Measuring Success in Running: The Providence Marathon negates my Boston performance or does it?

If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again…

In running, as happens often in life, there appear to be more failures than successes. As a runner, it’s quite likely that for every good race you have, you may experience two bad ones. How do you reconcile this with a competitive, burgeoning spirit that thrives on success? A slightly baffling quandary if ever there was one, since on one hand you need success to push you and to make it all worthwhile, while on the other hand, failures are what pushes your dig deep, press on, try harder buttons. It is also what causes frustrations, despair, and those doggone dry spells that have you questioning yourself and doubting your ability.

What if I told you last Sunday I ran the Providence Marathon and BQ’d. I kinda totally did. Two weeks after a horrible race experience in Boston, I bowed to internal pressure, of my own design, and ran a race out in Rhode Island that was the antithesis of Boston in so far as the weather was concerned. It was a pretty course with some hills here and there though mostly flat and required a steady approach with incremental increases over time. I’m afraid I was exhausted by mile sixteen, from the week prior, and didn’t really do it justice. Still, I was able to stay within goal range and that meant something. A bit of redemption if you will.

I began this year of running with two major race disappointments, which leads me to the question that’s been on quite a few peoples’ minds – what is it that keeps me going back for more? Doesn’t successive disappointments make me less-inclined to lace up for another race?The simple answer is obviously not and unequivocally no. On a more complex level, I can argue for the feeling of having accomplished something that was challenging, exacting, and totally out there. There’s no feeling quite like it for someone with a competitive nature such as mine. The daredevil in me will never pack up and go home when failure knocks, but sees (and seizes) the opportunity to push boundaries, overcome limits, and redefine the impossible. This is what motivated me to run last Sunday at a moment’s notice, it is what has motivated me to run the Boston Marathon three times and has me heading for, quite possibly, a fourth. Boston and I, we have unfinished business. Maybe it’s engraved in my DNA, but I refuse to stop until I have conquered that course.

In all honesty, that’s how I live and treat with any challenge that life throws my way. I dust off failures as missed opportunities and consider the next step that will take me closer to my goal. And everytime that I run a race and it doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would, which is often enough, I shake off the disappointment, turn off the self recriminations, dig deep, and muscle up for the next time. So if anything, I’ve learnt that goals are simply benchmarks we put in place to help us navigate this life with some accountability and a modicum of affirmation, challenge, and encouragement. Perspective allows us to see each step of the journey as just another move forward to realising our true potential. As Des Linden, female winner of the Boston Marathon 2018 likes to say, “keep showing up.”

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The Spirit of the Marathon thrived at Boston 2018

It is often said one should be careful what one asks for. It is also said that one should be specific in prayer. Whichever it is, it seems I didn’t cover all my bases as far as preparing for the Boston Marathon last Monday. On any typical spring day 26.2 miles is a good and challenging run. Because we haven’t been enjoying typical weather since last season, I shouldn’t have been overly surprised at what blew our way and maybe a bit more prepared – though I’m at a loss as to how, maybe mentally prepared. The weather was unforgiving in its intent and threw everything it had to give at us. In fact, it was considered the worst conditions in the 122 years of the running of the Boston Marathon. I won’t dwell too much on the unceasing pouring rain, which started with the light snow on Sunday and ended with Snow again on Monday night post-marathon, or the 40 m/ph wind gusts, and the resulting permeating coldness and chills that saw many runners suffering hypothermia-like symptoms yet fighting valiantly to the end, while there were those for whom conditions made it too difficult to finish, yet more still adjusted pace and hunkered down with raincoats, heat sheets, or plastic bags determined to run the race of their lives if just to finish. I won’t though; I prefer instead to focus on the amazing spirit of the Marathon that shined through the heavy rains on that Marathon Monday and the fact over 30,000 runners braved it and got their moment to shine.

