Sunday, May 14, 2017

Running Toward Hope

By Guest Blogger Erin Noele Paradis

Why do we run?  Everyone one of us has a different motivation, and I would suspect most of us have multiple reasons why we run.  I’ve contemplated this question many times and the answer changes depending on the day, my mood, and what is happening in my life.  As I look back on my recent experience in training and running the Boston Marathon, I think of two major reasons for my running obsession:  hope and community.

Hope.  In 2014, I was in a place in which I felt hopeless and helpless.  My mother had battled cancer on and off for over 15 years and had reached the point where the word “terminal” was now part of the conversation.  The chemo was no longer working and it was leaving her with debilitating burns on her hands and feet.  My parents had been married for 47 years, and they used to walk their dogs every morning.  But she was in too much pain to even walk across the house.  I got off the phone with her one evening in September and she had just given me the most recent updates from her doctors.  I felt hopeless.  After many tears, I went to my go-to comforts…. research and running.  As I scoured the internet and read articles on cancer treatments, I found myself combing through the website of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  It is one of the world’s leading institutes for cancer research and patient care.  That’s when I found the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, and I knew I had to be on the team.  I applied, got accepted, and began the journey of training and fundraising in honor of my mother.  Having a common goal brought my parents and I closer together.  We raised over $17,000 that year for cancer research programs at Dana-Farber.   Going to Boston was the last trip we took together as a family.  My mother had told her doctor that whatever happened, she had to get to Boston for the marathon.  Running for Dana-Farber and raising funds for cancer research gave us hope.  It was what we needed.  Even though we knew there was nothing that could be done for my mother, it gave us a sense of purpose and hope to raise money for cancer research, so that perhaps one day, people would not have to endure the pain that mother endured.  Five weeks after that trip to Boston, my mother passed away.  I’ll never forget those last weeks of caring for her, of the many people who were there to comfort and reassure me when I was scared out of my mind.  Throughout those months, running was a source of hope, especially running for Dana-Farber.  In the weeks after my mother passed away, I ran just to keep moving forward.  I remember there were times when I couldn’t get through a mile without bursting into tears. Yet, I knew running was going to help me somehow.  And it did.

Community.  I joined TRP on January 1, 2015 as part of my New  Year’s resolution to run with a group to help me train for Boston.  It had snowed the night before and it was 36-degrees that evening.  Only nine people showed up.  I was so nervous.  Would these runners be friendly?  What if this was a group for only fast, competitive runners?  Would I be able to keep up with them?  What would we talk about?  Why the hell was it so cold?!  My fears and questions were immediately answered as I was greeted with a friendly smile and welcome from Shokofeh and Keith.  Though I wasn’t really able to pace with anyone on that run (because, yes they were all really fast!), on the way back to Trader Joe’s, Ed Llewelling slowed down to keep me company.

I wondered if I would continue running with a group after training for that first Boston marathon.  It didn’t take much time for me  to realize that TRP was much more than a running group.  It was a family.   I loved meeting new people every week and sharing miles together. 

Two years later, my husband, Brian, and I decided we wanted to run for Dana-Farber again, in memory of my mother.  We both were accepted to the team and it was a different experience this time around.  First, the fundraising part of being on the DFMC team was not as daunting.  I was overwhelmed by the  support of friends and family who generously donated to our fundraising for Dana-Farber.  Second, being part of TRP for so long meant I knew I had support.  Every week I felt blessed for each run, because I had TRP friends by my side.  Third, I signed up for TRP Peak Performance coaching.  The training plan and accountability made a HUGE difference for me.  I broke through several mental barriers and saw the results of the training every month.

