I wish I could have attended one of the Women’s Marches that took place yesterday all over the country and the world. I am so proud of all my sisters and misters who were out there, standing up for our rights, together, as one, sharing their love, support, signs (which were absolutely fantastic, by the way), strength, and positivity with the world and each other. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to stand up against the potential loss of some of our hard-earned rights, and for doing it peacefully and arm-in-arm. I’m lucky to be able to call some of you “friend” already and would gladly become a friend to the rest of you. You’re amazing.
Although I was unable to march, I realized there was still something I could do – run. “But Jeanine, you run all the time anyway.” Yes, yes, I do. But yesterday, when I headed out for my run with thoughts of the women marching swirling through my head I began to realize that I run because I choose to run. Because I have the right to choose. I run to be a stronger woman, not only for myself, but for my family, for my friends, for my coworkers, and for everyone who depends on me. Heck I even run for my cat! And sometimes I run from her (she bites).
No one is forcing me to run. No one is stopping me from running. It’s MY choice. I have the right to run. Or the right not to. As I ran my 9 miles through the park yesterday, I thought to myself, I will never take my runs or my rights for granted. Someone years ago worked hard to give me the freedom to choose how I want to live my life. The first Olympic Marathon event was in 1896. The first WOMENS Olympic Marathon event was not until…1984. Almost 100 years later!!
I serendipitously stumbled across this book last week:
I haven’t started it yet, but after the events of this past weekend, I cannot wait to. I can’t wait to read about these women, their lives, their goals, their strength. I can’t wait to be inspired to be a better woman – and runner – myself.
So for all the women out there marching, running, standing, loving, living – I run for all of you. And I thank you for the right to run.
I am woman; hear me run.
Every year, I make New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Now, I’d be lying if I said I keep them all. But I have definitely kept some, and the ones I don’t keep, I at least make an effort to work towards. I write them on a random piece of paper and post them on a board in my kitchen. This way, I see them every day and I’m reminded of what I’d like to do better and what kind of person I’d like to become.
Like I said, I don’t always achieve them all, at least not to the degree I would have liked. But I keep on making them every year, for no other reason than it gives me something to constantly work towards and helps put me back on track when I start to de-rail. And we all de-rail now and then.
They also remind me that no matter what, I can always be better. I can be a better writer. I can be a better friend. I can be a better baker. I can be a better wife. I can be a better human. And of course, I can be a better runner. And if I can get better, then why not?
I found that quote today while I was browsing the internet, looking for inspiration. I don’t just want to be a better runner, I want to inspire others to be as well. I want to be able to help people achieve their goals, and show them that anything is possible. I was not always a runner. And before I started running, I never dreamed I even could be. Today, I ran in the rain. My husband said, “The only other people that are out here are faster than you. That’s a good thing.” And what he meant was that I’ve become so passionate and dedicated to becoming better, that I’m out running no matter what. And I want to help create that passion and dedication in others.
So in addition to my desire to inspire (it rhymes!), I do have some personal running goals that I’d like to achieve over the course of this year. They are, in no particular order:
- run a half marathon in under 2 hours
- run a full marathon in under 4 hours and 30 minutes
- set a new 5k PR (my existing one is 25:52)
- run a race in another country
- don’t compare my running to other people’s running
- run happy
I have a few other New Year’s Resolutions that have nothing to do with running, but as often is the case, running mirrors life. If I can achieve my running goals, I can achieve my life goals. If I can stop comparing my running to other people’s running, I can stop comparing my life to other people’s lives. If I can run happy, I can live happy. And that, is the ultimate New Year’s Resolution.
I had planned on doing a long run today, but when I checked the weather a few days ago, I saw that it was going to be in the 20’s. That’s cold. There was a time when I would have brushed it off as being too cold, and bagged the whole running idea entirely.
Not anymore. I woke up this morning, checked the weather again, and sighed. I was going to have to run in the cold. I waited until around noon, since it was at least going to be a little warmer by then. I checked the weather one last time, in the off chance that some freak warm front moved in out of nowhere.
That would be no.
I dressed in my warmest running gear: a long sleeved shirt with a short sleeved shirt over top it, running tights, my favorite running jacket, a headband to cover my ears, running gloves, and….leg warmers.
