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Archive for April, 2013

A moment of heartfelt reflection at the Run For Boston event in Louisville, Kentucky

Before the Run For Boston - Louisville, Kentucky

Before the Run For Boston – Louisville, Kentucky

Yesterday marked a full week since the senseless bombing of the Boston Marathon.  I would be lying to you if I sat here and said that I wasn’t affectedAs human beings, all of us were, in some way, touched by what happened near that finish line.

Boston is about 970 miles away from Louisville, Kentucky.  But the instant I heard about those explosions at the marathon, it felt like my own world was falling apart.  It’s hard to explain the wave of emotions that I’ve been feeling over the past week.  This tragic event literally took my legs out from under me.  I couldn’t watch the news, but I wanted to be informed.  I cried so much this past week, fought back tears when I had to, and just couldn’t get the events at Boston off my mind or my heart.  I was heartbroken over what occurred.

I am the granddaughter of a marathoner.  That running bug must have skipped a generation, but I caught it.  And I have never stopped falling in love with the simple act of running.  In fact, if it’s even possible, in the two years I have been running, I might have learned to love this sport more than anything else I have ever done.  More than my art, my photography, and yes…even my cooking.  There is something so primitive, but so empowering about a run.

It’s not to say every run is a good run, but let’s face it…there are more good runs than bad runs.  And a bad run is just another reason to get up the next day and try it again.  It doesn’t stay bad forever.

Neither do life changing events.  The bombing of the Boston Marathon, for me, was life changing.  I know I wasn’t there…but my heart and soul were.  It’s hard to explain what I mean, but as a runner who aspired to one day be fast enough to qualify for this race (my grandpa never had the chance to run it, but he always wanted to), a part of me was there, with the runners, with the crowd.  Cheering the elite.  Cheering those that came after them.  The spirit of a runner is unbridled, and where there is a race, a part of each of us are there…carried in the hearts, minds, and the soles (get it?) of each runner there.  Whether they know it or not…we are with them.  We’re part of this tightly-knit group, and while we don’t know everyone out there who thinks like us and finds joy in the act of running, we know they are out there.  And every race that runs is proof of that.

The Boston Marathon…is the crème de la crème of marathons.  It has a deep tradition to upkeep, and a history that is like no other race out there.  And, on April 15, 2013, at 2:50 p.m., explosions tore through the finish area.  And the Boston Marathon was brought to a halt.  And with it…the world of every runner who was either there, or watching, or following online…stopped with it.

970 miles between Louisville and Boston.

And something great emerges from the ashes.  Something that the running community here in Louisville really, really needed.

You see, the owner of Fleet Feet Louisville, Jeff Wells, was at Boston.  He had crossed the finish line about 30 minutes before the blasts went off.  In fact, he was on his way back to his hotel, near the site of the second explosion, when it all went down.  His story is moving…and inspiring.  And what Jeff did when he returned to Boston was start to share his story.  And from that…a movement grew.

He said it countless times in interviews.  “We are unstoppable.”

Three simple words, that I really needed to hear.  The Boston Marathon might have been stopped…but we, the running community, are unstoppable.

From there, a movement began.  Jeff began to talk to the other four running stores in the area…his competitors in sales…but his brothers on the road.  Blue Mile, Swags, Pacers and Racers, Ken Combs…they all began talking and putting together this idea…of taking their running groups for a run to commemorate the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  All proceeds raised from the run would benefit Boston’s The One Fund.

It was brilliant.  And the entire Louisville running community was bolstered by the very idea of having such an event.  The initial plan was to meet at Waterfront Park, and for 26.2 minutes, run, pausing at 6:26 p.m. for a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The run would happen on the newly opened pedestrian bridge.  Any and all levels were welcome.  Runners, walkers…whoever wanted to be a part of the event…and help make a donation toward The One Fund.

The event, however, got too big.  And with Derby season in full swing here in Louisville, the city couldn’t get us a permit for such a large gathering.  Subsequently, the event was cancelled.  The stores still planned to do their memorial runs…but from each respective store…and that would be that.

But Jeff wasn’t giving up.  He talked to the other stores, and what they came up with was the best alternative and what culminated into one of the most moving moments of my life.  The five local running stores all agreed to leave from their respective stores, or from a meeting place for those further away (they chose the bathrooms at Seneca Park) to run into Cherokee Park and come together at Hogan’s Fountain at 6:26 to observe a moment of silence for what happened in Boston.

I met up with my Monday running group at BlueMile…and soon the store was overflowing with runners and walkers who were looking to participate in the event.  Cathy accompanied me…with a cowbell that she tied up with blue and yellow yarn (the colors of the BAA), and a sign that the two of us worked on for her to hold at the event.  Let’s face it…Cathy is one of the best when it comes to crowd support at races…with cowbell and sign always in hand.  She left early to drive up to Hogan’s Fountain and get situated.  She was the first one there.  She had her sign.  And soon…people started finding her.

My group left BlueMile about 15 minutes before the meetup, giving people time to run up the hill to Hogan’s Fountain and catch their breath before the moment of observance for Boston.  A local news crew was out, and the BlueMile group was filmed on their trek up to Cherokee Park.  The climb up the hill felt somewhat easier than usual.  And when we reached the top…when Hogan’s Fountain was in view…there was a sea of humanity gathered around.  Media was there, taking pictures and filming, and runners were mingling and talking.

