The Chicago Marathon, my running sweet spot

source: bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

@ the start line          bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

Last Sunday 40,400 runners crossed the finish line in Grant Park at The Chicago Marathon. We weaved a determined and exhilarating path through the streets of Chicago, from the downtown area through the suburbs and neighborhoods, out to the medical district and back. Runners came out in their numbers, each wanting their moment of glory, some with personal goals, others as part of a collective effort to raise money for a favorite charity. Whatever the reason, we embraced the warmth, cheers and encouragement of over 1.7 million spectators and thousands of volunteers to cement this, at least in my mind, as the most superbly organized marathon event I have run thus far.

The New York City Marathon runs a close second to Chicago because of its phenomenal crowds and volunteers and because..well, it’s New York. I don’t for one second take for granted how challenging it must be to pull of an event of this magnitude in any city. We, runners, are just super thrilled that organizers of these racing events have the experience and know-how to make it happen and thus afford us these epic moments. Because this was my second time around in Chicago, I was prepared for am amazing race. I had such a good time last year even with a slight injury; this year I had no such encumbrance and felt that as long as I was well rested I would do well. While circumstances did not permit such ideal conditions – I missed my flight on Friday and got in Saturday afternoon, which is an entire blog by itself – for various reasons, many having to do with optimal training (no over-training this time), better rest, hydration and diet in the weeks leading up to race day – all somehow conspired to make sure I ran amazingly well.

bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

bankofamericachicagomarathon.com

Chicago is a beautiful city with a diverse populace and a common passion, or so it seems – a love for running and the marathon. Because I always credit the success of a race in large part to its spectators and volunteers, I truly appreciated the huge turnout on both counts. I maintain there is nothing in the world quite like running down the home stretch of a race to the tune of a roaring crowd urging you on while suddenly hearing your name announced over the loud-speaker as you approach the finish line. That is one of the remarkable moments, and there are others, that we, runners, run for. That and the medal of course.

Like ever race though, this one was different and special. Foremost was my reason for running, I felt so motivated to run for the kids at St Jude’s to the extent that I kept up an average 7:45 min/mile pace for most of the race. My intent was to try for a negative split but I ended up running faster in the first half, then fluctuating a bit, then dropping down to a 8min/mile until mile 24 where I was able to up the anté and run my fastest time through the finish line. I finished at 3:27:11 – my fastest Marathon and a personal best. I was/am thrilled. However, like most type A personalities, I’m quick to see that I could have done better. Because I  was scared of running out of energy, for the first half and a bit beyond, I consciously reigned in my enthusiasm, which was probably wise, as it ensured I finished strong, but it’s also possible I could have put out just a little more, since at the finish I felt reasonably strong.

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago's medical district

me @ around mile 15.5 in Chicago’s medical district

Oh well.. hindsight remains what it is while I remain committed to improving that time. My next big race is the Boston Marathon in April while I volunteer at New York City Marathon next month. In the meanwhile before Boston, chances are looking really good for another race.

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

2016 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Medal

Chicago Marathon for the Kids of St Jude

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I’ve always maintained that running is not for the fainthearted. If you’re looking for easy, effortless, comfortable and safe then I posit that running won’t work for you. In the years that I have been on the roads, trails, track and treadmill, I have never not been challenged, called out, exerted, pushed and stretched beyond my limits. Through it all, I’ve experienced excitement, sadness, anger, disappointment, success, and every other emotion except boredom and the desire to quit. What I’ve discovered though is that nothing gives me greater satisfaction than running to make a difference in the lives of others.  While I’m all into PRs, racking up medals and destination marathons, these all fall short of a transcendent purpose (and I really do not mean to sound lofty) which adds meaning and value to life. Running for a worthy cause adds true meaning to my miles, it removes me from the center and places focus on the always worthy cause.

I never take this opportunity and gift lightly; opportunity because here is where I get the chance to use the running platform to highlight something close to my heart and do my bit in transforming our world, as I like to say, one step at a time, gift because as long as I understand that I have been blessed with this ability to in turn be a blessing, I will continue to find meaning and value in running. Additionally, it will continue to fuel my passion to get out there; to defeat the hurdles, overcome the obstacles and cross the finish line time and again. In running, motivation works side by side ability to ensure success. I’m convinced that those runners who are in their eighties and still going strong must have buckets of it.

Choosing a cause or charity to run for is relatively easy though not so much at the same time. You’d think, there are tons of them, what’s the big deal? Well for one thing, too many choices can make for difficult decision-making. I try to keep it simple by sticking to causes for children and then choosing those that I feel some connection to. Truth is, that’s the hardest part because almost everything affects us whether directly or indirectly these days. It’s the price we pay for the global village we live in.