Runners entering Athlete’s Village

It was something that you couldn’t really prepare for. We began our trek to the buses at Boston Commons, from our respective hotels last Monday, also known as Patriot’s Day in Boston, aware that things were going to be a bit dicey. I mean from the day before at the Expo, we were hearing lots of “good luck out there tomorrow, you guys are gonna need it” and so we knew it would not be an easy one. Hell, I doubt there’s anything like an “easy” marathon in Boston. In any event, I felt it was rain and that couldn’t possibly be worse than the heat of the two years prior. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Runners I spoke with at the hotel and on the bus that morning were, like me, wet but optimistic and excited. Not so exciting were wet shoes, which we tried to cover up for as long as possible. Under the tents at Hopkinton we huddled while the rains continued to make mud pies amidst pools of water everywhere. What stood out to me then, and even now, was how determined people were to not let the elements outside of their control dictate their ability to see this race through. I recall standing next to a guy under a raincoat, who sounded quite the Englishman, he mentioned being part of a larger group who were all running that day and that they were scattered about seeking warmth but would meet up in their corrals. “We’re running it,” he said, “I just need to change my socks.” See, the question of not running never even entered the conversation. At the hotel earlier, runners had been busy detaining the inevitable onslaught of wet shoes and feet by taping up their shoes or wrapping their feet in bags –It took all of two steps outside to see how futile that thought was. So there we were busy with strategy on getting started and staying as dry as possible for the duration. I don’t think quitting even entered anyone’s mind. What you think about are the months of training, the road to qualifying, how far you’ve come, and/or the cause you’re running for. At the end of the day it was the only motivation that was needed to face the weather. And out there, when the wind and rain kept drumming away at that thought and the cold was attempting to chip away at fortitude months in the making, thousands of us hunkered down, adjusted expectations and determined we would remember this day, maybe forever, but certainly because it was the day Boston kicked ass and we kicked back with over 90% of runners finishing the race in miserable conditions.

Volunteers give high-fives as well as fuel to runners (source: boston globe.com)

EMT officials helping a runner across the finish line (source: bostonglobe)

Another heartening image ingrained with my memories of this race is that of the amazing volunteers that carried us through. From start to finish they were out there with not just fuel but words of encouragement and support that embodied the heart and spirit of the marathon. You had to give it to them, who leaves their warm and comfortable home on a day such as that to stand out there for hours on end to support people they didn’t even know. It’s the bigness of heart that was present time and again, from the kind words and help offered from one runner to the next, to the volunteers at mile 16 water table that offered an encouraging smile along with a drink under pouring rain, to the police men throughout the course, some of whom added a few stripes to their uniform, in my opinion, when they offered words of encouragement while carrying out their duty. The odd soldier was also in attendance along with fire department officers quietly cheering us on and in support of us having a safe and enjoyable race. I remain thankful for their service.

Spectators cheering runners on (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners on Heartbreak Hill (source: bostonglobe.com)

Additionally, the spectators were an outstanding feature of the race that spoke to the indelible awesomeness of the people of Boston. From Hopkinton to Newton, through Brookline to downtown Boston, despite the rains and in spite of the damper atmosphere threatening to overshadow this race, Bostonians came out and cheered their hearts out for the runners. And yes, the crowds might have been a tad smaller than previous years and the funny, unique, and sassy signs were pretty much absent, but that in no way diminished from either the race or the experience. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t call out the volunteers at the finish, in particular for staying the course really and waiting it out as each runner made it home and crossed that finish line. There they were all lined up, ready to assist and help us transition from, what was for many, a difficult run. They hugged, congratulated, and saw to our needs – with the medics and those in the medical tent especially – providing first class care to those of us that were shaking, crying, shivering, hurting and having difficulty breathing.

Desiree Linden wins the women’s race @ the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:39:54 (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners crossing the finish line on Bolyston Street (source: bostonglobe.com)

The true spirit of the marathon was present and on full display in Boston that Monday, as it was on that fateful day five years ago in that very same city. Any future obstacle might do well to remember that as American, Des Linden showed us how to rally like the champion she is as she ran her way to finish first place in the women’s division. While it was the slowest winning time ever recorded in Boston, it was an amazing finish in miserable conditions and reason for us all to smile. We did. We are, after all, Boston strong.

