Friday, February 10, 2017

My first running route.....27 years ago....

                        When I was a teenager, and spending the summers at my mom's job in East Hampton, NY, I use to get up every morning and run 3 miles as the sun rose. My mom worked as a housekeeper to a wonderful family who spent summers in the Hamptons. Nevertheless, this 3 miles, this was my first real running route. At that time in my life, I was going through absolute hell at home and running was my only source of literal and figurative "fresh air". It was beyond liberating going out in the elements, rain or shine, and just running. Running buried itself deep in my heart during those summers. How can it not, for to suddenly feel heavenly in the midst of all the personal horror I was living, how could it not become other-worldly? 

                      Like long-owned prayer beads, daily running routes take on a very comforting feel. In my dreams I often visit this sacred route and in my dreams I can remember every texture change on the road, every scent from the potatoes rotting in summer past the pond to the roses near the entrance to the beach, all the way to the view of the new swan family every year. It's no wonder these days, after a long day of stress and work I can think of nothing more than a good, hard run. Running is my confidant, my wisest and best friend, my savior, my sanity maker, my comfort pillow, my one and only constant. 

                          Today was one of those stressful days. Kids were being unusually loud in every class so when 3:30pm came I was ready to get out of there and hit the gym. The plan was to do an hour of weights, then go home. But, as my heart began pumping it also began to insanely crave the feel of my legs pounding and the freedom felt while running. I texted my sweet husband and as-a-matter-of-factly announced that I'd be a bit later than I thought and got on the mill for a fast 5K, in addition to my hour of weights. Although I did not show it, the inner smile in me stretched from ear to ear as I walked out of that place.... all was fine with the world, I loved all people again (yes, even Trump voters...lol) and all hope was restored. 





Monday, February 6, 2017

Mortality, Imagination and Romance

            Since my grandma's passing I have thought a lot about my own future passing. Yes, super morbid, I know, but that is what I have been thinking a lot of lately; If I have any control on how I  would "go" (hopefully in the distant future), how would I like to go? I mentioned this to a friend not realizing how odd most people consider talks about death, and she nervously joked, saying, "wouldn't it be nice if we could control how we go?" But I don't think I am trying to necessarily control the date, or the way, but surely there are some aspects of aging I and everyone for the matter, have control over. 

               Little over a year ago, I went with my 8 year-old daughter to the Arlington Cinema Draft House in Arlington, VA to see a movie called, Run Free, the hero of the documentary film, Caballo Blanco, was an ultra-runner legend, goes off on a routine run one day and dies on the trails. He is found by his friends days later and brought back to town to be buried. As sad as this was, after seeing my grandma live through several years of blindness, deafness, and being almost completely immobile for the last year or more, I feel Caballo's passing was actually quite forgiving and much more welcoming than my grandma's passing. So it's not really about controlling when, or how really, yet, I would like to think that if I continued to run into old age, as he did, perhaps, I too could meet such a simple, breezy end. 

                This whole topic brings me to another topic, romance. (be patient)....There's something about running that paints all things, even morbid ones, like death, with a romantic stroke. Perhaps it's all the time spent alone with one's thoughts. Or better yet, perhaps it's all the time spent alone with one's imagination that has allowed my imagination to run rampant. Whatever it is, every aspect of my life is colored with this tint of romantic gravity, all loosely connected to running. I just came to the realization today, as I drove to work, listening to my running mix on top volume, and pretty much aching to be running more than the 2 measly miles I was able to squeeze in, that I pretty much live in my imagination, and, more importantly, that my imagination is very powerful. How else does any runner get through grueling daily training runs without reliving the finish in one's head? 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Powerful

                   Power is not a sensation women usually indulge in much. Growing up, the idea of a powerful woman drew images tainted with masculinized women, and certainly not one that would be deemed worthy of any valuable attention. Pages of magazines only ever had images of small, dainty women, and nowhere in my world did I see anything other than these tiny women, touted as what one must ultimately want to become.

                    When I run, I get such a powerful feeling. I have never done drugs, so I can only loosely liken the feeling to a strong high. My entire being soars and all my earthly problems are quickly brought to their knees. It's as if for the duration of the run, life's light of clarity were turned on and a secret wisdom were transmitted to me, but just for that run. If you are a non-runner you are probably thinking I have gone nuts. But if you are a runner, you know exactly what I am describing. My issue with this feeling is when I attempt to visualize myself owning this power I have trouble envisioning both me and this power as one, without having it tainted with masculinity. This troubles me. Its obvious that most of us women are missing enormous amounts of mental visual vocabulary when it comes to strong women, to the point that when we see a strong woman we meet it with fear, repulsion and/or distrust.

                   This lack images of strong women in our cache of mental images is no mistake; we ultimately live in a world where there is a huge profit to be made from making us feel less worthy by convincing us we are not good enough just the way we are. Second, there are also few female role models that immediately pop to mind that are both strong AND have a distinctive female flavor, for lack of a better description. Which leaves us with the question, can women be powerful and manage to avoid being defined or seen in masculine terms? I say there is, yet, we need to define this new "powerful" in a language of our own, a language not yet written. Just like parents clamoring to urgently invent and shape the role and responsibilities of their children in the midst of newly invented electronics, there are no pre-existing rules in either case. It is up to us women, who feel this power, to define, interpret and clarify this new path and construct, from scratch this missing visual language for other women to also envision and work towards.

