Monday, November 29, 2010


Well, here I am again, end of November, not running much, trying to get focused and settled on a work/family schedule that enables me to be a competitive athlete. I haven't been able to achieve this in months and months. I need a goal. More importantly, I need a grip.

You see, I became derailed from my training and racing earlier this year. I started a job in March. Yes, that's right, a j.o.b. - "just over broke." I had to - I wanted to. A Running Conversation was just not viable in this economy. Perhaps it could have been if I was a different person, one with a tireless entrepreneurial spirit and laser sharp focus and determination. But I was just me and a very very tired me. I didn't have the energy.

I didn't entirely throw the dream aside. I continued to work with runners to help them accomplish some of their running goals - a 5K, half-marathon, or a marathon. But mostly I had to get to work to make a living. And at this point I'm not sure what will come of ARC, but that's another story.

I want to run. And when I run, I want to run well. This means competitively. I am not ready to say "Oh yea, the 50's. Everything goes to hell after you turn 50. I should just run because I love getting out there and smelling the salt air." I am not willing to go there. I ran a personal best in the marathon this year at 51 and I am not ready to stop competing.

The truth is I had to back off on account of a tugging hamstring and an Achilles tendon inflammation. After the Beach to Beacon 10K in early August, I decided I needed to get serious about my recovery. I had to pull way back and deal with this problem. I've heard horror stories about athletes doing significant damage to tendons and muscles, etc. I wanted to be prudent. And successful.

I did some work with Dr. Jamie Raymond, a chiropractor that is also certified in active release technique, which is a soft tissue treatment. He helped me to get my hips lined up better to minimize the extreme pull that was happening on one side and the Achilles seemed to get better. He suggested I continue to run, but then the inflammation malingered.

Then I raced the Tufts 10K in Boston in October two minutes slower than last year. A serious ouchy.

Late last month, I went to see Deb Merrill, a massage therapist in Brunswick, Maine. Deb is a genius. I have known her for nearly 20 years and have always thought this about her and her work. Deb is a scientist in an artist's body. (She helped me design the logo for A Running Conversation.) As a scientist, she prefers to tell you the problem(s), issue the solution(s) and send you home with homework not to be seen or heard from again. She's that spot on and confident.

Deb is also very practical. Her treatment of choice for my Achilles tendon was an eraser, you know, the soft, flesh colored rectangular kind that you used in grade school. The goal is to soften the lumpiness on the tendon, to break down the scar tissue, to massage it out using cross-fiber, eraser driven massage. The trick is to hold the tendon steady with one hand and with the other, rub the lumpiness up and out! Scrape it out using the eraser.

It can be painful and it's a bit awkward to do on oneself, but this treatment, combined with ice after swelling, and some eccentric stretches she showed me, have me back running! Not much but some. I'm officially on the mend.

This evening I registered for the Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler in February.

There's nothing like having a goal.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I'm intrigued with the notion, more aptly, the practice of "vacation as a state of mind."

I live in Maine and its moniker is "Vacationland." If you've ever been to Maine, or live here, you know why this is true. The Atlantic ocean, beaches, rocky coast, islands, lighthouses, mountains, lakes, art, restaurants, skiing, boating, biking, blueberries, lobsters - I could go on forever about all things pleasurable, delicious, fun, relaxing, and extracurricular!

Maine also features a tough economy and a challenging place to do business. I'm not sure where we land on the poverty index or unemployment stats, and we certainly are not all Rockefellers, Stewarts, Beans or Kings; it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to make a gainful and comfortable living here. But that's true of a lot of things.

Fill in the blank, "_______ takes a lot of hard work and commitment." It's that value that garners excellence and a sense of accomplishment, healthy self-esteem. The blank could be - Training, Competing, Partnering, Mothering, Homemaking, Landscaping, Being a good friend, Creating - whatever it is that is meaningful. And this practice and mindset of hard work and commitment is great, but it can certainly become exhausting. What about leisure, relaxation, harmony, and vacation?!

I realize it is just a thought away.

Living in Maine, particularly this summer, specifically this month of July 2010, has been like living in Vacationland at its finest. And I've been working full-time! But that doesn't mean I've been missing the greatness of a classic Maine summer. There is always a chance to pause, look where I am in any moment, breathe in 'that feeling' of vacation, and simply 'make pretend' I am living it. I am on vacation. Just think vacation.

