to run all 50 states

Since I started my running journey 7 or so years ago, I’ve come to learn that running is like climbing a 14er: it’s easier when the peak is within sight and clearly identifiable–well ok, maybe not easier…better. For most of my running career, those peaks have been races: 5k’s, 10k’s, 10 milers, and 1/2 marathons. But somewhere along the way, my husband and I glanced a better peak: to run in all 50 states. Such a goal is the perfect motivator for us: runners who sometimes lose their motivation but never lose their wanderlust.
Here’s the update on our peak in progress:
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona (only Dave, not me yet)
Arkansas
California: LA runs; 2011 Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in San Diego
260012_10150273504627813_7922005_nColorado: Home(state) runs
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois: Home(town) runs
Indiana (only Dave, not me yet)
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky (only Dave, not me yet)
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan: Visiting best friends run
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska: A layover on a drive run
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Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma (only Dave, not me yet)
Oregon: Portland runs
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina: Columbia runs
South Dakota: Wall run
Tennessee
Texas
Utah: Moab 1/2 Marathon
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia: Beckley run
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Progress: 20% complete, 80% to go. How very exciting!
(Plus, this isn’t even counting my runs in Puebla, Mexico or London, UK.)

13.1 miles of mantras, mysteries, muffs and other musings

Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow. (Thoreau)

For runners of long distances, the battle is far more mental than physical. This very challenge breathed down my neck as I was stuck in a very scary place for nearly 3 hours this past weekend during Moab’s Canyonland Half–and that scary place was my head. What I realized in that place is that once the start gun cracks against the morning sky, the mind runs, charging ahead like a schizophrenic Tasmanian devil.

Here is a look into the course my mental devil ran.

Pre-gunish: What a glorious day! I’m so grateful to run my 2nd half-marathon here in this stunning russet-ribboned canyon. Just treat it like that Mary…a beautiful run: no more, no less. Being here makes me miss Mom and Dad; they brought me here for the first time. I can’t look at these rocks without seeing them.

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Miles 1-2ish: This is so beautiful, it’s nothing short of worship. I feel good; wow, what a surprise! I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m not gonna lie, I’m sure grateful to be on steroids right now. Speaking of which, I hope my sinus infection goes away. How come I’m not draining more? I’m feeling so good, I wonder if I should take less walk breaks. No, Mary, you know better…conserve!

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Mile 3ish: 5k, I got this. I pray Dave has a good race. I’m so glad Julie recommended this run. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m glad my niece and sister texted me about those things…I totally get it!

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Mile 4ish: Oh no, an ambulance. Get out of his way people! Man, I hope that’s not Dave in there. I should blog about how a race turns a mind schizophrenic.

march 2014 046 march 2014 047 march 2014 050march 2014 051Mile 5ish: Geez, that Cliff sign is going to blow over! It’s really starting to get windy. How come the one day in the forecast for windy weather in Moab is today?! Who can eat those Goo things anyways? It’s so much like… eww.

Mile 6ish: So much for a light downhill canyon run. This. hill. <puff puff> is. brutal. <puff puff> Oh come on. And the. <puff puff> wind. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. She’s bigger than me, how come she’s passing me?

Mile 7ish: Selfie!

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Mile 7ish: Is it pretentious to wear my shirt and medal on Monday? I want to inspire my kiddos to make healthy choices without being a show-off. Hmmm…Of course they had to make fun of  me for falling on my last run, stinkers. <giggle giggle> Man, I love my students. Thank you God for my job.

Mile 7ish: I hope my fuel doesn’t explode in my sports bra. That’s what she said. <snort> I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m bigger than her, how come I’m passing her?

Mile 8ish: Look up. Notice. Enjoy. Savor. That reminds me of China.

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Mile 8ish: <flatulence> Woops, good thing the wind in the canyon is louder than the wind from my rear canyon. <snort> Ha!

Mile 9ish: I can’t believe I’m feeling this good. Something must not be right. It must be the steroids. Dave’s right…I’m just like my Mom; why can’t I just accept good things? I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 10ish: Do you hear that? Is that drummers? Or is that my rubbing, pounding thighs? Hey, Mary, your thighs have gotten you far. And look, there are drummers. Wow, how ancient, how resonant, how cool! Oh my gosh, this is the farthest I’ve run since my first half-marathon. That disaster. And I feel so good. Thank you God. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m going to be all emotional like Laina. Man, I love her. I’m so grateful to have such good people in my life. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 11ish: Wow, we’re already turning into town. Oooo, this is my jam. 1, 2, 3, 4. Uno. Dos. Tres. Quatro. I know you want me. You know I want you. I know you want me… I am singing so loudly. And yes, thank you, I am waving my hands and signaling numbers. Why do I love naughty songs so much? And I’m passing so many people; man, I’m glad I conserved! I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 12ish: Ok, running along this road is brutal. And the wind–oh, hey, watch out for that TUMBLEWEED!!! Why is my Runkeeper not prompting me? Oh, please, tell me, you’re still with me Runkeeper!

