with them as long as the runner needed, then go back out on the course to find another runner who might need support. That’s how I met Coaches Mark and Jeff. Mark found me on the course and started walking with me and cheering me up, lifting my spirits, keeping my mind busy on with anything but the pain and fatigue I was feeling. Then soon, Jeff showed up, and Jeff worked on giving me energy and confidence to cross the finish line. By the time they left me at mile 26, with only .2 left to go, I was brimming with excitement and gratitude. I wish so much that I could personally tell those two guys how incredibly grateful I am to them and how they helped me finish that race. I owe them a deep debt, and I hope they have somehow heard through the grapevine how much I appreciate all they did for me and all the other runners who needed them.

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Me with my two angels — coaches from TNT!

The coaching from TNT was second to none. I don’t at all intend to disparage any other charity who had runners in the marathon, but I didn’t see as much support on course for other charity runners as I saw for the TNT runners. Maybe they were there and I was just too focused on what I was doing to notice. But if you are someone thinking of running a race for a charity, I want you to know that Team in Training will give you an amazing experience.

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Marathon Recap 2 — I Wish

Before I start writing this, I feel the need to offer a disclaimer of sorts: I completely understand why things are in place the way they are for the Chicago Marathon — I am not complaining at all about this truly world-class event! However, I am just offering up some wishful thinking.

My marathon time of 8 hours, 7 minutes, 21 seconds is an accomplishment that I am proud of — because I crossed the finish line. That was always my goal. I never had a time goal in mind. But there are some things I just don’t get to experience because of that time, things that I likely would have been able to experience had I been able to keep myself within the 6 1/2 hour time limit.

One thing I missed out on was some crowd support. The first half of the race was absolutely amazing. I could not believe how much the crowd buoyed me up. People who had run the marathon kept talking about the crowd, but I could not comprehend how much the crowd would mean until I was there. I wish that some people would stick around for the stragglers like me who would benefit so incredibly much from their cheers. I really missed experiencing Chinatown. It’s supposed to be spectacular, but it was a ghost town by the time I got there.

I knew I would likely lose my course support, and I did, but I lost it a lot earlier than I anticipated. I lost it at about the halfway point. I really lost my oomph when that pace car passed me, and I was completely deflated as I came up to an aid station and watched a volunteer turn over an entire table of cups filled with Gatorade. I wish the aid stations could stay on the course a little longer. Especially in situations like I was in that day, where the temps were close to 80 degrees and the EAS level was yellow. When the temps are warm and the EAS level is at yellow (or even red!), runners are advised to slow down their pace. It would be so helpful to be able to have those aid stations around a little while longer, especially if it is as warm out as it was that day.

I crossed the finish line, or at least the timing mat for the finish line. There were people there cheering me on as I approached. They were handing out medals. It was a thrill! But I was rerouted to the sidewalk; I didn’t get the opportunity to run underneath the big “Finish” banner. Workers were already starting to dismantle the finish line structure when I got there. I wish I could run under the big “Finish” banner.

Like I said in my disclaimer above, I know that there are reasons for all this. I know the streets can’t remain closed indefinitely. I know that there is a tremendous amount of clean up that needs to be done on the entire route. I know that there is a formidable amount of labor involved with tearing down the finish line and the volunteer compound and the kiosks in Grant Park. I know that the marathon did me a tremendous favor by allowing me to finish and cross the finish line despite being far beyond their maximum time of 6 1/2 hours. They could have easily swept me off the course. And rightly so. technically, I violated the rules. And I hope I am not coming off as ungrateful for my experience, because I’m not. That race was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, and I have tremendous pride in my accomplishment.

But I still wish.

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Marathon Recap 1: My Story

Running the Chicago Marathon was such a momentous event for me, that everything I want to say will need to be broken up into more than one post! So this post will just focus on the experience of running a marathon!

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My cheering squad — Lucy, Joe, Ethan, Ben, Becky, Peter, Robyn, Aunt Carol, Dallas — missing Jim and Emily!

I wasn’t nervous at all as I stood in corral L — the very last corral. I was certain I’d be a bundle of nerves since I was a wreck in the days leading up to the race. I think I wasn’t nervous because I just wanted to do this thing, get it started, see what happened. Once I crossed that start line, I just let my body do what it knew how to do — run. This allowed me to be able to enjoy the course.

The first half of the course was easy and so much fun! There were so many people around me, running, and so many people on the side of the streets cheering, it was easy to get lost in the activity around me and not think about the running. I read the signs, I high fived kids who had their hands out, I smiled and waved at people who called out my name and encouraged me or who saw that I was running with Team in Training and called out, “Go team!”