This year, I latched on to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They are such a prominent force for good in this world with the amazing work they do through providing care and conducting research in childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Words fail me when I think of the suffering and pain of so much of our children, we cannot continue to live unaffected lives; at some level, at some point, we must get involved and take a stand. However we choose to do so is our decision, it’s only important that we do.

In that spirit, here is the link to my fundraising page on St Jude’s website with a lot more information on what they do and the impact your gift can make.http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3992776&pg=personal&fr_id=57054

Please support the cause and share. There are only a few more days left for donations for Chicago Marathon and helping get me to the finish line. I’m thrilled to be a part of Team St Jude Heroes!

Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes

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blisstree.com

Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

Making My Miles Count

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Two years ago I made a commitment; a promise to myself to use running for more than personal gain; to – in some way – be a blessing to the wider community. Turns out, once a mind is made up it becomes relatively easy to forge ahead. Enter my miles-4-a-cause project this year: The Chicago Marathon for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is  a hero of mine, they provide free treatment for children with cancer and research, diagnose and treat other types of childhood diseases. I’ve often wished they had a presence here in New York so I could do some volunteer work with them; as it is, Tennessee is not next door so I’ll just have to settle for what I can do right here.

Running is a great platform to highlight the phenomenal work St. Jude does. These days most races provide the opportunity to run for a good cause and are pretty much open to all runners. It’s as easy as picking the charity of your choice, registering with them and building a fundraising page, which you then share with friends and other interested parties. Better still, social media has made fundraising so much easier as you’re able to reach a wide audience with relatively minor effort. The only challenge is being comfortable with asking others for help. Ideally you begin by encouraging, enlisting and persuading family and friends and then extending your reach to friends of friends and so on. 

Some organizations provide incentives for your efforts but really when I’m running for a cause, there is no way I want to benefit from this except to feel good crossing the finish line knowing that my running has made a bit of difference in someone’s life. The medal, possible PR and celebrations are strictly bonuses then.

The Chicago Marathon is on October, 9; that gives me a few months to work hard at garnering as much support as I can for a pretty amazing cause. Wish me luck! And please click on the link below to give to St. Jude and become a St. Jude Hero by saving a child’s life today.

Support us here: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3992776&pg=personal&fr_id=57054

 

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A Check-In with our 2016 Running Goals

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“The trouble with not having a goal is that you could spend the rest of your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland

We’re back in “running” business! It’s always a struggle to get runners to rest up, mainly because we’re too afraid of losing momentum. We often think that we will have to fight our way back in as the body can become quite use to being on vacation. There may be some merit to that but only to the extent that a break amounts to weeks or months off. Surely it can’t mean one will suffer a setback if he or she takes a well-deserved couple of weeks off? In fact, struggle or not, coming back from my two weeks off feels great and based on my running this week, its all good. You can breathe and rest easy now; two weeks will make you not break you.

Also, we can get ready for better running weather, for it’s May and we’re on the brink of summer – how did that happen? In any event, this is a good time to stop and reassess or check-in regarding our running goals for this year. Yep, the very same ones we were all excited and up in arms about around January 1st of this year. You’re totally entitled to a bit of guilt if you’re nowhere where you want to be, but know that it’s ok. You’re here, healthy (hopefully) and so happily you can give it another shot.

A big goal of mine was running the Boston Marathon so.. check – not the desired result – but it’s done. Even so, there are other races on my agenda, others I still have to do. What is interesting to note is that as I cross one item of my list, it actually has bearing on my other goals in a real way. Take for example Boston, I have now decided to run it again next year, to earn my medal this time, if my registration is accepted. As a result of this decision, I’ll try for a better qualifying time in Chicago this year. It’s a little crazy how it never stops with me; it’s as though there will always be another goal, another race. Maybe there always will be, but goals do many things, chief among them is to inspire us to give of our very best and even if we fail, we get up, stomp the dust off and try again.                                                          

In the upcoming months, (half the year is almost up, unbelievable), I have two, maybe three, big races and a few smaller ones while I have my heart set on a 5k and Half-Marathon PR. Additionally, I have a charity goal to fulfill which I will do at the Chicago Marathon. Because summer is usually an all-round hot time, I will be limiting my runs to fun, short ones with one destination marathon in July.                                             

I jokingly say that my life is a scatter plot, with my running all over the graph. But despite how it seems, it keeps me focused and happy – the world could go to pieces around me, as long as I’m running, it’s fine. LOL! I’m kidding! It’s really not that bad, just a tad bit crazy (my friends would say). Regardless, I’m no fine running example as I have fallen off the goal wagon a time or two. For yet another year, I’ve been terrible with keeping count of my miles while I can’t seem to start the tri program just yet. I try to convince myself that maybe I will in the summer but in the meantime between getting a handle on my health ( making sure I’m fit as a fiddle) and getting coached to improve my time, and working and keeping up with my volunteer activities, I’m a little stretched for time. While I’m not complaining, since that’s the way I like it, I would love time to slow down just a tad and maybe someone up there can add a few more hours to my days? Just saying.

