Running For More

I was at a running event recently when an older, seasoned male runner was describing his favorite marathon to me. He said it was a beautiful race with a smallish field because, “They don’t let any of those charity runners in.”

I winced at his comment and thought, “I’m a charity runner.” Boston aside (good luck to everyone registering this week and next!), I don’t know what runners have against charity runners.

They didn’t have to scramble to get in. No, they had to pay the same entrance fee AND raise thousands of dollars for charity.

They make the field more crowded. The slots and number of runners in the field are designated by the race, not by the charities.

They’re not serious runners. Ahem. I beg to differ.

There’s a great quote (the author of said quote is unclear):

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

In 2006, my then boyfriend (now husband) re-upped with the United States Marine Corps Reserves in order to take a deployment to Iraq. It would be his second and last deployment to Iraq during is eleven years in the USMC.

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Back home in New York, I worked, went to school, sent care packages and letters, and tried to occupy the time between phone calls from him. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to do something, contribute something to the military community.

Since I had run a few marathons, I decided that the perfect way to honor his service was to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I looked for a charity team whose mission was one that benefitted veterans and their families. It was an easy choice and I joined Team Fisher House and began fundraising for the Fisher House Foundation.

TFH

I chose TFH because of the Fisher House Foundation mission. Fisher Houses are large houses built near military hospitals all over the country where the families of injured veterans stay for free while their soldier recovers from injuries. They also fly the family to be by their soldiers’ side upon their return to the US.

It was a no-brainer for me. If ever I needed their services, God forbid, I wanted to have earned my keep.

MarineMarathon_The Face!I raised a lot of money and was very proud to represent TFH at that and four more Marine Corps Marathons and one New Jersey Marathon. My sister, Red, joined me for one of them and that year, together, we raised over $16,000 for TFH.

But that first year when I was running while JB was deployed, it was more of a cathartic experience for me. I cried as I ran. I smiled at the newly minted lieutenants from the Officer Candidate School handing out water. I accepted the high-fives from my teammates and strangers who cheered as I ran by.

I ran for more than just me.

Since then, I have run a dozen or so races of all distances for various charities, all of which held a special significance to me and my family.

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We are a community, a #RunnerArmy. We are a family. Or, at least, that’s how I see the running community. I’m proud to be a runner who sometimes runs for a cause, sometimes my own. The experience of running in honor of someone else was entirely different than running my first race for myself, for my disease.

I fought like hell to get to that start line.

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Next time you’re at a marathon and find yourself judging the charity runners, remember that they’re there running for more. You don’t know. Not all of them joined the charity as a back door into the race. Some of them are like me, running for their Mom, Dad, sister, husband, or even for themselves.

Maybe give them a high-five.

Now go out and run.

Boston Who?

Confession: I don’t get the hype about Boston.

(Go ahead and amass your mad rant in the comments now. It’s cool. I’ll wait.)

But really, what’s the big deal? Is it elitist thing with qualifying? Is it the history of the race itself? Tell me, because I don’t get it.

I don't really get the hype about Boston. Then again, I'm a Jersey Girl.

I don’t really get the hype about Boston. Then again, I’m a Jersey Girl.

And before you go crazy on me, yes, I’ve been there to see it. I’ve cheered for my aunt who ran. It was…like most other marathons. Except for one thing.

Standing around near the finish, I heard a lot of things that made me sad. From more than one person, runners and cheerers alike, came the comment:

“Oh, they didn’t qualify. They’re on a charity team.”

Not once, not twice, multiple times from multiple people.

My first Marine Corps Marathon. My first time running for Team Fisher House. A very proud moment, indeed.

My first Marine Corps Marathon. My first time running for Team Fisher House. A very proud moment, indeed.

I was disappointed to hear this from runners and non-runners alike as I wandered around Boston the weekend of the marathon. Who puts down charity runners? I mean, seriously?!?! These people have no soul.

That’s when I lost any desire I had to run Boston.

 

I’ve run 6 marathons for Team Fisher House and am proud to have done so. I don’t think there’s any shame at all in running for a charity team. I would never look down on someone running for something more than his/herself. I think it’s admirable.

It’s not like Boston has a great history, either.

MARATHON

(Image courtesy of KatherineSwitzer.com)

I get that it’s prestigious and maybe that draws some people. But what about the rest? I would really like to know, those of you have been or are hell-bent on getting there…

…why?

Why Boston?

Just wondering.

Now go out and run!

 

I’m Having A Party

Hi friends. It’s been a while. I can’t even begin to tell you what’s been keeping me from blogging but the simple answer is: LIFE.

Life /līf/, (noun): Physics class, work, UC “stuff”, marriage (it’s lovely, thank you for asking), pending PhD program, health, family, friends.