I spotted Cathy near the fountain and ran over to talk to her and a few other runners nearby.  Soon, Jeff arrived with the Fleet Feet group.  I finally was able to give him a hug.  It was one of the best hugs ever.  I felt…better.  Then, the five running store owners came together to say a few words.  The prelude to the 6:26 moment of silence was given by the man in charge of Team Sweaty Sheep, a Christian group of athletes (runners, walkers, bikers), who said a few words than encouraged everyone to take a moment to reflect on Boston.  And with that…the hundreds of runners, walkers, and bikers…fell silent.  All I could hear was the shutter of a camera nearby.  And that stopped a second later.  Silence.

It’s hard to explain what I felt in that moment.  A wave of emotion just swept over me.  My shoulders shuddered a little as a few silent tears fell.  I drew in a deep breath, and my heart felt…lighter.  And, after a minute passed, we were sent off to do what we do best.  Run.

I felt better.  All last week, my emotions were all over the place.  I would run sad, run angry, run to break away, run to feel…something.  This time…in the cool spring breeze, in the sunshine that was shining down through the trees in Cherokee Park…I smiled.  I hadn’t found joy in my run since the bombings occurred.  I felt like the darkness was leaving.  I felt…lighter.  I ran 3.25 miles that night…back up the hill to Hogan’s Fountain to meet up with Cathy.  I ran them easy.  No need for speed.  I needed to reflect, feel, and more importantly…smile again.

That small moment of time meant the world to me.  I am so proud to have been a part of that gathering.  I needed to be.  Because, I have been scrambling to come to terms with the senseless act of violence at the Boston Marathon.  I said it before…had I been running…my friends, my family, my roommate (and biggest fan), could have been standing right there.  It’s a fact that isn’t lost on me.  It is a fact that I am constantly reminded of whenever a replay of those explosions comes onto the news.

It can be a scary world out there…but we’re runners.  And what Jeff said was true…

We are unstoppable.

When runners get knocked down, they get back up.  They keep going.  When runners can’t get back up…other runners carry them.  It’s what we do.  When we have no strength left…we somehow find it.  Deep inside us.  It’s there.  And it’s that strength that is going to see us through these hard times.  It’s that strength that sends us out to races still.  The organizer of the Super Sprint Triathlon I participated in on Sunday said something else that resonated with me.  He said that our participation and our simple act of being at the event showed that we would not be bullied.  Runners are strong.  They have to be…especially distance runners.  It’s mind over matter.

Some wounds take time to heal.  I’m not saying I’m whole again, but I’m on the mend.  No longer is my spirit broken, because my soul is that of a runner.  And when the road seems long and the miles ahead endless…I just keep going.  I keep pushing.  I find my strong.  I pick up my feet, I set my gaze ahead, and I overcome.

That’s what happened in Louisville on Monday night at 6:26 p.m.  We all came together…for whatever reasons we were drawn there…and we showed Boston our love and hope for the future of their city and the Boston Marathon.  We made donations to their charity.  We put in miles…some of us for the first time in years.  And, we came away from it changed.  Events like this change you…whether you were there or not.  When you are part of such a tightly knit community like the running community…the ties that bind are so much more than the laces on your shoes.

We are runners.  We are unstoppable.

Boston…Louisville stands strong with you.  There may be 970 miles of road between us…but last night…we were at that finish line at Copley Square.  Last night…we remembered what you endured a week ago.  And we were all moved and touched.  Did you feel the love?  If not…listen closely…hundreds of running shoes pounded the pavement for you.  You might still hear the echoes of it.  Because we all did it…together.



Running to Remember – A Tribute to the Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Me and Nikky pinned up and ready for our run for Boston.

Me and Nikky pinned up and ready for our run for Boston.

Today was a good day.

It feels strange to say that, because good days since Monday, April 15, 2013, have been few and far between.  I’ve had good moments, sure…but my overall attitude, my overall emotional state was rocked…perhaps even shattered when those bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I wasn’t there.  But my heart and soul was.  And every image burned itself into my heart.  I cried…a lot.  I felt down.  Depressed.  Angry.  Sad.  I felt lost.  I felt hopeless.  I felt helpless.  I’ve witnessed quite a few life-changing events in my life, but this one rocked me hard.  This one…hit me right in the chest.


Because…I am a runner.

So, when my friend Nikky asked on her Facebook page if someone wanted to pace her while she went on her last long run before she began her taper for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon coming up in a week…I volunteered.  It’s not often I get to go running with others.  There is my fun run group on Monday, of course, but…most times I’m on my own there too.  So, I jumped on the chance to join her for her 10 mile run.  She was worried that she would be too slow…but I told her it was her job to set the pace…and I would go with it.  I never mind running with people.  And if it means I slow my pace down, I’m more than happy to do it.

So often runners focus on their pace, their time.  I am one of these runners.  I always am looking to better myself.  And so often I forget the joy of just going out for a slow, easy run.  It’s amazing what you see, what you feel, what you notice that you might have missed…

Then, on Thursday, it occurred to me that Nikky and I could do something very special on our 10 miler.  We could run…for Boston.  I pitched the idea at her, and she was totally for it.  Dedicating her long run to a cause…and we’d do it together.  I printed up some race bibs for us to wear, to make it official, and eagerly anticipated our run on Saturday afternoon.

I went out on Saturday morning for an easy 5 miler on my own…a warm-up if you will.  And after grabbing a bite to eat at Jason’s Deli (My pre-race lunch was a gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Don’t mock…runners love peanut butter!), I headed to our rendezvous spot, ready to help her do her long run.

We met up at the YMCA and had Cathy get us pinned up (she’s an expert after all).  After that, Cathy went off to grocery shop and Nikky and I headed to the park where we would start our run.  We stretched (she is SO flexible!) and then walked up to the road to get started.  I reassured her that I was more than happy to take her pace and she told me it was okay to push her a little now and then.  So, with that understanding, I let her start us off…up a hill.

