Being Present

Being Present

Unplugging is incredible! I learned that alone time can only be achieved when I’m not “checking-in” all the time. And when I wasn’t aware or connected to the “outside world” could I be truly present in the moment. So what did I do? I will start by telling you that I didn’t unplug from technology completely. Technology can be a good thing. It was, at times, a matter of safety. And some technology isn’t intrusive at all and helpful.

On Friday morning I took care of any loose ends with my office and then made sure they knew that I wasn’t checking e-mail the rest of the day and in an emergency they should text. Thankfully there are rarely “fundraising emergencies.” I put away my iPad and my MacBook and proceeded to prep my phone. I shut off all of my notifications. No numbers in red dots on my iPhone provoking me to look; no vibrations taunting me, “hey, you’re missing something.” The only exception was text messages mainly because on Friday I was planning to be away from my daughter and even during “me time” being a mom is a priority (especially now that I no longer have back up from the other parent) and of course there was always the off chance there would be that “fundraising emergency.” The other thing I did is let one friend know what I was up to and promised to check-in with them at least once a day with a confirmation that I was safe.

First I drove out to Montauk. Even though I had to cancel the weekend trip, I find the annual pilgrimage to pay my respects to my parents to be so good for my soul. I wanted to salvage just a piece of it…hiked around the lighthouse at the point…took the ferry to Shelter Island…visited their grave…ran the 10k race course (24 hours before the race)…enjoyed the pre-race pasta party…was back in Montauk to take a long walk on the beach at sunset. Did I miss some social media opportunities? Of course I did. I wanted to tweet about the fine latte produced by the competent barista in East Hampton; I wanted to post a picture from the Point to Instagram and #lighthouse. And more than anything, I wanted to tell all my runner friends on FaceBook who I wound up having dinner with Friday night (Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rogers, Amby Burfoot, and George Hirsch). But it waited. And so what? I actually survived.

Saturday I was back home in New Jersey and my daughter spent the day at orientation for her summer job. I caught up on some clean-up projects around the house. I know this didn’t appeal to a few of my friends when I had announced my plans for the weekend; but clutter makes me feel cluttered. So to feel good this weekend, some work needed to be done. Sunday I planned a hike. Was hoping my daughter would come with me, but she opted to catch up on Gossip Girl. I respected that she needed to make her own decision about how she needed to spend Father’s Day so I didn’t push. I was also acutely aware of our last big hike that ended with us getting lost and picked up by the park rangers (story for another day) and realized she may still be too. So inspired by my friend’s dad, I set off to High Mountain Park Preserve by myself. About 10 minutes into my hike I took notice of the fact that I was alone and realized that probably wasn’t the best decision. I would never recommend that anyone hike alone. But High Mountain wasn’t too far from civilization and I was bent on following through on the day I had planned. I stayed on marked trails. And I started seeing other people and felt safer knowing someone could come along to help if I twisted an ankle or at the very least I wasn’t the only selection on the “bear buffet.” It was a glorious day and I made it to the summit. The reward was a breathtaking – albeit hazy – view of the New York City skyline.

I finally spent the evening with my daughter at a movie of her choice. I didn’t “check-in” but I had my phone, just in case of that “fundraising emergency.” I had my phone all weekend. I used it to take pictures. If necessary I also had it for GSP, a compass and a way to call police. And of course my daughter checked in with me. Technology isn’t all bad. We just have to take a step back from it when it takes us away from being present…with our environment, our loved ones, and ourselves.

IMG_4072Montauk Point, June 2016

Unplugged

Unplugged

Sometimes it’s important to unplug…figuratively and literally. After the NJ Marathon on May 1st I was feeling a little burnt out. I also had a very real issue with my hamstring that I was only managing – but not healing – since February. The “active recovery” wasn’t working. So now I’m taking some real time off. I need to recharge mentally too. So I’m taking some of the pressure off. Giving myself a break. Allowing myself to be a little less focused. A little less disciplined. I’m unplugging.

