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Archive for the category “Running”

We Run in the Footsteps of Giants

One thing running has helped me internalize is that my thoughts are powerful. Thoughts, and the direction they take, can be the difference between having an amazing run and having a run that is torment. I’ve also learned that even when I’m having a run full of self-doubt and general suckage, I need to keep moving forward, just one foot in front of the other, in order to come out the other end. Stopping during a run, even one that feels awful, is never an option because then the negativity wins, and I get stuck there — and I will never let negativity win. I remind myself often that mentally or physically tough runs can be a gift, because those are the runs that steel you, that teach you what you are made of.

A few days ago I wrote a blog piece entitled “PETA’s Silence About Cyber-Stalking Speaks Volumes.” I don’t want to go into detail about the cyber-bullying and stalking that continues on Twitter, simply because I’m not giving a troll, or trolls, any more air than I am forced to. And because, in order to balance out the negativity, I think it’s time for a blog that focuses on being fearless.

Today a friend of mine tagged me in a video of a fearless woman who just ran the International Pars Marathon in Iran, which women are banned from running. But one woman, a woman names Mahsa Torabi, made the incredibly brave decision to run the marathon. She is a woman paving the way for other women, and girls, who will follow in her footsteps.

Running has taught me that I am stronger than I think, that I can do more than I believed myself capable of doing, that I can push through pain and come out the other side feeling unstoppable. And I am constantly inspired by my fellow runners — both female and male. I love my tribe beyond the telling of it. I love their positivity, I love how supportive they are, I love how freely they share their stories, I love how they are largely non-judgmental of other runners. I love that it’s a given that we each run our own race, at our own pace, but that we are all in this crazy-ass tribe together.

And I couldn’t ask for better role models for my children.  Meb Keflezighi is an absolute favorite in our house, and whenever I need a pick me up I watch this video of his victory at the Boston Marathon the year after the bombing:

Because how can you help but smile from ear to ear after watching that? Now that I’ve mentioned our love for Papa Meb I’ll go back to the women.

Deena Kastor is another favorite in our house:


and any mention of her name is usually followed by my oldest saying “she’s such a beast!”

Lauren Fleshman, whose sense of humor and outspoken advocacy for body positive thinking I admire every bit as much as the fact that she is a kick-ass runner:


The three women who will be representing the US in the next Olympics — Amy Cragg, Des Linden, and Shalane Flanagan. It was a thrill to watch them run in the trials and we will be on the edge of our seats when we watch them compete in the Olympics:

Kara Goucher, whose running is as inspiring as her absolute unwillingness to accept anything of herself that is less than what she can give. And she has the most infectious smile!

And, of course, Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run Boston:

Kathrine is a trailblazer for women in running, and was my first running hero. She has dedicated her life to bringing girls and women into running and now heads up 261 Fearless, an ever-growing organization that helps women join together in running and being fearless.

I am a very ordinary runner. But running empowers me, makes me feel strong, and I know I run in the footsteps of giants. Women who have come before me and fought for my right to do something I love, for my daughter’s right to run and compete. And women who are still fighting for themselves and others being held back by misogyny and bigotry. And the runners around me — both physically and virtually — inspire me every day. Sometimes when I need strength on a run I think of Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher. Sometimes I think of a woman I saw during a race we ran last time we were home. Eric and I had already gotten our bananas and Gatorade, we’d hung around for a bit soaking in the atmosphere and cheering runners as they crossed the finish line. Then we’d decided to head home, walking along the race route. I was clapping for the runners who were passing when I saw a woman running, she had the same look on her face that I’m sure I get when a run is really tough. I stopped walking and started clapping harder for her, I shouted encouragement — she looked up from the street and at me, got a huge smile on her face, nodded as if to say “you’re right, I’ve got this” and ran faster towards the finish line. She inspires me — her unwillingness to give up inspires me.

Sometimes in running you just have to remember it’s only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, everything else is secondary. Which is pretty much how life works in general. One foot in front of the other, cherish the joy, know you can make it through the pain, soak in the beauty around you, get lost in the sound of your own heartbeat, smile when you feel like you can’t, don’t let negative thoughts ruin the gifts in your life, embrace your tribe wholeheartedly, and, always, always, always …



Rescue Runners: Help Us Help Animals

Sanity break! It’s time for some damn sunshine and puppies. Yes, actual puppies. Sloths, even! Here’s the deal.