We had so much fun.  The miles flew by as we ran around a route she runs often enough.  And we did it wearing our special race bibs, throwing our hands up in the air.  Running for Boston.  It felt good to add a cause to purpose for being out on the roads.  The race bibs just sort of made it feel more official.  It felt good.  We kept our conversations on the light side…speaking of happy things.  We’d talk about Boston…but mostly of the relief that just last night the second suspect was taken into custody…alive.  And how we hoped that justice would be played out.  We talked of races, ones we’ve run, ones that we would like to run.  We talked about our families.  We talked about people we know who run.  We talked about our local running stores.  We would throw our hands up in the air when cars drove by, saying, “We’re running for Boston!”  And we never stopped.  It was refreshing.  It was, honestly, just what I needed.

Ten miles, with hills at the start, hills in the middle, and more hills at the end.  She really had this planned out.  The best part was, she did an amazing job on her run.  We hit 10 miles and I hugged her and congratulated her.  She is amazing and she’s going to do a great job on her run next weekend.  I can tell.  And with crowd support down there, oh…I have a feeling she’ll do better than she even expects.  The important thing is to pace herself.  I am so proud of her.  She rocked it.  She knew when to push and when to let up.  She was determined not to get injured before this race this year…and I am so glad she listened to her body.  Those last two miles, though, she gave it her all.  Yeah…very proud of her.

Proudly wearing our race bibs…we headed to The Comfy Cow for celebratory ice cream.  We talked some more about anything and everything.  And finally, we parted ways.

Today’s run was so cleansing.  It was something we both felt we needed to do.  She had the reason and we both had the time.  Dedicating today’s run to Boston was so heartfelt.  We both were affected by what happened.  Anyone who is a runner or was a runner or even just knows runners was affected by the events in Boston on Monday.  But with every step we took today, we put in miles for the victims of those senseless bombings.  Miles for a good cause.  Miles to remember.  Miles that we shared…with Boston in our hearts and proudly displayed on our tech shirts.  This was Nikky’s run…but she and I made it so much more.

This wasn’t just a training run.  That was what got us out there.  This was a run for remembrance.  This was a run for healing.  We accomplished it.  And we did it together.  One foot in front of the other.  The road rose up to meet us…and we left our heartache and tears behind as we climbed our first hill together…and lifted up Boston.

Thank you, Nikky, for this amazing experience.  We may have only been two people…but we carried the whole of the Boston Marathon with us.  Boston Strong!

Heartbroken over the 2013 Boston Marathon

Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer

April 15, 2013 – Patriot Day – The Boston Marathon.

As someone who is looking forward to running in her first marathon, the Chicago Marathon in October, I cannot even put into words how I feel about the senseless bombing of the iconic Boston Marathon.  All I can say is…when I heard the news, I started crying…and then…I started running.  And it has been a struggle to make myself stop doing either one.

I wasn’t in Boston for the marathon, but I feel my heart was.  I knew a few people who were running yesterday.  I know a few people who live there.  And I have been told, by countless people, that they believe I can qualify for this historic, amazing, iconic race.

As a runner, the events that unfolded in Boston ripped through my body and soul.  It was so senseless.

I read the news at work, as the first reports came over my Twitter feed.  I got up and hurried over to Cathy’s desk and relayed the news.  From then on, I was a mess of fighting back tears, receiving texts from friends and family, and just doing my best to keep it together.  There is just something about Boston that touches the runner in all of us.

Yesterday started off really amazing.  I had a running feed of the Boston Marathon going.  I was getting a lot of work done.  I was cheering for my US ladies, Shalane Flanagan (finished 4th) and Kara Goucher (finished 6th) as well as the US men, like Jason Hartmann (finished 4th).  My work situation was tense.  I had apparently pissed off my teammate that morning…and instead of telling me…things just got uncomfortable.  I confronted her on it…she finally just told me the issue.  We resolved it…but I was tense.  And then…explosions ripped through the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  And my world just seemed to stop for a moment.

WHY?  JUST WHY?!  That’s what I didn’t understand.  I still don’t understand.  I try to think the best of people and then some senseless act strikes.  What kind of an asshole bombs a marathon?!  I struggled with news reports the rest of the day, fighting back tears at the office, and ultimately failing every time.  With a heavy heart and puffy, tear-soaked eyes, I left the office and headed home.

I wasn’t home long.  My local running store was putting on their usual Monday night fun run.  They aptly put up over Twitter and Facebook that it was now a Boston Solidarity Walk/Run.  My heart was in it…I didn’t just want to go, I needed to go.  So, after eating dinner very quickly, Cathy and I hopped into the car and drove over to Louisville to my running store for the usual Monday night fun run.  The mood was solemn.  For awhile no one really wanted to talk about it.  But we all had it in our hearts and on our minds.  You just had to look us – our posture, our stoic faces.  We left for our run…and I was going to take it easy and stay with the group.

At first, conversation was about marathons…and security now.  The subject slowly changed…to what people did last weekend…Jurassic Park 3D…and then we hit the hills of Cherokee Park.  A friend of the small group I was with in the lead stopped them, but I kept going.  I couldn’t stop.  My feet needed to move.  Easy, without any speed or power behind it.  Me legs just had to be moving.  They had to run.  And it was when I broke away and really thought about the events of the day, that the tears really started to flow.  I cried my eyes out and my heart out on that run through Cherokee Park.  It felt cleansing and good.  And I know people were wondering why this girl was bawling her eyes out as she ran the loop, but I couldn’t stop the emotions just like I couldn’t stop my feet.  It had to happen.  I needed it to happen.