I blasted the heat in the car up until the very last second. As I turned the key and shut the car off, I had one leg out the door and running, minimizing any standing still time which would lead to coldness. As I ran the first mile, everything felt ok, except for the small section of my face that was exposed. It actually hurt. I thought that this might have been a bad idea, I was probably going to get frost bite on my face, and I should go home. Well, that didn’t happen. Not only did it not happen, but after the first mile, my face stopped hurting. It was still cold though. But I kept going. There were only about two other people in the park, and it was, I must say, very peaceful. After about mile 3, I found myself enjoying the quiet and maybe even the cold. It was at that moment I thought, “last year, you would never catch me out here in anything under 45 degrees.” Another runner passed me going the opposite way. A cyclist whizzed by. Both were dressed just like me. Both were still out doing it, just like me. We are slaves to our sport. We are obsessed.
We are athletes.
Growing up, I didn’t have much athletic inclination. I sang, I did theatre, I wrote, I was good in school. I used to do my friends’ poetry assignments and they’d pay me in candy. (Sorry Mrs. Graf). One of those friends’ poems even got published in this end of the school year compilation thing. I would have ratted myself out had I not had another poem published under my own name. But that’s beside the point. The point, dear readers, is that I would never have imagined that 20 years later, I’d be a runner. And not just a casual runner – a runner who’s so into her craft that she puts on leg warmers in order to run 7 miles when it’s 20 degrees outside.
We all have unmeasurable power within us. Never ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Running in the cold might not be your thing, but the options for what IS your thing are limitless. Just because you weren’t good at it before, doesn’t mean you can’t be now. I’m 40 years old. If I had let someone tell me it’s too late, I would never be who I am or where I am today. I would never have found my leg warmers.
Find your thing, put on your leg warmers, and don’t let anything stop you.
I remember when I started getting into running. I just put on my old sneakers, whatever workout clothes were on the top of the pile, and went out the door. You might think, “yeah that’s what I would do” or “well, that’s pretty much what running is, what else is there?”
A whole lot. And I only wish that someone had told me about it at the very beginning. Would it have stopped me from running? Absolutely not. But it could have saved me some time, money, and pain.
So if you’re just starting out, or thinking about starting out with running (to which I give a resounding “YAY!”), this post is for you. So without further ado, I present:
Ten Things No One Told Me About Running That I Wish I Had Known Before I Started.
- Shoes matter.
The sneakers I first started running in were these old Nikes I used primarily for the gym. There was nothing inherently wrong with them, and they were fine for what I was using them for. And they were even fine for running while I was working my way up to a 5k. But sooner rather than later, things started happening. Things like pain and blisters and soreness. Someone recommended I go to a running shop and get them to measure my foot, watch me run, and suggest a pair of sneakers suitable for my stride. My first thought was “I know my size, I don’t need them” which was immediately followed by “This is gonna cost some serious coin.” The blisters soon got the best of me, so I bit the bullet and headed to the shop. Not only did I discover that my current old Nikes were completely unsuitable for running, but they were also the wrong size. I wore a size 7 my whole life (and still do in all my other shoes) but they put me in an 8 1/2 Saucony. And after a few runs, I realized they were right. And worth every penny. On a side note, I’ve been a Saucony girl ever since. I tried Asics for a while during my “minimalist” phase, but then I got tendinitis in my left ankle, so I went back to Sauconys and things have been rainbows and unicorns ever since. Which brings me to…
2. Injuries happen.
This is the brace I had to wear every time I went running for months. Not to mention the first couple of months that I couldn’t run at all. Tendinitis was by far the WORST running injury I personally experienced. But if you run, they’re gonna happen. From your knee, to your IT Band, to your hip, to your ankle, and other random things that I’ve never had hurt but I’m sure someone else has, you will get injured. You will also recover (most likely). One time I was running a trail race, tripped on the root of tree, flew what felt like 5 feet up and forward (in slow motion) and skidded face first into the dirt. My whole body hurt. I slowly got up, brushed myself off, and cried. Quickly realizing I was in the middle of the woods and there was nobody around to help me, I pulled it together, and did the only thing I could do – finished the race. Thankfully, I only wound up with a few days of soreness and some scrapes and bruises. Did I let that stop me though? NO! It comes with the territory. If you challenge yourself, you’re bound to fall on your face once in a while. It’s what you do next that really counts .
3. Toenails – who needs ’em?!
This is my black toenail. Isn’t it lovely? It’s still attached to my toe, and it doesn’t hurt. It’s not my first one, nor will it be my last. They’re ugly, and they’re unavoidable. Sometimes they stay like this for a long time. And sometimes…
…they fall off. You can still get a pedicure though. Just tell them to paint the toe. They will look at you like a total weirdo, but just assure them it’s ok, you’re a runner, and have done this before. You will miss your once cute and well manicured feet. You might pass up wearing sandals on a warm day. But eventually, you’ll wear your black toenails proudly like a badge of honor. “Yes I AM a runner.” you’ll say with pride as strangers look at your toes instead of into your eyes. It took you many miles to get them to look like that. Now go out and let the world know it.