Photos courtesy Boston Globe

Taking NYC Half Marathon Lessons to Boston

Three weekends ago over 30 thousand runners ran the new course from Prospect Park, Brooklyn through the streets of New York City, into Times Square to finish NYRR’s (New York Road Runners) famous NYC half marathon in Central Park.

It’s a morning that I will remember for some time to come. Starting out cold and windy, runners were left to improvise at the start with triple layers, blankets, heat sheets and various oddities with one aim in mind, that of not freezing to death, or at the very least, keeping the blood flowing so leg muscles wouldn’t cramp or freeze up. The weather wasn’t that much of a surprise, this race has always been a cold one, but what threw a lot of us off was the brutality of the cold, which was February-like in its intensity. With real-feel temperatures in the teens there wasn’t much we could do but run, run and hope like hell that it would warm up a little and the wind would be kind. This leads to lesson 1: Plan B is hugely important. Extreme temperatures requires plan and goal adaptations, which quite likely means a change in running strategy.

The new course proved that most times different is good. It made for interesting running with new sights, or at least sights seen from a different angle, and many unsuspecting spectators in midtown Manhattan. Bless the hearts of all those who came out in their numbers to support and cheer along the course. They helped me navigate the head and cross winds and to dig deeper when the going got rough. I felt that if they weren’t running yet were willing to brave the cold to support those who were, then it was only right that I give it my best shot. One thing I definitely will take with me is lesson 2: No future pit stops to use the toilet. I’ve always been good at running without that necessity but for some strange reason, that morning, coming off the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, at around mile 3, I had to go. Huge mistake; for though there were toilets lined up on the side, and while I jumped the railings to get to them, since there was no visible entry, and almost face-planted for my efforts, they were all locked save for one – the last one I tried out of a whole slough.. I sincerely lost about 8-10 minutes there and never really recovered. On the other hand, I felt really good about my hydration, there were adequate water stops, a gel station, and amazing volunteers behind those tables along the course. It is absolutely true that the race would not have been what it was without them. Lessons 3: Giving back blesses not only the one who receives but the giver as well. I am super appreciative to volunteers who give of their time and sacrifice their comfort for us runners.

As I head into Boston this weekend, I’m also mindful of being thankful for the opportunity to be there and to be able to participate in this amazing race for the third time. I remain committed to running my best race and to lesson 4: Never take a race for granted, no matter how much times you’ve run it before, or get complacent with a course. Have a healthy respect for it and always approach it with a strategy that it may become necessary to tweak.

It’s so important to see the opportunity for learning and development in every area of life and running is no different. If the goal is to be a better runner then there’s no better place to learn than in the field.

How Women are Running Things

Oprah finishes the Marine Corps marathon 1994

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Two weeks ago we celebrated International Women’s Day but that’s not the end of it, the entire month of March has been dedicated Women’s History Month here in the United States. We’ve all been inspired by, or impacted upon, men and women, boys and girls alike, either by the women in our lives who lead by example or by those who have gone before us and paved the way for us, girls, to go out there and, each in our own way, conquer the world.

From the days of the suffrage movement to today, women have argued and fought for equal opportunities across the board. This fight has led to the presence of women in almost every echelon of society and have seen them dominate or come close to it in many fields such as sport, education, social justice and the family and gender issues. Even now, we are slowly breaking down barriers and reaching toward a future with no glass ceiling as women have begun to make their presence felt in, what has long been male-dominated fields such as economics, finance, politics, government and technology. I should point out that this is not meant to be disparaging or threatening to our boys and men. If anything, it should be met by a sure and equal response that women need and want male figures to stand and take their rightful place alongside us. This, however, is a topic for another time and place.