Hal Higdon, an American writer and runner said it best yesterday in his response to the bombings at Boston.  He said:

“When I first offered the link below, it was to let everyone know who were the winners in today’s Boston Marathon. But there were a lot of losers today: all of us who love the sport of long distance running, all who love the Boston Athletic Association Marathon for all it means to our sport. And ironically from early reports, those who seem to have taken the biggest hit from the explosions were those who cheer us, the spectators standing beside the road. God love them all.”

He’s absolutely right.  The brunt of the attacks didn’t so much hit the runners, but tore through the people who lined the course…those who chose to come out and offer support to the tired runners who were making their way in to the finish line.  They were celebrating the accomplishments of others, cheering, clapping, shouting.  Runners need support like that, especially after a grueling race.  These people were innocent bystanders.  They didn’t have to be out on that street offering their support to those out there running – but that was where they chose to be.

Another reason it hit so hard…had I been running Boston, my family, Cathy, even my friends could have been right there waiting for me to come in, perhaps watching me come in.  Perhaps I would have been done by then.  But…this could have been my loved ones.  It hits hard.  It breaks my heart.  And I am still torn to pieces on the inside over the entire situation.

Runners are some of the kindest and most giving people in the world.  I have met so many amazing and wonderful people in the running community.  This senseless act tore through me…because it affected a world that I am a part of.  I am a runner.  And this hurt.  This stung.  This ripped through me and broke my heart.  I had tears in my eyes this morning as I went out for my morning run.

One of my female running idols, Kathrine Switzer, who has huge ties to the Boston Marathon (GO GIRL!), once said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

I couldn’t agree more.  To all the runners out there…I know.  I feel it too.  For all of you who choose to come out and cheer at any race, no matter the size or distance…thank you.  You are the true heroes…because you are the ones who pull us through when we need it most.

My heart is with Boston today.  My soul is in Boston today.  My mind is on Boston today.  My love goes out to those who helped…the heroes in Boston, the spectators, the victims, the runners, the residents…

Hug a runner today.  Hug a spectator today.  Because, when it all comes down to it…we’re in this race together.

Stay strong, Boston.

How far I’ve come

Pride.  Power.  Passion.  I love to run!

Pride. Power. Passion. I simply love to run!

People start running for a variety of reasons.  Most of the time it has something to do with weight…or loving beer…or wanting to eat more without the guilt.  And that’s all fine and good.  I don’t begrudge these types of runners…not at all.  At least they are being active.  But, my advice…find a sport or activity you actually love doing.  Do you like to bike?  You burn a ton of calories biking…give that a shot.  Do you like to walk?  You burn as many calories walking a mile as you do running a mile.  One just gets you there faster.  Don’t expect to stick with running if you don’t really love to run.

That being said…for me, running is about passion.  There are very few things I can honestly point to in this world and say…”This defines me.”  But running…running does.  And I think that’s why I get a bit aggravated with the ones who buy into every gimmick…or new running fad that enters the market.  Running doesn’t have to be complicated.  It’s easy.  One foot in front of the other…forward motion. You don’t have to be fast.  Running doesn’t come with a rule book.  But for anyone out there whose head might be spinning from all this newfangled running stuff…here’s simple advise: Wear proper shoes for your feet, get out and run…and don’t worry about how fast or slow you are, and eat your meals and treats without regrets.  Okay?  This is how I live…every day.  You know why?

I simply love to run.

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed lacing up my shoes, heading outside, cranking out a couple miles, and returning home, sweaty, spent, and feeling better than when I walked out the door in the first place, until I discovered what running meant to me.  The runner’s high is very real…and I love that feeling of complete domination when everything on a run goes right.  I don’t have to run fast or steady.  I just need to feel that pavement under my Nike’s and take in the sights, sounds, and beauty of whatever road I choose to run.

You see…running runs in my family.  Kind of.  It’s not a gift.  Nor is it a talent that is passed down from generation to generation.  If it were, my dad and his sister would be runners…but they aren’t.  However…my grandpa was.  And he picked it up late in life.  I can’t recall a visit with my grandpa that he didn’t head out for hours to run and come back sweaty and ready for a shower.  You see…he found joy in his runs.  He found himself.  He found…solace, space, euphoria, and freedom.  I never understood why he ran.  I just knew that he started to run in his 50s and he didn’t stop until his late 80s.  He’s run marathons in other countries.  He’s competed in countless road races.  And, when he stopped…it was as if I picked up the torch and found out just what it meant to him to run.  Because I can’t imagine a moment without that feeling I get when I run.

One of my favorite races happened in February 2012…in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K race.  And my brother-in-law, who had just taken up running, our friend Armand, and myself were running in it.  But grandpa was in town and he said he was going to come along to cheer or see if they needed volunteers to help with water stops or whatever.  And then, he ended up signing up to walk the course.  So, I got to be in a race with my road hero.  It meant so much to me.  Especially since Celiac is something I live with and why I have to be gluten-free.  I’ll never forget that race and how much I smiled when grandpa crossed that finish line.  I was there to cheer for him…and it still makes me smile to this day.

Running didn’t come easy.  In fact, it hurt.  It hurt a lot, at first.  Back in 2003, I was in Ireland with one of my best friends and our car was struck head-on by a truck.  Both of my knees dislocated and since then had been giving me problems.  My first attempts at running were done on the smallest track in the world, the one at my gym, where 18 laps gets you a mile.  It took me awhile to work up to 18 laps.  I bought knee braces that hindered me, so I went without.  And soon, I found my knees no longer bothered me.  And 18 laps wasn’t so daunting.