June is a bad month for me. It was the month I started dating my late husband 24 years ago. We were married on the 6th a year later. It’s also the time two years ago that our lives began to spiral out of control. Although I’ve found my “new normal” and I have way more good days than bad days, there are those occasional bad days. Bad days come when old feelings are stirred up; sometimes because of the date on the calendar, the weather, or something someone else is experiencing, or sometimes for no reason at all. This Saturday, the 18th would have been my father’s 95th birthday; Sunday is Father’s Day…and the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. So it’s all very emotional. You may recall that I had planned a weekend escape at the beach. I wrote about it.

I was so looking forward to walking along the beach in Montauk. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach; having my morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the Atlantic…all so good for the soul. My happy place. I was looking forward to running the Shelter Island 10k for the 14th time. But we cancelled the trip. My daughter got a summer job working as a camp counselor and has to be at an all-day, mandatory orientation and training tomorrow. It’s an important lesson for her to learn that an obligation and commitment to an employer is important, that sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and perhaps most importantly, that I was very proud of her for getting this job and I support her in this endeavor even if it meant sacrificing this annual trip.

So what am I going to do this weekend? I’m going to unplug. Literally. I still have off from work today, so I’m taking the day to myself. But after I post this and wish all the dad’s on Facebook a happy Father’s Day as they start off their weekend, I’m shutting down and I don’t plan on powering back up again until Monday morning. I’m going to take a walk, maybe a drive, work in my garden, take pictures with a camera that’s not on my phone, clean the house, spend some quality time with my girl (do you think I can get her to unplug too?) and try to remember what life was like before cell phones, and laptops, and social media. I’ll tell you all about it…on Monday.

IMG_1127Montauk. The End. June 2015

Corporate Cause-Running: KPMG & TNT

Corporate Cause-Running: KPMG & TNT

In 2003 I ran the NJ Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (TNT). It was the second time I ran a marathon for charity. The first time was NYC in 1997 for which I raised money for my employer, Bergen County’s United Way; but that was a personal effort. There was no team. I joined TNT with the idea that I would run to honor the memory of a former co-worker who succumbed to Lymphoma in 1995 and who’s illness was treated so insensitively by our employer that it led me to my non-profit career the following year (my “I have to find something more meaningful to do with my life” moment). I have to be honest though; my decision to get involved with TNT wasn’t totally altruistic. As a fundraiser, I wanted to do some spying to figure out if my cause could adopt such a fundraising model.

TNT does an amazing job. The minimum fundraising requirement was $3,500, but for that I got to attend a kick-off event, group training runs, other social events, got support for my running and fundraising, a team singlet and tee shirt; I enjoyed a pre-race dinner with the team at the host hotel, had overnight accommodations, pre-race breakfast with the team and transportation to the start. Plus lots of cheerleaders along the course who spotted me in my purple team colors and yelled “Go team!” It was the first time as a runner I wasn’t an individual, but part of a team. And the fact that we were raising money for a good cause made it all the better. We were all part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Nicole Aubuchon, who I know from my running club, De Novo Harriers, is a TNT Coach and Captain and has helped organize a corporate team for her employer, KPMG. The company had 30 people participating on the company’s team for NJ Marathon weekend last month. About half ran the 5k on Saturday, while two ran the full Marathon and the rest the Half or Half Marathon Relay on Sunday. Collectively the KPMG TNT group raised $52,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! Woo hoo! Way to go KPMG! This made them the 2nd biggest corporate fundraiser for TNT (TNT raised a total of $315,000 from the NJ Marathon this year). Nicole said the Global CTO who participated in the Half Marathon Relay (and is “really competitive”) isn’t happy with 2nd and plans are underway already to make next year even more successful.