Marathon training is full of ups and downs.  Some of the highlights this year included setting a PR at the TRP Magic Marathon for my mile time and for a 5k at the Sun Run.  I had many runs in which I got swept up in conversations with TRP friends that I hardly noticed the time and distance passing us by.  There was one run in which Brian and I started out with Shokofeh and Keith for a few miles, and an hour or so after we split off and were coming up on the last three miles of our long run, I heard voices shouting and cheering for us from the road.  Shokofeh and Keith had finished their run, got in their car, found us on Vistoso Blvd, and drove by shouting words of encouragement.  There were runs in which I had the joy of chatting with Teri, Katie, Celia, and many other wonderful runners.  Their humor and kindness made every mile special.  Now… to be honest, not every run was easy.  There were long runs in which I was hit with upset stomach or fatigue.  In the last 20-mile training run before Boston, Brian and I had been struck with a terrible stomach flu four days prior.  We had structured this last long run to include running the AZ Distance Classic.  We struggled the entire way.  We were thankful for Robert, who helped us refill our water bottles just before the half-marathon began.  We were also thankful to see so many TRP members along the course who gave us a thumbs up or a smile.  Mentally and physically, we were not happy, but the encouragement from others made the difference for us to finish that run. 

The experience of marathon weekend was a beautiful blur.  I had been sick that week and our shake-out runs were pretty difficult.  Seeing Keith and Shokofeh along the Charles River path on Sunday morning lifted my spirits.  During that weekend, we participated in as many Boston marathon events as possible.  We went to the Expo twice, we took photos near the finish line, ran along the Charles River, went to Old South Church on Easter Sunday where we received a special blessing for the athletes, we walked along the Freedom Trail, ate plenty of seafood, visited Brian’s grandfather in Everett, went to a UA alumni party with other marathoners, and we also got to meet legendary runners like Katherine Switzer and Uta Pippig. 

On Sunday, we attended an emotional reception with our Dana-Farber teammates.  I was inspired by the strength and passion of the doctors, scientists, and patients of Dana-Farber.  Their focus and drive is immeasurable.  Throughout the weekend, I had flashbacks of two years ago when my mom was with us.  I felt the pain of her absence and grief, and yet, I also felt like she was with me the entire weekend. 

Marathon Monday was an experience like no other.  We got up early and joined our DFMC teammates on the long bus journey to Hopkinton.  We walked around Hopkinton to see runners in the early corrals set off.  The race itself was awesome.  What I love about Boston is the spirit of the race, and the history and culture that surrounds it.  Total strangers will spend an entire day cheering on other strangers as they run the course.  The course runs through eight towns and it’s miles and miles of cheering spectators.   This year, it was much warmer than usual.  Thankfully, Morey from TRP advised us to beat the heat by pouring cups of water on our heads and clothes every mile.  This kept us cool and reminded us to stay hydrated.  The race is mostly downhill, but at mile 17, you hit the Newton hills (which actually aren’t that steep) but your legs can feel like lead at this point.  I looked to my left and was excited to see Dr. Clare Twist cheering for us.  Dr. Twist spoke at our DFMC reception the evening before.   She is a pediatric oncologist and has been on the Dana-Farber team for 25 years.  She is now fighting her own battle with cancer and could not run this year, but she still wanted to be there and cheer for her teammates.  At this point of the race, I had to take walk breaks because my quads were thrashed and my breathing was rough.  I thought about my mom a lot during the race and of how strong she was even when she was in pain.  She truly embodied the spirit of marathoners.  Running a marathon takes courage and perseverance.  Also, I was blessed to run with my best friend and husband, Brian.  Running with Brian gave me energy.  He kept saying, “We’re doing great!” and “We’ve got this!”  His positive attitude and encouragement pushed me to keep running when I just wanted to stop.  In the last few turns of the course, I saw runners from Achilles International, who were military veterans.  There was one who was a double amputee with two metal leg prosthetics, and he was incredible!  I could not help but tear up when we got to Boylston Street.  The caucaphony of cheers from the crowds, the inspirational runners surrounding us, holding my husband’s hand, seeing that finish line just ahead… there are no words to describe the feeling. 

So, why do we run?  Running, to me, used to be something I begrudgingly did alone, just to stay in shape.  The past two years with TRP have changed that.  Through the roller coaster of life, running has been a way for me to experience hope and to experience community.  I find joy in being part of a group and inspiration in every person I meet. 