It completely works for me. I get to thoroughly enjoy the farmers' markets, to shuck fresh corn on the patio, fish in Saco Bay on the weekend, slide in waterfalls over granite rocks in western Maine, and smell the sea when the air is warm and wet. I love this summer in Maine, and maybe someday I'll be a woman of leisure, and enjoy it all for an entire "vacation."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Catching Up on the Conversation

There has been an inordinate amount of time lapsed since my last post, and I am not quite sure where to begin. I could always fill in the blanks since my last post about the Boston Marathon, which I ran seven weeks ago.

Wait, really? It's been only seven weeks?! Oh, okay, this sheds some light on the current situation.

The most current situation is that I am recommitted to my family relationships, my need for rest, and my desire to live in a neatly kept home. I want to do good work in my day job, be available and resourceful to all the runners I work with, and feel good about the part-time waitressing job I took to earn extra cash.

This renewed sense of commitment has not been evident until very, very recently. I guess one could say it takes a bottoming-out, of sorts, to heed the wake-up call.

My bottom has been mainly emotional/psychological, save the unkempt house, the poor race results, the dissatisfied family, the missed appointment, and the wretched lines on my face. These are tangible evidence of my being overdrawn, unavailable and lacking in grip.

The emotional proof is the over-riding feeling of being a little bit out of control, as if things are moving just a bit too quickly, and I don't feel rested or replenished. Sometimes I long to be different. This is never a good thing.

I fully understand the cause: Over the course of the past few months, I have started a new job, finished with one training group and have started another, and began a part-time job one night a week. My hard-drive crashed destroying three years of data. I've continued to run and have tried to remain competitive in races: the Sugarloaf 15K, Cabot Trail Relay and today's half-marathon. I have a nine-year old daughter and a devoted husband and have been on the receiving end of the "loveness" in our home. I want to do it all well.

Today, my husband and I ran the Covered Bridges Half-Marathon in Vermont, and are presently sitting back, reading and writing, and finally taking some time out. This is a turning point. I do not want to be a complete maniac simply because I over-do it. I want to know a better sense of balance. My sun sign is Libra; I'm supposedly all about balance. When I get over committed and things move too quickly, I become ineffectual, and this, definitely goes against my grain.

I won't promise to write more frequently. But I can say I'd like to write more frequently. I'd especially like to hear from you - thoughts, feedback, interests, questions. I'm back, and love the running conversation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Did It

It's been nine days since the Boston Marathon and I am just getting to my race report! Actually, I made an entry on the Forum and in one felt swoop, made it disappear without a trace. I was too tired to try again.

The 114th running of the marathon was last Monday the 19th of April, Patriots Day in Maine and Massachusetts. The weather was terrific. We could have used a cloud cover but 'cool and clear' was fine with me. It rained for a couple days leading up to it so I think we were all relieved that it stopped.

All 25,ooo of us.

But the enormity of this race goes beyond its number of runners. There are many races that have more participants. There is something else about Boston that has given it its Grand-daddy status, something separate from the crowd swell lacing its way from west to east through the suburbs of Boston which makes it legendary.

It might be that the course is narrow and downhill at the beginning; that the half-way point is renowned for an introduction made by screaming Wellesley College students lining the street; that there is a nice undulating calm before the right hand turn onto Commonwealth Avenue that marks the beginning of a series of hills, culminating in the infamous Heartbreak Hill; that the Red Sox traditionally play an early game the ends while the race is still in progress and fans spill out to the sidewalks along the course; or that the course seems to narrow again in the last couple miles until opening up on Hereford and Boylston Streets to the finish line. I think it's all of this, and more, that make it difficult to say 'no' to being a part of it.

But I don't get overly sentimental about it. I didn't buy any schwag at the expo - I really didn't enjoy the expo as it was overcrowded and uncomfortable. On race day, I rode the subway to Park Street where I caught a bus to the start. I met up with teammates Alan and Randy for the trip, and when we arrived at the athletes village, we hung out for a little while before the first wave set off. There was a good stiff wind and soggy ground so it wasn't like we were hanging out at a summer concert. In fact, we sat on the pavement, killing time and lacing 'em up.

I have to admit something: When I was waiting for the gun to go off, I was wishing it could be over. Let that be an indication of the kind of time I had for the next few hours...