Last summer Eric and I decided to run our first half-marathon when we were home in Minneapolis. *Side note: yes, Eric and I are actually married, he does not have a wife named Margaret with whom he lives in Minnesota, we do live in Honduras with our children, he does work for the US State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, and I am a stay-at-home-mom. If you have no idea why I’m bringing this up, congratulations, you live in the land of the sane. If you do know why I’m bringing this up, take off the tinfoil hat and let the cleansing sunshine in.* Anyhoo … half-marathon. We had a fantastic time! Though that’s not exactly what I was uttering during the heart of it. But, like childbirth, the memory of the pain fades. Soon you find yourself turning to your husband and saying “what would you think about running Grandma’s Marathon next June?” And, since your husband is every bit the lunatic you are he replies “let’s do it!” So we are!

Here’s where the puppies and dogs come in (also cats, kittens, and the occasional sloth). We decided we would really like to run our marathon for a purpose bigger than our own sense of accomplishment, which is pretty common with marathon runners (have I mentioned how I love my tribe? Yep? Okie dokie). There are so many remarkable rescue groups and shelters, it was really tough to decide who we wanted to run for. But we settled on two groups — Pitty Love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica. Unfortunately, the way Crowdrise (the fundraising site we chose) works you can only choose one organization and it has to be US based. When I mentioned this to Pitty Love Rescue what I got in response was an offer to make a donation to Animal Shelter Costa Rica once the fundraiser has finished. Which just goes to show you what a special rescue group Pitty Love is. Let me tell you a little about these two groups.

First, meet the pups currently available for adoption from Pitty Love Rescue:

Aren’t they gorgeous? As you’ll notice Pitty Love Rescue does not exclusively take in pittbull/terrier mixes — while that is their focus what they do is respond to need. Pitty Love centers around finding responsible, forever homes for the dogs who come to them but they also go one step further by acting as a lifelong resource for the folks who adopt from them. Whether it’s the hard to adopt dog who has behavioral/health issues, or the dog with no issues at all, Pitty Love Rescue is there for whatever the dog needs in order to find a forever home. They also have a secondary focus on education, advocacy, and helping families in the communities where they work stay together by providing them with judgment-free assistance if they hit a rough patch — be it with medical care or dog food. This is a truly remarkable organization. They are located in upstate New York and, in order to provide the very best forever homes possible (through their thorough vetting process), and be a lifelong resource to their adopters, they keep adoptions in-state. So if you’re in New York state and are looking for a forever friend, please check out those gorgeous hunks and hunkettes up there and head on over to the Pitty Love Rescue website.

Allow me to introduce you to our dog, Firu:


We adopted Firu from Animal Shelter Costa Rica, a shelter located in the hills surrounding San Jose. Firu was a street dog, though presumably “owned” by someone at one time. I use the word “owned” intentionally because his tail had been chopped off — you do that to property, not a companion. When Firu was rescued from the streets and taken to the shelter by a guardian angel his body was so broken they were unsure if he would survive. Firu was not only severely underweight, he’d been hit by a car and left for dead by the side of the road; his rear left femur had been snapped in half and his hip had been dislocated. After surgery, and weeks of rehabilitation, Firu began to heal and, through a bit of golden luck, he became a part of our family.

Animal Shelter Costa Rica (locally known as The Refugio) helps animals like Firu every day, animals for whom there are no other options, animals who have been tossed aside like garbage, sometimes left for dead. They not only run a large shelter (maintained by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers), they operate a full-service veterinary clinic for the community, a mobile spay/neuter program (which also provides other medical care within the communities they visit), a retirement sanctuary for older dogs, and take in wildlife who need medical care and rehabilitation. Because we adopted Firu from The Refugio, and volunteered there, we got to know Lilian, the remarkable and dedicated woman who runs the shelter, and she is a powerhouse, a dedicated and compassionate woman whose energy seems to know no bounds. I pretty much want to be Lilian when I grow up.

So these are the two amazing rescue groups we’re raising money for with our marathon. We are asking people to join us on our marathon journey, culminating at Grandma’s Marathon on June 18, by donating to our fundraiser for Pitty Love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica and by spreading the word so that others will do the same. Our goal is modest but, with the mentality of kookie endurance runners who think it’s loads of fun to push our limits and run for hours at a time, we’d like to bust past it and raise as much as possible.

We are honored to be running for these two groups, during our training their dedication and advocacy is providing us with inspiration and drive — and when we run our first marathon we will run it with strength and determination, knowing we, and everyone who joined us, are helping these two rescue groups with their remarkable work. Please visit our fundraising page to donate what you can for Pitty love Rescue and Animal Shelter Costa Rica!

