Running away

Running away

So I was reminded a few days ago about the first time I ran just because I wanted (needed?) to run; before I consciously went out running for the “first time” almost 21 years ago; before I found myself struggling through Central Park for three and a half miles as a member of my company’s Corporate Challenge team a year prior to that. I believe it was Memorial Day weekend 1992. And I honestly had the memory tucked so far back in my mind that I hadn’t recalled it until Friday. It was the first time I saw running as a means to relieve stress.

My stressors right now involve establishing my business and a whole bunch of parenting stuff (which  out of respect for my daughter’s confidentiality and trust she places in me will not be detailed here). So I decided to take the morning off on Friday to get my head back in a better place. The sun was shining and the outdoor thermometer was already exceeding 70. I had access to a convertible. Can we ignore for a moment that climate change is real and a day like that in February is just not right? Just enjoy the moment since it’s upon us?

I was just gonna go for a little drive and the next thing I knew I was steering in the direction of “Shore Points”. I had dressed in my running clothes as soon as I got up that morning and I was very conscious of the speed work on my training schedule that I was now missing or putting off.  I thought, “is there someplace I could go to run?” I decided on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk.  As I was driving the temperature climbed to 78 and I was thinking I would be over dressed in tights and long sleeve technical shirt, but it was cooler at the beach. I parked my car on Ocean Avenue (for free); something you can’t do in the summer. I walked over to the Boardwalk and started in front of Martel’s Tiki Bar and headed north. I ran to the end at Manasquan Inlet and back as my warm-up, then started the speed session when I got back to Martel’s heading south this time (the workout was 400 x 6 with a 60 second rest; without the benefit of a track, I used my Garmin watch to gauge the distance).

As soon as I took off on the first 400, the memory came flooding back to me. I was distraught over some issue in a dead-end relationship. I had been with a group of friends at the Tiki Bar and something happened. What? I don’t recall. But, I suddenly remembered vividly on Friday what I did to cope. I was always good at managing my emotions simply by removing myself from the situation or individuals involved. “Walk away” was advice my parents had given me long ago. That day I walked out of Martel’s Tiki Bar. But walking wasn’t going to do it. I spontaneously started to run. As fast as I could. Weaving in and out of the Memorial Day weekend crowds until I got to the end (which on Friday I learned is about a half mile). Then I stood there, barefoot, in shorts and bikini top, hunched over, gasping for breath. As soon as I regained my composure, I turned around and ran full speed back to Martel’s. I managed my anger. I didn’t yell. I didn’t cry. I didn’t strangle someone who probably deserved it. I ran.

As I now recall the event and the timing of it, I realize that a week later I met my late husband. I had amazing clarity around what I wanted in my life so I gave that relationship a chance and walked away from what wasn’t working once and for all. Co-incidence? I think not. As I’ve said before, I do not believe that anyone starts running because they actually like to run. We are all ultimately running away from or running to something. Sometimes it’s a little of both. Running away is often a way to get to exactly where we need to be. And who we want to be.

Me? I want to be a caring parent, a loving partner, a competent coach, a successful business owner. To achieve that, I am also a dedicated runner. What are you running away from? What’s your destination? Who do you need to be to get there?

img_6028Winter in New Jersey. Point Pleasant Beach. February 2017.


Goddess of the Dawn

Goddess of the Dawn

Thirty-five years ago when I was nearing my 17th birthday, my dream car was a  brand new Mercedes Benz 350sl. Red. Convertible. I just imagined the radio playing a favorite song and driving along curvy hills overlooking the ocean somewhere. Hair blowing in the breeze, not a care in the world. Freedom.

I might have been willing to settle for a “pre-owned car,” you know something like a 1965 Mustang (’65 because that was the year I was born, and I love significance and symbolism). What I wound up with was my mother’s old car. She got a new – well pre-owned although they didn’t call them pre-owned back then – Cadillac which I guess was her dream car, or as close to it as my parents could afford  – or wanted to spend at the time with college tuition around the corner. I was mortified. Living in affluent northern New Jersey, all my friends were getting brand new Camaros or  Firebirds and here I was with a nine-year-old mustard color Chevy with a rusted fender.

The dream and the reality (courtesy of Google Images).

I accepted it. I didn’t have the balls to object and demand something better. My father – as wonderful and gentle and loving as he was most of the time – would have kicked me into he middle of next week, if I didn’t express anything but gratitude for what I was given. He would have reminded me that growing up where I did skewed my perception; that having access to a car – any car – 100% of the time that I didn’t have to share with anyone else was a privilege bestowed  upon the more elite 17 year olds. I also knew with the measly salary I earned at my part-time jobs, I wouldn’t have had enough to buy a better car myself, even if I saved every dime. So I kept my mouth shut.

A funny thing happen though. The boys at school thought my 1973 Chevy Malibu with the 350 cubic inch V8 was pretty cool. And I also learned that freedom came from just having a driver’s license, from being able to get from point A to point B by myself. And yeah, great driving music on the radio and a warm breeze through the open windows makes it that much sweeter.

The mustard-color Malibu died its final death about 3 weeks after my college graduation and I bought a 3 year-old Camaro. A step up. A car I picked out myself. Now I had my own car. And my own car payment and my own insurance premium. But holding on to that Malibu through college allowed me to save some money. Patience is important. The ability to put off immediate gratification for long-term gain, I learned, is the first sign of real maturity.