I had heard about an upcoming 5K in Louisville, Kentucky…right in my backyard, at Cherokee Park.  I told my roommate that if I could run 3 miles in under 30 minutes at the gym, I was going to sign up and make it my first race.  I gave it a go…and at the end, I managed.  I was tired.  I was out of breath.  But I managed.

So, on April 9, 2011, I arrived at Cherokee Park, not realizing how hilly it was, ready to pick up my race number, receive my t-shirt, and go for a run.  My roommate and the receptionist at the office I work in came out to cheer me on.  I didn’t know where to line up or where I was going.  I figured I would just follow everyone else.  This, by the way, is still my method when it comes to racing.  I’m not speedy enough to lead the race, so I just go where everyone else does.  I ran that 5K race in 30:28…and it felt like the hardest thing I had ever done.  But…I was ready for more.

Since then, I have run in every sort of weather imaginable.  I have been injured badly twice, once in June 2011 after the Activate America 5 Miler in Frankfort, Kentucky, where I spent the rest of the summer out of running with a stress fracture in my right foot and bad runner’s knee in my right knee, and on July 21, 2012, when I tore my plantar fascia at the Grand Slam 4 Miler race in Louisville, Kentucky.  I truly missed running when I was down with these injuries.  I would cry, and I know I was a terror to live with.  My roommate was very supportive and very, very kind to put up with me.

See…passion.  If I didn’t love to do it…I wouldn’t have been crying because I couldn’t.

I’ve run countless 5Ks, some 4 milers, some 5 milers, a couple of 10Ks, some quarter marathons, a 15K, half-marathons (in fact, I ran a total of 6 last year!), and am now in training for my first marathon, which I will take on in October.  I’ve come a long way from that girl on the track at the gym.

I was spring cleaning the other day and getting some organization done around the apartment.  My roommate was helping me get my running gear and goods in order and when I pulled down the medals I had simply been hanging on a Care Bear on the top of my bookshelf.  She said to organize them and take some pictures.  So…I did.  It’s like looking back almost 2 years in time and seeing what all I managed to accomplish…plus more that I have no awards for, but happy memories.

Below are the pictures we took of the various awards I have been lucky enough to receive during my life on the run.

Participant Awards:

Race Participant Medals: Top Row: Athenaeum Volksmarch (walking), Geist 5K (2011), Indianapolis Women's 5K (2011), Tap N Run Louisville (2011), The Shamrock 2 Miler (2012); Bottom Row: Hope For The Children 5K (2012), Bunny Hop 5K (2012), Geist 5K (2012), The Leprechaun 2 Miler (2013)

Race Participant Medals – Top Row: Athenaeum Volksmarch (walking) (2009), Geist 5K (2011), Indianapolis Women’s 5K (2011), Tap N Run Louisville (2011), The Shamrock 2 Miler (2012); Bottom Row: Hope For The Children 5K (2012), Bunny Hop 5K (2012), Geist 5K (2012), The Leprechaun 2 Miler (2013)

Division Awards:

Top Row: Tomorrow's Children 5K (2011 - 1st in division), Doug's Run 10K (2011 - 1st in division), Tomorrow's Children 5K (2012 - 1st in division), Pro.Active For Life 5K (2012 - 1st in division), Activate America 5 Miler (2012 - 2nd in division), Walk Away From Colon Cancer 5K Run (2012 - 3rd in division), Million Mutt March 5K (2012 - 1st in division); Bottom Row: Reindeer Romp 4K (2012 - 3rd in division), Santa Hustle Half Marathon (2012 - 3rd in division), Frostbite 5K (2013 - 2nd in division), Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler (2013 - 2nd in division), Polar Bear Grand Prix (2013 - 1st in division overall from 3 races), Run For The Gold 3K (2013 - 1st in division)

Race Division Awards – Top Row: Tomorrow’s Children 5K (2011 – 1st in division), Doug’s Run 10K (2011 – 1st in division), Tomorrow’s Children 5K (2012 – 1st in division), Pro.Active For Life 5K (2012 – 1st in division), Activate America 5 Miler (2012 – 2nd in division), Walk Away From Colon Cancer 5K Run (2012 – 3rd in division), Million Mutt March 5K (2012 – 1st in division); Bottom Row: Reindeer Romp 4K (2012 – 3rd in division), Santa Hustle Half Marathon (2012 – 3rd in division), Frostbite 5K (2013 – 2nd in division), Snowman Shuffle 4 Miler (2013 – 2nd in division), Polar Bear Grand Prix (2013 – 1st in division overall from 3 races), Run For The Gold 3K (2013 – 1st in division)

Race Medals (10K-Half Marathon):

10K - Half Marathon Medals - Top Row: Chicago Half Marathon (2011), Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2011), OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon (2012), Rock 'N Sole Quarter Marathon (2012), Minneapolis Half Marathon (2012), Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon (2012); Bottom Row: Air Force Marathon 10K (2012), Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2012), Hershey Half Marathon (2012), Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon (2012), Santa Hustle Half Marathon (2012), Disney Princess Half Marathon

10K – Half Marathon Race Medals – Top Row: Chicago Half Marathon (2011), Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2011), OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon (2012), Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon (2012), Minneapolis Half Marathon (2012), Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon (2012); Bottom Row: Air Force Marathon 10K (2012), Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2012), Hershey Half Marathon (2012), Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon (2012), Santa Hustle Half Marathon (2012), Disney Princess Half Marathon (2013)

And, not pictured are the pint glass I received for taking 1st in my division at the Race for the Berries (2012), the Louisville Slugger Bat I received for winning 1st in my division at the Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2012), and the Hot Chocolate 15K (2012) finisher’s cup I picked up in Columbus, Ohio.  It was full of chocolate goodness.  What a great reason to run!

