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Posts Tagged ‘running’

Day 41 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

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Another of my favorite running routes takes me through River’s Edge Natural Area. In this photo the water isn’t showing, but there are several large ponds ringed by gravel trails through prairie grasses, and I suppose part of why I love coming here is because it reminds me of Minnesota. Except with mountains as a backdrop.

I took the above photo this morning when my dog stopped to sniff/pee on some grass and I noticed the blue flowers in the foreground.

Here are some photos I took when I ran through here in February:

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Day 22 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

Today Silas and I ran the Loveland Classic. We meant to do this other years, just never made it happen, so this year we had to do it since it’s our last chance. It’s a benefit race for early childhood education here in our Thompson School District, and it’s been going for 41 years!

Silas finished sixth in his division (males age 14 and under) and 28th place overall. His time was 25:14. I finished fourth in my division (females ages 40-49) and 53rd overall. My time was 28:07. (Silas asked me to include all of this, so my readers could be sure and understand that he crossed the finish line nearly THREE MINUTES before his mother did! That’s the first time we’ve run a race and I haven’t kept up with him. It’s only going to widen from here, I’m thinking!)

I have enjoyed running – and improving my running – here in Colorado. The altitude took some acclimating at first, but I’ve improved my pace and hope to bring all that momentum back to Minnesota with me! And it’s been fun running with my boy!

On a side note, next time I’ll be sure to bring my ID with me. I was denied my two free beer tickets because I didn’t have it. 😦  But then the sun came out this afternoon and our friend Braden came over and brought us a growler of “Widow Maker” Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout from Berthoud’s City Star Brewing, so all is well . . .

Special thanks to Nathan and Luthien for being our support team, holding our jackets, taking pictures, cheering us on!

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Lots of things can inspire people to push to a new level.

You can see someone else do something amazing, and start to wonder what you may be capable of. For example, watching the Olympics. Or this guy. Or the last moments of last night’s Super Bowl!

You might have a drill sergeant or a coach or teacher or boss who yells and punishes and demeans you to draw those hidden reserves of strength from you. It works for some people, some of the time.

Or, as I poignantly discovered yesterday, love might do it. Love and joy and a bit of parental pride too.

silasrunThis kid, if he were your kid, might inspire you to do something you didn’t think you could. Maybe you have one like him. Or maybe you love someone else as fiercely as I love this kid, and then you might also know what I’m talking about.

In this photo, my son is a few years younger, but he’s doing the same thing he’s been doing every day, almost since he first balanced on those two legs. He’s running. Back and forth, lap after lap after lap. Muttering and shouting to himself, jumping, waving arms now and then, the star of the story in his head, pounding out the joyful rhythm of life coursing through his veins.

On Saturday, Silas toured the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and the athletes and stories he encountered inspired him to start his own training. On Sunday, he announced that he would run around the block 20 times. Nathan went with him, and used his phone’s Strava app to track it.

Ten laps around the block, and Nathan was done. They had gone 2.5 miles at an average pace of 9:38 per mile. But Silas wanted more! He had said 20 and he meant to do it. So I said I’d go.

Six and a half years ago, I decided it was time to get back in shape, and so I started running. My first accomplishment was running one mile without stopping. Over the years, I pushed until I was regularly going on ten-mile runs, and my average pace peaked at (or dove to?) around 9:30 per mile (which is nothing special, but for recreational running, respectable enough).

Then we moved to Colorado, where the air is thinner, which makes running harder – and since we’ve moved here, I’ve never run further than six miles at a time, or at a pace much less than 10 minutes per mile. Lately, I’ve been averaging closer to 11-minute miles, and hardly running more than two miles at a time.

Which, of course, is fine. Even great, relatively speaking. And I’ve been content with that.

But then, yesterday, Silas wanted someone to run ten more laps around the block with him, and as he had already worn out his dad (who, to be clear, is in great shape but just not much of a runner), it appeared to be my turn.

Knowing that just two days before I had eked out two 11-minute miles, and that Silas had just rocked two-plus miles at a pace of more than a minute per mile less than that, I wondered how this might go. But, he had just run two miles, and I was coming in fresh, so maybe these next ten laps would go a bit slower.

I brought my phone so we could track our pace on my Strava app. Since Silas didn’t have a good way to carry it securely while he ran, he emphasized that I needed to keep up with him so he could get an accurate reading of his pace.

I said I would.

And we were off.

The kid showed no signs of slowing down.