I had zero doubts about finishing because I felt so good. Even the pains I had had on training runs didn’t come — like the back pain that always seemed to start around mile 8 – 10 or the twinges in my knees that are always present. None of that existed, or if it did, it was barely noticeable. I was feeling so, so, so fantastic! I loved running past Lincoln Park Zoo. I loved seeing the drag queens in Boys Town and all the guys cheering on the sidewalks there! I loved the Elvis impersonator I passed. The aid stations were like a block party! All the volunteers there were cheering and positive and fun! It was a bevy of activity at those aid stations! I was having so much FUN!

Then the pace car was there at my side.

I was about halfway through the race, and I was about to be behind the pace car. At first, I didn’t panic because I seemed to be able to stay pretty close to it even though I was behind it. But as I got to aid station 10 — there are 20 stations — this is what I saw: some young kid was at the Gatorade table, which was stacked with full cups of Gatorade, and I heard him say, “Are you ready?” And then he tipped the table and all the cups of Gatorade went to the ground. It was the moment I became filled with overwhelming doubt. I realized that I was about to lose all my aid stations for the rest of the race. I expected to lose them, but not this soon. It was close to 80 degrees and I did have Gatorade with me and my cheering crew had more Gatorade and water with them for me, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel confident that I could finish anymore. Now the running was hard labor. This was not fun anymore.

To make matters worse, I had a plan to fuel every five miles, but I hit a big glitch with that plan. Right after crossing the start line, you run through a big tunnel that goes under Randolph Street (I believe that’s the street). While there, I felt my GPS watch vibrate and I looked at it to see it had autopaused because it couldn’t find a signal. It autoresumed when I came out, but it kept pausing and resuming in the city because the skyscrapers interfere with the signal. So my watch was worthless to determine pace and mileage. But I decided early on it was NBD — I had the signs that marked the miles. Well, guess what? Once the pace car comes through, they start to take down the signs on the course, too, so now I had no idea how many miles I had come or how many miles I had left to go. Every now and then, I;d come across a kilometer marking sign, but I didn’t know how many kilometers there were in a marathon (I know now — 42), and I was too tired to do math conversions in my head. I felt lost.

My angels started appearing around miles 16, 17, 18, 20. My friend Emily, who has run the marathon before and has an uncanny total recall of the course, started walking with me. Yes, walking. I was now doing more walking than running, I was so tired and demoralized. Eventually, my daughter and my cousin also started walking with me, and finally my husband joined me, too. I had my own little posse of positivity — cheering me up, encouraging me, carrying my water, soaking my sponge so I could cool off, getting me ice and water and Coke. They became instrumental in my race — not only were they providing me immense mental support, but they became my traveling aid station.

With a few miles to go, I ended up being accompanied by two of my coaches from Team in Training, and they were two more angels. Mark was wearing an Elvis wig and kept my mind busy with his conversation and his jokes. Jeff came along and gave me great visuals about finishing the race. “Do you know how many kilometers there are in a marathon? 42. We just passed 41. Do you know how much you have left to do? Have you ever run on a track? You only have three laps left to go on the track, Renee. Can you do three laps? Now you’re down to two laps. You can do two laps, can’t you? Now you’re at the last lap. This one you’re going to do on your own. You just turn right at the corner up there, and then turn left and you’ll see the finish line. You earned the right to finish this race on your own. You earned it. Go get it.”

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Me with my two angels — coaches from TNT!

And then all my angels fell back — Emily, Becky, Robyn, Jim, Mark, and Jeff. My cheering crew were there, too, and I could hear them all cheering for me as I turned to head up Mount Roosevelt — Aunt Carol, Joe, Lucy, Ethan, Peter, Dallas, Ben — all these people who had go so far above and beyond just to cheer for me and support me — it was so emotional.

I headed up Roosevelt with a smile on my face and holding back the tears.

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Happy on Roosevelt!

When I turned to my left and saw the finish line, literally all the pain and fear and doubt simply melted away and I sprinted as hard and as fast as I could to that finish line. I stepped on the timing mat at the finish line with a huge smile, and then the next step opened the floodgates and I began sobbing.

I had traveled 26.2 miles on my feet in 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 seconds.

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Crossing the finish line!

At the finish line, I was met by my friends Larry and Cathy, who I did not expect to be there. They have been among my biggest, most loving supporters of my training for this race, and when I saw Larry, I collapsed on him in full tilt ugly cry. Then I flung myself onto Cathy and continued my sobbing. I hope they could feel the pure love I had for them at the moment — but I’m sure all they wanted was my stinky, sweaty body off of them 🙂

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Ugly crying on Larry

It has been 4 days since I ran the Chicago Marathon, and I am still riding on such am amazing high. I want to tell everyone about it (You know the joke — How do you know if someone has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they will tell you! Yeah, that’s me!).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some truly remarkable experiences in my life — I’ve been to Paris, India, and Dubai. I’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to Disneyland and Disneyworld more than once. All incredibly memorable. And this Chicago Marathon experience goes right into the same category as those trips — amazing, surreal, and so unforgettable.