Oy. Just…oy.

There are days like this:

Ummm...oops.

When I thank God for this:

Bless you, lululemon. We all need this reminder from time to time.

Anyway, there’s so much going on these days I sometimes forget to shower. And when I do, I also forget to take my shower cap off before I answer the front door.

Good thing my Dry Bar shower cap is cute!

I mean, this sign we saw in Jersey pretty much sums up how my life has been in these past two weeks…and how it will be over the next month or so (or 3 years).

I just...I don't know what this sign is trying to tell me. Only in Jersey.

There is so much craziness happening, I almost forgot to tell you all about my charity Flywheel ride this weekend! You all know how obsessed with Flywheel I am, especially when I can’t run. Stupid UC. I mean, just check out My Workouts and add up my Flywheel visits. Bananas. I love it.

Anyway, you also know about my devotion to the Fisher House Foundation. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a non-profit organization that builds houses near military hospitals for the families of injured veterans to stay FOR FREE while their soldier is hospitalized and recovering. They are rated a 4-star charity (the highest rating) by Charity Navigator because 98% of the money raised goes to program expenses, not advertising or administration costs. Very cool.

My connection to them started when JB was on his second deployment with the Marines, I was here in NYC looking for a way to support him. I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon and do it for a military charity. I found Fisher House and was a part of their inaugural Team Fisher House marathon team. I figured if I ever needed them, I had earned my keep. Since them, I’ve run 6 marathons for them and raised over $25,000.

Yay, Fisher House!

This fall, JB and I are running the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time together for Team Fisher House. The very fabulous Aleah Stander, my fellow lululemon Ambassador and friend, and former Marine Steven Little, both Master Flywheel Instructors, have donated their time and talents to this Saturday’s Fly for Fisher House ride at the Upper East Side Flywheel Sports at 3pm. There is a seriously amazing raffle taking place, including the following confirmed items:

Oh, and there will be complimentary fro yo from Soft Serve Fruit & Co. following the ride.

What more do you need?

If you want to take part in the ride, please don’t hesitate! We are hoping for a full house and want anyone and everyone to be there. Visit our event on Facebook (if you’re not on Facebook, email me: runstrongereveryday@gmail.com for instructions on how to sign up).

Hope to see you on a bike this weekend. Come on out and support our troops and meet me! Not like that’s much of a draw, but I’d sure like to meet all of you :) That is, if you’re not ashamed to be seen with me at my sweatiest!

Now go out and run.

I’m A Newbie Runner: Strength Training (I’m Back!)

Wow! It’s been quite a weekend for me. Thanks for being so cool about my taking some time off to study, everybody. Also, welcome to the readers brought over from Ali On the Run! I hope you get something out of my humble little blog (I’ll explain this at the end).

Now let’s get down to business.

Runners are well-known haters of the gym. I get it. It’s super boring to be indoors on a beautiful day, repeating the same exercise over and over and over again. Plus, you just don’t get that “runner’s high” from lifting. Boo-hoo. You have to do it! (or start doing it now!!!)

Image courtesy of afitnessequipment.com

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Want to know why? Because it will make you stronger, faster and help prevent injuries. It also helps to lean you out and keep your weight in check. And all the pro’s do it. Kara Goucher: “I do a lot of weight lifting”, Paula Radcliffe does “an hour-long session of core strength exercises” during her 8-day training cycle, and Ryan Hall blogged about his own weight lifting routine. These world-class runners must be getting something right, don’t you think?

How much strength training should you be doing?

-Strength train 1 time for every 2 cardio workouts. That means if you are running/cycling/spinning/walking 4 times a week, you need to have 2 strength training workouts every week (about 30-45 mintues each) AND IT MUST INCLUDE A LEG WORKOUT (don’t be a wimp).

  

-Strength training can be a boot camp class, a muscle sculpt class, yoga (vinyasa or ashtanga), classic weight-lifting, plyometrics, pilates (reformer or cadillac) or any other form of activity where you perform anaerobic movements that max out the strength and stability of your muscles, ligaments and tendons of both your upper and lower body.

Most gyms offer at least one personal training session with a membership, so ask for a trainer who works with runners. Better yet, get with a trainer you know works specifically with runners to build a plan you can follow. Also, check out the my favorite exercises for all your strength-training needs.

When should you do your strength training?

-If you are doing it on a day when you are also running, run first. Your form might suffer after being fatigued if you’ve just finished a leg workout and having tired legs is no way to achieve a great tempo run. Doubling them up is A-ok, but think “run first!” I’m a big run-to-yoga-class girl.