For my part, I grew up in the eighties, long after Katherine Switzer, the first woman to complete a marathon – an all-male race back in 1967 – whose registration as K.V. Switzer hid her gender and thus allowed her entry to the Boston Marathon. Nonetheless, I grew up hearing this story and learning of the struggle women faced having to prove that they weren’t fragile or lacked the stamina to compete in the world of running. In fact, women weren’t officially allowed to run the Marathon until 1972 and even then it was twelve years later before they could compete in the Olympics.

Top runners like Grete Waitz, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gail Devers, Molly Barker, Joan Benoit, Pam Reed, Nicole Deboom, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Catherine Ndereba, Deena Katie, Paula Radcliffe, Shalane Flannigan, Desiree Devila, and Kara Groucher among others have kept women running pertinent and on the world stage. Year after year they clear hurdles and break records and have shown why women have become dominant runners and a force to be reckoned with across the running spectrum, from track and field to the Marathon and beyond. These athletes have inspired the average female, from young girls to moms and/or middle-aged women and everyone in-between, including some celebrities, who are not afraid to hope for more and push their limits, to see that maybe running could be more than just a competitive and elite sport, that it could be a tool to create awareness, motivate change, inspire hope, and make a difference in people’s lives.
“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures,” Switzer wrote in an essay http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/sports/othersports/15switzer.html for the New York Times in 2007. Going on 11 years later we can safely say that she helped pioneer a movement that continues to have reverberating effects all around us today. Like Switzer, when Oprah Winfrey at the age of 40 finished the Marine Corp marathon in 1994 (after dropping more than 80 lbs), she inspired many women to believe that they didn’t have to be athletes or even runners per se, they just had to be willing to work hard to achieve their dream. In other words, they had to want it badly enough.

Fast forward 2018, we now have more women running than ever before. From track, to road races, to obstacle racing to ultras, the field size of women runners and competitors have grown and even outgrown men in many instances. Just last Sunday, we ran the New York City half marathon (read the recap on my next blog) to the tune of a whopping 21,965 runners, of which 11,077 were women and 10,888 were men. All of that to say, we’re not only making our mark out in the corporate and business world, but we’ve discovered our running strength and are owning it. Progress is here and the future is bright. I’ll end the way I started, with a quote:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Sources: active.com, ny times.com

March-ING on!

Source: pop sugar.com

Gotta say I’ve been ready for Spring since the ending of January. And now that March is here, I’m talking myself into its sights and sounds wherever I go. But darn it… the weather just won’t cooperate. I can do rain. What I can’t do is cold rain and the snow/sleet that accompanies it, along with the crazy wind we’ve been getting. One can only hope it’s on its way out. Meanwhile, there’s been lots of running so as to keep up with my first official race of the year – the NYC Half Marathon – happening this Sunday.

Ambivalence seems to be the order of the day as I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is excited about the new course for this race – a new course is always a thrill – on the other hand, past experience has left me in chills. Literally. The timing of this race almost always ensures it’s a cold one. One can only hope for a miracle of sorts this time around. Weather projections aside however, there’s the usual pomp & excitement that comes with runners taking over the streets of NYC – running through Times Square never gets old, and now we get to explore different parts of the city as well. No more West Side Highway and Seaport or Financial District for me. I think many of us will not miss that too much, if at all, since running near the water is no one’s idea of a fun race on a cold day. That being said, I’m not sure if it’s wise to describe this as a fun run. Well..maybe so, maybe not, it all depends on perspective. Since I’d love to run a PR I’m not looking for too much of excitement. But hey, I’m not opposed to having a bit of fun out there on the course if time allows, which it probably won’t and that’s not the view of a pessimist. On the contrary, I’m always optimistic about my runs, maybe too much so some might say. In any and every event, I’m hoping for a good race and plan on spending this week relaxing the running, doing a bit more cross training, eating well, and getting to bed earlier. Notice I didn’t say early, because that’s near impossible, but earlier will ensure I get between 6-7 hours sleep per night in order to be able to execute a good race.