The first several miles were straightforward, actually quicker than I expected, but on pace so I was okay with that. But between miles 10 and 11 I started to feel tight! I was unhappy about how my quads and calves felt and I knew I was going to have to bear down. Then of course my mind went south and I got cranky. I had to work and wished it was more fun. At one point I thought about my husband meeting me at mile 20, and fantasized that somehow he would make it all okay and magically get me to the finish line. Talk about a Cinderella complex! But that kind of fantasy-world was an excellent distraction for a couple miles!

Another time I forgot abut my discomfort was going by Wellesley College. The young women waved all sorts of signs and screamed as loudly as they could. One sign said, "Kiss me. I'm graduating!" And I laughed. I proceeded to come up with a litany of reasons why someone should kiss me in that moment!

Anyway, the hills were my friends. I actually enjoyed them. My quads needed a break and they are not bad hills compared with what we're used to training on around here. And then I saw Paul. He was happy to see me and seemed chipper, and I was not very friendly. I immediately gave him to carry the two Gu packs I had stuffed in my running shorts pocket, since they had chafed my poor hip bone to tears. And I didn't want to talk much. I didn't particularly care that our kids and friends were at mile 23, but when we went by it was nice to wave and say hi.

And then it happened. At mile 24, I looked at my watch, and saw 2:58. I knew I could make my goal of 3:15 if I really wanted to.

And I did. Official time 3:15:54.

Just don't ask me about next year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trust the Training

Well alright, one week until the Boston Marathon. I feel ready.

Yesterday, and for days before then, I did not feel ready. In fact, I thought I must be crazy to undertake a marathon with a time goal of three hours and fifteen minutes. I might be able to run a 5k or 10K at that pace, or maybe even a half-marathon. But a full marathon? It's nutty.

I followed Hal Higdon's four-month Intermediate I program. I completed two 20-milers successfully, and didn't miss too many of my scheduled runs. I worked the plan and I stayed healthy. I did yoga and fitness classes for many weeks during the four-month period. I ate well and didn't lose or gain weight. So I sould feel ready, right?

The difficult part of my training plan was nailing the pace runs. I did not manage to run good even paces for those runs, which were scheduled on the days before my long slow runs. Either, I went too fast and felt panicked the whole time, or, I went too fast and didn't complete the entire run. That ongoing issue left me with doubt about whether or not I could even things out for the big day and sustain a 'good enough' pace for my time. In addition, I was not sleeping well and generally felt tired all the time. The doubt, aka 'stinkin' thinkin' set in pretty well. Until today.

Today was my last long run and it was a mere eight-miler. I met up with a group I am training for a 5K race next month. They are new or returning runners, with little race experience. Two of my teammates who are also running in Boston joined the group today, as they have one other time and we all had a nice easy run. What brought me to this more self-assured attitude is hearing my friend Alan talk about his taper.

"This taper phase can really mess with your mind," he said. "I feel tired all the time and like crap when I go out for these short runs. I don't know how I'm going to run a marathon."

Phew, I felt such relief to hear this! I am not alone, and, it's only negative thinking: There's no real reason I should not have a fine marathon. Alan, too! I have total confidence in his abilities to run a PR.

The easy run this morning with its inherent camaraderie, followed by good food, a nap, and general laziness all day today leave me feeling rested and hopeful. I just need to remember what I have done over the past eighteen weeks. It's been 'good enough' and it's in the bank.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Numbers, Such as Wave One

Hey, still no ice bath but consistent training and running without injury.

I realize that by not blogging I potentially lose any readers I might have thus far! I'm sorry for that, but communicating coherently through writing takes me time, and lately I find myself in an adjustment phase with a new job and ongoing rigorous training, and not much good 'thinking' time....

Today I logged on to the Boston Athletic Association's web site and retrieved my bib number for the big day - number 10,687. I like it. I like that I'm in Wave One, but I also really like the 687 aspect. My husband has a thing about numbers and it has rubbed off on me a bit. For example, at the gas pump, he'll wait until there is an odd or interesting numerical sequence before turning off the pump. Or at road races, he's the guy who insists on getting the perfect bib number. He's quirky that way - and, apparently, it's a bit catching. I notice numbers like 687.

Wave One. I guess this means the gun goes off at 10:00. Me and the elite men. Me and the elite men and 10,650 other runners. And the bummer is I'll never catch the elite women, as they head out at 9:32. Maybe Joanie will wait for me.

Sheri Piers, one of my favorite local runners, has number F26. Isn't that awesome? (I didn't find Joan Samuelson's name so I'm not sure if she is running it or not. Around Thanksgiving time last year she said she might...stealth runner that she is.)

