Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Running for Charity: Why I joined Team CF for the Chicago Marathon.

There are a handful of ways you can enter the Chicago Marathon. By lottery, which is not a guaranteed entry. With a time qualification, which I clearly do not have. Or by running for a charity, which is the direction I chose to go—but not without giving it some serious thought.

When you run for a charity, you are given a guaranteed entry. But you must raise a certain amount of money, and if you don't, you must pay the remaining amount. It's a daunting task, added on to the fact that I'd need to raise this money while training for my very first marathon.

No pressure. None at all.
(She says with sarcasm in her voice.)

But I really wanted to run this year's Chicago Marathon. Before the lottery opened, I looked at the list of potential charity partners. There were a number of viable options, none of which really stuck out to me as "from the heart" choices. I didn't want to join a charity team for the guaranteed entry, and for that reason alone. To make the effort worthwhile, I wanted the charity to represent something bigger.

I went back and forth: Lottery or charity, charity or lottery?
And then I found Team CF.

If you're not familiar with Cystic Fibrosis, it's a rare, genetic, life-threatening disease that has no cure. People living with CF—well over 30,000 Americans at this point—struggle to breathe every single day. To breathe! Something so many of us do without even thinking. These people are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, friends and co-workers. They are my friend Jonathan.

He was the closest thing I ever had to a little brother. A dear family friend, perhaps my sister's best friend. He had an incredible zest for life and a spirit that brightened just about everyone around him. To know him was to love him. To know his family, is to love them, too.

Jonathan missed out on the cure.
A cure that The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is still looking for.

Real progress has been made, but the lives of people with CF are still being cut far too short. So that's why we fight. That's why Team CF runs the Chicago Marathon. To raise awareness, and to gather funds to maintain momentum toward a cure.

As a member of Team CF, I am given a fundraising goal.

I take it very seriously—as seriously as crossing the finish line on my own two feet. I realize now that, while running for a charity adds an extra level of action required of me, it's a level that motivates me greatly. Jonathan never let a challenge stop him. He looked challenges in the face and took them on, knowing that life was far too incredible to let anything stop him. I'll take that face with me, and I'll run with it.

I can already hear him heckling me on. Because that's what he'd do, he'd heckle you, but from the heart. He was a punk, and we all loved him for it because he was the most loving punk you'd ever meet.

I don't expect you to make a donation to Team CF. But if you do, please know that I am forever grateful for your generosity. Your gift will motivate me through the marathon, but more importantly, it will support lifesaving research, as well as medical and educational programs for Cystic Fibrosis.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart—and my lungs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Runner Behind You: Frigid 5K Race Recap

One of my goals this year is to run at least one race every month. Obviously, the Chicago Marathon will be the biggest one of all. It will also be my toughest, and I don't want it to suck the running life out of me. Hence, the one-a-month goal. Running can and should always be fun. I'm hoping monthly races will remind me of that. And later this year, I'm hoping they will help me through some tougher training runs.

This past weekend, I ran my January race: The Frigid 5K in Niles, Michigan.

True to it's name, the race was very frigid. I ran it last year. It was equally frigid.

To get and keep myself in the right mindset to run, train and race, I've been using the Believe Training JournalI wasn't sure if I'd really like it, but it's proving to be an absolutely wonderful tool.

This training journal is written specifically for runners. It's packed with info and plenty of pages, which makes it easy to log miles from week to week. It also provides the space to contemplate race-day plans:

For the Frigid 5K, I had three goals:

1) Win an age group award.
2) Run at a 7:15/mile pace.
3) Beat last year's time (23:55).

I accomplished two of those goals. I finished first in my age group with a time of 23:50. I didn't quite get to that 7:15/mile pace, but that's okay with me. The course itself was super slick and snow-covered. I did what I could.

I also learned a really hard lesson:

There will always be a runner behind you. Let them fuel you.

Here's the thing, with less than a quarter of a mile to go, I let someone pass me.
Literally slowed down to let someone pass me.

I should have pushed harder. I could have held her off.
I should have ignored her. I could have blocked her out.

She was on my shoulder, breathing down my neck and I just wanted her gone. So I gave in to my frustrations and let her pass just to get her away from me. Could I have held her off? Absolutely. But I gave in. Damn, I gave in.

I should have pushed harder.
I should have ignored her.

Thing is, no matter how hard you prepare for a race, whether you're in peak physical condition or not, it's your mental game that takes you above and beyond your physical abilities. Because if you believe in yourself, you and I both know that you will absolutely achieve for yourself.

But, I had a moment on Saturday. I gave in, and that's something I need to work on. But I'm not going to dwell on it. I came home from the race and this quote was on my calendar:

Forget the mistake, remember the lesson.

Next time, I'm going to hold her off.
Next time, I'm going to block her out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Running Into 2019: Goals and Dreams

Here we are, 15 days into the new year. I'm running at it full force, completely propelled by a list of 2019 goals and dreams. This is going to be a big year. A good year. I know it—do you?

We say that every year, though.

"This is my year."
"It's going to be the best."

And yet, we somehow never believe ourselves when we make those statements. Friends, let's all of us choose to believe ourselves this year. Right here, right now. Decide with me that 2019 will be fantastic because it can be. I promise you this.

Declare your goals.
Believe in them.
Then chase them down with a fierceness you never knew existed.

And then, decide to be happy. Just decide it!
Because happiness is something we all deserve.

Also, it's something we can easily achieve.

So, goals and dreams. 2019. Let's do this, shall we?
Declaring right here, right now, that I will:

1) Push myself beyond my fears. Never in my life have I ever believed that I could possibly run a marathon. I created excuse after excuse and stood by them wholeheartedly. But then, someone else believed in me. And I started to believe in myself, which is ultimately why I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. So this is my year to push myself beyond my fears. To believe in myself so that I'm not holding myself back. Ever. Because that's just silly, right?

2) Run a race every single month. Perhaps not as deep as the previous goal, but specific and measurable—and fun. With the marathon looming ahead of me, running is going to be a challenge that may shift into "not fun" territory. So to keep myself loving every minute, I've decided to sign up for at least one race every month this year. Running is, and should always be, completely fun. Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have a set of medals to prove it.

3) Cross the finish line at the Chicago Marathon on my own two feet. I have no time goals. I really don't! This experience will be new, exciting and incredibly challenging. All I want to do is cross the finish line on my own two feet. I have a training plan in mind, and I intend to follow it as best I can to set myself up for that finish I crave.

4) Meditate weekly. Mental health is important. I have a go-go-go mentality that isn't always good for the brain. I hope to calm some of the chaos by developing a much better relationship with meditation. Not sure what that looks like just yet, but I am currently shooting for at least twice a week. Small changes lead to big results, yes?

5) Read daily. I spent the back half of 2018 developing a hardcore reading routine. I did my best to read daily, even if it was one chapter or just five pages of a book or magazine. I want to continue that tradition this year. If there's one thing I love, it's turning off my brain and diving into my imagination via the printed page.

Of course, these are just a few of my goals and dreams for 2019. The items on this list are a bit more applicable to this space. Those that pertain to work or to my personal life at home...I won't bore you with talks of budgets and profits, and some things are best kept closer to the heart. Thing is, no matter what your goals and dreams are, or how long your list is, there's still one major goal and dream we all share:

"This is my year."
"It's going to be the best."


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