There is a quote from Olympic runner, Emil Zatopek, that resonates with me.  Zatopek said, “If you want to run a mile, run a mile.  If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”  I don’t know if everyone necessarily needs to run a marathon to experience a different life, but I do believe that running has the power to change us.  For that, I am very grateful.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Running, Being a Mom, and Group Support

By Guest Blogger Meghan McCarthy

My name is Meghan, and I am 29 years young. Although I do not get to run with TRP as often as I'd like, I really would like to share my story.

I started liking running in middle school, but never fully got into it, I was just "good at it". After high school, I was in a car accident where emergency responders were called, and decided I wanted to check out the world of firefighting/emergency medicine, so I found a fire department to volunteer with, took a course to become EMT-B certified, and went into fire academy. In fire academy, I was one of the only women, and we were doubted daily. I became "addicted" to proving others' ideas about me wrong, and keeping up with the guys or doing better than them in a lot of things. We ran quite often in fire academy, and this is one of the areas where I excelled. My lieutenant signed up for a half marathon in Seattle, and asked me to sign up also. I did, and felt very over my head, but ran it and finished. I loved the idea of challenging myself, and knew I needed something that kept me going, and running was one of those things.

Over the years after fire academy, I never fully lost running. However when I was pregnant with my son, it was very few and far between, and when he was about 6 months old I really started it up again. I found that if I don't run I became lazy, complacent, and depressed. Depression and anxiety have probably always been a part of me, but I have learned that this is one tool to use that curbs both of them. When I'm feeling anxious and like I could make a spur of the moment not well thought out decision, I go run. It helps to get out the anxiety I am feeling in tiring out my body and focusing it, and thinking while I am doing so. I don't make nearly the "I'm feeling like this right now so I'm going to act on it" decisions, bettering my life in so many ways. When I am depressed, I don't want to do anything but think bad thoughts, and I have no motivation. Running gets me up, keeps me motivated, and relieves me from thinking that just getting off of my couch was too much to do, because I know physically and mentally I can and should go run 10 miles. It is fighting those clouding thoughts and telling them no, I will not let them overtake and I will make my mind space how I want it, so I go run, and I go motivate myself.
After having my son, it has been very hard to find time to myself and time to run. I take it as a challenge to have a certain block of time when he is still at daycare after I am done with work to get a certain length run in. I will have exactly enough time to run 8 miles if I start at time A and run under a 10 minute pace, so there is no room for slacking, I do it or I do not pick him up in time before they are closing. It makes for a long day, a full day of work, running, picking up my son and making him dinner/getting his needs met, and then studying depending on if I'm taking classes at the moment. I am (by choice mostly) the only parent to my 4 year old, and he is better off for it, but it makes life challenging sometimes.

My son and I moved to Arizona almost exactly two years ago, leaving all friends and family, and his father, back in Washington, with the exception of my dad who is in Tucson, who we see about once a month. It can be lonely but the focus on bettering our lives was the motivation to start a clean slate, and it has worked wonders so far, however without running, it would be easy to get depressed without a lot of support here.

Within a few months of moving to Tucson, I attended a night group run with my son in his jogging stroller, and everyone was so supportive, friendly, and welcoming. It was amazing to meet so many wonderful people at once and be so nice when they have no idea who you are, what your background is, only intention was to help you better yourself and have fun, just like they were themselves.

Today, my son will absolutely not tolerate the jogging stroller, he is much too independent, bossy, and hands-on for that. He wants to run himself and doesn't like to be the bystander sitting there when the action is happening around him. He participated in his first kids mile race a few weeks ago, because I had seen other children from the TRP family of his age running these same races. I thought he was too young, but I was proven wrong by the other young kids.

Since running with the group (although it is not often now, regrettably) just even the social media support and seeing familiar faces at races is so wonderful, so positive, and so motivating. These people who may not even know you well want the best for you, and you to be the best that you can, and want to encourage you. It is such a great feeling. In a year in a half I went from over a 2:10 half marathon to 1:55. I never would have thought that I would be capable of that, but now I feel I can do even better.

