This thankful running heart

Photo Credit: Jim McWilliams / The Philadelphia Marathon

To think that it’s Thanksgiving already, that we’re already so close to the year’s end..sometimes I feel as though we’re in this race against time, only we’re getting left despite our best efforts to up the ante and increase our speed. In spite of this, and time’s steady progression, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on what we have been able to achieve thus far and in so doing be better able to continue in our pursuit of excellence and fulfillment.

Thanksgiving provides us the perfect opportunity to look both within and around us to account for our blessings and/or areas in our lives that we are thankful for. For my part, I’m particularly full of running thankfulness, thankful that:
– thus far this year I’ve had very minor running injuries
– I’ve been able to run four marathons with a faster time each time
– I feel healthy and strong
– I qualified for Boston again
– my knowledge of running grows more and more each day
– I have a running group to train with
– I live and run in beautiful New York
– I’m able to share my running thoughts and dreams with you here on this blog
– I can now appreciate that there are no limits to what I can achieve if I want it badly enough
– through running I have met the most inspirational and dedicated people
– I know and love my body

Of course I’m thankful for a lot more than running; like family, friends, the gym, my job, my faith and yes, completing Philly in 3:34:33! I. Did. It. Last Sunday, I ran the Gore-Tex Philadelphia marathon. A short recap; downtown Philadelphia is a beautiful and historic city with lots of pretty architecture and happening restaurants. The scenic route of the marathon was pretty cool and save for the seemingly endless miles around a reservoir, this being the most challenging aspect of what was a basically flat and fast course, it would have been a phenomenal run. Reflecting on my performance, I feel I need to particularly work on my pace in the latter half of a marathon if I’m to really maximize the negative-split concept, which is basically running the second half of the race faster than the first. Around mile 19 the forefront/ underside of my feet began complaining, I am convinced there is an issue there either with my shoes or feet, and I found myself struggling to increase and even keep pace. This led to some challenging moments from which I eventually emerged on top. Still, it was touch and go for a while there and though I’m always up for a challenge, a masochist I am not so given this is my second time dealing with the same issue, I think this warrants looking into. All in all though, it was a great experience and my fastest marathon thus far, which makes me feel pretty confident moving forward; for this, I am extremely thankful.

Setting goals are great as it provides initiative, momentum and accountability. Realizing your goals are greater still for providing satisfaction, self-confidence, inspiration and a sense of achievement. There’s just over a month left in the year and more than enough time to express our thanks for life’s many blessings while yet keeping our eyes on the goal.

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Stay Healthy, Warm & Running as Winter Approaches

runningwinterHonestly,  this is my worst weather for running. Those who know me, know that I’m a summer baby. Born and bred in the Caribbean, I have a very low tolerance for cold weather while the heat doesn’t bother me one bit. I could live a thousand years of Summer just to not have to deal with winter but wishful thinking does not Summer make, so being the realist that I am (not), each year that I’ve lived here, I have had to dig deep down inside and find my New Yorker determination and fortitude; there is such a thing. See, living in New York has been good for me, I’ve become a more of a roll-with-the-punches sorta gal who believes that running will fix most if not everything. Survival can do that to you. Pardon the expression, but this concrete jungle out here leaves very little room for the timid and hesitant; my experience has taught me the value of dealing with things in a practical and straight forward way, especially when there is no way around it. You gotta love this place; it’s a pull-yourself-up-by-booth-straps kinda city and winter presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