You know…the bling is nice and all…but I never run these races trying to walk away with an award.  I stay and I cheer for those who do.  Sometimes…I get surprised and win one myself.  But the fact is…I run these races because somewhere out there on the road, through my own training runs and through races, I found myself.  I found my smile.  I found something in life I love to do.  I don’t have to be good at it.  I just have to be good enough for me.

And I am.  I’m strong.  And I’m getting stronger and better.  I know this was something I was meant to do.  I wish I had realized that earlier in life.  But here I am in my early 30s and I have some of the best conversations with my grandpa about running.  We compare race shirts.  I listen to his stories about running in Germany and around Minnesota.  My inspiration continues to inspire me to this day.

I have my grandpa to thank for giving me the inspiration and the drive.  I have that little track at the gym for giving me my initial running challenges.  And I have a small, local race on April 9, 2011 to thank for getting me hooked on the sport.  When it comes down to it…if you want to do something for life…make sure it’s something you love.

My life has changed for the better since I took up running.  I can’t picture my world without my time to run…be it on my own or in a race.  It’s soothing.  It’s fun.  And it’s my passion.  These legs have carried me pretty far in two years.  I can’t wait to see where else they take me next!

Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY (April 6, 2013)

Me crossing the finish line of the Papa John's 10 Miler - Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

Me crossing the finish line of the Papa John’s 10 Miler – Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 6, 2013

Time: 1:18:52

I hate not being at the top of my game for a race.  It doesn’t happen often.  In fact, this year has marked the first time since I took up running where I have actually run while sick.  It just hasn’t happened to me before.  But these past two races in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running have proven that even when my body is fighting off sickness…it can do amazing things.  Even when I doubt it.

Bronchitis sucks.  It sucks regardless, but it sucks even more when you are a runner.  Breath control is so important when it comes to running…and when each breath is a wheezing gasp, it sort of makes an easy run feel that much harder.  I started to come down with bronchitis on March 17th, just after the Run For The Gold 3K in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Since then, it has been a struggle for me to train for my upcoming races, particularly my half marathon in 27 days up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  But, I’ve trained through it.  I’ve slowed down…because I don’t like breaking into a coughing fit…and I’ve come to terms with between the end of this bronchitis and the start up of allergy season…this might turn into an interesting spring racing season for me.

Oy vey!

To put it bluntly…on Saturday morning, when I woke up and got dressed to go run in the Papa John’s 10 Miler…I felt off.  I felt very off.  I’d take a step and I’d lose my balance.  This hadn’t happened before.  But, no time to worry with it.  I had cereal to eat, coffee to make and then consume, and a race to get to.

My roommate work up about 45 minutes after I was up.  I usually like to get up over an hour ahead of her so I don’t feel rushed, but she wanted to be down at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 7 a.m., and she is notoriously S-L-O-W in the morning and I really, really, really didn’t want a 4 a.m. wake-up.  So, I set my alarm for 5 a.m., told myself that I would immediately get up and make coffee (she can’t drink hers right from the pot…it has to sit and cool down for like 20 minutes…but, get this, she doesn’t like cold coffee either…) so it would be ready.  I got the coffee pot working and went to go slip into the other uniform my company purchased for me to run in.  NCL representing in Louisville!  WOOT!

This uniform is red…and…as this was Saturday, the Louisville men’s basketball team was attempting to make their way into the Final Four…so I knew red was going to be one popular color.  So that Cathy would be able to spot me at the end of the race, I decided to wear my pink compression socks and a bright orange BondiBand.  This BondiBand just happened to be the exact one I wore to last year’s race…that declares: Beat The Hill!  It seems fitting, given that the 3 middle miles of this race are spent inside one of Louisville’s hilliest parks: Iroquois.

I figured my clashing, but colorful, attire would at least make it a bit easier to see me coming as I rounded into the stadium and headed for that finish line.  Hey…runner’s don’t have to match and I love being, as my co-worker puts it, “Rainbow Brite.”  Which means…the more colors, the better.  And the brighter…the better.  I laugh at people who are afraid of being a riot of color.  Running isn’t about being a fashionista, it’s about being a fastiniesta!

So, when Cathy dragged her hiney out of her room, I handed her a bowl of cereal and sat down with my own and a cup of coffee.  I ate and got my small dose of caffeine then went to clean my dishes.  I was pretty much set to go, except to brush my teeth.  So, I did that, gathered up what I needed and let her pin my bib onto my shirt.  She scrambled around making last minute additions to her packing in her backpack, added my SmartWater and my Arbonne vegan chocolate protein shake.  She grabbed the sign and we headed out to make the drive over the river to Louisville and attempt to find parking around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Believe it or not, parking was super easy.  So, we were now down there with plenty of time to kill.  Oh well.  We wandered up toward the stadium and I ducked inside to use the bathroom, you know…the kind that has a flushing toilet and running water (I am a princess!).  With that, we went to take the stairs up to the bridge that would then take us over a hill, around a corner, past the busy Starbucks and a line of port-a-potties to about where the start was going to be.  The starting gate was inflated and ready to go…but no one was really up that way yet.  Everyone sort of hung back and did their stretching and whatever pre-race rituals they have.