Marathon Training, Fundraising & Just Because

 

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Approximately sixteen weeks to Chicago and eighteen weeks to The New York City Marathon. I mean WOW! Where did the time go? Am I alone in thinking that we’re not the only ones running here, that so is time! That being said, technically, I should to be in marathon training mode, which means I’m suppose to be running practically everyday working on mileage, speed, strength and endurance. In reality, I figure to take the next couple weeks to myself and run for sheer enjoyment – just because it’s Summer, it’s hot, it’s pretty and because there’s the inescapable fact looming that I’m about to embark on some crazy running; two challenging marathons in two successive months.

Rest assured, I’m not crazy, people do this all the time – not really. Not ordinary people anyhow, but then you’ve probably already figured out that normal does not describe me. Not to worry, it’s not my first time, only the second..wink..and I’ve already figured my strategy is more mental than physical. See, I’m training for a marathon so I’ll just keep running..joke..but really, it’s just a shift in focus after the first run as the next is within two weeks. This is ideal as it works to keep the momentum going. With enough sleep, training and cross-training, the right diet and proper hydration, I should be fine. In fact, I predict they’ll be runs of a lifetime, providing I stay injury-free. My past record notwithstanding, I aim to stay positive; run a few races between now and then and try to maintain top form. With God on my side, I can’t lose now, can I.

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On another related note, I haven’t been all-ensconed in fundraising efforts for my project – Team UNICEF re the NYC Marathon – as I should be. I’ll have to be a bit more brazen in my approach if I am to reach the $3500 goal that is allotted me. While I’d love to raise more, it being for such a great cause and all, I’ll settle for being within target range for now. If you’re reading this, please feel obligated to help a runner and sister out; plus you’ll earn bragging rights for a good cause and get your name on my running-T on marathon day. I also have a few cool T-Shirts for very generous donors and a couple pom poms for you if you go the extra mile and show up to cheer me on race day. It rarely gets better than this but I’m sure you deserve it!

 

Running for causes aside, I really treasure each opportunity I get to make a difference while running. Being a force for change is something we can all benefit from; hence why I think I take running and training so seriously leaving very little time to enjoy the sport. So excuse me while I fix that before doubling down for some record running in the coming months.

Be a trooper and support my cause here:   https://www.crowdrise.com/unicefnyc2015/fundraiser/loricaldon

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Miles For A Cause: Running the TCS NYC Marathon 2015

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It’s not everyday you wake up and decide to run a marathon. It’s not everyday you wake up and decide to run 26.2 miles for a good cause. I want to stress that this is not about being a hero or looking for a pat on the back or any such thing..on the contrary, this is about how the sport of running has changed one runner’s single drive for self-satisfaction and personal achievement to a dream of transforming lives one step at a time.

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Every year I have goals, more notably running goals. Prior to last year all those goals involved me either striving for a personal best or running a particular race or series of races. What has changed and why you may wonder. Well for one thing, I’ve grown; in character and in running and I give a lot of credit to the sport. In an earlier post, I called running my saving grace and it is; it has caused me to take a long, hard look at life, particularly mine and suss out exactly what purpose and who did running serve.  After much internal debate and struggle, I came to the conclusion that for running to really matter and serve a tangible purpose, it must speak to my heart for others. Thus, I determined to tie in my passion for serving the lesser advantaged with my passion for running and so the idea of miles for a cause was born. No big fan fare or anything, just a quiet, determined decision to run some of my major races this year for a charitable cause.

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Enter, The New York City Marathon and the opportunity to make every step count.  I’ll be honest, I debated with myself for a long time as to whether I would be able to pull it off – to be sure there’s a part of me that’s not too excited about having to raise a minimum of $3500 – but what cemented my decision was the happenstance of the earthquakes that struck Nepal. What a tragedy, I thought along with the world. Only… wait I can help; I can make this run count for something more than personal achievement. And so, I took a step out on faith and after careful consideration of the charities listed, decided to run for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in light of all the work they do on the ground in disaster-stricken areas and in particular for children. I was especially touched by their theme this year: Believe In Zero. No child should ever die from a preventable cause. I, too, believe that if we work together Zero is achievable. It is my hope that through social networking and other methods, I will not only achieve my fundraising goal but that many will come to know the part they either play or can play in making our world a kinder and better place to live in. That one step at a time it is possible.

Click the link below to learn more about and contribute to this amazing cause.

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