4. Just say no to cotton socks.
These are my favorite running socks. I never even heard of them until one day my husband said “I got you Balega socks – they were on sale.” Since then I bought another pair, and I plan to buy more. They are soft, comfy, and breathable – but the coolest part is they have this little lip thing at the back of the heel that prevent your heels from rubbing against your shoes.
When I started running, I just wore the socks I had. They were cute, and were perfect for the gym. They were also cotton. As I continued my descent into the realm of running, I was getting a lot of blisters. I mentioned it to my husband (who was my then boyfrined) and he said, “Are you wearing cotton socks? Because you should never run in cotton socks.” Well, as much as I hate ever saying this, he was right. I have not run in cotton socks since. Besides the Balegas, I also love these:
I have like 10 pairs of them. I told you I was a Saucony girl. But whatever your sock brand of choice, if you’re going to be putting in some real miles, lose the cotton. It may be the fabric of our lives, but just not the running part of our lives.
5. More salt.
I used to eat sweets like nobody’s business. For some reason, the more I ran, the less sweets I ate. I was able to almost completely cut out candy, and I don’t even want to eat it. However, my decreasing desire for sweets was inversely proportionate to my increasing desire for salt. I never liked salt. I never put salt on anything, I scraped salt off of pretzels and I rarely ate potato chips. Suddenly, I found myself wanting chips… a lot. At first, I ate them. Then I starting thinking this wasn’t the best idea, so I switched to popcorn. I’ve eaten more popcorn in the past year than in the 39 years leading up to that point. It’s my new favorite food. I wish I had some right now. Anyway, you’re going to want salt, since you’ll be sweating a heck of a lot more of it out. Here’s a good article about running and salt on active.com.
6. Get the proper gear.
That’s my go to gear for distance running. I wore all three of them for my marathon and had no problems with chafing, rubbing, being too hot or too cold or uncomfortable in any way. I have over time, spent a lot of money on running clothes (it’s cute, what can I say). Some of it has been on the expensive side, some of it has not. Some of it was great for 3 mile runs, but did not work out for 6 mile runs. Some of it was great for 6 mile runs, but did not work out for 9 mile runs, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to find the gear that works for you. Truthfully, two of my go to pieces are from Target. They have quality stuff at a great price. One sports bra that was particularly expensive wound up causing me a lot of pain. The price doesn’t matter. It’s whatever works best for you. I wish I could give you better guidelines, but everybody’s different and it’s ultimately about trial and error, but I can say watch out for bulky seams, things that are too tight, things that are too loose, and things that are made from heavy scratchy material. Try Target. You won’t break the bank if at first your don’t succeed, and odds are, you will succeed with something they have to offer – it’s good stuff.
7. Port A Potties become your new best friend.
I have no picture of this (thankfully). They’re gross. Even the clean ones are kind of gross. But what a wonderful thing it is to open the door to a Port A Potty while running a race, and find it stocked with toilet paper. An added bonus is when they have hand sanitizer! But the best thing of all is when there’s no line. Port A Potties are such a hot commodity during races, that it’s a rare find when you can just walk up, walk in and go. Sometimes, during a race, the Port A Potty in the distance becomes your reason to keep going. Sounds weird, right? You’ll get used to it. And every once in a while you’ll get super lucky and a race will start/end at a location that has a REAL bathroom. It’s like the royal treatment.
8. Your boots won’t zip up.
I am not complaining about this – it’s not a bad thing. Sure, you might have to buy new boots, but who doesn’t want a real reason to buy a new pair of boots?? Your calf muscles are growing. You’re getting stronger and more muscular. And you get to update your shoe collection at the same time. All good things, friends. You might even be able to stretch those old boots out enough to still fit (I did, but only after pinching my skin so hard it left a visible bruise for like 2 weeks).
9. The return of pimples.
When I run, I wear a headband. It keeps wispy hairs out of my face if they happen to escape from my ponytail holder. It took me a while to find headbands that actually stayed in place while I run (I actually had one fly off during a race once and never saw it again). These Nike headbands are comfy, not too tight, but tight enough to stay put. However, a side effect of headband wearing while running is pimples. I haven’t had pimples since college and that was a long time ago. Suddenly they’re back. The good thing is that they are only around my hairline, where the headband sits, so no one knows they’re there but me. But, geez, they sure hurt sometimes.