Race-preparedness means that I’d do well to look over the course, devise a running strategy and a few days before (like Thursday) go through my race checklist to make sure everything’s squared away and I’m ready to go. Most likely, I’ll enjoy a short, easy run on Saturday morning, about 3-5 miles – mainly because it’s become more of a tradition before my races, but also because it simply makes me feel better.

There really is no magic to this sport. You train, eat well, rest and allow the body to recover, and then just go out there on D-day and give it your best. At least that’s what I plan on doing. Wish me luck!

Ready, Set, Run-ning Gear

Your (smart) Marathon Guide

Source: audible.com

A few months ago I promised to do a detailed piece on the steps to take when you do decide to run your first marathon. See, I’ve always believed it’s a done deal – fait accompli – now it’s only a matter of when (LOL). My last post about this was brief and gave a general sense on how to pursue this momentous event. Here, I’ll describe the steps to take now that you’ve already made the all-important decision on where or which marathon. Hopefully this leaves you fully informed and ready to run.

Steps to running your First 26.2

1. Ensure you are fit and able to run by visiting a doctor & doing a routine physical exam. Make sure to mention your plans so the physician can decide if there are any specific or other tests that you need to do.

2. When you get the OK, start doing small runs..even jogging is fine if you’re totally new to this..and increasing your mileage and pace incrementally. Starting out 4-5 times per week is a good idea depending on where you’re at – with a goal of 1 mile initially if you’re new or 3 miles or so for the runner with some experience but haven’t been running in a while. These runs should be done at an easy pace to gauge your ability and get the body used to running. Subsequent weeks should see an increase in both mileage and pace as you progress. The goal is to get your mind and body used to the idea and fact and to begin racking up some mileage. After about 3-4 weeks of assimilating you are now ready to figure out a marathon training plan.

3. First things first. Devise a plan that works for you, one that takes into account where you’re at and where you’re headed. Many of the popular marathons will offer some type of training assistance either online or locally. Depending on your proximity, you can choose which to take advantage of and be prepared to tweak it to suit your purpose. Most plans run between 16-18 weeks and should be a consideration before registration as you want to give yourself enough time to train.

4. I can never emphasize enough the importance of getting connected. Having some type of support system is fundamental to your training and race success. It doesn’t mean that you have to do every run in a group or with someone but only that you need to be accountable at some point in your training to someone, you need the support, encouragement, trading of information and critique that having others in your corner provide. Therefore, join a running group if only for the support aspect, though you stand to gain much more.

5. Around the 25% mark into your training you should be making headway with your running and should likely be focusing on speed, strength, and endurance. It is smart, at this point, to add some group runs into your training as part of your speed work, as in interval training and tempo runs and as part of your long runs, which should be seeing a small but steady increase in mileage weekly. In my training, I always reserve Saturdays for long runs and do them with friends when possible. I also try to run different routes to keep it interesting.

6. The fear factor, which may exist for new runners, is one that can be overcome by participating in a couple of races midway through training. Signing up for a 10k and half marathon helps you to get a feel for running under race-like conditions, gives you some experience and helps build your confidence. These runs are an opportunity to simulate your race day or as close to it as possible. Additionally, it is smart to try your marathon goal pace or slightly faster given that you won’t be running 26.2 miles just then.

7. In keeping with the last point, you should strive to do at least one simulation run in the last quarter of your training where you mimic your race day routine as close as possible; ie., run in your race day gear, take gels or whatever form of energy and calories you intend to have on d-day and hydrate as planned. Of course this should be a long run and maybe your longest at that. I usually do 20-22 miles.

8. A lot of us believe in carbs. It’s a runner’s primary source of calories and thus energy. I usually start carb-ing up two weeks before race day. However, as a first-time marathoner, it is important to overhaul your diet and nutrition to make sure you’re eating the right foods that will give the energy you need for training as well as enable you to build muscle and maintain a healthy weight. Running can take a lot from the runner, it is only wise to make sure that you are feeding the beast, so to speak. Some foods that power my runs are: whole grain spaghetti, potatoes ( white & sweet), brown rice, Farrow, stews w/beef and beans, ground beef/turkey, salmon, fruits, particularly banana and veggies and other whole grains like oatmeal.