My first experience of snow in this country was a beautiful thing, then I came to New York. See, before I arrived in the peachy state of Georgia, it hadn’t snowed there for eight years. Those beautiful southern folks hadn’t a clue how to deal with even a dusting and so their response was to shut down the town, city, state, everything, which suited everyone just fine. Holiday anyone? So, the most beautiful sight I had ever seen was the fairy-dust of snow that was just enough for playing in: snow fights, not-too-much-of-a-snowman, rolling around, picture-posing.. It was a ton of fun. One day of snow and then it was all gone, nary a thought to it affecting running. Christmas 2007 altered all that; a snowstorm hailed my arrival in the big apple that shut down the city airports, grounded flights and left people stranded in the airports along the north-west for a few days. That snow was to stay on the ground for weeks; commuters nightmare realized and the end of my romance with the white monster called winter. Not that I minded snow in the least, it really does paint a pretty picture and then there are the sporting uses it’s good for, but really it’s the effects and affects of the season: the blinding cold, the discomfort of piling on layers, the inconvenience of using the bathroom as a result, the inability to be warm no matter how many layers, and of course the limit it places on my running adventures – who really enjoys running with layers of clothes, frozen cheeks, breath, fingers, toes and not being able to sweat..that’s how you gauge how hard you’ve worked, by the sweat of your brow..that sort of thing, and of course who feels like guzzling down water and other liquids to keep hydrated when you really don’t want to be visiting the bathroom as it takes twice the time it typically does. Plus, I am one who wants nothing that even resembles cold to drink. So there you have my dilemma, which has only slightly diminished in its intensity since my advent into cold weather.

I try to have more of a positive outlook and think in terms of winter wonderland these days. Acclimation to cold weather not being my thing, I’m still always cold but I complain less – hasn’t helped since so what’s the use – to my way of thinking. But mainly what has helped with my attitude change is my ability to run around it. I learnt pretty fast the tricks to staying sane during the winter months and this among others may be the reason I like to say I’m a new yorker. Here are some of my tips to not only survive but to thrive while running in winter wonderland.

The Run is truly for those who endure:
. Winter is the perfect season for the gym. I can vary my days depending on the weather between gym workouts and running outside.
. The treadmill is not my enemy and can actually be put to good use on those bad weather days when I’m training.
. Wearing the proper cold running gear is paramount to staying well and fit. Breathable material allows pores to absorb and let out air and perspiration.
. It is essential to properly cover up ones’ extremities such as hands, feet, face and ears.
. It’s absolutely necessary to hydrate when exercising and running outside as you are less likely to feel thirsty because of the cold air thus leading to dehydration.
. A winter or late fall race is ideal to keep the running momentum going. It keeps you focused, training and gainfully exercised.
. Winter is already cold and can be quite isolating as lots of runners travel, hibernate, whatever… You want to make sure you stick to your running group or find one and/ or a partner to help you through your cold sessions.
. I find it extremely fool-hardy to run on black ice, the one you can barely see but can have you slipping and sliding. Living to run another day is way more important.
. Running around noon is usually the best time to run..You get to maximize your vitamin D intake which sometimes can be extremely low during the cold season and it’s as warm and enjoyable as it will ever be.

During winter months, I find that I run harder to get the results I want; this could be because the air is colder and sharper, which lends itself to a slightly more strenuous breathing pattern for me, as well as it could be that I run harder because I feel I don’t achieve as much due to my sweat level which is almost non-existent. And let me tell you, I sweat..like clothes-soaking, body-dripping sweat so it feels strange in the winter not to do so even while I understand that the cold air dries it up before it even sets on one’s skin. In any event, if you’re half-way determined as I am and you’re getting ready to amble out, be sure to stock up on winter running gear and talk and listen to your body to put yourself in a winter running frame of mind. You may be surprised by what you learn.

Redefining Running (Part 2)

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In the first part of this topic we discussed the evolution of running and I highlighted some of newer aspects of our sport, which takes us beyond the typical run-for-health-or-exercise reasons to that of fun and competition. We explored this in the context of ultra running events for those of us who wanted to expand our horizons and push our limits; no longer accepting of the status quo or what it means to be the average runner.

I find this new push for endurance racing or running quite interesting, first because it indicates the presence of a relentless and demanding drive in our personalities that mirrors that of the competitive athlete: supremely confident and highly driven to achieve one’s personal best, and second, because now I’m curious about the extent of our drive for self-actualization in running: what does this mean for the future of running and how far can our desire for more take us?

