Why I Run: This is My Brave

Being brave is scary.

Telling the truth is hard.

What will people think?

What will they say about me?

From Fellow Flowers
From Fellow Flowers

You will often hear me say that one of the main reasons that I run is because it keeps me sane.  And that is very true.  The endorphins, camaraderie, goal setting and pavement pounding do make a huge difference in my life.  I feel healthier, thinner, and all around happier.

But running does not solve all of my problems. And that is because I suffer from debilitating anxiety and depression.  I am going to tell my story here because secrets make us sick. The more we talk, the less power these things have over us. And because I am guessing that some of you deal with your own secrets you sometimes need to run away from.  You are not alone. WE are not alone.

I had my first anxiety attack at 12 years old.  Always very sensitive, I felt things so much more than other people.  My mom had dumped the tween disaster area of my room on my bed and as I was going through the mixture of barbie dolls and glittery make-up, I found I couldn’t form words and my head felt funny.  I went downstairs to tell someone and couldn’t talk. And I couldn’t walk.  Eventually I passed out. Later in the evening my parents took me ALONE to the mall shopping because they had no idea what to do with me and knew one on one time would help. We never called it an anxiety attack, but now that I have had many more, I know that is exactly what it was. No one ever talked about it again.

At 21, after being broken up with by a boy I was head over heels in love with, I started going to the counseling center at my University.  Three months later, my mom had to come pick me up from school because I told her I was suicidal. I spent three more months in therapy every day until I could return to school in the fall.  We never told anyone what I had done.

At 26, the panic attacks started again in earnest and I began to make terrible choices. I started another round of treatment with the goal of curing whatever was wrong with me. Therapy, medication and Al-anon put me on the right track.  Life got better.  My choices were stronger. I ran a marathon. Within 2 years, I declared myself cured.

Much to my surprise… The anxiety, quickly followed by crippling depression, returned after the birth of my son in 2010.  The bad choices came back.  I just knew I was doing everything wrong as a mother. I didn’t feel the same way everyone else did.  Thankfully, this time I knew where to go and what to do — I recognized the signs.

Since coming back to life over the past two years, I am much more open with my story. A dear runner friend shared the perspective that because we do not look at one another when we run, we are able to share things we might otherwise keep hidden.  I love the idea that we can share our stories with our friends out on the trail without fear of judgement.  And I have always felt that to be true.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that mental illness is as much a part of me as blue eyes and a love of chocolate.  And it is OK.  From the bottom of my heart, I wish the stigma were not as strong.  I wish medication and treatment were not held against job applicants and parents in custody battles. I keep thinking, perhaps if we found the courage to tell our stories on the trail or in our homes or with our friends, that would begin to change.

I believe in the power of change.  I believe that we have the power to make a difference. That is why this April I am running the Loudoun Half Marathon with an organization called “This is My Brave“.

Our mission is to ignite and actively promote―through community programs and social media― a positive, supportive national conversation about mental illness for those who live with, or love someone who lives with, a mental illness. Through the sharing of stories and experiences of those in recovery, we expect to provide a sense of community and hope; and encourage others to share their stories. We believe that each time one of us shares our story, there’s another crack helping to break down the stigma of mental illness. Right now, it’s time to be brave and bring mental health issues into the spotlight because they’ve been in the dark too long.

I hope you will consider making a gift to this fundraising effort.  Thank you for allowing me to be brave and share.  It is terribly important to me and I am humbled with gratitude.

2015 Reston Ten Miler: An Unexpected PR

This Sunday (3/1/15) was Potomac River Running’s Reston Ten Miler.  It was my second time running the race and, like many of my fellow runners, I consider it the start of the spring racing season.  I ran it last year and LOVED it!

Photo Credit: Potomac River Running

I was a little nervous watching the weather report over the week before – one that ranged from cloudy to snow to sleet  beginning that morning, afternoon and not at all… You would think after 12+ years in the DC area I would know better, but alas I stress over running conditions from the first moment my race day appears on the 10 day forecast until I step up to the starting line.

I prepped for the race with my usual MRTT flat mamma picture

Thank you Kelley for my socks and shoe bling!

And headed off to Potomac River Running on Saturday afternoon with my little sidekick.

My little sidekick. Don’t let the smile fool you. He was working very hard to escape and run all over the store!

As usual, packet pick up was well done and very organized.  We even ran into my MRTT friend Anglea who joins our weekday runs with her dog, Nelson.  My son was very curious about Nelson and wanted to know why he was not at packet pickup.

The sweet packet girls smiling at my little sidekick trying to steal the pins.