                         Where to begin? I have already begun by boldly claiming my spaces with my presence without an ounce of personal body shame, or negative self-talk. I have learned that regardless of who one is, how one looks, we all deserve the right to walk freely and occupy all spaces with comfort and ease. This may sound terribly mundane and insignificant to most men, yet, the majority of women know all too well the feeling of negative self-talk that invades our thoughts. I have met women from age 18-80 who constantly battle negative self-talk daily and it's so destructively subtle that most never even know they don't have to live with this feeling. Again, only in showing women in the way we carry ourselves with confidence and unwavering self-compassion can we even hope to breed a new generation where strong is part of a young woman's mental image.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rehoboth Marathon.....new hope begins

             Despite my reluctance to face this new year due to the disastrous election results, lots of amazing things have been happening, making me feel a tinge of hope again. First, I got some positive news from my sister, Alexa, who is going through gender transition and I could not be happier for her and these current turn of events in her life. Surprisingly, I've also been running faster allowing me to feel a surge of power after every run these days....another amazing thing that's happened is that my annoying injury, the one that haunted me for most of 2016, seems to have finally dissipated.  But most importantly, (drumroll please..).... I signed up for marathon #8, the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 1st, 2017. 
            
            The Rehoboth Beach Marathon (RBM) is the race I ran on December of 2014 to finally to qualify as a Marathon Maniac. I am a proud Maniac, #10, 361. In 41 days I ran 3 marathons and RBM was y third and final race of this series. I love this race more than any one I have run so far, yes, even over New York City and over Marine Corps Marathon. (Click here to go see pics from that 2014 race). It's such an easy race, logistically speaking; you go there, park a block away, then run the race, what modern race these days is that easy? Even the packet pick-up is that very morning, right there at the starting line a few steps away from the ocean...It's also a gorgeous course, lots of nature and ocean smells, with very little logistical drama of the bigger races. 

                A month before I will also be running the Phoenix Half Marathon and going to Arizona with my hubby for a running vacation of sorts, slash belated honeymoon.....15 years belated, but who's counting. My hubby had even (loosely) promised to run the 10K portion offered at the same time as the half. He's not into races despite having been a runner for almost 40 years now. I'll have to see that to believe it, but mostly I am not counting on him running, although I LOVE the idea. Nevertheless, this will be our very first trip without the kids, they will stay with my mom and stepdad, who will drive up from NY to be with them for several days. I cannot wait. One of my favorite things to do with my hubby is have these long engaging conversations with him about just about anything....we hardly ever get time to just sit and chat anymore due to our hectic lives, so this will be so nice. 

             I am open to being happily surprised in 2017, although I am not holding my breath. In the meantime I will keep my nose to the grind and focusing on love, light, hard work and more love. 
                    
                     

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Simply beautiful, beautifully simple.....

      I have had this obsession with simple things all my life and only now am I realizing how wide-ranging simplicity has spanned across all areas of it, from my choice of sport to what I put on my face. My older brother and I grew up watching Kung Fu, not the sport, but the TV series that ran through American TV in the early 70's, and later all through Paraguay, South America where me and my family lived from 1978 to 1983. The series tells the adventures of a Shaolin Monk as he wanders the American West armed only with his wisdom and of course, Kung Fu. Just as one can't say what came first, the egg or the chicken, I can't quite decide whether the show brought on my love of simple things or whether my love of simple things is what made the show interesting to me. Nevertheless, I am quite attracted to simple things and the more I reflect on my current life the more I see this love represented in all areas. 

       Before I begin listing all the ways in which "simple" has taken over my life, let me first define "simple", in my terms. Some may define simple as synonymous to plain, yet, simple to me is more synonymous to beauty but at its most basic common denominator. Simple is a recipe for a life lived well. Simple means peeling away all the bullshit, the extras, the unnessesary of life and only holding on tightly to the most elemental factors. Simple means defining oneself in terms primarily meaningful to oneself and not based on incongruent, overinflated societal norms. Last, simple begets simple, meaning, focusing on keeping things simple you create a life with few complications and drama. 

       Let's begin with running, this blog is, after all, about running. Running is one of those simple tasks one can accomplish with very little gear.  Just put on any pair of sneakers and out the door you go, one foot in front of the other, voila! It's so simple, yet utterly complete and beautifully self-sustainable just the way it is. Most sports are far from simple, the gear, the facilities needed to accomplish the task,...on and on. I have a friend who is a triathlete and the price of her bike alone, not to mention the race entry fee, makes me think I could never be a triathlete, there is way too much gear involved, too much money, not simple enough. In running you only have your body, and the weather, and the ground in front of you; it cannot get more simple than that. 