While those questions are sure to set us a’wondering, it behooves us to consider how far we’ve progressed since the days of Pheidippides (our marathon namesake) and to see the evolution of running as the natural progression of a sport of passion, which brings us to my first point: the personality of the runner who determines that a marathon is no longer enough. I can safely say I identify since I know what it is to achieve your first marathon – the anticlimax of a build up of complex emotions: demanding physical and mental preparedness coupled with extreme psychological and physical adjustments. The finish line is now associated with time, medal and the next event. Crazy right. I recall completing my first marathon, was it only last year – deep in the bellies of pain – and there I was thinking of the next one, which was to be less than two months away, and the next, a month later. Now I’m at crossroads, considering my first ultra event next year. Sure I have set other goals along the way, like completing the World Marathon Majors and running some of the most amazing and toughest courses, however, now I have a new goal: completing a triathlon next year while vaguely in the distance I can detect the shaping up of an iron man. I have demanded of my mind to stop there though I suspect there are a lot more ideas buzzing around. In this instance, I find the challenge to be one of keeping focus on one goal at a time and not splitting oneself into various parts attempting to achieve different things. But it’s always right there on the periphery of my mind; what’s next, where to run, how can I get faster, be stronger, do better next time? For there is never a doubt that there will be a next time only a matter of when.

Many runners share this crazy passion, always on the look out for the next big race or event. Whether it’s cross-country, over trails and mountains, across ice, over rocks, through streams and in valleys, over five hours or a couple of days, I will go so far as to say we thrive on it; our aphrodisiac if you will – what stimulates and motivates us to being better people and better athletes. If you’ve ever faced the question of – why do you do it – then you know deep down that it’s as simple as, why not. The training, sacrifice, dedication, and various daily deprivations, that’s the hard part. Then again, it comes with the guarantee of an utter sense of fulfillment upon completion of each big one. So indeed, why not.

The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

Redefining Running (Part 1)

Trail-Running

       “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” -T.S. Eliot

As early as I could walk, I ran; bet that’s most of our stories, that running came as natural as breathing. I often wonder though, when I hear claims today of -running’s not for me- or -we just can’t-  it’s too difficult, too tiring, too time-consuming, too hazardous, so-not-my-thing, the list goes on… as our excuses melt into, well.. excuses. What happened? Where did our natural ability to give flight to our worries, cares, fancies and even dreams go? When did we become such a sedentary-type people with lips that move more than we do? I’d wager that the advance in information technology (IT) gave birth to not just knowledge and information, but with its advance came the decline of human autonomy and our desire to engage ourselves and our senses in the act of living.

Yet, this is not all our story. There are many of us who have moved past the seduction and post-coital stages of the IT era to embrace its ability to enhance our lives and bring fulfillment to our running experiences. In fact, running is now enjoyed by more people the world over than ever before in history. The 1970’s saw the explosion of running across the United States with thousands of road races and marathons being run each year. Running now enjoys the prominent place of being the sixth most popular form of exercise according to Dr. Richard Well, CDE of Medicine Net.com. We owe our thanks largely to Pheidippides (490 BC), an ancient “day-runner,” who put running on the map. He is supposed to have run 149 miles to carry the news of the Persian landing at Marathon to Sparta to enlist help for the battle. Some believe the story of Pheidippides to be a myth, whether myth or legend, it is the genesis of the modern marathon. It was the first running of the marathon (26 miles, 385 yard) in the modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens that commemorated Pheidippides’ historic run.

Today running has taken on more depth and definition. While many of us run for health reasons and see it mainly as a form of exercise, there are those who have taken it to the next level of fun and competition. Another, slightly newer though fast developing  area of running is the extreme sporting aspect of ultra running events for the ultra-competitive and thrill seekers. Here we move from marathons, track, road races and various fun runs to ultra-marathons, trail running, decathlons, triathlons and Iron-man triathlons.