I do yoga outside sometimes with 600 of my closest friends

-If it’s an off day for running, you can do it whenever. Just make sure you’re still taking rest days to recover from all the amazing training you are doing (at least one a week).
Contrary to wishful thinking popular belief, running doesn’t strengthen your legs, lifting does. I will not go into all the mechanics of it, but just trust me on this. If you don’t strength train (sometimes called cross-training), you will never reach your full potential as a runner.

Ready for my tangent? A weird thing happened here while I was away: my little blog was read by a whole lotta people! Here’s the story.

My favorite running store here in NYC, JackRabbit Sports is having a competition between 6 contestants to see who can raise the most money for their respective charities while training for the Hamptons Marathon in September. Cool, right? It’s called Run For the Rabbit. Given my history of running marathons for Fisher House Foundation, I initially considered entering myself, but I figured that with two summer school courses, the GRE’s, work, several baby showers, Fall marathon training and my recent hideous performance at the Jersey Shore Marathon during a colitis flare-up, I’d best not add anything else to my plate this summer. It was kismet that JackRabbit chose to follow Ali on her journey to the Hamptons Marathon because Ali has Chron’s disease, the sister to colitis, and she’s running to raise money for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America. She’s running for me, too! So, being the crazy cheerleader I am, I “liked” her Facebook page, donated to the foundation via her Run For the Rabbit page (you should, too!) and started following her very entertaining blog. I couldn’t help myself.

On Friday night, JB and I took a walk uptown to 16 Handles to get a little fro-yo treat and ran into Ali (I actually run into old college friends and my extended family all the time–I ♥ NY). Eeeek! I was a total geek and definitely overshared, but it was soooo great to finally meet another person with IBD who is young, fabulous and a runner! I wanted to hug Ali (I did) and cry (I did not) because she’s running for all of us out there who have IBD and that is amazing to me. I totally fangirled her and, apparently, didn’t scare her away too much because she blogged about our meeting and then my little site exploded. Ali is popular. I am new :) Thanks for the shout-out!

So fun!

Now go out and run! (unless you are Ali…didn’t we talk about rest days?)

Run For You And Someone Else, Too!

Holy cheeks. Not my favorite picture, but you can see Obi-wan representin' the Yankees in the background and Mom "pinning" me :)

If I remember correctly, the first charity race I took part in was the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure 5K in Denver, Colorado. It was the year Mrs. Obi-wan was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. I was 17, just starting my senior year in high school and we were looking for something to do as a family to show our support for our brave mother who was in the middle of her grueling chemotherapy treatment. We ran, we walked and my Mom, bald and beautiful, stood at the finish line to cheer us as we ran towards her. It was so emotional, I’m not sure that any of us had dry eyes that day. It kicked off a tradition in our family that every Fall, no matter what city any of us lived in, we would do the Komen Race For the Cure. Even more than that, though, it inspired in me a desire to use my feet to do good in the world.

In NYC, I started Race For the Cure team called “KOB” which stands for “Keeping Our Boobs”. Mrs. Obi-wan OKed the name, so I figured I could put it on t-shirts. So I did. Breast cancer was now beginning to touch more friends and their mothers, aunts, friends, cousins and grandmothers than ever before and it wasn’t difficult at all to recruit people to run/walk with us every Fall. Over the years, it became a tradition of ours.

First R4TC in NYC!

As I crossed the finish line, I felt a little bit more hopeful that doctors would find a cure for cancer and we wouldn’t have to say goodbye to so many beautiful women (and men) in our lives. I felt closer to those friends who took the time out of their *early* Sunday morning to come to Central Park and sweat it out with me for Mrs. Obi-wan. I’m sure glad they did because 10 years after her first bout of cancer, we found out our amazing Mrs. Obi-wan would face that demon once more and have to fight for her life.

A big year for Team KOB!

That year we had a huge team. My aunts, uncles, friends, sister, clients, co-workers and all of their amazing significant others came out. It was awe-inspiring to have that kind of support during an extraordinarily demoralizing time for me. It helped a lot.

Being on the other side of the country from my family when I felt that I was needed felt terrible. I was helpless to contribute to shouldering the burden Obi-wan and my siblings bore daily. I found that, through running, I could contribute in some small way to my dear mother’s fight. I sent pictures, I called as we crossed our finish line, I sent that banner that my little sister, Red, and I made the night before the big run (we watched Justin Timberlake’s Sexyback Tour on HBO while we painted; it was awesome). I did what I could instead of sitting back, whining about being far away and it made me feel a little less helpless. And you know what? Post-cancer, Mrs. Obi-wan continues to inspire me and so many others by completing THREE half-marathons. I could cry. This woman is a rock. My rock.

I am waaaaay too happy to be running a marathon right now.