Thank you TRP for being such a great group of capable, challenging, intelligent, positive, and such a diverse group of great people who all come together to be awesome. I doubt many others could understand some parts of my craziness/intensity that runners can have.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, April 7, 2017

When Did I Become an Athlete?

By Guest Blogger Susie Salmon

I am not an athlete.

I’ve known this for years. When we chose teams for P.E. sports, I was always the last kid selected (often to the tune of audible groans from my default teammates). I did play softball, but I spent more time in deep right field daydreaming and weaving dandelions into my mitt than I did running the bases or shagging fly balls. In dance, I was the kid who couldn’t touch my toes and hid in the back line at recitals.

I come by my non-athlete status honestly. My mom wasn’t an athlete either; the nuns at her grammar school prohibited her from playing basketball after she tripped and tore her knee open one too many times. 

As I moved into high school and college, I only exercised out of fear; both of my parents struggled with weight issues, and my own battle began as soon as I hit puberty. When she wasn’t slipping me dollar bills, my sweet little Sicilian great-grandmother alternately urged me to eat more and warned me not to “get too fat.” The highest praise I could earn from my grandfather was that I had lost weight since he had seen me last. A well-meaning friend called me “pleasantly plump” and triggered a three-week soup fast.

Over the years, I tried various activities for short periods.  A bit of Stairmaster here and there. A year of step aerobics. I was drawn to distance early, though; I enjoyed epic, long walks in Los Angeles when I was in undergrad, San Francisco when I was in law school, and Manhattan when I worked there for a few months. When I moved to Tucson, I bought an elliptical and mounted a small TV/DVR on the opposite wall. I sweated through seasons of The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, How I Met Your Mother, and countless other shows that I only allowed myself to watch if I was on the elliptical.

Through all these exercise experiments, it never really occurred to me to run. Of course not: running was for athletes. I am not an athlete.

When my elliptical broke in the winter of 2012 and I couldn’t get the repair dude to return my calls, I had no idea how much my life would change. Over the holiday break, I started jogging on the beach with my dog, Phoebe. When I returned to Tucson, I continued running sporadically, a few miles here and there in my neighborhood or on the river path. A year or so earlier, I had become friends with Marti Ackermann through a book club; I knew that she ran, and, when SAR organized a community run after the Boston Marathon bombing, I asked if she would run with me. I ran / walked six miles that day.

Suddenly, I decided to do this running thing for real. To this day, I cannot tell you why or how. I can tell you that I started signing up for races like mad. The Cinco de Mayo 10K, which I ran / walked. The Meet Me Downtown 5K. Then I went really nuts: I signed up for my first half-marathon, the City to the Sea race in my hometown of San Luis Obispo.  In my first year as a runner, I ran eight half-marathons.

The following summer, Marti told me she had started doing track workouts with a running group. That sounded like a nightmare to me. A group of strangers? Athletes? Running track, which sounded ominously like one of those things I failed at over and over in junior high? All those athletes would see immediately that I wasn’t one of them.

But somehow I talked myself into messaging Shokofeh and getting added to the group. And somehow I even got out of bed, into my car, and out there on the track at 5am on a sweltering August morning for a one-mile time trial. The next thing I knew, I was getting up at 3:30am four or five days a week to run with TRP. I found myself chatting with total strangers and actually enjoying it. I was even leading group runs. And I found motivations beyond fear: friendship, strength, and even fun.

It was nothing like junior high, after all. Everyone was friendly and supportive, including (perhaps especially) the people whose recovery pace was my all-out pace. No one ever rolled eyes when I announced my pace at the beginning of a run. When faster runners passed me, they offered words of encouragement, not mockery. Sometimes they’d even run with me to help me meet a goal pace in a tempo mile or to finish an especially long run before sunrise.

 I lotteried into the NYC marathon, trained through the crushing heat of the Tucson summer, and finished thirty seconds faster than my goal time. I ran each of my training twenty-milers with a different TRP member.