With Many Thanks, Heather and Eric


Running With Spirit

I run for a lot of reasons — I run for relief from stress, I run to feel powerful, I run when I’m angry, I run because it brings me joy, I run to feel free, I run to push myself beyond my limits physically and mentally, I run because I love my tribe of runners, and I love running with Eric and our kids. For me all the other benefits of running, weight maintenance and health maintenance, are wonderful but secondary. I would run even if those benefits didn’t exist. Running is a mind, body, and spirit activity for me and I am grateful for it every day.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, at the beginning of the year Eric and I joined a challenge called Run the Edge, the challenge is to run 2,015 miles in 2015. We’re doing this as a team and the name of our team is We Run 4 Paula. We decided early on to dedicate our running miles to one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paula, who was battling breast cancer. Early Tuesday morning Paula passed away. I have been riding the roller coaster of grief. I’ve learned from past losses that you really just have to hang on and let it take you where it is going to take you, you only have so much control over your emotions and the only thing you can control is your reaction to them and what you do with them.

I had a six mile run scheduled for Tuesday, I didn’t do it. Instead, I wrote about Paula. I couldn’t run yesterday, I just didn’t have it in me. But today I knew I had to. I was hesitant, a bit unsure, feeling like I didn’t know what my body was going to do with the fact that I was running in Paula’s memory instead of running to send her strength and endurance. Of course, the other thing about running for Paula was that her courage and joy were amazing, and her spirit was indomitable, and she inspired me to be strong. That hasn’t changed, that’s still reality.

I went into our garage where we have our treadmill, where we do most of our running because of the security situation in Tegus. Next to the treadmill is a wall where I’ve put up inspirational sayings I can look to when I need a push, I looked at them before I got on the mill and saw the “Team We Run 4 Paula” sign. I got tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath, and I got on the mill.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a particularly religious person, I’m on the fence about God. I’m kind of with Frank Lloyd Wright: “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” I guess I’d call myself a spiritual person because I believe there is something much bigger than me at play but as to who or what he/she/they/it are I haven’t a clue. I believe in some of the philosophies of some religions and disagree with others but the existence of God, or heaven, or an afterlife? Insert shrug here. So, that’s my starting point.

I began to run, I felt good, better than I had expected to feel. I was enjoying my run, maintaining my intervals of running and walking, which I need to do because my calf injury from May is still healing. Not quite two miles into my run I felt what I can only describe as a powerful surge of energy, and I began to feel stronger. Then I felt this incredible joy and freedom and tears were streaming down my face but they weren’t sad tears, they were profoundly happy tears, and I began to run faster. Now, this is where it gets into “eh, okaaaay” territory but I felt Paula. And not just felt her as in, felt her memory or my gratitude for her friendship, or inspiration from her strength, I actually felt her there, running with me. I felt sheer exhilaration, a desire to run harder, go faster, because it was just so fun! I felt how she’d been weighed down so long by cancer, unable to feel the freedom of movement without pain, and now she wasn’t, now she was running and free — and laughing! I felt that way, I felt Paula, for about two miles. Then I felt like it was just me again, though she was still there, and I ran the last mile even harder for her.

I know it may sound nuts. I know it could just have been a runner’s high, or wishful thinking, or my grief. But I believe she was with me, I believe it. And I believe she loved the way the freedom of the run felt. I believe, after decades of knowing what her joy feels like, I felt her joy and her spirit. Regardless, though, of whether it was my imagination or reality what it taught me is that Eric and I not running in Paula’s memory, we are running with her. She’s in a different form but she’s still with us, she’s with everyone who loves her. She is watching over her beautiful daughters and her partner and she is with us. I believe this.


Learning to Embrace the Turtle

One of my favorite stories is one my Dad told me from his time in Thailand years ago when he was working with Vietnamese refugees. On his off days he would go to the Buddhist temple by his house, he would teach English to the monks and the monks would teach him Thai. While he is not a religious man he was intrigued by Buddhism so he asked one of the monks how he would go about becoming a Buddhist, the monk replied “If you feel like you are a Buddhist, then you are a Buddhist,” which is exactly something I would imagine a Buddhist monk saying. Stick with me, I’ll curve back to this story.