This month I started working with a group of runners and walkers who plan to compete in the Portland Sea Dogs Mother's Day 5K on May 9th. What a great group of people. Most of them are raising funds for the Center for Grieving Children, an incredible organization, and many are beginners in the sport. I love their enthusiasm and willingness to try something new. Last week they experienced many 'firsts': first time running around the Back Cove of Portland, first time running consistently for so long, etc. It's great fun.

It's spring in New England, a.k.a. mud season. Enjoy the onset of warmer days and the promise of a budding landscape.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marathon Training and Maintenance

The headwind came down from the north as we started out on Route 88. After the turn-around and running back to the south, there was a headwind. We turned right, heading west for a couple miles and up a "Heartbreak Hill'-type of hill, head-on into the wind. Later, moving northwesterly and up a significant hilly stretch, we again felt a bit beaten up by this unpredictable February wind.

This was the nature of my 17 mile run today.

But how does it happen that the whole darn run is into the wind? The wind insisted on staying in front of us and coming back at us, seemingly to flick our noses. There were points in this long run where this was not appreciated. In fact, I think (I know) I used some colorful language. Errr, character-building runs - I appreciate them only after the fact.

This run today represented my second longest run since my Boston-qualifying Mount Desert Island Marathon in October 2008. I ran the Martha's Vineyard 20-Miler in February 2009, and other than that, I have not gone over 14. To marathoners, I'm sure it sounds like ridiculously low mileage, my 20-30 mile weeks. But to this fifty-something runner, it seems to work out okay.

This Boston training, however, is beginning to pull me out of my comfort zone, as a marathon will, I suppose. This week was 41 miles and I am doing race pace runs on the day before my long run. The runs actually go pretty well; it's the morning stiffness and the aching hip that are bothersome. It takes what I call "body maintenance" to keep things moving fluid and strong, and to get back to a pain-free zone. Gladly, I have not been using any anti-inflammatory medications.

A few interventions I use are:
  1. The Foam Roller. This self-massage tool is very effective at loosening knots and moving things back to where they belong. It can usually be found right in my living room where there is enough floor space to roll around. It truly is a full-body massage tool.
  2. A Yoga Class. Years ago, I was a much more frequent yoga student than I am presently. I even have my favorite teacher Rebecca Stephans on tape and could do a class any time. But you know how that goes. For Christmas this year, and in the spirit of my marathon training, my husband gave me a class session. I go every Monday morning on my day off from running, and the day after my long run. What a difference I feel when I'm done.
  3. A Movement/Strength Training Class. This same husband also gave me a session in the community services program aptly titled "No Glitz, Just Sweat." I warily went to the first class, completely ready to NOT do it on account of any risky lateral movements (aerobic dance type moves,) and experienced such a fun factor that I decided to continue. The class takes place in an elementary school gym and approximately 30 people show up on any given night. The age range is mid-twenties to mid-seventies, and the fitness levels are equally disparate. The instructor has a microphone attached to her head like you see in many aerobics and spinning classes, and plays funky eighties and nineties music. She leads the group through a warm-up, aerobic portion, then strength training with weight bands or weights, and core exercises on the floor. It lasts exactly one hour - no more, no less. I go twice a week and find it is worth my time, and, injury prevention.
  4. Ice. It's a runner's friend. Running inflames everything (this is my unscientific opinion) and cold settles everything back down. If I ever have something that is nagging me more than once, I'll ice it. For lower legs and feet, I'll run them under icy cold water at the end of my shower. I am trying to warm-up to the idea of an ice bath, but I am just not there yet. Last year after the Beach to Beacon 10K, I did get into the ocean, which was pure heaven.
  5. Body Work. I have used massage, chiropractic, and Rolfing. All are good. All are necessary in my book. If you're looking for a referral, let me know.
Eight more weeks and counting. I'll run an 18-miler next Sunday and a couple 20's in March.

And maybe I will get in an ice bath before it's all said and done.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sky Art

Have you looked up lately?

The sky in southern Maine has been nothing less than beautiful art, perfection. It's been most noticeable to me while I'm driving, anywhere, but specifically along the Scarborough Marsh, or while I'm out running somewhere that is fairly open and not covered over by trees.

The weather has been clear for the past several days with intermittent clouds moving through. A couple days ago, I was driving home and out over the marsh the clouds were layered and light, and contrasted against the vivid blue sky in shades of white, gray and blue. It was a quieting, incredibly beautiful masterpiece.