Mile 13ish: There Dave is, waiting for me, applauding recklessly and cheering me on to the finish, after he’s finished his own tired race. That’s a metaphor. I am one lucky girl; I’m so glad we have this together. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

Finish lineish: Go. Push. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I feel so good. This is amazing. Crap, now I’m hooked. Take that San Diego!

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I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

tonight’s “just get out the door” rewards

It has been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. Parent teacher conferences, TCAP state testing, time change, interview committee for new hires, sinus infection with a major dose of drugs…and oh yeah, we run our 1/2 marathon this weekend in Moab.

Deep. Breath. As one of my colleagues so brilliantly said, I’ve already ran the marathon.

So as I was driving home today, my motivation to get that one last light run in, waxing and waning as the sun dipped behind the horizon, I thought this:

Just get out the door.

I didn’t need a grand run. A fast run. A long run. An only run. Even if I just got out for a walk, it would be something to put my mind and my legs in a better state.

Just get out the door.

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And I did. And I was rewarded.

Two cuddling deer.

A herd of elk.

A warm cup of soup from the local soup shop for dinner.

And this gorgeous neighborhood scenery, which still catches in my breath; how blessed I am to be living my dream.

weighty matters

Some time ago, while snuggled with my husband on the couch, no doubt with some snacks on our lap (you’re welcome, Irony), we finally got around to watching the concluding episode of Biggest Loser, one of the few shows we make sure to catch regularly. Every so often we’d lean over to each other and chit chat, with our mouths full (again, cheers Irony), about how good someone looks, or how much I like that dress, or the loose skin that needs to be cut off, etc.

For the past several years, we have fallen into the habit of watching the show because we like the show. It motivates us; it inspires us. We especially like the prior season when they worked with the kiddos to combat youth obesity, a problem in our country that bothers us both.

Which is why, when we saw this, we were so shocked. When the ghastly remnant of Rachel walked onto the stage, a mere fragment of her once muscular and sturdy frame, we both gasped. As did Bob and Jillian.

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There has been much talk since then (here or here), to which I am going to contribute my two cents in this post. I have not been able to get this disappointing conclusion out of my head. For Rachel the skeleton, who said she works out 3-4 times a day, it is a celebration. But for me, it is one more indictment of the message our society sends answering this question: how do we define success in weighty matters?

Clearly, The Biggest Loser’s endowment of the award to the sickly skinny Rachel indicates it is not about health, but about frailty. And all I keep coming back to are Bingo, Sunny and Lindsay–especially the female youth ambassadors. I hope, as they watched that waif walk across the stage, they didn’t immediately go to a place of: “wow, so that’s what I gotta do?” And if one of them did, shame on you Rachel, shame on you Biggest Loser.

Our society is in desperate need of a redefinition of beauty and health and success in weighty matters.

And as a member of that society, I also need to transform that definition in my own life. I wish I could say all my issues with weight are external, a mere result of society, but I fight my own personal battles as well.

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a very fit teenager

In high school, I was athletic, but never skinny. My Mom always excused it by saying I was “big-boned.” When I went to college, I didn’t realize I was gaining a bit of weight. That is, until a very special person in my life, from a very skinny and beautiful family (who probably should not have been the one to broach this topic with me), said I was getting chubby. I was devastated. It changed who I was and how I viewed myself. No longer was I the compass of health; now, an external model, an unreachable model, dictated my self-esteem.

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me at my heaviest

Fast forward a few years, when I married my best friend. The years went by, and the pounds came on. When people asked me how long I’d been married, I used to joke and reply: “5 years and 50 pounds.” But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Our lifestyle of eating and becoming coach potatoes as a way of spending time with each other  showed in our stomachs. Before I knew it, my rolls competed with my chins for some sort of prize, all of which I had to lean around to even see the scale looking back at me in fear with this number: 235.

But something clicked. I realized I didn’t want to be that much of Mary. It wasn’t healthy, and I sure wasn’t proud. This epiphany coordinately nicely with our move to Colorado–a state where people bike, run, hike, play outdoors and eat organic granola regularly (JK).

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1/2 marathoners!

Slowly, I shed some pounds. Then I was inspired to sign up for a a 5k, then a 10k, then (gasp!) a half-marathon, and I shed more pounds. I got a dog and walked him. I started a regular practice of yoga. And before I knew it, the first tenet which defines success in weighty matters gradually formed in my life:

Active living

This tenet has led to the second definition of success:

Mindful eating

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I’ve found myself now thinking of food as fuel. I intentionally eat a smoothie full of veggies and fruits and goodies in the morning, knowing it will start my day right. I eat lunch considering if it will give me the energy I need to get through afternoon yoga. I eat on the weekends thinking about what will fuel my run.

Now, before we get all congratulatory, I am in no way thereI still suffer from an addiction to sweets, and I enjoy eating too much to become an ascetic. My day starts very healthy, but typically discipline and mindfulness wane as the day progresses.

But what I do celebrate and take pride in is that I have redefined what there is in my life. It is not to look like Rachel. It is not to please the ghost of my past. It really is not even to lose weight…though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that. 