 The biggest step in my journey, though, was signing up for coaching services with TRP Peak Performance Coaching. I had run almost twenty half-marathons, one full marathon, and countless 10K, 5K, and other races. But coaches? Coaches are for athletes.

Working with Keith this past year, following that training plan to the best of my ability each week and chatting periodically with my coaches about race strategy and goals, I realized something kind of earthshattering. I may have started running at 42. I may still be slower than I want to be. And I may not look like a runner; I still dream of reaching what the Internet tells me is my optimal “running weight.”

But, thanks to TRP, I know that I am an athlete.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Swiss Runner That Could

By Guest Blogger Karen Keller

I have never liked the word “can’t”. Ever since I can remember I was told “You could not”. It has always been my encouragement to prove everyone that I could.

A lot of people have asked me “Why do I run?” “Are you running from something?” The answer is, I run because I enjoy it and I still can. I  love how it feels under my feet and can get out into nature and experience the beauty around me.

I started running just to get in shape and when I met my husband, he encouraged me to run. I ran around the block, my husband way in front and I thought to myself, this is not fun and I was going to die. As I got better I began to enjoy it more and entered my first 5K. When I was a Caregiver to my mother I was so emotionally drained, and running became my escape. Whenever I could I would run the trails and streets of Tucson and then started to realize that I could handle life better and that it was okay to take care of myself. I always thought I had to take care of everyone else first and myself last.

In the spring of 2006 I was training for the San Francisco marathon when I discovered a lump, two weeks later I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I went numb. I could not function. I was in excellent health, working out 5 days a week and no sign of cancer in my family. The treatment: 6 months of chemo followed by surgery and 6 weeks of radiation. Was I going to die? All I wanted to do was run from my life. This is where the real race started for me. My life changed from then on. From fear, I became angry then accepted the reality and finally was determined to fight. I was not going to let this disease overtake me. The plan…I was going to do the treatment and then run a Half Marathon the following year. First round of Chemo began and 4 days later my hair started to fall out, but I was ready to fight to the end. The days became weeks and the weeks became months and when the going got tough and I could not get out of bed or eat, I decided I needed something to change my thoughts and look forward to. I decided that once treatment was over I would run the San Francisco Half marathon. I studied the route, read inspirational books and when I was in pain and wanted to give up, I would run the route in my head. July 2007, I found myself at the starting line. I was going to celebrate life and enjoy every step of the way even if it meant walking. I was happy to be alive. It was then that I decided that I was going to enjoy life to the fullest and do the things I enjoy the most. Life is short and you never know what will come your way.

Ever since that day, I have enjoyed every step of my running journey. My husband has supported me through this journey that I have taken.  He still thinks that I am nuts, running at the crack of dawn but he know I am safe and he is happy that I enjoy what I do. He is my rock and is always looking out for me. You may find him at the finish line with his camera in toe ready to snap some photos.

I am still that quiet, shy gal running at the back of the pack but I am catching up, turn around I might be right behind you. I have big goals and dreams. I still dream of running the Boston Marathon, who knows, maybe someday it will happen. For now I am running for the pure enjoyment of running and to see how far I can challenge myself.

One thing is for sure, do what you love to do. Life is short. Nothing is impossible. Why not go after your dreams and goals, I certainly am. Training may be hard but you put one step in front of the other. Yes there may be that time when you feel discouraged but you know what, you pick yourself up, and continue. There is a whole TRP family cheering you on, every step of the way. They will never judge you and they will pick you up when you are at your lowest. Do the things that you enjoy now.  My next big goal: An Ultra, hey, why not 

Monday, March 6, 2017

6 and a Half Months Equal a Year and a Lifetime

By Guest Blogger Naomi Sweat

I’ll start with the basics.  Strictly in 2016, I ran 993 miles and completed 7 races, which is 211 miles and 1 race more than I ran in 2015.  The races: Arizona Rock n Roll half marathon, Sabino Canyon Sunset Run, Meet Me Downtown 5k, San Diego Rock n Roll 5k, San Diego Rock n Roll half marathon, Desert Boneyard 10k, Everyone Runs, and Everyone Walks Veteran’s Day half marathon.