Driving with my daughter yesterday at sunset we witnessed purples, blues, pinks and reds. It made me want to stop everything and just absorb the scene. Of course I should have as we have a mutual appreciation for sunsets, often calling out to each other in the house, "Come here and look at this!"

A clear blue winter sky can command my attention no matter what I am doing or where I am going. It compels me to breathe deeply and feel grateful. I think it serves to remind me that I am alive and vital; perhaps it's simply one of my connections to nature. (The ocean is right up there, too.) When the sky is clear like this, it enables me to see things that I saw today while running: the waning half moon, the red tail hawk, the small personal plane just overhead, and Mount Washington in the west.

What did you notice when you looked up?

Monday, February 8, 2010


Just about anything can serve to inspire - to unleash that upswell of creativity or performance, or establish a sense of connection to a higher source. What makes something inspirational then, is simply how one assigns meaning to that thing or experience, and how one then responds to it.

Running, like any other human act, is a vehicle to express inspiration, though it may not even be conscious. Conversely, running might occur without a drop of inspiration. It all goes back to how we think about it; how we feel it in our body or soul.

There is a lone runner I see from time to time, running the streets of Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, Maine, near the coast where the Spurwink River comes in after it passes along a part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It is a beautiful part of the world, in spite of its finite area.

There are a few things that stand out for me about this particular runner, such that I consider him an inspiration: The first is, he appears to have some sort of physical challenges. I've never met him personally or seen him not running, so this is just my impression, not a fact. It's the way he holds his head off to the side, and how his arms and legs move in a contrary way, not linearly or fluidly in the usual 'forward and back' running form.

The second is his perseverance and consistency. I've been seeing him for twenty years and the scene is always the same: He runs alone, in all seasons, in the same area. I appreciate that predictability and steadfastness. It gives me a sense of security.

And the third reason I am intrigued, is that he wears a satisfied expression regardless of the conditions. I've seen him in snowstorms, oppressive heat, and rain. He seems to look ahead at the road before him, not bothered by my curiosity about him. It's as if he is content and comfortable doing this physical thing, that looks difficult.

I expect he doesn't realize he's an inspiration, though maybe he does by the mere act of being a long distance runner.

Here's the funny thing about inspiration: None of what I think about this man might be true. But it's what I've made up, and how I've defined it. It then, works for me.

Yesterday, I joined over 800 runners to complete the Mid-Winter Classic 10-Mile road race in Cape Elizabeth (the part of the world I just described above.) The five-mile mark is at the top of a small hill before the road goes down and through the marsh, and up again to Route 77. I was running along the flat part through the Rachel Carson preserve, when my friend Tom came up alongside of me. We checked in with each other and I told him I was okay but needed to screw my head on a bit to stay tough through the second half of the race.

It was just then that the lone runner came toward us on the other side of the street. I pointed him out to Tom saying that there was my inspiration. Tom said he could use some of that just about then, but I'm sure it didn't work for him as it did for me. It's how we look at it, understand it, and allow it to move us.

What inspires you?

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Have you ever thought of your running as "slogging," such as, "I just slogged out 13 miles and it was hell."? Well, I've decided that this blog is rather like a slog. A Running Conversation at It's my slogspot.

Recently, I read something about the importance of blogs being posted daily, and for the life of me, I can't make that happen here. And I'm not exactly sure why since god knows I'm constantly in my head, hashing things out ad nauseum. But is that really noteworthy? I suppose I risk losing readership with such infrequency but I'm just not really that extroverted.

Speaking of my busy mind, my husband is a bit concerned about my 'thinking' during some of my recent marathon training runs. The thoughts I've shared with him go something like this: "My finishing time in Boston really doesn't matter. I mean it, really. What is important, is that I enjoy the ride and have fun. It's Boston after all."

Isn't it classic runner's self-talk? And just as classic is the futility of trying to debate the issue with me. I have every counter-argument there is in defense of my "stinking thinking:"
  1. It's the Boston Marathon for crying out loud. It's more like a party than a race, anyway.
  2. I'm in the second half of life, meaning, I'm old.
  3. I'll do fine no matter what the clock says.
  4. I just want to enjoy myself and not get hurt.
  5. I have nothing to prove to anybody.
  6. I don't HAVE TO do anything. I do it because I want to.
  7. I want to take in the crowds and the fanfare.
  8. I race 5Ks; marathons are for slogging.
  9. blah, blah, blah
The truth is, I am training with a time goal in mind. Surprised, right?