I moved away from the wafting air of the port-a-potties and began to do my usual pre-race stretches.  I wanted to make sure I got plenty of stretching in because I knew those hills at Iroquois Park were going to be difficult, even on the tale end of bronchitis.  I don’t run Iroquois Park much due to it being way out of the way.  Cherokee, Seneca, and the little park over near where I live…I run those often.  Not Iroquois.  It isn’t in the best part of Louisville for one thing…and it just, as I said, isn’t really convenient for me to run in.  I think I should start doing more of it so I can really work on those hills.

With my muscles stretched, I finally saw some movement of runners up toward the starting line…so Cathy and I made our way up that way as well.  I shed the hoodie I was still wearing, given the air was still a bit chilly at that point.  Just nudging up toward 50 degrees.  It was perfect weather for the run.  I was just going to run what felt comfortable to me.  No sense pushing too hard and throwing myself into a coughing fit.  That was the plan.  The National Anthem was sung and we all stood there, with no flag, but still respectful.  And then…we were told that we had about 10 minutes to the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  So, Cathy gave me a hug and told me to have a great run…and then she disappeared, leaving me standing with my peeps…the other runners who were just as eager to get underway.

The wheelchair racers (there were two of them this year…one in a racing chair and one in a regular chair) were sent off a minute before the rest of the pack was.  The countdown was on.  And soon, we had the “Runners…set.”  And the air horn sent us off on our way once again.

It took about a minute to get up to the starting line.  I hit my Garmin and stepped over the sensor.  And I never heard my Garmin beep, so I hit it again…saw Cathy…waved…and kept on trekking with the group I was with.  I glanced down once at my Garmin and noticed it wasn’t even counting my time…so I restarted it and was now a bit off for the rest of the race.  But…I wasn’t going to utilize the Garmin.  I just wore it because…I always do.

And so, we wennt down Third Street, where Churchill Downs was visible in the early morning light.  The first mile had us winding through neighborhoods and down the streets toward Iroquois Park.  A water stop came up very early and I think most runners chose to bypass it and keep on trekking.  The first three miles of this race are relatively flat, except for a few minor inclines in the road.  Nothing too taxing.  But after you wind down Southern Parkway and over on to New Cut Road…Iroquois Park is straight ahead.  And that means…it’s time to run for the hills.

The route through Iroquois Park was winding and hilly.  We enter the park near a small playground and immediately hit the path that will take us by the beautiful amphitheater and into the wilderness.  Don’t get me wrong, I find Iroquois Park stunning and beautiful.  The races I run there are always challenging and push me to the very brink of my ability.  And I always tell myself to dig deep and find my strong.  But today…I was being zen…this race was just about getting to that finish line.  And that seemed daunting when my legs got their first taste of the hills that awaited me.  Not only did my legs feel the burn, but so did my lungs.  For the first time since starting the run, I was no longer breathing easy.  I had that lingering phlegm in my throat, that no matter how often I cleared it…would come right back.  The lungs were definitely not happy with the additional effort.  But, when I signed up for the Triple Crown of Running, I didn’t count on having bronchitis either.  You just do what you can and hope for the best.

Somehow, I managed those hills and fought the burn in my chest and throat and rocked out those three miles through the park.  I pushed myself just enough to feel the effort on the uphills, and I coasted on the downhills.  I grabbed a water bottle just after Mile 4 and took a sip just to get something wet in my throat.  I tossed the rest of it and continued on.  And that was all it took.  With a great deal of determination, I made the turn out of Iroquois Park and back onto Southern Parkway.  That meant that I was down to the final four miles.  I knew I could do this.  I was suddenly feeling a lot better about the race now that I was through the most challenging part.

There is one thing that I will always applaud this race for, and it is the scattered entertainment along the way.  The various DJs that spun out tunes as we ran past were very much appreciated.  I no longer run with an iPod in races, finding that it is more of a hindrance than a help.  I run better without a pace being set for me.  I know, I used to whine and complain about not being able to wear my headphones…now, I’m happy to leave them behind.  The evolution of a runner.  Anyway, the music was great and some runners, like Fleet Feet Louisville’s very own Jeff Wells, hopped out of the course to go and boogie to Love Shack.  It made me smile and I was having a blast.

Before I knew it, I was coming up on Mile 9, right at the corner of the Starbucks…the very one we started near.  I could see Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and knew I just had to get up that hill and from there, it was straight on down, into the stadium, and across that finish line.  It was hard.  My legs were not feeling the last hill here…but I was so close.  I pushed, and I fought my way up that hill and when I crested it, I coasted down with other runners and pressed on toward the turn that would take us toward the stadium.

I remembered how difficult it was to go from asphalt to AstroTurf from the previous run, but I still hit that softer surface and had to regather my footing a bit.  That is NOT an easy transition.  That being said, the finish line was a short spin around the football field.  I rounded that first corner…and could hear Cathy yelling at me.  I rounded the next corner and the finish line was ahead.  I attempted to give some kick to my step…whether that worked or not, I don’t know.  I’m still working on that final kick at the end of the race.  And with bronchitis…I wasn’t pushing it.

Me after finishing the Papa John's 10 Miler with a new PR.  Feeling good even if I felt off that morning!

Me after finishing the Papa John’s 10 Miler with a new PR. Feeling good even if I felt off that morning!

And I finished.  I finished strong.  And smiling.  And I felt great.  The Brightroom photographer up on the ladder leaned down and said, “Congratulations, Karen!”  No, my name is not on my bib…he notices my sign at every race.  Does that mean you’re famous when the race photographers recognize you and can call you by name?  LOL!