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What I Didn’t Know but Probably Should Have

This marathon training thing has been quite an education, and I’ve still got a month to go. Here are some things I have learned along the way, things I guess I didn’t know but probably should have:

  • I am sick of running. I have been training since the beginning of May, running 4 days a week. I am so sick of running. I want to do other things. I don’t want to be so beholden to this training schedule anymore.
  • I have learned not to care what anyone thinks. Like, decorum is out the window. I don’t care what anyone thinks if they see me blow my nose on my shirt, see my gut or sports bra when I use the hem of my shirt to wipe sweat from my face, grab the crotch of my shorts to pull it down when it rides up as I’m running, or reach behind me to scratch my ass. I am just too damn tired to care what anyone thinks of those behaviors when I am 6 miles or 11 miles into a run.
  • I hurt all the time. My toes, my arches, my ankles, my calves, my knees, my quads, my back, my shoulders. They all always hurt in one degree or another.
  • I am hungry and tired all the time. When I’m not running, all I seem to want to do is eat and sleep.
  • I am lonely. Training for this by myself is hard mentally and emotionally. I can pretty well get through 10 miles on my own, but once I get past that, I start to feel myself breaking down physically (see the bullet above about pain), and I really start to break down mentally. I feel really alone and isolated, and it is hard to keep moving. I’ve been told that the crowd support on the course during race day is very energizing, so I am counting on that. I am really going to need it.
  • Related to being lonely, I am amazed at how much I deeply appreciate the kindness of strangers. When I see fellow runners and they give me little pieces of encouragement, it really gives me a boost. For instance, this morning, one guy just gave me a thumbs up as we passed each other, and a couple of ladies out running said, “You’re gonna do great!” as they ran past me. Those two little gestures really gave me a pleasant little burst. All the little bits of encouragement I get, especially when I am out there on the road, really help.
  • I have not lost a single pound while training. I haven’t really gained, either. I just keep seeming to lose and gain back the same 2 or 3 pounds. I guess I should reference the bullet above about being hungry all the time.
  • My mind does weird things. Like I tripped the other day at work, and I thought to myself, “Oh, no! I almost fell! I can’t get hurt now! Wait, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I did get hurt….”

33 days left. I’m just going to keep plugging along.

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Thoughts on Training for this Marathon

If you know me, then you know I’ve been training to run the Chicago Marathon since May — because it seems like running is all I ever talk about. I half jokingly tell people that I’m boring to talk to because all I do is run, eat because I’m hungry from running, sleep because I’m tired from running, and ice because I’m sore from running.

And now I’m gonna whine about it, even though I kind of whined about it on Facebook already. Because I’m just trying to process my way through this whole thing.

Yesterday I ran 14 miles — the longest distance I have ever run in my life. And I’m still working on trying to feel excited about it. Because the last part of it was really dreadful, as it seems all my long runs are anymore. Once I get past that 10 mile mark, everything seems to start to go right down the toilet. My pace (which is slow anyway) goes right down the drain. The pain (which I know I’m going to have) starts to really get to me. I feel my emotional and physical strength start to fade. And by the time I hit the stop button on my GPS watch, I’m broken. I look around at the other people running on the trail when they finish their runs and they don’t look like they’re on the verge of tears, they don’t walk like they’re in massive amounts if pain, hobbling back to their car.

I struggle to figure out why I’m like this. Is it because of my knees (I say knees because my right knee is starting to exhibit signs of stress, not just the left knee anymore)? Is it because of my weight (I do weigh more now than I did when I ran the Chicago Half Marathon 2 years ago, and believe it or not, I have not really lost any weight at all while training for this race)? Is it because I don’t cross train/strength train enough? Is it my nutrition? Am I just not mentally strong enough?

Or is this just the way marathon training goes?

Am I supposed to feel broken and demoralized? Am I supposed to be enjoying this? I enjoyed training for the half; it was hard and I struggled at times, but nothing like this. There are times I really just don’t enjoy running anymore; am I supposed to have my love for something diminished?

I admit, there is a little bit of “childbirth syndrome” that happens. By the time next weekend rolls around, I will have likely downplayed how negative I felt after this run this weekend, the memory will have faded a bit, which will be what spurs me to do the next run (although it will scare the hell out of me to attempt it, as do all my long runs).

I just want someone to tell me that it is all okay. That not everyone who trains for a marathon is skipping happily along the path, enjoying every step. That other people struggle. That other people get demoralized. That other people have times of weakness. That other people hobble around like an old, decrepit woman the afternoon after a long run.

I feel really alone right now in this training, and that is a bad place to be when you’ve gotta run 26.2 miles in less than 2 weeks.

 

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