9. I’ve found that protein shakes and/or other sources of energy and muscle boosters can add value to my running, and I often make my own at home using natural ingredients and fresh fruit and whole grains. Oftentimes, I use them pre or post runs, or, as often as I need the boost and depending on how my body feels.

10. Another important element to training is cross training. This has helped me in two main ways: (a) added variety to my workouts and broke up the monotony of running. (b) helped develop: muscle and strength through weight training, aerobic and anaerobic ability through cardio workouts like cycling and dance, and flexibility and strength through yoga. Cross training has always played a significant role when I’m training for marathons as I do it in tandem with my running workouts right from the onset. Other runners may do the odd cross training session or have a planned day per week. I urge you to try different methods and types of exercises and practice what works for you.

11. Getting enough sleep is a deal breaker when it comes to running, especially when it’s down to crunch time – the last 3 weeks before race day. Although, I will say that getting sufficient sleep throughout your training is paramount to having enough energy daily to deliver on your runs and other workouts. It also helps to improve your attitude and perspective and keeps you focused and excited to run.

12. Finally, with two weeks out and marathon day fast approaching, it is necessary to turn down the tempo some. Hard for those of us that are competitive but very necessary. While it maybe included in your training plan, or not, runners adopt a strategy known as tapering. It is the two-week period prior to race day when running is gradually reduced to allow your muscles to rest, relax, and repair themselves. It is done gradually and consists of varying methods but will all include eliminating long runs and reducing mileage and intensity. The idea is to use this period of rest to store up energy by resting well, including sleeping, eating and hydrating well. You can keep active by indulging in shorter, low-intensity workouts.

An aside to running, but something which maybe just as important to some runners who are in it for the from-first-step-to-finish-line experience, is the idea of keeping a log, journal, diary, or blog about running your first marathon. You can log your miles, post pictures of your training and progression, and write tidbits of advice and wisdom you’ve acquired along the way. Some benefits derived from journaling your marathon journey are: (a) You can use it to measure your progression and successes as well as to see where you may have delivered below your expectations. This can serve to motivate you to do better, try harder, or try again, or, it can help you see where your strengths are and what to focus on. (b) You can share your story and experience and use it to inspire or motivate others. (c) Your first marathon is a memorable event. For some it may be  the start of a great deal more, while for others it may be their only one, you won’t want to forget it nor regret having documented some aspect of it.

When all is said and done, you, the runner must find what works best for you. It could be that some of these ideas I’ve noted on here are of some use to you, or you’ll get other advice, or even develop ideas of your own.  That’s great if it’s what works for you. There is no one size that fits all. The successful runner is one who is focused though open, one who is not afraid of stepping up to try new things in the pursuit of what sets his feet on fire. He or she knows that all knowledge is good, though not all knowledge is pertinent. That being said, it is fundamentally important to have a workable training plan, to pay attention to your diet, to get enough sleep and to get connected with other runners. Everything else amounts to a bonus and will help deliver an exceptional marathon experience.

Ready. Set. Go.

 

The Winter Truth to Running

source: runnersworld.com

I sure I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but really the season just begs for it and there’s really no nice way to put it. Winter is the worst season for running and trying to get your training going. The younger folks would put it charmingly by saying: Winter sucks balls! So unrefined. But it certainly captures the feeling. If anything, it makes one’s New Year running goals that much harder to accomplish with the arctic hole that is February upon us.