  • Considered any race over 26.2 miles, Ultra-marathons generally come in two forms: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during a specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres, 100 kilometres, 50 miles, and 100 miles, although many races have other distances.
  • Trail Running can include endurance and cross-country running and hiking over trails and is typical to most ultra-marathon events.
  • Decathlons are composed of ten track and field events run over a two-day period.
  • Triathlons are multiple-stage competitions that include three successive sporting events of varying distances. The most common form is swimming, biking and running.
  • An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break.

With all this new additions to the sport of running, it is no wonder that many of us are no longer satisfied with a fun run or just running for exercise. There is an innate drive and desire in us for more; it creates a discontent with the status quo and allows us to push beyond boundaries and exceed limitations in our pursuance of that sense of overwhelming fulfillment that can only come from the ultimate challenge. In the words of Michael Finkel, 100-mile Western States Endurance Run Ultra-marathoner,

“I was suffused with this warm sense of overwhelming fulfillment. In one day, I’d totally rejiggered how I calculated my abilities and weaknesses. I was deeply happy.”

 

Sick With Marathon Fever

imageHow many know it’s marathon season and that no where in the world do you feel it like here in New York City. The way I see it, it begins with Fall and lasts right through November though there is no official advent into what is in fact the most hyped running time of the year. This is due largely in part to the feature running event of the year being held here every November – the newly named, TCS NYC Marathon, a premier running event here in New York and perhaps the world as it is one of the World Marathon Major Series. In fact, it follows the Chicago marathon, which was two weeks ago and the Berlin marathon a couple weeks before that, all part of the Marathon Majors as well.

As a regular New Yorker, one can’t help but get caught up in the hype. The city lives and breathes running, its signs are everywhere: at the subway stations, in the shopping centers, the streets, on the air, everywhere. As a New York runner, it’s a bigger deal, with most runners rounding of their year of training with the run of a lifetime here in New York. Of course there are other marathons around this time as well, like the Philadelphia marathon, rock and roll Las Vegas, Marine Corp in DC and the Nike women’s marathon in San Francisco to name a few, and there’re even runners doing more than one of those. In fact, it’s not unheard of to run from Chicago to New York to Philly, not literally of course, but to take on those three marathons in succession. Whatever the reason, there is a whole bunch of running crazy going on; so much so, that you run the risk ..no pun intended..of company each time you go out for a run. Runners are everywhere: the parks, the busy city streets, the relatively quiet neighborhoods, the gyms, the outer boroughs – everywhere. The air is palpable and the feeling is infectious, everyone knows and a great deal care about the marathon. On Sunday November 2, it is expected 50,000 runners will take to the streets of New York City, accompanied and cheered on by thousands of spectators: members of the running community, family, friends, visitors and everyone else. If that is not in essence a celebration then I don’t know what is.  How to live here and not be a part of that? You either run, get run over, run out of town..kidding..mostly anyhow, or preserve sanity and health and, in the words of New York Road Runners (NYRR), get your run on.

Last year I had the privilege to run amid that 50,000 and what an experience it was. So good in fact, I’m back for more, though not running this time as I had other goals this year. This year I’m part of the spectator/volunteer crowd and think being on the other side should be quite something itself. It’s so cool that last year I ran in wave 2 of the orange coral and this year I get to be an Orange Coral Marshall; in case you couldn’t tell, I’m all about experiences and can I tell you, life is full of them and that is enough reason for living, loving and running.

In addition, I’m thick in the midst of all things running because I’m gearing up for Philly marathon on November 23. Training has offered me the opportunity to run all over the city sure, but it has also given me an insider’s view on how enthused New Yorkers are to this whole idea, rage, sport, fad -call it what you will- it’s real and like I stated above, likened to being caught with a bug, fever and all. Whether it’s 6am or 9pm makes little difference to runners out here, only the rain can cause a decline in their presence and even so temperatures must be low. As the marathon draws near, a week and a half away to be exact, a lot of runners are tapering down as training is pretty much done for this event, though I imagine the ones that are out there are just maintaining form now while others like myself are looking to the next run. In any event, that’s my rationale for the many I see daily on my runs in and around this fevered-marathon city. You can tell I love it here right..I’m the very biased, not-so-subtle aspiring New Yorker.