10. It becomes an obsession.
The reason that you’ll be fine with and even welcome the first 9 things on this list is because running becomes part of who you are. When something happens that interferes with a run, I have anxiety. Missing a run is like the worst possible thing that could ever happen, and I’m beside myself trying to figure out what to do about it. Do I run twice on the next day to make up for it? Do I double my distance? Do I ditch (insert important event here) to feed my addiction? And that’s exactly what it is – a running addiction. It’s a wonderful thing. Although there are some minor obstacles to work through, it’s all worth it in the end. You’ll be stronger physically. You’ll be stronger mentally. You’ll learn things about yourself you never knew. You’ll find yourself doing things and shattering goals you never thought possible. A few black toenails is a small price to pay for living the dream.
It’s never too late to start running.
I did it. I ran a marathon. This past Sunday, November 13, 2016, I ran the Bucks County Marathon, in 5 hours, 22 minutes, and 39 seconds.
It was the best of runs and the worst of runs.
Up until I crossed the starting line, I was having doubts about doing it. There were about a thousand different moments when I decided NOT to run it. But, thankfully I kept talking myself back into it. And when I woke up that morning and saw the weather I pulled my anxious self together, put on my running gear and said to myself:
-it’s sunny and 45 degrees, which is perfect marathon weather
-you’ve trained for this and in your great physical shape for it
-you’re not injured (last year, on my very first training run, I got hurt)
-the race starts at 9am which is perfect since you hate waking up super early and running
-you’re 40 and not getting any younger
-you will be able to tell everyone you ran a marathon and you can finally put the 26.2 sticker on your car
And with that, I hopped into my husband’s car, and we headed to the race.
Like I mentioned, I was freaking out inside up until I crossed the starting line. As I kissed my husband goodbye and began jogging off into the distance, he said, “Just keep moving forward. It’s all you can do.”
And move forward, I did.
And for 16 miles, I felt wonderful. I was doing it – I was running a marathon! I crossed the half marathon point and felt great – it was an out and back course, through the beautiful, scenic fall foliage of Bucks County. At the turning point, I thought, “wow, I made it halfway and it was like nothing – I’ve only got 13.1 more miles to go – it’s gonna be a piece of cake!”
I rode that feeling for three more miles, when suddenly, like a lightning bolt from the running gods, I was struck from my high horse and found myself in a strange, dark, place.
My husband had warned me about this. “You’re going to through some rough patches, but you’ll get through it,” he told me. I nodded, but inside, I was thinking, whatever you say boss, I haven’t had any mental breakdowns throughout my training, so why would that happen this time. Well, it started with feeling sick to my stomach. It escalated into panic when I realized there were hardly any port-o-potties on this course. It turned to tears when I found myself somewhere in New Hope, PA, alone, with no other runners in sight in either direction. I was falling apart, mentally. All the preparation I had done was purely physical. I was not prepared for this. I didn’t recognize my surroundings which led me to believe I had somehow gone off the path. I stopped. I looked around for some hint of what the right direction was. I pulled out my phone, about to try using google maps, or as an absolute last resort, calling my husband to come save me. I looked around one last time, when I saw it, ahead in the distance – the 18 mile marker. I was going the right way after all.
At this point, I was doing some sort of half run, half walk thing, but I did what my husband said – kept moving forward. I was alternating between feeling sick and crying for the next 4 miles, when, at mile 22, another runner came up next to me.
“I was using you as a pacer!” he said. He was smiling.
“This is my first marathon,” I wearily replied.
“Mine too! And we’re doing great!” he exclaimed. He was right. And I needed to hear that. I ditched the tears and plowed onward.
At mile 24.5, my husband appeared, walking towards me. I was embarrassed at first, because I was merely walking at this point myself.
But I was glad he was there when he was – he gave me that extra push to take it to the end, although I complained and cried all the way through the last mile, which I swear was the longest mile I’ve ever run. It was as if the finish line was getting farther away the more I ran. But somehow, I found myself about to cross that line.
I’ll remember that moment forever. The girl on the other side, holding the medals, smiling. In my mind, it plays back in slow motion. I looked down at those things that pick up your time chip as I stepped across. I saw my husband off to the left. The music was playing, and it was a beautiful day. I had done it.
And I have the medal (and soreness) to prove it.
It’s been an intense week. I don’t really want to talk politics, but I will say that after all that’s gone down, my soul needs a little nourishment. And for me, that nourishment comes from another kind of sole.
