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Belated 5k Update

31 Oct

Having forgotten to update you after my 5k run on Saturday, I now provide this new and exciting information (because I know you were just waiting for it…last I left you I was about to down a plate of gray pasta and purple beets, I report now that they went over well the following morning).

First off, the race in which I “competed” was to benefit a fantastic and really sweet international charity called Zimele. I am so glad I had the opportunity to spend this perfect sunny Saturday with great people who are doing some really good work in this world! You can read more about their efforts to reduce poverty in South Africa here: http://goo.gl/jznE9u

At any rate, despite my protestations to family and friends that this run would be an epic FAIL perhaps in the 30 minutes plus category, I was pleasantly surprised when I clocked in at 24 minutes and 13 seconds! Apart from the fact that this run was small and seemed to attract some really good runners, I still managed to come in around 6th for women and 3rd in my age group. Not too awesome of a 5k time but also…Not too shabby! I still got it, or so I hope.

My attempt at a selfie. No one came to witness my 5k greatness! Therefore I had to document the glory all alone : (

My attempt at a selfie. No one came to witness my 5k greatness! Therefore I had to document the glory all alone : (

This is the story of a girl

14 May
Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Friends, I have a confession. I have not always been a yogi. Nor have I always been a runner. I offer you these olive branches in the case you come upon this blog, see that it’s about running and fitness and think: I. will. never. run. anywhere.  In writing this, I hope to convince you that you can, in fact, become more athletic, no matter who you are, what your background is or how much (or how little) time you have. So…without further ado, here is my story.

Although I’ve always been physically inclined, albeit on my own terms, I have certainly never been an all star. I developed a natural talent as a gymnast early on. I was limber, lithe and fearless; qualities that served me well for the rare, bi-weekly occasions on which I dared to exert myself in any form of physical activity. Not even when a fellow team member from the gym where I trained (who differed from me dramatically not in terms of physical capacity, but in terms of grit, dedication and vigor) made it to the qualifying rounds for the 2000 Sydney Olympics was I at all motivated to step up my game.

After becoming too cool for gymnastics altogether and dropping out of the sport so as to free up time for more important endeavors such as loitering in shopping malls and chasing after boys, I retreated into a quasi anorexic realm of what Jessica Clark in this month’s edition of Runner’s World aptly calls ‘skinny fat’. The only selling point for me when it came to sports was, perhaps, the chance to wear slightly scandalous under clothing (e.g. the donning of brightly colored bras under the see through mesh of my soccer jersey).

Apart from the aforementioned opportunities, I developed a disdain for the athletic. I viewed friends who electively participated in such insanity as cross country as sufferers of a rare form of mental illness. And, above all, I DESPISED gym class.  Primarily, I regarded it as a medieval torture camp conjured up by sadistic adults and designed to make young people suffer unspeakable fates. Perhaps the worst of all afflictions was the mile run, a fate I could barely accomplish in 12 minutes flat. I distinctly remember being taken to the high school track as an early teen and being made to run around it on a crisp autumn day. It was beautiful, enjoyable, relaxing…it was…it was…horrid! I felt I was part of a chain gain (okay, I know chain gains are usually made to do labor…but dude, that was my reality).

For fitness purposes, and in futile attempts to stave off the effects of too much tofutti chocolate supreme ice cream (Mmmmm sooo good), I took up running during my freshman year of college. This was a pitiful attempt to stay, or maybe just to get, in some sort of shape. I plodded on day after day on a treadmill in our university’s basement gym. Feeling glad to be moving, but not really going anywhere.

This was my routine for…the next three years. I don’t really want to chalk my ultimate breakthrough up to a guy, but I guess I kind of should. After I broke up with the only serious boyfriend I’d ever had at the start of my senior year, I distinctly remember rolling out of bed one morning, feeling desperate (and probably somewhat hungover) and thinking: I should go for a run. And, so, I did. I remember running out of the campus gates and just going.  I can’t really say why I started running. I guess it was just something my body wanted me to do. And so, I listened.

I think I ran for an hour, maybe more. I didn’t have any concept of time or how far I’d gone but I just kept repeating it, like clockwork every morning.

Wake up and smell the roses...spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Wake up and smell the roses…spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Strangely, I began to notice things, like the shape of dew drops on green leaves on small patches in front of the stately homes near campus. I enjoyed the smells, the lights and the quiet of early mornings. I felt alone. I felt free. And, for some bizarre reason, I no longer felt as though I was on the chain gang of yore.

Later that year, I signed up for a 5k because someone told me I should try it. I figured why not? It certainly could not be worse than the inaptly named fun runs of my youth where I scraped along just to get…to…the…end…of…a…one…mile…course. Not expecting much from myself at all, I did this 5k.  And, I came in third place. It was a really small race and I think I ran the course at about 9:00 mins per mile. I know for some people it’s not much to celebrate, but I remember feeling really floored. I remember thinking: this is totally, totally amazing!

From that point I’ve pushed on, and I think you’ll find you can too. After 5ks, the miles just started melting away. I moved up to 10ks and from 10ks, I’ve moved on to half marathons. Including the New Jersey Half Marathon, which took place May 5, 2013 in Long Branch which I completed in about 1 hour and 55 mins. Not the best, but under an hour and with 8:44 min miles the whole way through.  I’ve yet to take on a full marathon, but it’s on my list next.