Beyond Disappointment Runs Hope

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – J. Rohn

How many times in life have you had to deal with things either not going the way you planned or not turning out the way you had hoped it would. If you ask me, too often. In the typical everyday scheme of things, life seems to be full of disappointments; from unemployment to sickness to death, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing at times. Add the running dynamic and things get a bit more dicey. Not only do you have to deal with life’s everyday disappointments, but now you have those that come along with the sport as well. How do we do it?

At the beginning of the year, I made a list. Remember those new year resolutions/ goals..yep those, well mine were particular to running and on there were a few pertaining to achieving new times and running new races. Mainly , I wanted to qualify for Boston next year, by which I mean run Boston next year, and frankly though I knew they weren’t interchangeable, I really didn’t consider not getting in if I qualified. You guys know what happened with that – major disappointment. But I survived, had to live to run another day right? In any event, I’m thinking… Ok, I still have Denver, my fun, exploratory run, which I’ve been looking forward to for sometime now, only now it’s also not happening. After much thought and strategizing, it seems more prudent to run a marathon that will allow me to re qualify, which is what I must do to run Boston 2016. Dreams of high-altitude (not really), rolling hills, fresh air, scenic route, adventure, and meeting new runners aside, I must now channel and redirect that energy and enthusiasm to achieve a bigger dream.

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Disappointment, I accept as a part of life. As a part of my running life, I find it a bit harder to manage – but manage I must. There is no where one can hide really. No runner plans on injury before a race after training so hard for so long, or on not finishing or qualifying or making the cut. Or what about falling sick, having a bad race or race cancellation (as was the case with the ING NYC Marathon 2012). These are not plans a runner makes, on the contrary, we do everything within out power to ensure we have the opportunity for a successful race: we train long and hard, sacrifice time, money, energy and give up so many things to make our dream happen, and to be honest, it happens as often as it doesn’t. So really 50/50 is not so bad but the over-achiever in me wants a higher percentage in my favor.

The key to overcoming and managing your disappointments, come as they must, lies in your perspective and in your hands. You see, our ability to choose what we do with what happens to us or even around us will ultimately determine our attitude and shape our actions. Choosing to put a positive spin on things, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to take the good and leave the bad is a choice we have. This choice can either absorb us or absolve us, it can either makes us or break us, destroy us or build us. We get to choose. Each time I am faced with disappointment, I choose hope; I choose to motivate myself to try harder, to run faster, to be more diligent and more determined. It works for me.

The Philadelphia Marathon comes up on November 23, it’s my next hope for Boston 2016, where I hope to qualify with a faster time than before. I hear it’s a fast and pretty flat course, there should be some advantage to that. The weather will also be much colder, hopefully more cool than cold, but this is my reply when disappointment comes, I plan another race, I train a little harder, and mentally prepare myself to achieve what is inevitably a tougher goal the second time around. I never give up. Quitting is never an option.

Running for Life in “Pink Month”

imageMany of us are aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer is one of the most common cancers found in women (though men are not immune) and a leading cause of death in developing countries says David Foreman, head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, section on cancer information; in fact, in 2012 the World Health Organization stated that 14.1 million people worldwide developed cancer that year up from 12.7 million in 2008. And 1.7 million women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer, up by more than 8% from 2008; 522,000 died as a result, while the global death toll for all cancers were 8.2 million. The IARC projects that the number of global cases will jump to 19.3 million by 2025, increasing the stats on breast and every other type of cancer.

Cancer kills. Breast Cancer doesn’t have to. Running can help. One of the main ways in which we can help the fight against breast cancer is by getting involved. You can empower yourself through learning about this disease that affects millions every year and share what you know; mobile centers are being set up all over the country providing information and screening. In addition, there are many self-help options to assist you with carrying out your own breast self-examination ( videos on YouTube, flyers, brochures), which is a proactive approach to detect any early signs. And of course, you can run for the cause and donate towards research.