What happens during these training runs is realizing the simple hard work of it, and, my own incomprehension and inexperience of running 26.2 miles at a seven minute pace. I actually have some latitude with that time, I could PR in a 7:30 pace; I'm just capitalizing on my current fitness level to project sevens. Make sense?

Ten weeks to go and the mileage is ramping up. The key for me is to think of the pace runs as a piece of cake, especially since the longest one is 10 miles, and to enjoy the longer runs as one hell of a slogfest. Then of course, trust the training on the big day.

It's all good.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Industrial Park Plan

Friday is a rest day for me in my current Boston Marathon training plan, so while my car was being inspected at the Black Point Auto body shop on this past Friday, I took a slow walk around the Scarborough Industrial Park.

It was a brilliantly sunny and very cold January morning, and there was just a slight wind out of the north. This industrial park borders the Scarborough Marsh so there were very nice views of snowy fields, marsh, and ice-covered trees.

It occurred to me as I strolled around the loop past one and two-story warehouse-type buildings, that this area must be quite quiet and non-trafficked on weekends, as most of these businesses are closed. I was also impressed with how wide and clear the road was and determined that since the Scarborough Public Works operations is based in this park, the road probably is plowed well and often during winter storms. It's also FLAT.

My car cleared inspection and as I drove out, I decided to measure the loop. Just over a mile, about 1.3 miles. Perfect.

On Saturdays, my schedule calls for a race pace (about seven minutes per mile) run about half the distance of my long run the following day (Sunday). I've done a few of these now both on the road and on an indoor, 200 meter track. I've had mixed results.

The first time I set out to do a five mile pace run from my house, I basically ran like I was in a race and did not know my exact mile splits. I came in on average pretty well under pace so that was okay. The next time I was on the track and after a warm-up it meant 40 more laps at pace! Gawd, can I even count that high? Thankfully, I had one of Maine's best female runners there willing to do it with me. Kristin had raced and won a 10K the day before in 34:42, but still wanted to run with me. I was humbled. We did it, again under pace.

The next time I went to the track I was alone, and had to do a six-mile run. Yup, 48 laps. The men's track team showed up at the same time for a practice, though they told me it was fine to do my thing, as their practice was going to be pretty informal. But then, a couple Army National Guard troops showed up to do fitness training, and even though I was still fine to do my thing, it started getting crowded and I was having a hard time getting on pace. I ended up doing only three of the six miles, way faster than I should have, so that didn't work out.

Here's the plan: On Saturdays, go to the Industrial Park and after a short warm-up, do pace laps there. Running (I should say counting) four or five laps is so much more feasible for me than 48 or 56!! Also, I'm road running versus on the track, and it's quiet.

Yesterday I tried out the plan with very good success. (Well, actually, I muffed up on my math and thought I needed to do only four laps when it was five.) But with my warm-up and run back to the car, I got in my six miles, just under pace. Sweet.

Let me know if you ever want to join me for an industrial park jaunt. The only drawback was it was a little lonely going around in circles by myself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Already Perfect Invention

This post is an opportunity to purge a running conversation I've been having with myself recently. The discourse is fairly pervasive though I find it most enlightening when I have it over the course of a run. As you might know, I am training for the Boston Marathon, and since I am following a schedule, I don't think much about what I have to do or why I am running a certain distance, I just do it with a clear mind. Potentially dangerous, I suppose, but refreshing as well. I'm also using my free time to read more, which always stimulates my thinking.

Gregg Levoy's book titled Callings - Finding and Following an Authentic Life, suggests that our true calling, that which we are meant to manifest in our lives, is already and always has been present in our being. Sadly, and one hopes mistakenly, parental oversight, education, and socialization can discourage or somehow seal-over our passion and our purpose, and we simply proceed in 'the right direction.' It's sad when you think about it, but I think it happens more than we know. Levoy's premise provides much needed hope that everything we need to thrive is indeed intact.