Suffice it to say, January running has been hard in these parts. Sure we’ve seen worse, and while that’s not really helpful right now, we can only be thankful for small mercies; who knows what this month will bring. I get chills just thinking about it. Fear not though, all is not lost, it is possible for your running to survive and even thrive in these chilly temps. Here’s how:

  • Commit to start /stay running. No matter what happens outside (50° or -5°), you must determine where you stand and what your goal is. Only then can you go about with ways on how to get there come rain, snow or shine.
  • Come up with a training plan based on your goal, detailing how many days per week, the mileage, and type of runs (interval, tempo etc.) you’ll be doing. Stick to it as much as possible.
  • January is a good month to engage in a running challenge to keep you motivated, rack up some mileage, and to just get you out and running. It’s also pretty cold around that time and you’ll need reasons and motivation to get those miles in. Which leads to my next point about getting connected.
  • Whether online or physically, find a running group or running support to keep you accountable and help you out on those cold runs, long runs, and just-not-feeling-it runs. Group runs can help to harness your motivation and energy, and provide feedback and encouragement as many members share similar goals.
  • The gym is a great back-up plan for those days when you really can’t make it out. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to get in some cross training and work-out variety, which will only add to your running efficiency. Add to that the new year environment at these establishments, where everyone is actively involved in pursuing their fitness goals, and what you have is the perfect opportunity for running growth.
  • Lastly, sign up for a few races during these cold months. It’ll keep you running, motivated, and competitive, even if it’s just with yourself.

These strategies have worked for me in the past, and so this year I’ve recommitted to them and found that this past January has yielded the most miles since I started a few years ago. That is not to say I’m having a stellar winter, the night is still young as the saying goes, only that maybe, I’m finally perfecting the art of giving winter blues and frustrations a positive outlet. And, so can you!

January Miles: Off to a Running Start

Prior to coming to this great country, I’ve always been a big fan of the beginning of the new year. New Year, new opportunities, a fresh start, another chance to try again, and so on. Being from the Caribbean, the weather was never something I dreaded or even concerned myself with too much, as except for the threat of hurricanes, which thank God has always escaped my beautiful island home of Trinidad, we were pretty much a fair-weather people. So much so that we’ve coined the term “God is a Trini” and readily bandy it about at the drop of a hat. Of course that all changed when I lost my mind and moved to The Big A. I’m kidding of course, about the losing my mind bit anyway, though many people have suggested just that when wondering what on earth possessed me to move here, and well.. you almost have me there. However, in spite of the brutish cold weather when winter rolls around, this city holds a strange allure for me. Maybe it’s the big-city-bright-lights appeal, or, maybe it’s simply its endearing ability to make me feel right at home as part of the Caribbean diaspora within an eclectic mix of people from just about every major country on earth. I can belong here – in this melting pot of diversity – I can be angry, laugh, love, breathe, complain and have my voice heard. More important though, I can run and make a difference. And that, makes all the difference in the world to the place or places I call home.

So despite the wintry conditions we’ve experienced thus far, my running has managed to prevail. In fact, January may go on record as my most accomplished month of running, minus racing, all things remaining constant by the month’s end. To be fair, belonging to a running community has added tremendous motivation, inspiration and accountability to my already fastidious ways. Though I rather doubt, if left to my own devices, I wouldn’t be braving chilly night runs or escaping to other boroughs in minus temps for a weekend long run. Nor would I be running through snow and ice to rack up mileage. It is the rare combination of like-minded individuals, marathon training, January challenges, and new year goals that have all collaborated to make me into an almost super athlete this month, and, I can only hope, this year. Maybe this is the best reason of all for staying here, I’m part of an amazing runner-friendly community and it would be tough to give that up.

As it is, I’ve managed to get out there sun, snow, or rain for all but four days since January 1. As part of a group, I’ve participated in tempo runs, interval training, long runs and shorter runs. Running alone, I’ve focused more on building mileage and hill work. But hold on, we’re only three weeks into the year and have a long way to go yet. Looking ahead, this path is only sustainable if I remain committed to my group work and the shared values of my running community. For sure it is a helluva lot easier having others in your corner to bitch with about weather issues and the like, especially when they are as affected by said issues. May the bitching and running continue! 😉

On with the New Year, Easy on the Goals

Only 11 days inside the New Year and many of us are already stressing 2018 Goals. If you mean to begin how you want or expect things to end, then this does not bode well for those of us indulging this early in a stress fest. This is why I’ve opted to do things a bit differently this year; instead of my “a million things to-do list,” I’ve opted to keep it simple by having one over-arching goal of managing my time and finances wisely to be better able to do things that really matter (this year) and add value to my life. This has cut down a typically sizeable list to two main goals with strategic steps to get me there with minimum stress.