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Throughout October, all over the country, there are many runs, relays and walks to raise awareness about this disease. Running is one of your healthier options to give life to a cause that affects everyone in some way. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is one of the biggest events in October, which takes place in eight cities in the United States on different dates: Charlotte, Houston, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and here in New York City from October 18-19. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, is another big event this month; hosted by the American Cancer Society, this is one of the largest fundraising and awareness events in the nation where you can join the relay for life and find a community to run with. Yet another, is the Susan G Komen, Race for the Cure: a 5k-3 day event that invites you be a part of something big, meaningful and effective. These organizations share in essence a common goal: to eradicate breast cancer and empower survivors. The work and strides that have been made to this end is nothing short of amazing and reflects largely the huge impact Breast Cancer has had around the world. There may be variations on achieving their common objective but they all share, in some way, Susan G Komen’s organization methods of getting there; through research, community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives. The best news is that it’s all easily accessible: information, runs, care and support; it’s yours with the click of a mouse. The respective websites have tons of information on how to get involved in a city near you. So, while these three are among the more popular events running in October, for sure there are a lot more throughout the country and around the world, and include cycle rides, charity swims, skydives, walks, treks and charity challenges. Let’s not forget the marathons, half-marathons, 10ks and 5ks, each and every one an opportunity to support the cause; throw on something pink, buy your ribbon and make some strides.

” The opportunist sees opportunities everywhere.”

There is always an opportunity to make a difference. The time is now to take a stand and run with it. Will you.

St. Louis Run for a Cure 2011

St. Louis Run for a Cure 2011

African Greatness: Berlin, Records, Runners

Dennis Kimetto, 2014 Marathon World Record Holder, Berlin, Germany

Dennis Kimetto, 2014 Marathon World Record Holder, Berlin, Germany

The Berlin Marathon, one of six in the World Marathon Major series, wrapped up on Sunday with a spectacular win by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto on the fastest course in the world. Turns out being a champion requires a little more than your best, it requires your all. I think that’s what Kimetto delivered on Sunday as he ran his way to breaking a world record and now owing the title of the only one to ever run a marathon under 2:03. I’m still all WOW..I mean 2:02:57 is a super big deal! Hats and cloaks and everything off to Kimetto; a well deserved and superbly executed run. I couldn’t do it better myself..lol..not even close. Emmanuel Mutai’s second place of 2:03:13 hardly seemed to matter in the wake of Kimetto’s victory but was a valiant effort nonetheless, though he will hardly get the props for it. Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma came in third with 2:05:56. On the women’s end, we had Ethiopians: Tirfi Tsegaye running first place with 2:20:18 and Fayse Tadese taking second with 2:20:27. USA’s own Shalange Flanagan followed with 2:21:14. Good for her. In a field dominated by African greatness, she held her own and was able to come in the top three women..way to go..an amazing feat in and of itself.

There’s something here for us, if we take the time to sift through the stats, when we get past the buzz of records and rightful pride and glory of the runners; there’s something there. For those of us who care to look past the fame and fortune of the élite runner, we will find passion, diligence, humility, sacrifice and belief. How many of us dedicate ourselves to running, or any field of choice for that matter, with those qualities? Yet how many of us want the pride and the glory and the medal. If we learn anything at all, it is that when we see runners like Kimetto up there on the world stage, it wasn’t just running that got him there. It took all the qualities we described before and a lot of heart and then some to live his dream. Compare Kimetto before 2010 with Kimetto today, that of a subsistence farmer in Kapngetuny, Kenya; a relative unknown, fast forward today; marathon world record holder. There is a story there, one that inspires not just us but I’m sure the country of Kenya and the nation of Africa. A seed of hope has been planted in the heart of every Kenyan boy and girl..they can dream, have a right to dream. Because if Dennis Kimetto can do it, so can they.