A year later, my (then-boyfriend) husband was deployed with the Marines to Iraq for a year. Again, I took solace in running. Only this time, I had three marathons under my belt and I figured, hey, my JB’s a Marine; I’ll run the Marine Corps Marathon! Perfect! I wanted to do it for one of the many awesome military charities that raise money for veterans and their families and that is how I found Team Fisher House. I chose Fisher House because they build houses near military hospitals for the families of injured veterans to live in while their wounded soldier is recovery from injuries. For free. You read that right, friends. You may not know this, but when a soldier is injured and they fly him/her home, they don’t go back to their base, town, or even their state. No, they are flown to the best military hospital in the country to treat the injury they sustained, which is great. Head injuries and amputees go to Walter Reed in Maryland, burn victims to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, etc. However, soldiers are paid pitifully small salaries and the families are almost always unable to be by their soldier’s side because they can’t afford to fly to and stay at a hotel for an extended period of time. Fisher House takes care of all that. For free. Seriously. I figured that I would run for them because if I ever needed their services, I’d at least have contributed in some small way to earn it. And it did make me feel better to be out there for my Marine. Five marathons later, it still does.

Superman! Mile 24! Woo-hoo!

And then there’s the Achilles Track Club. Founded by above-the-knee amputee Dick Traum, this international group of disabled runners, walkers and hand-crankers make their way through road races around the world with the help of volunteer guides. My personal stake in this group of individuals can bring me to tears on almost any day at any time. You see, the person who taught me the most about fitness and respecting my body, taught me to work out so I could walk into any gym in the world with confidence and knowledge, taught me that I can get through anything if I just put my mind to it, he has now found himself *somewhat* disabled by Multiple Sclerosis. I say *somewhat* because despite the MS and a recent bout with cancer (!), Obi-wan STILL does the treadmill and lifts weights 3-4 times a week. I mean, seriously, do YOU work out that much??? Amazing. Inspiring. And that is exactly the attitude and mentality over at Achilles. I ran the 2004 NYC Marathon with Superman, a blind runner, and two other female guides, L & L. We trucked through all five boroughs, taking turns as cheerleader, bodyguard, coach, watergirl and personal motivator. Together, we completed the marathon in less than five hours. I was inspired to volunteer with Achilles because, despite the fact that I couldn’t (still can’t) be there physically to help Obi-wan get through the day-to-day struggles of his disease, I knew that it would make him proud to know I was helping another disabled athlete accomplish his goal and, in some small way, maybe I inspired Obi-wan to keep going and never give up the way he’s always inspired me to do the same.

Achilles Freedom Team (wounded veterans)

Visually impaired athletes kick butt!

Everybody finishes strong "into the chute!"

Nothing slows us down, not even hills!

Today I had the great pleasure of participating in the annual Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler as a guide for Achilles. I brought along a couple of my Lululemon Run Club friends for the ride and we all had a blast running/walking with our Athletes through Central Park on what was truly the most beautiful June day we have ever seen. Trisha Meili (the Central Park Jogger), Anthony Edwards (from ER) and Jon Stewart (The Jon Stewart Show) cheered athletes of all ages (5 year-old amputees!) and disabilities (from double amputees to people in wheelchairs) across the finish line. If you think you can’t run, check out some of these pictures and re-think that statement. Seriously, go out and run.

My point is this: you can’t save the world. You can’t always be there when those you love are suffering from a terrible, debilitating disease or away at war, but YOU CAN lace up your shoes and run for them. YOU CAN volunteer to walk a race with a disabled or slower athlete (www.achillesinternational.org for your local chapter–they ALWAYS need volunteers!). YOU CAN raise money for a worthy charity (94% of the money raised by Team Fisher House goes directly to building and maintaing Fisher Houses all over the country–what’s your favorite charities rating? http://www.charitynavigator.org). YOU CAN DO IT.

You want inspiration for your next race? You want to do something in honor of a loved one who’s fighting or maybe one who lost the battle (but not the war!)? You want a reason to run? Go out and find a charity, a local running group, a friend or a family member in need who wants to be active, but cannot do it on their own. I know what it feels like to be frustrated by disease and tragedy and want to take it out on the world and everyone in it. I choose hope. And possibility. And I will keep on choosing Hope and Possibility because if Mrs. Obi-wan, Obi-wan and Superman taught me anything over these past years it is that we can NEVER give up because the fight ‘ain’t over til the bell is rung. And I didn’t hear no bell.

Me and Superman, 7 years later, at Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler. Go Superman!

When you run for a cause, a purpose, your run has a meaning to it beyond just the typical “I want to lose 5 pounds” reasons for exercising. It’s bigger than vanity and you suddenly realize that people are going to get the help they need, the care, the medicine, the attention they might otherwise go without, because of you. There is not better feeling in the world. The Obi-wans are always reminding me that if I want to change the world and volunteer, I should look in my own back yard. Give it a try.

Now go out and run.