Now, the title.  My 2016 year of running really began when I joined TRP last May and ended when I completed my first full marathon this January.  There is so much that changed for me regarding my running in 2016, so it is fitting that I am writing my first ever “Running Year in Review”.  First, what’s the same?  I am still so determined to achieve my goals.  I am still, for better or worse, a slave to my training plans.  I still wake up at the crack of dawn to get my runs done before the normal person has even finished dreaming...most days.  I still love running most of the time, but dread running sometimes.  I still feel incomplete when I skip the occasional training run.

So, what’s different?  Just about everything else.  In order to train for the Arizona Rock n Roll half marathon last January, I used the plan from my previous running group session (which was pretty darn similar to the FREE Hal Higdon plan I downloaded to train for my first half marathon), and followed it to a T.  In 14 weeks, I skipped only 1 training run, and it paid off big time!  I PRed that race by almost 13 minutes.  I felt great, and I had my friend Stephanie there with me to celebrate my success.  But, aside from Stephanie, there wasn’t really anyone else there.  Josh had to work so he couldn’t come with me; a couple other people from my running group were there, but that was it.  It was still exciting to PR in such a big way, and Josh had bought a balloon and desserts for me for when I got home…perfect!  The Sabino Canyon Sunset Run was awful, really awful.  I got a calf cramp like I’d never experienced before and had to wait almost 5 minutes before I could get moving again.  I finished, but it was disappointing.  When I finished that race, there was no one there to cheer me up or talk me out of my funk.  And lastly, the Meet Me Downtown 5k: I was there with a group of my running friends, and the race went pretty well; not a PR, but fairly close and a fun time.  Wait, did I say “lastly” regarding the Meet Me Downtown race?  I did.  I said “lastly” because that was my last race before becoming a TRPer.

And that is when my pre-TRP year ended.  For 2 and a half years, I had participated in another group’s half marathon training programs.  I ran with some really great people, and, because of the commitment I made to my running and the friends I made (in particular, Stephanie) during that time, I will be forever grateful that I was part of the group.  However, being part of the group was demoralizing.  A particular leader of the group made me feel like I wasn’t a “real” runner because I don’t have the “runner’s body”, I am slow, and I have some mobility limitations because of an old but severe break and dislocation in my right ankle.  I felt minimalized and unimportant, something I hadn’t felt since I was 18 years old.  The final straw came when I told the group’s leader that I had signed up for my first full marathon.  She responded with, “Do you REALLY think you can complete a full?”.  That was it; I was done with that group, but one of their amazing coaches led me to Geoff Schmidt, who directed me to TRP.

My first run with TRP was a track workout.  Intimidating much?!  I had no clue what was going on, but I quickly found my way into a group with Karen, Dee, Susan, and Randi.  Randi so casually said, “We’re the slow group.  We won’t be running much faster than a 9:00 mile.”  A 9:00 MINUTE MILE?!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t, so I became a TRPer.  I was very new to TRP when I ran the San Diego Rock n Roll 5k and half marathon, but Shokofeh still included me in the “Good luck” and “Congratulations” TRP posts.  That was when I really knew I had found a family in TRP. 