On New Year’s Day my DH, Eric, and I made our way to the gym and ran our final run of a 36 day running streak challenge from Runner’s World magazine. My muscles were fatigued, I was feeling every run I’d done over the past 35 days, but I was motivated by the accomplishment of running 36 days in a row. We both planned to do a longer run, which meant my mind had a lot of time to wander and mull, and it did, I began thinking about the internal journey running had taken me on over the past two years.

Over the summer, when we were in the US on home leave and doing a lot of running on the gorgeous trails of rural Maryland and in Minneapolis, I started lovingly referring to myself as the “Speedy Turtle,” my pace is south of speedy and I’d struggled emotionally with that. But, with each run, I began to embrace my turtle self, I began to remind myself that I may not be the quickest but I never quit, my pace may be slow but I always put one foot in front of the other. I’d been calling myself a runner for some time but, until this summer, it felt not quite true, not because it wasn’t but because I was judging myself as not good enough to really be given the title of runner. Over the summer, I stopped paying so much attention to how quickly other people were running the trails and started focusing on my run, on how I felt about it, on what my body was doing. I was there, on the trails, several days a week, giving it my everything–and I finally started to realize that I should call myself a runner because it was true.

During the streak I started getting faster, at first without even realizing it, and then because I was pushing for it, and it was a revelation because of what was motivating me to do it. In the past I’d pushed myself to be faster because I thought it was something I needed to do, and every time I didn’t go “fast enough” I felt not good enough. During the streak I began to push myself to be faster because I wanted it, because it felt good to work my body harder than I had before, to shave seconds off previous times, to finish a run knowing I left everything on the road or the mill. And my arms fully encircled two truths …

The first is that I am a Speedy Turtle, and that’s just fine. All the feelings of not being good enough, not being fast enough, were causing damage to my self-esteem, and it was eating away at the absolute joy and release I find in running. A friend of mine who is also a runner summed it up perfectly when she wrote something along the lines of how comparing yourself to someone else is a form of self-violence, I read that and it resonated so strongly with me. Why should I chip away at this incredible gift I’d decided to give myself by comparing myself to others? Why should it matter to me how fast they are going? Everyone runs their own pace, everyone runs their own runs. These are things I had been saying to myself for two years but had never fully believed until I opened the door to them over the summer, and until the streak finally allowed me to let them in. Somewhere on that last run of the streak I thought of my dad and the Buddhist monks and it dawned on me, if you feel like a runner, then you are a runner. Don’t complicate it, don’t weigh it down, just run.

I learned a lot about myself during the streak, and I learned a lot about my tribe, my fellow runners. I belong to a FB group of ex-pat runners, many of whom were also running the streak. Every day I went to this group and read about the runs that people had taken, I read the words of encouragement from the streakers and from other runners in the group, and I was reminded of what a remarkable tribe runners are. Everyone is running their own run, very few are judging someone else’s run. This group is the only FB group I’ve ever belonged to where I’ve never seen one bit of negativity, or judgement, or snarky commenting–just support, words of wisdom, shared joy, and a common love of the run. I am so grateful for my worldwide tribe, and for their unconditional encouragement, for their humor, and for just knowing they are out there running.

So my second truth went along with my first, I must treat myself with the same encouragement and kindness that I treat other runners, and that I have received from other runners. I never find myself judging another runner, I just don’t do it because I love, in a pure and unconditional way, my fellow tribe members and it wouldn’t even occur to me to judge one of them. I finally realized that, as a member of that tribe, I should give myself the same level of respect and support I give to, and receive from, others. It sounds elementary but it took me a while to get there!

I am gifted many things through running, and one of my favorites is how it pushes me to venture outside my comfort zone emotionally and physically. This year Eric and I have signed up for a challenge called “Run the Edge,” where you challenge yourself to run and/or walk 2015 miles in 2015. Since there are two of us we’re splitting the challenge in two and logging running miles (if we were each doing it on our own we would log walking miles as well because, well, 2015 is a HUGE number). Even cut in half to 1,007.5 miles it’s pretty intimidating, definitely outside of my comfort zone, and will require a whole lot of determination. But I know, because of my journey towards self-acceptance, coupled with the love of my runner hubby and the support of my tribe, I will do it! Run on, my fellow runners, and continue to be the absolute rock stars that you are!

Done with the 36 day streak and holding the Mile 1 bib for Run the Edge!