Even non-runners at KMPG can get involved in the fundraising, not just by contributing to their co-workers who are, but also by participating in on-site company fundraisers like Jeans Week that raises money for TNT and other charities. KPMG has been participating in TNT since 2012 with the NJ Marathon weekend being their big annual event, although some of the team members participate in other events – including cycling – in other areas of the country. Earlier this year, Nicole and a co-worker went to Alaska.

Nicole’s favorite part about her TNT involvement she says now is being a coach. “I love the aspect of supporting our runners,” she said. “And it’s so great to see so many people running for the first time because of this program.”

The 5k was added to the schedule for the KMPG Team this year and about 80% of the participants were new to running. The Bergen County TNT Coach led weekly trainings for the KMPG group allowing the new runners to develop in a run/walk progression suitable for beginners.

Nicole and I both know from witnessing the development of new runners through our club’s coached Beginner to Finisher 5k program, that the camaraderie of a team and support of others is so important for beginners. Actually, it’s important at every level and that’s one of the things that makes TNT so great. Whether you are on a personal journey to raise money for their cause or part of a big corporate group like KPMG, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, you will feel like part of something much, much bigger than yourself, or your group. You will be given a lot of personal support and coaching in order to become a better runner – and fundraiser!  You will also be given lots of opportunities to connect with your teammates.

For more information about how you or your corporate team can get involved in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, please visit teamintraining.org.

Team KPMG 2016 NJ Marathon, Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, and 5k

#iamarunner

#iamarunner

June 1. Global Running Day. Did you run? I met a friend in New York City tonight and ran along the Hudson River Greenway from 57th Street to above 125th Street. It’s one of my favorite places to run and one that I don’t get to run often enough. I talk about running a lot, I know. I’ve told you all about how running makes me feel; the positive impact running has had on my mental health. But, I’m not sure I’ve shared the best thing about running and that’s the people I’ve met on my journey that share this passion. While it’s something easily, and maybe most often, done alone, it’s the comradery of a running club or sharing the miles with someone special that is what I have come to love most about my running life. Runners are some of the most supportive, loyal, dedicated, passionate and compassionate people I’ve ever met. It’s no wonder so many run, and organize races, to raise money for charity.

I spent this past Monday – as I have every consecutive Memorial Day for 20 years – at the Fred d’Elia Ridgewood Run. I first ran the 5k in 1997 as a fairly new runner. In 1998, I ran a personal course record in the 10k. Last year I ran my second best time on the 10k course. In between, as a member of North Jersey Masters Track and Field Club, organizers of the event, I volunteered. For 10 years I managed registration for the Fun Run. I figured out that I could get there early, set up, and go run the 10k at 8:15 before we got busy. The Fun Run is the last event at noon. My absolute favorite part of the day was handing out medals to the kids as they finished. It was all I could do to hold back tears understanding the relevant significance of that medal to those kids. Having finished marathons and knowing what that felt like I saw no less joy and sense of accomplishment in the faces of those little runners…my daughter among them for many years. The Ridgewood Run – the Fun Run or the 5k – has been a “first race” for so many that sparked a lifetime of running.

The Ridgewood Run however, doesn’t just serve to promote running. Proceeds of the event provide grants to local charities. Main beneficiaries in past races included Special Olympics New Jersey, the Ridgewood YMCA, the Kessler Foundation, the Village of Ridgewood Parks and Recreation, Social Service Association, College Club, and others. Having sat on the run’s fund allocations committee for a number of years, I can roughly estimate that in the event’s 41 year history, well over $1 million has been contributed to local organizations and scholarships. This event has been so overwhelming successful because of the passionate and dedicate people – the founders and members of a running club – who came together in 1976 with a vision. It’s because of the members that continue to give of their time and work collaboratively that this event still benefits so many. I’m proud to call these people friends.

There are runners in every community, across the globe, with the same passion and dedication, not just for the sport, but for their community, for a better world. Together we celebrate today. I am proud to be one – a runner.

IMG_3921Today’s Run