The difference, as I see it, is not so much in the opportunity as in character. Growing up, I would often hear ” you have to want it badly enough.” I think so, in fact I believe so. Some children have it made and live the life of the idealistic – dream it and it will happen, that’s the life of the privileged. Then there are those who are faced with reality from early on – you want it, you have to work hard for it. Yet there are others still, who will hardly have even that as a choice – so depraved are their circumstances. Life is most often not an equal opportunity employer, we are often called to play the hand we’re dealt and a lot of the times it is far from easy but I still say – you have to want it enough. For me, I do not think of myself too much of a dedicated runner. I think I like to run most times and if I have a goal..say, a marathon..I’ll train for it; run 5 times a week, try to eat well, do cross training, long runs, some group training for speed and pace etc. But at the end of it, I am no where close to the training and dedication put out by the likes of Kimetto or Flanagan or Kara or any of those élite runners who run daily, hundreds of miles per week. Me, I’m doing awesome if I have a 60/70 mile week. Sure I understand it’s their job and so that has a lot to do with it but still.. If you didn’t like or care about your job, chances are you wouldn’t have it right.

Make no mistake, I’m a runner. I’m no Flanagan but I appreciate the sport, I advocate its benefits and I enjoy it most times. I am not a committed, 365-days-a-year runner, but I run over two-thirds of that so I think I qualify for runner status. I may never know the sacrifice of Kimetto but I know the sacrifices I live with to achieve my running dreams; the hard work, the aches and pains, the financial cost, the level of belief  in myself and my dream, the passion to achieve.. I know what those things mean to me and I believe it is a story that each runner can tell. For my part, I hope to be telling it, one day soon, from Berlin.

Fall In Love with Running this Fall

imageI am the eternal optimist. Let me tell you right off that I haven’t always been this way; times past, I have been quite the critique and complainer, what some people call.. high-maintenance, but a couple of years ago I made an important discovery.. my Aha moment if you will. I figured life is full of disappointments and dread but juxtaposed to this is its wonderful surprises and beautiful things.. depends on who’s looking and from where; remember my “perspective is everything” mantra? You see, battling disappointments can be a consuming past-time, who has time for that, so I decided to lean on the side of beautiful things as I really don’t have time for much else. Fast forward today and finding out yesterday that I missed the cut off 1:02 under qualifying mark for Boston 2015 by 22 seconds.

After the initial dread and tears which lasted a few minutes, I cannot allow for days as others who’ve described their past experiences, I smiled. Because I’m proud of me. Proud that I qualified within my first year of trying and that I came so close. While I’m in solidarity with the 1,946 other qualifiers who didn’t get in, I have so much hope for next year. Now to be honest, it is no easy feat to qualify: the sacrifice, commitment and hard work, that went into doing so is a testament to running excellence and is reason enough to be proud of your achievement. For some though, it might be impossible to do so again.. It is for those that my heart goes out; that you will never know the reward of your effort. May it be enough that you qualified. For others like myself, we know that runners never quit. It is the indelible spirit that unifies us, that we will train harder, run faster, do better and we will RUN BOSTON.

So tears aside, the race goes on and there are some great races all over the country to choose from if you’re going ahead with trying for Boston 2016 right away. Just so you know, the qualifying window opened last week, so all qualifying races that you run from here on until next year can count. I’m playing around with ideas such as Philly, New Jersey, Marine Corps DC or Anthem Richmond Marathon; all in beautiful Fall and with good courses to do a fast time. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to make sure it’s a qualifier.

The best things about running in the Fall season is nature and its transforming beauty. I heart its colorful changes, musicality and cool sunshine. And I get to do it from beautiful New York, oftentimes, in lovely Central Park. Therefore, it was only fitting that I ushered in the season with a 12 mile exhilarating run there two days ago. I felt so buoyant, so hopeful, so filled with wonder then and even now. I hold on to that, not allowing the disappointment of yesterday to steal my joy in today and in the promise of some beautiful Fall runs.

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