Everyone recieved an adorable shirt (or PRR $10 gift card) and commemorative pin.  The PRR race series shirts area always very nice quality with the race logo on the font.  I tend to opt for the gift card, as I am so picky and have about 10,000 running shirts.  I’d actually be more likely to take a cotton shirt, but that’s not the trend in races right now.

On race day, my friend Jen and I headed out from our neighborhood around 6:45, after my stop at Dunkin Donuts for my pre-race small coffee.  We arrived at South Lakes High School with plenty of time to visit the restroom and meet up with our friends.  I love racing here during the winter because the high school is generous enough to let us hang out inside. And that’s just what we did until 7:45 when we met up with other local MRTT chapters for a picture.

MRTT Multi-Chapter Picture

Last year I went to this race alone and sat in that very same high school by myself watching groups of friends gather.  And I was very sad sitting there in my pink sparkle skirt.  I just so happened to meet up with a friend by accident at the start line and ran the race with her.  After the race, I read my friend Deb’s blog and she had a picture of her MRTT group.  I joined my MRTT chapter the very next day.  It made me sosososo happy to be a part of that group during this year’s race!

After a few more moments in the warmth, we headed over to the start line.  I had declared to my friends – no racing just running.  Angela, Gayle, and Jen all agreed and we planned to run together until someone wanted to slow down or speed up.

We are about to race, but first let us take a selfie.

The crowd started to move and we were off.  Reston, as I know from past experience, is very hilly for races around these parts.  But we were taking it slow, chatting and enoying the race.  There were three water stops on the course and we stopped to walk through each so we did not get dehydrated.  Around mile 5 it started to snow a bit and by mile 8, it was coming down in earnest.  I was keeping pace with Gayle, who was speeding up as the course flowed through the lovely streets of Reston.  But I felt good so I kept pace with her as the miles got higher.

Photo by Potomac River Running

The final mile of the course has some twisting around the high school and typically this race has ended on the high school track.  With the weather, the organizers quickly regrouped and had us finish on the driveway in front of the scool.  Just one more thing to love about PRR – they are RUNNERS and our safety is a priority to them.

Galye and I crossed the finish line at 1:31:07 – in the top 26% of women.  I was astounded. AND we had great splits!

  • 9:27
  • 9:15
  • 9:45
  • 9:17
  • 8:47
  • 8:43
  • 9:16
  • 8:58
  • 9:04
  • 8:18

I didn’t realize I had PR’d until I got home, but PR I did – by almost 2 minutes. And walked away with this adorable medal.

Once we grabbed a bite, also nice and warm in the cafeteria, and checked in with our friends – we headed to the car for our journey home.  The ice was starting to fall pretty heavily and I was glad it had held out just a little bit longer!

The First Step is the Hardest

For me, running is not an effortless sport.  I rarely have an “easy” run or one where I “forget” I’m running.  And over the years, I have come to terms with that fact.  I know I am going to feel so much better in the moments, hours and days that follow a run that I will push myself forward.

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Has it gotten easier as I’ve become more consistent in my training? Of course!  My few months of running when I returned from baby-land were excruciating.

I had to start off small – 3 miles with 5 mins of walking and 3 mins of running.

I had to fit it in around naps and my part-time job and my husband’s full time job and whatever else got in my way.

I had to set goals – big and small… I will get to that mailbox.  I will run around the block.  I will finish a 5k.

And I had to make myself get out the door no matter what.  Running time became sacred time.  Skipping was not an option.  Some days I had to tell myself that if I could only run a mile, that was OK.  And sometimes I did just that – I ran one mile and walked home.  Other days, I found myself running more miles than I dreamed possible.

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But I didn’t give up.  And I didn’t let that pesky self doubt voice get in my way.  I wasn’t too fat or too old or too boring.  I was just as worthy as any other runner on the pavement to don my bright shoes and compression capris.  That’s one of the gifts of running – the road is open.  It’s waiting for you.  YOU get to decide to take the first step.

The best advice I’ve received as a runner is just to GO.  Get dressed, put your shoes on and GET OUT THE DOOR.  There are a million excuses that can stop that first step, but YOU have the power to keep going.  Unless you are injured or sick, you can make those steps happen.  Someone once told me it takes 90 days for something to become a habit.  Every time I try to make a hard change – in running or in life, I remember that.  Change is hard.  But change is good.  And we are always stronger on the other side.

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xoxox

A few of my favorite things… SPARKLE SKIRTS!