Throughout all of this, non-runner friends always ask me: how?

How do you do anything?

By wanting to do it. During the course of my professional life this passed week, I was asked to speak on a panel to a bunch of high school students about career paths. I probably babbled at them a whole bunch but the one thing I told them was this:

Ground yourself in your passion

because what you plant there will ultimately be stronger and grow more roots.

The same is true with physical endeavors. Find something you love and do it often. Life is short but it’s long enough to enjoy and to build things that have the ability to sustain you. As Buddha once said “to keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

For those of you who hope to run your first 5k. Like everything, it’s always…uh-hem…tough-going the first time. Once you break on through, it’ll all be good. So good, you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again.  AND this month’s edition of Runner’s World features some great tips for beginners (wow, I am really plugging RW in this posting)!

Also, the Mayo Clinic has a great 5k training plan which I think is an awesome place to start.

Or, if you’re like me, just lace up, hit the road and see where it will take you.

Happy trails, my friends!

5k/10k Fun

30 Apr

I can’t say enough good things about local community run 5 and 10ks. I’ve been double teaming my weekends with short runs and it’s been nothing but a blast. Sure, there are some tricky courses out there. Even some of the innocuously advertised “this-is-a-fun-park-run” runs can pack some challenges (e.g. the park based 5k I ran on April 20th essentially began at the base of a giant hill) and can make you feel totally beat. But that’s the fun of it, no?

This season, I’ve been all over the state of New Jersey. As someone who considers herself interested in managing the carbon footprint, I am a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been driving like a maniac on weekends to get to some of these races. But, eh, at the end of the day I kinda feel like it’s worth it, especially if you’re carpooling…which, of course, I know you are. There’s always something great about traveling across the state and watching the landscape change and open up before you. As someone who has traveled frequently throughout other parts of the world, I honestly feel like the roadtrip is one of those quintessentially American experiences.

At any rate, here’s a list of some of my season highlights:

10K, March 23, 2013: 56:01.30

10K, April 7, 2013: 55:11.46

5K, April 20: 25:28.15

5K April 27: 24:56.30

And, just as my time was slipping down, I headed out to the hills, quite literally. A friend and I decided to take a drive south west of the big city for Run the Vineyards during which we hit some serious inclines, grassy meadows and sandy, rocky terrain. Okay, so now that I have finished prefacing this, I tell you, my time….another 5k but this time 27:18.30. Ewww! Embarrassing, but at least my country jaunt afforded me the opportunity to take photos of some chickens.

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and to purchase a giant discounted sack of vino!

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If you’re looking for some feel good events (i.e. the ones where you meet fun and interesting people) I recommend the following races, available throughout the country:

Run for Congo Women: http://www.runforcongowomen.org/ (this is typically a seasonal run but you can create a virtual event year-round)

Race for the Cure: http://www.komencny.org/komen-race-for-the-cure/ (obvious but true, this run is always supported by great locals)

AIDS Walk NY: https://www.kintera.org/faf/teams/registerTeam.asp?ievent=1052727&lis=1&kntae1052727=019D76DA70D64CC59EC21891DB926A47&teamAction=join

and, finally, not a community event per se, but Virtual Run for Boston, going on now through May 27, 2013:

http://www.active.com/running/any-city-dc/virtual-run-for-boston-marathon-victims-2013

Don’t let me stop you, there are plenty of good ones out there. You just need to find a cause and get to it!

In all things, balance and intention

26 Apr

When I ran my first post April-15th race last weekend, the moment of silence offered beforehand left me with a lump in my throat so large, I don’t know how I fought it down as I began to run.  Although it was only a 5k, I think it was a PR for me. Seeing as this blog is yoga-influenced, I hesitate to say my snappy performance was fueled by rage and an iPod filled with Dropkick Murphys…so, instead, I’ll just say I was powered by a great inner fire. In channeling that “fire” I began to think about the great need for all of us to keep our intentions in check. And, in this case, I believe it is not only important for all of us to keep running (as so many of the popular slogans that have evolved out of this crisis remind us to do) but also to keep our thoughts with those who have suffered.

I once read a book by Deepak Chopra (okay, fine! laugh all you want) in which he cites a study conducted on a group of patients in a hospital who are all ill with the same disease. Without their knowledge, one half of the group of patients had an individual (whom they did not know) who was assigned to pray for their recovery. The other half of the patients were not assigned someone who would pray for their recovery. After a period of several weeks, the study found that those patients who were kept in the intentions of a stranger experienced a recovery that was vastly better than their lonely counterparts.

In yoga, we talk about focusing our intentions all the time. We talk about the need to draw on our inner power and the need to do good. Similarly, I recently listened to an interview on NPR in which an experienced runner told the newscaster that she hoped the “karmic balance of running could be restored.” I can’t find the interview but it was an important point. There’s been so much talk about needing to get runners back out on the ground to start pounding the pavement in defiance of the bombings (which, I admittedly did). But, while it is necessary to get out there and reclaim the roads, it is also important to do so with a certain mindfulness. If you’re like me, I suggest you get the rage (or…ahem…fire) out of your system and then come back to your core, your center and send your best intentions out to all of those who have experienced great loss.

If you’re looking for a way to get started and to calm your mind, I found this article from Yoga Journal to be helpful: http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/926

They’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again:

Stay strong Boston.

From N.J. with love.

Photo from businessinsider.com