I am mindful that managing my time and finances wisely doesn’t necessarily translate into success but will require a steadfast and systematic approach to acquiring the art of saying no. No to things that seem appealing, desirable, and irresistible even. No to things that do not add value and gets in the way of me achieving financial satisfaction and causes me to spread myself too thinly across an array of feel-good, do-good obligations. This systematic approach involves noting where I hope to be when December rolls around and listing tactics like: making monthly spending budgets, Starting a savings plan, and utilizing a calendar approach to keep track of my training, races, gym work, hours of sleep, and overall health.

I am not fooled into thinking this is an easy switch. On the contrary, this concentrated effort is probably going to impose constraints on my otherwise free-spirited lifestyle. But, I’m convinced this is the way forward if I stand any chance of achieving a sense of purpose and self this year. I’ve dedicated this month to etching out my plan and to enlist ways to hold myself accountable, thus creating some breathing room to allow me to focus within the limits I have constructed. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I’m a tad intimidated by the whole affair. On the other hand, I recognize it as necessary as running. While I’m not one to dwell, the lesson learnt last year RE the limits to my super powers (I’m still getting comfortable with this notion that I’m simply human and can only do so much and not all at once) is one I intend to make work for me this time around.

Here’s to making it happen this year, one goal at a time! 🍻

Keeping Fit and Running Through the Holidays

source: runblogrun.com

Everyone knows that keeping up with fitness plans is not the easiest thing during the holidays. In fact, it’s a lot easier keeping up with the Kardashians. LOL. Seriously though, amidst your holiday fare sits a ton of calories and enough unhealthy choices to provide ample opportunity for packing on many unwanted pounds and lasting self recriminations. Thank goodness we are not beholden to what is popular but consciously choose the healthier alternative – for the most part anyway. For at the end of the day we recognize our human frailties, runner or not, and can even benefit from the not-too-often splurge.

The secret to staying on a healthy track is really no secret at all but just plain ‘ole common sense. It starts with choosing to surround yourself with healthy choices by buying food and snacks that support your philosophy and/ or goals. Obviously, you won’t always have the option of eating what you choose with this being the season of family and friends visits.’ However, in these instances it is up to the person to choose the healthiest among the alternative. Another option is to walk with your preference when visiting family and friends. They are sure to understand as healthy eating has become more and more popular in recent times with a variety of options available. Just be careful to be kind and respectful of others and their choices.

Another step we can take to make sure we’re on top of things and not letting it all go to hell – so to speak – is to keep up with our runs. Running is not relegated to good weather or when it’s convenient. It’s something we pursue regardless of what else is going on in or around us – save death or severe illness of course – because it supports who we are and puts us in a better place to be able to deal with whatever challenges life throws our way. We can all agree that there are plenty of that these days. Therefore, having a pair of running shoes handy is not only a good thing but arguably even necessary. It’s also easy to do as we move around for the holidays and takes little time or effort to prepare for. We can tailor our runs to fit our schedules and circumstances, choosing to do shorter or longer runs of high or low intensity whether at mid mornings, now as it’s cooler, or when it suits us. All we need are some extra layers, sneakers, our Gamin, and a bit of extra packing space for those of us traveling. In addition, there’s always the gym for those of us who are hesitant to brave the cold weather.

The biggest challenge we face is not necessarily from outside, that is from others or circumstances external to us, but rather from within. It is our own perceived limits and self-imposed restrictions that could threaten our ability to follow through on our goals. As such, this season offers not impediments to our health and fitness goals but the opportunity to tap into our passion and determination to make things happen for ourselves – weather, dietary accommodations, and/ or family and friends distractions be dammed.

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