Anyway…the official results of the 2013 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:18:52 seconds, shaving over 10 minutes off my time from last year.  I couldn’t believe it.  Especially since I felt I ran Iroquois much better last year.  Shaving 10 minutes off of a finishing time is awesome.  And that happened when I was having gluten issues, retaining water, and fighting bronchitis.  ROCK ON!!  I was 525/6108 overall, the 91/3466 female to cross the finish line, and I was 20/600 in my division.  I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

After the race, I made my way out to the recovery area and spotted Cathy with the sign.  I ran up a hill and we celebrated with much screaming and jumping over my new PR for a 10 mile race.  I enjoyed a banana and my Arbonne protein shake.  And then…we made our way out to attempt to get to our car.

If I haven’t said it enough, I am going to say it again…the Louisville Triple Crown of Running is such a great race series.  This is the second year I have participated in all three races and I am very much looking forward to doing it again next year.  Maybe even getting a little faster…a little stronger…and a little bit better on those hills.  But of all the races, I’ve always loved the 10 Miler the most.  Why?  I love distance races so much better than 5Ks and the like.  Which makes this race so ideal for me…not a sprinter…but one who is in it for the long run.

One thing I did notice, though…last year I stated in my blog that at each of the Triple Crown races, I set a new PR.  The same held true this year.  How awesome is that?  Oh yeah, I’m already gearing up for next year!

Taking on the last 10 miles of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running…for me…

Papa John's 10 Miler

Papa John’s 10 Miler

Tomorrow marks the last race in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, and it all comes to an end with the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  I absolutely loved this race last year.  We had rather perfect weather for it.  Low 60s and no sun.  Cloudy the entire time.  I remember my race photos have my sunglasses on top of my head for the entire race.  Never needed them once.

It’s going to be a little cooler this year…and there are a few things I’m working through in order to have a good race.  Most of these are beyond my control.  I can only say a prayer to the Goddess of Running (that would be Atalanta, FYI) and hope for the best.  And, while I’m not 100% okay with that, I’ve come to terms with it.  I’ve had to ever since the Rodes City Run 10K and my epic battle to race with bronchitis.  No one said running was easy.  If it was…everyone would be doing it.

While my bronchitis is in remission, finally (all it took was a lot of running inside on the dreaded treadmill…which is boring…especially on longer distance days), I’m still coughing and I am still a but snuffly from it.  Breathing is coming easier, but I still wheeze and have to clear phlegm from my throat on occasion (is this TMI?).  I’ve gotten back into running outside, though normally not in the mornings now.  I do hit the dark sidewalks on Monday morning, in case I can’t make it to my group run that evening, but mostly I’ve been running home from my office.  I’ve been doing okay with that, finding my easy pace to be faster than it has been…but maybe it’s because I can actually see where I’m going.  Being able to see your running path makes all the difference, trust me!

For some reason, unknown to me, ever since going off my medication for bronchitis, I have been retaining water.  Badly.  And it sucks.  I don’t know how to remedy this problem…but it’s been with me all week and I’m really tired of it.

On Easter, the stepdaughter of my friend Amanda gave me some bits of candy from her Easter basket.  Normally I would just set this aside…but she was watching and waiting for me to eat the offered sweets that she was willing to part with.  So, I ate it.  And discovered quickly that this was a huge mistake.  You see, being a Celiac means I have to be very careful about the things I eat.  And not all candy is gluten-free…especially holiday candy because it is usually processed in a plant that isn’t set to deal with cross-contamination.  Or…that brand just doesn’t do gluten-free in the first place.  I am usually so good about this…but for some reason, on Easter, I got careless.  And my intestines have been dealing me fits ever since.  Lesson learned…but not the week I needed to learn such a lesson.  UGH.  I’m smarter than that…I don’t know why I reacted like that…but my stomach has not been happy with me all week and it has made my runs home…interesting.  Thank goodness for Kroger and their public restroom along the way.  (Again…is this TMI?).

So, with all of that in mind…I’ve made a pact with myself.  On Saturday morning, I am running 10 miles…for me.  Not to better my time.  Not to chase down friends or compete with others there.  No.  I’m not doing that here.  This race is my redemption race.  This race is to prove to myself that despite obstacles…and challenges…and the cards that life has dealt to me…I can run with my heart and be happy with whatever result comes from it.  I know this is a tough course.  Three miles of it go through the extremely hilly Iroquois Park.  Three miles of it right in the middle of the race.  That means legs could be feeling strong…or feeling tired.  Lungs could be doing well, or fighting for each breath.  The point is…I’m not running this for the sake of running it.  I’m running this race because I need to run this race…for myself.  Not for time.  Not for glory.  Not for a new PR.  I just need to do it because every iota of my body is trying to shut me down…and I am stronger than that.  I can overcome bronchitis, gluten, and water retention and have an amazing run.  Forget the race part.  This is truly just for me.

I know quite a few people are using this race as their build up to the Derby Festival Mini Marathon…a race I have yet to run.  I know, that’s strange being that it is right here in my backyard…but I’m always racing the following weekend in a different half marathon.  Therefore…I haven’t done this one.  I have no doubt I could churn out back-to-back weekends of half marathons…but…I want to be ready for the one I am doing in Minnesota.  It means a lot more to me than running in the Derby Festival Mini.  But…I’ll get into that in a different post.

So, if you see me on Saturday out there, battling my lungs, my stomach, and the hills…give me some words of encouragement.  I’ll need them and appreciate them.

On lunch today, I went down to Louisville to pick up my race packet.  I’m as ready as I’m going to be.  And…except for the few niggling issues with my body…I’m feeling good about it.  I’m okay with where I am for this race on Saturday, and that’s the most important part.