“Pace yourself, now, Silas! Remember you’ve got to keep running for ten laps! And you’ve already done ten so you may be tired.”

“I know, Mom. I’m fine!”

“Great!” But I wasn’t so sure about myself. Legs felt fine. It was the lungs that protested. I concentrated on breathing, and keeping up with Silas.

We counted the laps as we passed our house. “One!” I panted.

“Nine more to go!” Silas joyfully shouted.

Help! my mind screamed.

We made it to four.

“Only six more now!” piped the happy little athlete.

Six more! But we hadn’t even run six yet. We had run four, and we were going fast, and I was breathing hard. When we had actually gotten to six, we would still have four more – as much as we had just run – still to run! How was I going to manage?

“Are you getting tired, Mom?” Silas asked as we turned a corner and I began to breathe especially hard.

“Not really, just having a little trouble breathing! How are you doing?”

“Great!” chirruped the cherub.

“Awesome!” cheered the panting mother.

We ran, and counted, and ran, and talked a bit.

And then, somehow, we were at nine. One left! I could do anything now!

And we did. We sprinted for the finish, and I stopped the app and insisted we walk just a bit to cool down, and when those ten laps were complete, my phone told me we had just run 2.5 miles at an average pace of 8:54 per minute.

Even in the flatlands, even on short runs, I rarely saw the number 8 for a minute-marker in my average pace.

My boy had just run five miles in a little over 45 minutes, on a whim, in the mile-high Colorado atmosphere.

And, probably more remarkably, he pushed his mother to shave two minutes off her average pace – not with inspiring platitudes, not with barks or insults – but with something much more powerful.

He did it by tapping into the love I have for him, and sharing his absolute joy of running with me.

This morning, still basking in the glow of yesterday’s achievement, I went out on my own and ran an 8-minute mile, and another 10-minute one to finish out a daily run.

I didn’t know I could do that, not before yesterday, not before I ran with Silas.

Who knows how serious Silas will be about continuing his “training”? I hope we can keep it up together for a while at least.

But whatever the case, and far beyond the realm of running, I learned something deeply important yesterday – that if you want to break through to a new level in anything, or help someone else do so, love and joy might just be the ultimate motivators.

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There will come a day

When you view the grocery store circular with anticipation

Its expected suspenseful arrival each week

What will the free item be?

How much will avocados cost?

And isn’t there something you’ve been needing but couldn’t quite name

Imploring your attention from these glossy pages?

In those days

You will find yourself

Sitting across the table from your lover of accumulated years

In the Chinese buffet or the Mexican restaurant

With little to say

That you haven’t said already

In one way or another

And, past the days of longing glances,

You will choose handheld devices

And plans for the next week

To fill the mundane gap between you.

 

When that day comes

Take up running.

You will surprise yourself

With the power and endurance

You’ve already built up.

You’ll go to bed eager for the morning

You’ll wake

Bound out into the dawn

Pound the pavement

Breathe and sweat and move

Everything.

Don’t ask yourself

Whether you are running away

Or running to catch up

Or running towards some forgotten hope.

Just run.

Trust me on this.

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This morning I crawled out from under my rock and learned about thinspo. Sometimes there is absolutely no fun involved in a loss of innocence. This was one of those times.

I first heard the term “thinspo” last week on a podcast. Yes, really. Just last week. I googled the term today and glimpsed an Internet subculture that shocked and saddened me. There really are women who publicly, matter-of-factly, and completely reject their fully-functional, highly complex human bodies, because they are “fat.” There appears to be no self-pity in this, no seeking of a “there-there, I love you just the way you are” virtual hug from anyone.

The images and pep-phrases of thinspo (“thinspiration” – think “successories” for weight-loss fanatics) strike me as stoic rally cries for soldiers going to battle. The war is for acceptance in a cruel world that has no place for cellulite. These soldiers seem to be past making value judgments, as any effective soldiers are. They purse their lips and accept hard reality, willing to fight to the death for a place in this wretched culture rather than live oppressed and kicked around any longer.

Just over a year ago, I stepped on a scale and faced a new tens digit – one I had only seen between my feet before when I was pregnant. I looked up my height, weight and frame size on a BMI chart and discovered I was overweight. So I decided to change direction. Over the last year I lost twenty pounds and gained new strength as I began running regularly and started eating mostly whole, plant-based foods.

Blah-blah-blah. If keeping my mouth shut about my success would in any way encourage a thinspo soldier to open hers and eat something substantial, I’d do it.