Success in the weighty matters, arriving there for me, means embracing an active lifestyle while eating mindfully. And I’m pretty sure even Bob and Jillian would agree with me there.

ego. me go.

Recently in yoga class, the instructor mentioned the ego, and how often it misguides us. (She also said something about it being deep in the belly, and well, that’s just gonna take some more research to comprehend.) That sparked quite a few moments of thought and reflection for me. For most of my life, I’ve called this “pride:” the stubborn driver in me that presses forward in faulty directions.

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a small smile after the struggle

Unfortunately in 2011, when we ran our half-marathon in San Diego, I experienced the consequences of the disastrous  intersection of ego and fear. Near the end of my training, I freaked out, thinking I had not done enough. So through the beautiful but hilly Bear Creek State Park, we ran an extra hard, long run too close to the race, which ended for me in severe pain in my right knee. Bummer. My fear and my ego drove me to do something risky…a risk that ended in a race of turmoil. I had trained so beautifully and faithfully only to suffer through 13.1 bloody (and I mean that in the London sense) miles of tears, sweat, and anger–the ugliest kind of anger, anger at myself for being so stupid. And worst, and here comes the ego, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed that I had to walk. I had just achieved an epic goal, and I was embarrassed! Hellllllllllllllo ego.

Since that dreaded day of overtraining, I have been plagued on and off with knee pain. I have managed a couple 0f 10milers, but the lingering knee pain has made for an illusive attempt at another half-marathon. But, it’s finally time…I hope. On March 15th, in Moab, UT, I hope to have a better 13.1 miles under my belt.

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today’s snowy but warm 8 miles

Which brings me back to my ego…what does “better” mean? Faster? Stronger? No walking? No pain?  No freak-out-and-overtrain-moment? My ego wants to answer that with “no walking.” But the temperance in me says that might not be wisest. So for this round of training, I’ve been walking consistently. Not when I’m in pain or fatigue, but to prevent those very reactions. I’ve felt better than I have for a long time on long runs. And here’s the irony…I’m faster! Even with scheduled, intentional walk breaks, I’m still completing the miles in less time than my typical long run pace. Yes please!

But as I’ve written about balance before, there is something valuable about ego: the relentless drive. Last weekend we were buried beneath freezing temperatures and mounds of snow. I really, really wanted to just skip the long run…especially since it would have meant the blasted treadmill. But, my pride stirred, my ego called, and so to the gym we went. And on that very boring treadmill, I got my 7 miles in.

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running but going nowhere
(I fully recognize the irony that I ran while watching TVFoodNetwork)

I have no idea how the half-marathon will turn out. But I guess that’s not the point. The finish line is the penultimate moment of the journey, but in the journey lies the meaning. And I have already learned so much about when to honor my ego and when to dismiss it.

And so onward I run.

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countdown

Play

With the snow, ice, and illness hovering around these parts, we have not been able to run as much as we’d like/should. Especially considering that this is our base-building time and next week we up the mileage. Ugh oh. Needless to say, today’s run was rough.

So what’d we do about that? Well…we played.

We stopped to enjoy the scenery of this gorgeous and mild winter day.

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We stopped to hear the bubble of a brook beneath its frozen topcoat.

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And we delighted in the childlike delight of our dog, frolicking freely.

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Soul Kisses

Soul kiss (n.): the interruption of a country run to snuggle with this cuddly neighbor

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still I run

3af59bb4a12e8387d17f083ca1c86760I am a runner. I’m tempted to qualify that with “I use that term loosely.” But I’m going to trust the words expressed here: 

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Several years ago, I cried my way through the Rock and Roll Half in San Diego. I overtrained because I freaked out at the end…lacking faith in all the hard work I had invested in the process for months. This is no doubt a metaphor in my life. But I finished, with a bum knee nonetheless, I finished.

Ever since then, my relationship with running has been a perpetual, tentative, awkward first date. I’ve managed to complete a couple of 10 milers, but I had to rock back and forth between running and walking–so I don’t count that.

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With the passing of my Mom, I have not been as faithful with a healthy eating or exercise routine; I’ve packed on a few “comfort pounds.” In an effort to feel good again, I signed up for some races as some motivation. I’ll do the Snowman Stampede 10 miler as my peak run in February, and then I’ll run the Moab half in March. I can only hope that it is a better experience than San Diego (hear that knees?!)

I run because running is symbolic of life. When I run, sometimes I feel great. Others, it sucks. Still I run.  At times when running, I feel surrounded by the company of elite and ordinary athletes alike. Other times, I run in isolation. Still I run. On some runs, I have moments of epiphany and insight that feed my soul. On others, the Spirit is quiet. Still I run. There have been runs where the scenery has left me humbled and breathless and worshipfully distracted. There have also been runs where I could not find the energy or inspiration to lift my eyes up from the tedious pavement. Still I run. On some runs, everything makes sense. On others, nothing does. Still I run. Sometimes I run in the company of a gracious God. Others, I run wondering where He is. Still I run.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians)

I run for a myriad of prizes.

I am a runner.

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