There are many ways to look at running races. They can be serious. They can be intimidating. And they can be fun. As I grow in this sport I have found that I am most attracted to the fun. And I love spreading the sparkle joy to my running friends!!

Last night I was talking to one of my dear MRTT friends at a home jewelry party and as we perused I mentioned that I am not really a “sparkly” person. And I thought she was going to get wine up her nose…

You see, my friends, in real life I tend to be rather simple – jeans, comfy tops and very classic work clothes.  I like small silver jewelry and simple patterns (polka dots, stripes, etc.) The craziest I go is the occasional bright shoe for an event.

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When I started running again in 2012, my running clothes were simple too.  Black, navy, gray – anything to not stand out in the crowd.  Somewhere along the way in my race a month journey in 2013 I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to add some color or a cool hat or a tutu?  So I added some crowns and some fun shirts…

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And I taught myself how to make tutus.

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But truth be told… Tutus are not super comfy to run in, particularly when it is 90+ degrees outside.  I was reading my friend Amy’s blog (check it out – she rocks) and she was talking about specialty SPARKLE running skirts. So off I went to Sparkle Athletic for the first time.

Sparkle Athletic was born out of the blood, sweat and sparkle of three friends. Long-time runners and triathletes Carrie, Elise and Kelly stormed the Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach, California clad in sparkle running skirts.

Little did they know it was the beginning of something great… and something very sparkly. 

I started with hot pink for the Diva Half Marathon in 2013….

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And after that, I was hooked… I pretty much wear a sparkle skirt for EVERY race now and plan my outfits for races around these crazy skirts!  For 20 of my 22 races in 2014, I added some sparkle fun.

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So what do I like so much about these skirts??  I’ll share my top 5 reasons for going sparkly…

1. They are made by runners for runners.  That means they don’t get in the way and they don’t slow you down.

2. They come in TONS of colors for any race theme.  Feeling nervous, start with a holiday – it will help ease you into the sparkle experience.

3. The “girls” of team sparkle do a great job of creating a community online.  I am particularly fond of watching their Facebook and Instagram feeds for members of TEAM SPARKLE!

4. Not only are there skirts, but they have hats, shirts, sleeves, capes, wings… It’s a whole world of fun!

5. There is no better feeling than passing the guys while wearing a sparkle skirt… It’s AWESOME!!!

There are many ways to look at running races.  They can be serious.  They can be intimidating.  And they can be fun.  As I grow in this sport I have found that I am most attracted to the fun.  And I love spreading the sparkle joy to my running friends!!

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Leesburg 20k 2013: I must be one of the Wonders

I am very proud of finishing this race, but I am most proud of the inspiration behind it. Being a part of Team Hole in the Wall gives me the opportunity to help change the lives of very sick children. It gives them a chance to be kids again.

I wrote this post back in August of 2013 just after I finished my first Leesburg 20k.  At the time, I was running a race a month to raise money for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp for kids with cancer in Connecticut founded by Paul Newman in 1988.  I was still running alone and using this race as a training run for my upcoming Diva Half Marathon.  It was the longest I had run in about 10 years… 

There is an emotional energy at the starting line of a long race.  I find that at that moment, I do not want to talk or stretch or anticipate the miles to follow – I just want to be part of all the hope that comes with being a runner.

Back in my 9-10 minute mile group I watch the elite runners move their way forward, new racers look around wondering how they arrived here, and friends move off to the sidelines as they wish their marathoners and half marathoners well.

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I was surprised to find myself feeling that same swell of emotion at the Leesburg 20k this weekend.  I was treating it as a training run for my September half marathon.  But there it was… That intense feeling of – WOW.  Not everyone can do this. We committed to a plan and here we are – ready or not, off we go.

And miles 1-5 were MISERABLE. 
I was hating myself for doing this. 
Cursing my friend who invited me to do the half with her. 
Thinking mean and terrible thoughts about my fellow runners.

And then I heard this song and saw this bridge and my whole race changed.

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I remembered WHY I’ve started running again.  It’s about fitness and health and doing something challenging that’s just for me.  But it’s also about the promise I made to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to do a race a month to help kids find a different kind of healing from cancer and other illnesses.

It’s amazing what a little inspiration can do for a long, solitary run with 1,000 of my closest running friends.  I not only finished with negative splits, but I smiled for the last mile and raced a guy 10 years younger than me to a photo finish.

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IMG_0595 I am very proud of finishing this race, but I am most proud of the inspiration behind it.  Being a part of Team Hole in the Wall gives me the opportunity to help change the lives of very sick children.  It gives them a chance to be kids again.

Thank you and lots of love…
xo