A time to beat

I earned this with a little extra help from strangers.  The running community is so amazing.

I earned this with a little extra help from strangers. The running community is so amazing.

Seriously, it has been decades since I last posted a blog.  I could use the excuse that I have been overwhelmed with family and work, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  A lack of inspiration is the main culprit of my hesitation to put words to paper.   Once in a while, I post a random photo of the sunrise to facebook after one of my morning runs, but that’s about all I got over here.  Yes, I am loathing in self-pity for my misfortune of being introduced to a place that doesn’t exceed my expectations for running greatness.  The real problem is my recent exposure to a running and triathlon mecca that filled my heart with inspiration and my mind with thoughts of “something beyond myself.”  Kind of like when you find yourself.  Then your life changes and you regress back into the darkness.

Until recently, when I was humbled.  And inspired.  Humbled by others, and inspired by my own self.  I didn’t need a place to inspire me.  I found it within.

I have silently been working hard over the past few months.  Okay, not as hard as I could have been working since I was lacking a bit of motivation.  That may sound odd coming from me, but it’s true.  I still did my thing.  Got up at the crack of dawn to do what I needed to do… most days.  Other days I just waited until after work so I wouldn’t have to get up early.  I got out there in the cold and did my duty… most days.  Other days I just settled for the treadmill and was perfectly content keeping warm inside.  I pushed myself through a tough workout when I needed to… most days.  Other days I just kind of accepted a mediocre pace and thought “I must just be having a bad day.”  Okay, I didn’t always give my running the full attention it needed.  I was being pulled in so many directions that I kind of let that line slack a little.

After my 50, I thought “that takes a lot of time and work, so maybe I should do something shorter.”  It took me months to figure out what to do.  In the meantime, I kind of just ran when I felt like running.  I knew that I had to set a goal soon or else my running (and my weight) would suffer.  Why not bring it down a notch and run a half-marathon?  However, I couldn’t just run another half, I had to beat my best time.  That’s all I wanted.  Until a few months into training when I looked at the results from last year and realized that I might even have a chance to place in my age group.  I never let that goal run past my lips though.  It is a secret goal I kept to myself.  Out loud I said that I wanted to break my personal record.  I’m not even sure who I said it out loud to… maybe just my husband.  I had stopped shouting out my plans to everyone within ear shot.  Probably because I never took the initiative to join the running community here.

The night before the race I considered joining the 1:45:00 pacing group.  I had never done a pacing group before.  I didn’t like groups during a race.  I usually just thrived on being alone.  On the morning of the race, I saw the pacer with his sign and I thought “okay, I will just kind of hang back and see what happens.”  By mile 3, I was chatting with the pacer and a few of the other runners in the group.  By mile 5, a 63-year old running veteran introduced himself and started chatting with me.  At mile 10, Jim was still with me and the pacer was about a minute behind us.  At mile 12, I was silent, but Jim was still there.  I wanted to slow down, but I wouldn’t.  I had to stay with Jim and I had to stay in front of the pacer.  For an entire mile, I quietly chanted “You are strong.  You worked hard.”  Even though the second part of the chant wasn’t entirely true, I never let a negative thought seep in.  I maintained the same pace even though I was never able to accomplish that during a training run.  I always slogged at the end.  Not this time.  I completely surprised myself.  I beat the 1:45:00 pacer by one minute.  And to think that I was only trying to beat my 1:49:00 time.  Not only that, but I placed 3rd in my age group!

I won’t forget Jim for his help.  He had done that half-marathon before in 1:36:00 so I know he could have finished in a faster time.  All I can say is that I hope to be still moving like him when I am in my 60’s.

I have been stuck in my own little world since I arrived here, unwilling to step out of my comfort zone.  I think my experience at this race has changed that.  I know that all I have to do is extend a hand and someone will be there to take it.  I can find what I found in Colorado.  I just have to move past my inhibitions.

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The Running Community

Spending Thanksgiving morning with great running buddies!

Spending Thanksgiving morning with great running buddies!

Last night was our annual Christmas light run hosted by our local club, the Foothills Running and Cycling club.  I walked into the meeting location not surprised to see about 30 runners milling about.  It didn’t take long for me to find friends in the crowd.  Back in the day (when I was a bit younger), I used to go to parties, bars or clubs (okay, maybe I have only gone to like one real club) because I thought that was the cool thing to do for fun.  Now I find myself participating in social activities that revolve around running… probably a bit healthier for the mind and body.  But don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy a beer and some not-so-healthy food afterwards.

I never really knew which crowd suited me best.  In high school I was definitely hanging out with the nerd types who always got their homework done and even did extra credit in their free time.  Yet, I wasn’t always so “good” in that sense because I felt a need to rebel (nothing serious, but I would push the limit sometimes).  Then I went to college and became a mountain woman of sorts (well, just picture Alaska) and tried to mix outdoor recreation with party central.  After that chapter, I decided to get a tad more serious and joined the military.  I was basically told I didn’t fit in when I was constantly yelled at for not marching correctly.  Seriously, I have no coordination and I didn’t think it was a requirement.  I should have taken dance classes in order to prepare.

That whole military chapter didn’t last long.  I settled for being a military wife.  Yet, after serving in the military, I didn’t really want to live and breathe it 24-7.  I couldn’t even fathom the idea of living on base and solely associating with military friends.  My husband pretty much felt the same way.  However, it was difficult to find friends when the military was our life and I was only able to work in jobs that I wasn’t one hundred percent happy with.

It’s sad, but I can’t even say that I fit in with the mom types.  I find little pleasure in group playdates (I am more of a one-on-one mom), attending social gatherings meant for moms and comparing mommy notes with other moms.  I prefer not to plan and coordintate, but to just grab the kids and head to the playground when it is most convenient for us, take a hike on a local trail or load up the bikes and jogging stroller for some family exercise.  Maybe I should do more things with other moms and their kids, but I haven’t quite found a connection yet.  For some reason, we always became good friends with people who don’t have kids (they always have kids after we move away).

It took a few years, but I finally figured it out.  I have a passion for running and it was something I could do that wasn’t part of my job or the military.  I decided to sign up for Team in Training so I would be forced to run with a group (and of course I would be supporting a good cause in the process).   An introvert like me just needs to find the strength to take that first step.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that runners are some of the nicest, friendliest people I have ever met.  Runners are alike in so many ways.  If I may generalize, they are intrinsically motivated, open-minded, disciplined, driven, hard-working and compassionate.   They are the type of people who I want to surround myself with.  Not surprising, there are full-time working mommy runners, stay-at-home mommy runners, military spouse runners, active duty military runners, teacher runners, hippie runners (just thinking back to life in Alaska), college runners, etc.  We all know that everyone has more than one title in life.

If you are a runner, but hesitant about running with another runner and joining a group, don’t be.  The running community is all-inclusive.  It doesn’t matter if you are a jogger, a slow runner, a fast runner, a short-distance runner, a long-distance runner, a chatty runner, a quiet runner… you get the point. Runners will accept you for who you are.  If you need proof of how great the running community is, then just look up articles about how runners are always running for a cause.  After the Boston incident, they got right back up and strengthened bonds.  I’m proud to be a member of the running community!

In any case, I hope you find what you are looking for.  We should all surround ourselves with people who make us happy, build on our self-confidence and enourage us to strive for greater things.