Ani DiFranco is coming to Maine to perform her music and was featured in today's Portland Press Herald "Go Magazine." The article discusses a lot of things but the one piece that struck a chord and relates to my running conversation centers around parenting her daughter. DiFranco is a feminist and of course uses her music to communicate the struggles she experiences dealing with the awesome responsibility of parenting a girl child given her own awareness. The article reports, "Seeing her daughter in such a raw state forced DiFranco to examine her own personal demons surrounding the pressure to conform to the supermodel ideal." DiFranco says, "I needed to address my own self-loathing so she knows she perfect." Aren't we all so perfect when we are fresh on the planet? And isn't it great to hear a parent committed to nurturing that in her daughter?

I'm reminded of the delightful movie WALL-E with its promotional tag-line, "After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he'll discover what he was meant for..." Once this small trash-mashing robot in pursuit of his love interest, EVE, boards the floating Axiom, he sees that the humans who evacuated Earth for the promise of the good life, one of automated pampering, have lost so much bone mass they can no longer walk. They go about on conveyor belts or in mobilized lazy-boys. It's pretty pathetic and an extreme example of unfulfilled beings. Though that's a judgment, isn't it? Perhaps they are living their authentic lives. I just kind of doubt it.

So do you see where I'm going with this? Once we head, or are steered down a certain path (or several paths as the case may be,) without really knowing that it is indeed our destiny, I believe our submerged longings continue to rumble and gasp for breath. They don't just go away. I also think that as one tries to analyze it or understand it, it just gets more complicated and convoluted.

Today, "More" magazine arrived in my mailbox with a call on its cover to "Reinvent Yourself! 74 Smart Ideas." It seems to be a popular trend, this self-reinvention, but I'm not sure I want to buy it. Or maybe it's semantics and I just disagree. Aren't we already perfectly fine? What about touting "Recognize Yourself!" or "Be Who You Really Are, Love What You Really Love, Do What You're Really Meant For" like WALL-E?

Running the other day, pondering things and coming up with all the answers to my life's problems through my personal running conversation, I realized, "I don't want to reinvent anything. I am invented and I simply want to remember myself."

I suppose I could come up with 74 smart ideas about how to do that but I think that's a bit contradictory. I plan to quiet down in order to hear myself, and listen closely to realize just what it is that has been invented as me. And then, own it already. Own it for real.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Value of Recognition

There are plenty of management consultants who advise that recognition is one of the most, if not the most, important criterion to motivate and retain employees. Some believe that it is more effective than giving the employee more money. (That has never been true for me personally, but I get the gist of what they're trying to say. It's important to notice good work and give that someone a positive, perhaps unsolicited appraisal.)

Running and racing have been at the core of my work for the past couple of years. I have been extremely fortunate to have been immersed in the world of running and to have been compensated for providing coaching, program development, event management, marketing communication, and some retail sales. On the other side of the running coin, I've trained and raced and remained competitive. It's been a rewarding few years since starting A Running Conversation, and of course, I was running and racing long before then.

The Maine Track Club hosted its annual awards banquet on Saturday evening to recognize age division standouts, exemplary club members, first-time marathoners, volunteers and race directors, as well as to enjoy a social evening with friends and food. Last minute obstacles prevented me from attending the event, though I am proud to say that I was voted the 2009 Female Runner of the Year.

I am very pleased with this award, as it lends credibility to how I've been "working" over the last year. It also really does motivate me to stay at the top of my game and to remember this is what I can do! It is a real honor, too, given the terrific female runners in the Club, and the community as a whole.

In the January/February 2010 edition of New England Runner Magazine, one can find a list of the 2009 Top Runners by state and age division. NER lauded my performances for the year and gave me the nod as the top female Mainer in my age division. I also received the award for Athlete of the Month, something they feature in every issue. I was completely surprised and very excited to receive these honors, as the net is flung wider than my local club.

So why aren't I brimming with self-satisfaction and fulfillment? The truth is, I'm feeling rather blue. I've been grappling with this mood for a couple weeks (notice my last blog post was December 28, exactly three weeks ago) as it doesn't make sense to me. I am pleased. I am proud. But I'm in a funk.

I think it harkens back to what I said in the first paragraph about money and how it translates into value for me. I don't have an income right now, well for the past three months, and it's wearing on me. It's not for lack of trying: I have been looking, networking, applying, wracking my brain! And coaching is something I can and will do part-time. I'm looking for other work - doing the same things just not revolved around running. I think it's exhausting me even more than training for the Boston Marathon. I also think the emotional drain is insidious.

The mind is a powerful thing. I know what I need to do. I know I need to turn things around upstairs, in my head. And I will. After all, this is who I am and this is what I can do. I'm a runner.