         My marriage too has its roots in simplicity. When dating to find a life partner and the father of my kids (in equal measure by the way), I would not exactly say I was prepared by my mom to pick the right partner, on the contrary, my mom never advised me on how to pick a mate and I did not quite know what to really look for in a life partner, or that I needed to even look for specific qualities for that matter. But something in me, perhaps led by the values learned during that silly monk show in my 80's, valued two things the most, wisdom and self-reflection. Anyone who failed to have either would soon (or not too soon) be out of my life. Something in me subconsciously knew and was convinced that if I looked for these two elemental qualities, I'd be fine. Wisdom in a human being would help keep me and our future family safe and a self-reflective spouse would ensure that although we'd change he would continue to hold a semblance of humanity and kindness thanks to the reasoning that reflection generally provides. I am not saying my husband has no flaws, like all of us, he has plenty of flaws, but his high level of wisdom has helped to safely guide our family's major decisions over the years and his self-reflective nature has insured that we grow with the our changing life circumstances and continue to enjoy each other's presence. 
         
               I can go on and on about all the ways in which I have always chosen a less complicated path, blindly trusting with all my being that by its very nature of simplicity would keep me on the right track, from not wearing make up, to adamantly refusing to ever pay for an official car wash. From never needing an "official" pedicure to never considering surgery to address any future discontents with my body. I learned once somewhere in my readings that if life feels complicated and emotionally painful it's a sure sign that you're doing something against the natural order of things. This right here is probably THE best advice anyone can give another.  Heeding this advice will always help the suffering person to plant the seeds to eventually help themselves and turn things back around towards the positive. 
  
                I work hard daily to pass along the multiple lessons of simplicity to my kids......maybe it's time I buy the whole TV series of Kung Fu and watch it with them, as a spiritual training of sorts. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My ass....it is what it is

           Yesterday I peeled myself out of my warm bed and reluctantly headed to the gym before work. It was 23 degrees outdoors and I was not feeling it much at all. Yet, from prior experience with tough mornings, I knew that once I got going on the treadmill it would be fine and some miles would be completed. I mount my favorite treadmill facing the enormous pool below and find my power songs, the ones that make me go past the pain and discomfort of running fast. I had little time so a few fast miles was all I could squeeze. It took not more than 2 minutes running to notice the older man in the reflection of the glass, working out on the elliptical behind me, looking at my ass! He was not looking at my ass for just a second, or a few minutes, but for the whole thirty minutes of my run. 
            There was a time when this type of "attention" would have encouraged me to quickly readjust my clothes in the back to cover my goodies or allow all sorts of self-conscious thoughts to invade my peace, such as, "he's probably really disgusted", or "is my ass jiggling as I sprint?". Now, for those who may not know me personally, yes, I do have a butt that stands out due to its size and roundness factor (smile). But, I am very happy with my body; in my 43 years living in this body, I've had plenty of time to work on my self worth issues and own every part of it and proudly claim all of it as mine, regardless of its size. It took me years to travel from the world of painful shame to the world of shameless pride, but I'm here. 
         So now that I have reached some form of "ass enlightenment", when someone stares at my ass for a good half an hour, what does an ass guru do? An ass guru uses it. Byron Katie, one of my biggest self-help authors once wrote something to the effect of, "no one else can be you, but you. No one else would even handle being you, but you"(note: this is not verbatim) Seeing as he seemingly was not going to stop and seeing as I was going to get my run in regardless,  I took the situation and, quite literally, ran with it. If this strange older man behind me has never seen what a strong curvy woman sprinting looked like, he would now. I made sure that I moved in my body as comfortable as I could, kind of similar to the way one freely snuggles into warm wintertime pajamas. The run became a sort of mission, a mission to own myself in all its glory as best as could and not become distracted from my primary goal.  
           This situation very much mirrored one important life lesson, which is to be prepared to purposely work hard to keep your eyes on your primary goals, despite what unforeseeable distractions  might arise, and to know that at any moment, unforeseeable distractions might arise. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Claiming back my streets....my cold dark quiet morning streets

           I am reading the book, Run, by Dean Karnazes and in it he shares about running at odd hours, and I mean ODD hours....like 2am in the morning, at times even all night long. As a woman runner, the FIRST thought that goes through my mind is, "I could never do this for the mere fact that a woman can't be out at 2am on the streets anywhere in the US, or most of the world without worrying about her safety". Dean too felt afraid at times, he recalls a time when a woman almost ran him over at wee hours in the morning, but still, I was jealous at the freedom he enjoys, simply being a man. Once on my long training weeks I pushed my long run late enough that I found myself needing to run until midnight. The first and only night I did this I had some van stop halfway down the street and then coast slowly as he stared at me. That was the end of my odd-hours adventures. 

        But the book got me missing the beautifully quiet dark streets of the early mornings. Ever since my injury last year I was forced to work out at the gym and then just got used to doing my workouts in the gym. Now I have forgotten all about what it feels like to run outdoors.....these coming weeks I will begin to make efforts to run outdoors in the mornings....will report on my progress soon.