Boomerang Lessons, How My Kids Inspire Me

“Boomerang lesson” is the term I’ve decided to start using for things I tell my kids that I need to pay attention to myself; in other words, listen to yourself speak, Heather, you might learn something. This past Sunday we ran a 5k race with our two oldest children, our 13-year old boy and 10-year old girl. It was a charity run for the Children’s Museum here in San Jose, my husband ran with our son and I ran with our daughter. Our kids are athletic and, despite the fact that if we let them they would immerse themselves for hours in electronics, they really enjoy being active. Since the time they were pretty young our kids could hike for miles and miles, the hubby and I are not parents who would push a 5-year old in a stroller–move forward and push on are lessons our kids learned early in life.

Our daughter was a bit anxious, she told me that she was worried she would slow me down, which I found a bit funny because I am not a fast runner, I consider myself to be a speedy turtle. My response to her was that I didn’t care one bit how fast we went, I only cared that we ran together and crossed the finish line together. I reassured her that she would set the pace and tried to drive home the lesson that there is no shame in walking or in running slowly, the only thing that matters is that you’re out there, having fun and challenging yourself and, in this case, being together.

The morning of the race came, she had butterflies (loads of them, she told me later) but was excited. I reminded her of all the things we’d been talking about, reassured her that she could do it, she nodded and smiled and we were off! We ran, we walked, we talked. The boys were far ahead of us (I’ve written before about how my hubby is a much faster runner than I am) but we all expected that. About two thirds of the way through the run her brain started getting the best of her, she began to believe she couldn’t do it, that it was too hard for her. Luckily for both of us two things are true: I believe in her completely and I have a Pinterest board that is brimming with inspirational running quotes! I told her that her brain could either be her best friend or her worst enemy, which side it landed on was entirely up to her. I told her “runners run a race in three parts–the first is with their body, the second is with their brain, the third is with their spirit and your spirit is so strong!”  She nodded, she liked that but she was still doubtful. I reminded her that she’s run 5k before, I reminded her that I believe in her. She still was not convinced. So I used a trick that I use for myself and told her we would just run to the next stoplight, then we could walk to the one after that, then run to the next, then walk. Running is a good metaphor for life in so many ways, in this case, just like in life, if things seems too large it can be overwhelming, but doing a little at a time can get you through to the finish line. We did this until we rounded a corner and she said “This looks familiar!” I told her to look straight, to the end of the street because the museum, and the finish line, were there, about 4 blocks away. She got a huge smile on her face and said “I can do this! I CAN DO THIS!” And she started to run, with me shouting after her “You’ve got this, girl! GO!” She ran and ran, walked for a few seconds, then hit the last 100 meters, a daunting hill–and she started to run, weaving through people, completely pushed forward by that unstoppable spirit of hers, totally focused on the finish line! She reached the top of the hill with me behind her, I caught up to her and we ran the last few meters, crossing the finish line together, just as we had wanted to do, it was a pretty incredible moment for both of us and, as her mother, I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

We stopped running, both winded from the hill and the last sprint to the finish line, and saw my husband and son walk out of the crowd towards us with huge smiles on their faces. Hubby told me he and our son, Liam, stayed together the whole way, then they hit the hill and he told Liam he was going to sprint it and then wait for him at the finish line. About halfway up hubby looked behind him and there was Liam, determined to keep up. They hit the finish line just a few paces apart, Liam felt pretty satisfied, then he moved to the sidelines and promptly booted– thank goodness that didn’t happen at the finish line!

So here’s my boomerang lesson … tomorrow I’m running my first 10k and, honestly, I’m pretty terrified. I can do it, I’ve done the distance, I’ve been training for this specific race for weeks and weeks but I am truly frightened. I’m not sure about what because I know I can finish it and I know even if I finish last, hey, at least I ran it! But I guess I’m intimidated by doing something new, and something that seems pretty daunting to me. So I have to remember all the things I told my baby girl while we ran, and I have to remember her spirit that refused to give up, and the determination our son had to keep running with his dad. So tomorrow my children, all three of them, will be my inspiration. The strength with which they approach life, all the change they go through, all the difficult transitions and goodbyes that go along with the life of a nomadic child, and the grace with which they handle these things, will be my inspiration to run, to keep moving forward, to not give up, and to believe in my own strength and spirit.

There was an amazing runner on Sunday, a man who would run to the front of our pack and then to the back, the whole time pumping his arms and shouting “Si, se puede!” Yes, we can! So, forward, and si, se puede!

Me and my baby running uphill, I reassured her that pretty much everyone had the look on their face that she does here, it was a tough way to end a race.

High five! The hubby crosses the finish line!

Liam crosses the finish line (pre-spew)!

Time to show off the medals!

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