I’m addicted to running. If I don’t run, I get anxious and upset, and don’t know what to do with myself. When things go low, I go run. And I always feel better afterwards. Do all of my problems/concerns/issues magically vanish with each mile? No. But with every mile, I feel stronger and more focused. The issues don’t seem so insurmountable and sometimes I even wind up solving problems or tapping into a major creative flow.
After a run, I feel like me again.
Truthfully, I sometimes wonder who “me” really is. I worry that I’m not who I want to be. I worry about what’s going to happen next. I worry about what’s happened already. And when all this worry and wonder is just about to bury me alive, I run. And run. And run again. Sometimes I cry when I run. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I sing (loudly – just ask my husband). And sometimes, I’m silently taking it all in. But whatever I’m doing, it’s filling in those holes we all get in our souls – and making me whole again.
Today, I ran 8 miles. It was a beautiful autumn day. The leaves were falling around me (one hit me right on the nose, in fact), the sun was shining, and I was flying. At least, that’s how it felt. Not because I was going super fast or anything, but because my soul was being lifted – by the soles of my sneakers.
Each step reminded me of what it means to be strong, aware, awake, and alive. We can change the world. One sole at a time.
Today I ran a 10k across the Ben Franklin Bridge. It looked like this:
I actually took that photo in 2013. That’s part of the story.
It actually doesn’t start there though. It’s starts on August 20th, 2011. The day I ran my first official race. It was a 10k – the Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge. I remember it like it was yesterday. I woke up totally freaked out and almost didn’t go. I was going alone, and I had no idea what to expect. I also didn’t really run 6.2 miles all that much so the distance scared me, too. I went anyway. I totally had a panic attack in my car and cried on the way there (and it was a long drive). I got there, got my bib and just stood there and stared at it, with absolutely no clue what I was supposed to do with it. A random stranger approached me, and said, “You look like a newbie. Here’s some pins for your bib.” A wave of relief washed over me, taking my shame with it. I thanked him, and proceeded to attach what would wind up being the first of many, many racing bibs to the front of my shirt.
I made my way to the start, but I still had this bag with the race shirt in it. “How come no one else seems to have this?” I wondered. I felt clueless again. So I did what any person running their first race alone would do – I ran holding the bag. I also wasn’t sure if running with headphones was a thing – so I left my headphones and ipod at home, only to discover that pretty much everyone else had headphones and an ipod. So I silently made my way through 6.2 very challenging and very hot miles, holding a bag with a shirt in it. But you know what else I did? I finished.
It took me 1 hour and 2 minutes. I wasn’t doing it for time though, I was doing it because I wanted to finish. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run a 1ok. And prove it to myself, I did. I cried again on the way home, but this time with joy.
And that, my friends, is how my love of running began.
I have since run a lot of races, but I admit that only a handful of them have been a 10k. They just don’t seem quite as popular as some of the other distances. But the 10k has and will always have a special place in my heart. The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge is one that I’ve done 4 times total, including today.
In 2013, I had a PR (personal record – my mom asked me to define some of the terminology, so that’s for you, mom) at that race – the day I took that photo at the top. I ran it in 56:40 that day. Over 5 minutes faster than my first one. I also ran with a group of friends, including my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I had come a long way. I was grateful for the strength, dedication, and perseverance it took to get from race A to race B. I was grateful for the love and support of my running peeps. I was hurting though, and thought that would be my best 10k for a long time.
If your definition of “long time” is 2 and half years, than I was correct. In April of 2015, I ran another 10k at the Riverwinds in Deptford – the “411 Race”, at which I ran a 56:04. I was honestly, surprised. I really didn’t think I could run a 10k any faster than my previous PR, but somehow, I managed to beat it by 36 seconds. I ran this with some friends, too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run a single race alone since 2012.
That picture was taken today. At the Run the Bridge, 2016. On the way there, I told my husband that I was going to PR today (I actually also told him I was going to win, but not all dreams come true). The weather was perfect. We found our friends. We had our bibs pinned on, and I had my headphones, ipod, garmin, fitbit and wrist wrap (to hold my keys and ID).
As I made my way across the bridge, I thought about those races of days past. I remembered how hard they were. I remembered how long they felt. I remembered how amazing it was to complete each and every one. I was grateful for my ability to grow, and for everything I’ve learned and accomplished. I was grateful for my husband and my friends. I was grateful for running.
I finished in 54:38. I did it.
Good things come to those who work hard, stay strong, and believe they can do it. It’s never too late to start believing.