But maybe the best thing is to talk honestly about it. Yes, I moved the needle on the scale. Yes, I dropped a couple jeans sizes. Heck, I even have some defined abs to show for my regular core-muscle workouts.

But the only way an image of my body would make it into thinspo would be as reverse-thinspo, images of not-thin-enough bodies to inspire the thinspo soldier to keep that mouth firmly clamped except for the occasional diet soda and iceberg lettuce.

The thinspo ideal is not the human body at its best. It is a matter-denouncing self-loathing shroud.

I met my weight-loss goal, and I did it because I wanted to, when and how – and if – I wanted to. Now I run and eat well because it’s my habit, my lifestyle, and one of my life’s pure joys. Not my means to salvation from a hateful body-self.

A thinspo soldier doesn’t know or care what she wants. She can’t do her soul-crushing job with any effectiveness unless she shuts her mouth – not only to food but also to her own voice.

My body is amazing, and so is yours. I’ve routinely listened to negative self-talk that tells me otherwise – in my case, that my breasts are too small and my thighs are too large. But what does that even mean? What is “too small” and what is “too large?” My breasts functioned flawlessly in feeding both my babies. My thighs have never failed to support my body and move it from place to place.

That’s not to exclude those with dysfunctional breasts or thighs from the statement that your body is amazing. The fact that you are here at all, breathing air, thinking thoughts (or not), pumping blood through miles of tubing, experiencing life as only you – only you of anyone else who has ever lived – can experience it: that is amazing.

Whatever else we are, you and I are embodied beings. Enfleshed. Incarnate. We must learn to live in peace with and within our bodies. Yoda had it so right and a little bit wrong when he said,

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. . . . Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

I beg to differ, honorable Green One. Luminous beings are we, alive through this amazing matter.

I’m including no links to thinspo material in this post. That’s because I know that images and catch-phrases are powerful, and our culture already screams at women, all day long, that they are not thin enough, small enough, weak and insubstantial enough. So if you choose to “go there,” view thinspo’s brutal additions to the daily stream of attacks at your own risk.

And let’s all think twice about how and why we pursue health and beauty, and how we talk about that with each other. There are too many young women of inestimable worth on the brink of enlisting in thinspo’s ranks, and our careless words can give voice to the lies that recruit them.

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Sunshine and snow, fresh air and movement beat sitting in front of a light box any day. I’m not about to dispute the existence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or even traditional medicine’s high-tech ways of treating it.

All I’m saying is that after a run on a sunny day in a snowy place, I come home floating.

Running has been a comfort source throughout my life, a primal behavior I turn to when life gets complicated. Of course I ran as a child – didn’t we all? Then in adolescence, overdosed on Rocky movies and determined to stop sitting the volleyball bench, I ran again, and was not disappointed. Throughout my young adult life, changes and difficulties and disappointments have thrust me out of the house, running away, chasing down solutions, rocking my inner child to the elemental rhythm of breathing in and out, pumping legs up and down.

Christopher McDougall has written a love story-science lesson-history-sociological study-adventure tale about running that has jolted me even more joyfully out the door these days. Reading his book Born to Run has left me feeling like Forrest Gump, (“runninG” with a good hard “g” at the end); or like Silas, my three-year-old, who spontaneously runs back and forth the length of our house while telling stories about himself, every day, often a few times a day. Like a ten-year-old, I read McDougall’s tale of running with ultra-marathoners and Tarahumara Indians, twenty, fifty, a hundred miles down the trails, and I am right there with them. I am Scott Jurek, the vegan ultra-runner stocking his fanny pack with pitas and hummus rather than high-falutin’ power gels. No, wait, I am Barefoot Ted, caressing terra firma with my bare soles. But then, too, I must be Ann Trason, 5’4″ and unstoppable, dubbed “La Bruja” (the witch) as she zooms past legendary Tarahumara running men including Juan Herrera and Martimano Cervantes in the Leadville Trail 100.

Ten-year-old me, immersed in other people’s stories, thrusts 34-year-old me out into the sunny snowy February day, and as together we chase down Scott and Ted and Ann, my head clears, my heart pumps, and I am me, alive and free and really me, also born to run; and my three miles through the parks of this Midwestern prairie town is brilliant, right up there with sex and drugs and rock and roll – except the drugs, that is, because this kind of inhaling is actually good for me, my favorite drug to treat my level of SADness.

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