When I told Keith and Shokofeh that I had signed up for my first full marathon, they were both so encouraging and genuinely excited for me, so within a month of joining TRP, I decided that I would begin the coaching program.  We chose a start date of August 15th (my sister’s birthday) to have a full 5 months to train for the marathon.  During that time, I ran two more races.  It was super hot the day of the Desert Boneyard 10k, and a couple thought it was perfectly acceptable to run the 10k with their children screaming, wailing, and hitting each other the entire time.  My time wasn’t a PR, but I had Dee and Denise there with me, so it was still lots of fun.  My last race before my marathon was the Veteran’s Day half marathon.  Initially, Keith told me just to treat it like a training run, so all that would matter would be time on my feet, especially since I was scheduled to run miles the next day, as well.  When I showed up race morning, however, Keith decided, in true Keith fashion, to tell me that he really wanted me to go out and PR the race, preferably reaching my first sub 2:30 half marathon.  I freaked out for a few minutes and then decided that, if Keith thought I could do it, I probably could.  I ended up not getting a PR; the temperature warmed up very quickly, the distance for the race was off, and I had a bit of trouble towards the end of the race…until I saw my TRP family there to run me into the finish.  It started at the corner of Bowles and Snyder; I saw Keith, Erin, Brian, Roi, and Chris.  They started cheering for me and running with me towards the school entrance.  On the track, Chris and Cassie took over, running with me for my last tenth of a mile or so.  I know other people were there, too, but all I really remember is Chris screaming at me, “Come on, Naomi!  Push it!  This is what you do track for every Wednesday!”  My legs started moving faster either because I knew Chris was right, or because I wanted the race to be over so he would stop yelling at me.  Either way, it worked!  I finished strong.  I was so full of gratitude, excitement, and love.  Somehow, I had found my way to this amazing group of people who I truly consider my family.  It was a good day!

Now, fast forward a month and a half to Christmas Day.  I was had my last long training run scheduled.  24 miles.  Alone.  In the cold.  On Christmas Day.  I started at Craycroft and River and ran the path all the way to Thornydale.  I could see the highway from my turn around point.  It was incredible to me that I had run that far on my own 2 legs, on legs that the leader of my previous running group probably didn’t think could take me 14 miles, let alone 24 miles.  I turned around and was doing well until mile 19.  My inner quads cramped.  I had to pause, stretch, and walk.  I tried to run again, but my legs just didn’t want do it.  I decided that 3 weeks before my marathon was not the time to push through pain.  I speed walked the last 5 miles, finished slower than I had hoped, but was still glad I got through it.  That last run made me pretty nervous for my marathon, though.  What if the same thing happened on race day?  I had an A goal of 5:40, a B goal of 6:00, and a C goal of just crossing the finish line, but, really, who wants to just cross the finish line?  Never in my life had I been so excited for taper.  The decreased mileage was incredibly refreshing.  I spent a few days prior to the race in Scottsdale with my husband and parents, who flew in from New York to watch me finish my first full marathon (aren’t they great?!). 

The night before my race, I slept like a baby for a full 8 hours.  Race day morning, I had coffee, a good breakfast, all of my gear…I was set.  I saw Keith before my race, and he sent me off with positive vibes and a hug.  I ran the first 1/3 of the marathon before forcing myself to take a walk break.  I ran another 1/3 of the marathon and took another walk break.  My pace was great; I was on track to beat my B goal!  Shortly thereafter, my inner quads cramped, not quite as bad, but similar to what happened during my 24 miler.  I had a momentary freak out session as I worked out my cramps, and then remembered what Teri said, “Forward is a pace.”  As long as I was still moving forward, it would be fine!

I slowed down a little bit in the last 10k or so, which I know had Keith a little worried.  When Keith came out and met me 1.25 miles from the finish, I knew I could make it!  Keith ran me in for all but the very last little stretch.  I saw my husband, my parents, and my TRP family there cheering me on, and I got a little extra spring in my step.  I finished just under 6:15.  I AM A MARATHONER!!!  I consider that race to have been my B goal, even though I missed the time by just shy of 15 minutes.  Actually, I consider it to be my A goal.  I felt amazing after that race!  I was still walking, I didn’t hurt too badly, and I was surrounded by and engulfed in love.  Never again will I run a race, good, bad or ugly, where I don’t have family there to celebrate with me or cheer me up.  So, in the 6 and a half months I had been in TRP I achieved a lifetime goal in completing my first full marathon, and I had more of a “year” of running than ever before!       

Monday, February 6, 2017

No More PR's

By Guest Blogger Judie Shyman

I have been thinking about this for a while and doing the 10K in Phoenix on Sunday and reading on Facebook about everyone’s running efforts and PRs made me confront my personal demons. I wanted to share my thoughts in the hope that you really appreciate the present moment and your running successes.

I started running at 60 with no other goal than to help my bone density. Little did I know that I had an innate ability for the sport. I worked very hard at training and I became more and more competitive with myself. I really enjoyed the efforts I put into training and competing against my own PRs. For those that know me, this should not come as any surprise since I originally lived in NY with my type A personality.

I read about everyone’s PRs and I know how exciting that is and how much self satisfaction that provides since you work so hard to attain them. For me, reading about them are poignant moments since I now have reached a point in my running where PRs will never happen again. It makes me feel badly because I know I can never be what I was and this is hard to accept. Intellectually, I understand it, but emotionally that is a different story. I know I am very lucky to still be running at my age as I am nearing 75 and I am still doing well for my age, setting Arizona state age records and I appreciate that so much. But that is not competing against one’s self. Running and aging is a difficult combination to deal with. I go back and forth about this so many times.

The bottom line of all this is appreciate all you are and what you can do now. Savor these special moments. Keep the joy in your running and be the best you can be.

The best part of my recent running has been my participation with TRP. In general, runners are great people but TRP runners are the best! I have never met and been involved with such a warm, caring, kind and supportive group. It is a privilege to be part of TRP.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My So Called Marathon

By Guest Blogger Cassie Roberts

My so called Marathon doesn’t have the ending I expected. I mean, it’s pretty evident that you have to run 26.2 miles to run a marathon. My longest run this year was 18 miles, so how does someone like me have the audacity to title her year of running, “My so called Marathon.” Shouldn’t that be reserved for the athletes who accomplished such a feat? marathon was a little different. It didn’t end at a finish line and it certainly didn’t start at a starting line.  It was an accumulation of something that goes beyond that of which any race could provide me. The true marathon for me was something within. Something that doesn’t come with a shinny trophy or cheers at the end. You couldn’t see the progress on a Runkeeper chart or your pace being blared every mile. There was no map to guide me, but similar to a marathon there was a lot of fighting with what my coach calls “the mind monkeys.”

I started running in 2015. My race started the second my feet decided to move and not give up. When I made the choice to become a survivor rather than a victim. That year I was sexually assaulted and abused. The harassment continued well into 2016. The trauma rendered me unable to function. With many survivors you try to piece together what happened to you. For me, my brain choose to shut down. It went into survival mode and never came out of it.

What I was experiencing was PTSD. I know that PTSD can be overcome in some cases. It doesn’t have to rule you and I refused to let it rule me. That’s were the running came in. Every mile I started to process the pain. I started to piece together everything that happened to me. I also reclaimed power over my own body, which was taken from me.

The running helped, but I found myself needing more. That’s when I discovered TRP. I was scared to say the least, to show up to a track not knowing anyone, but that quickly changed with the warmth I felt from others. I wanted to set more goals for myself and I asked Keith and Shokofeh if I could join in their coaching program.

Keith decided to take on my stubbornness and coach me. He talked me into running my first race, Run with the Roosters. I thought he was crazy for asking me to run this race, because I thought I wasn’t a “true” runner. I did what he said and I ended up placing 2nd in my age group.

That wasn’t the best thing that happened that day. What really meant something to me was the people  who cheered for me at the finish (including my coach) and having a friend running in with me to the finish line. I felt like I was worth something and I hadn’t felt that in a long time.

My coach had me run another race. The Catalina State Park Splitz. Again, I freaked out and thought I wasn’t good enough. With friends that helped me train and a schedule from my coach I was able to place 2nd in my age group.

My last race for the year was suppose to be the Tucson Marathon.  It was my goal race, but unfortunately, like life, things don’t go as planed. I ended up getting injured and unable to run. That injury hasn’t stopped me from wanting to run a marathon, just like life’s unfortunate events didn’t stop me from living. In 2017 I hope to run my first marathon, not as a survivor, but as a warrior.

I’m thankful for the friends I have made in TRP, my family, my significant other, my children, and SACASA for helping me see that their is a finish line and life is worth living. This was a different kind of marathon for was my so called marathon.

 “I am not what happened to me. I am what I chose to become” Carl Jung