The “family car” that brought my daughter home from the hospital and saw me through 13 years, 3 dogs, numerous memorable road trips, and almost 180,000 miles was a hunter green 1999 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. When that died, I had my “affordable midlife crisis” purchasing a 2012 Fiat 500c. It was such a fun little car and my first convertible. I loved that car! It was the first car since the Camaro so long ago that was just mine. After my husband died, and the Fiat became our only car, I was faced with the reality of its impracticality. Driving my daughter and her friends and lacrosse equipment around in such a tiny car, just didn’t make sense. I made a very difficult decision to trade it in for a 2012 Honda CR-V. All-wheel drive, safe, roomy, practical. Mature adults make sacrifices (temporarily).

In less than seven weeks, my daughter is scheduled for her road test on her 17th birthday, just like I did. And like me, she will be getting her mom’s hand-me-down to drive. 100% access, all of the time (with a year of satellite radio!). And like me, joining the elite 17-year-olds. Her mom?  Well, I bought a pre-owned 2015 Volkswagen Eos. 2015 because that was my first full year as a widow.  Eos is the Greek Goddess of the Dawn. I love significance and symbolism. Plus I got a really nice deal. It’s as close to my dream car as I can afford –  or wanted to spend right now with college tuition around the corner. It’s a convertible. It’s German. I outgrew red. After 35 years behind the wheel, I finally have what I want and deserve. I really earned this. Freedom.

img_5976Saddle River County Park, Paramus, New Jersey, February 2017

Where heart meets sole

Where heart meets sole

The Surf City Half Marathon last Sunday was better than expected. The last time I ran with my boyfriend it was a six mile training run on the first Saturday in December near his home in Illinois. About two miles in, I stopped laid down on the grass and didn’t want to get up. I did. But I felt it was going to be a long road back. Surf City was only eight weeks away.

When I started running over twenty years ago I liked the solitude of it. It was an escape of sorts. “Me” time.  Find a training partner is advice often given to new runners because the idea is that if you know someone is waiting for you, you’ll get up and out, not wishing to let them down. Or maybe, as my mother would say, “misery loves company.” Regardless, it’s not bad advice. The camaraderie among fellow runners certainly provides motivation. I always recommend that new runners join a beginner group training program* because of the motivation created by being part of something bigger than yourself. When I started out, however, I was a loner and that suited me just fine. Then.

Everyone starts running for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that any of us actually liked to run. I have found that we are mostly running away from something or to something. A lot of runners I know are former addicts. Many are avoiding difficult relationships. Almost everyone starts running as a means to cope with some sort of stress or anxiety. When I started running I needed to be alone. Some people do better as part of a group. Others don’t. It probably depends a lot on your personality plus the reason you’re running.

I joined a running club about 15 years ago. I didn’t start participating in any of the group runs until much later however. One winter they started a Saturday morning group run of various distances and paces. Knowing that there were people I could run with got me up and out almost every weekend during those cold months. I began to see the advantages of training partners and running friends. I remember being glad that my mother died on a Tuesday morning because that was the day of my club’s summer evening workout and I needed to be with supportive people and to run off the hurt. I have found races to be more fun when there are others that care about my results almost as much as I do. Running, I found, could be a team sport and those relationships have become some of my most rewarding and most cherished.

No surprise then that I would now find myself in a romantic relationship with a fellow runner. As runners, he and I understand one another on a level that those who came before could not. Running together, we are completely in sync. Running, even when living and training 800 miles apart, is a bond that motivates us everyday. Although there are a million and one reasons why I’m connected so fully to this wonderful man, he has become the motivation for why running continues to figure so prominently in my life everyday. Because there is someone I want to be accountable to about my training, because I want to be able to run with him, because I know he’ll be there at my side for those long runs (literally and figuratively), and lastly because he signs us up for races months in advance, so I have no choice but to keep training. 🙂

There are runners who have amazingly successful partnerships with people who don’t run. So I’m not saying that can’t work. There’s a magnitude of reasons we connect with the people we do; successful relationships are not one-dimensional.  That said, it’s important for us to surround ourselves with people that motivate us to be better. If you want to be a runner, or a better runner, or a more motivated runner, spend some time regularly with other runners.

“Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dream lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.” – Seth Godin

After that weekend in early December when I crashed and burned on a six mile run, I got motivated. He was so understanding. He acknowledged my difficultly and reminded me of all that I had been able to achieve in the past and encouraged me to keep going. I did the training I needed to do to get to the start – and the finish – of the Surf City Half Marathon. I ran strong. Every step in sync with him. And the road back wasn’t as long as I thought it was going to be because I had never really abandoned my training completely. With another runner figuring so prominetly in my life, I just couldn’t. At the very least, I’d still have to talk about running.

img_5869Huntington Beach, California. Home of the Surf City Marathon and Half. February 2017.

Looking for something for your Runner Valentine? I found a really cute, and super comfortable running top at the Surf City Expo from AEVOK APPAREL. To get yours and see what they have for men, go to AEVOK.COM. (and no they didn’t pay me or even give me a discount for this endorsement. Just some really nice people making some really cool stuff).



*If you are in the Bergen County, New Jersey area, my running club has an awesome Beginner to Finisher 5k program that begins on March 18. Click here for more information.



The Old New Job

The Old New Job

About 10 months ago I wrote about “the new job.” In that post I talked about going back to work after consulting part time for over a year and a half following my husband’s death. I said, “this time around my quality of life was most important. I wanted a sane boss, a realistic commute, and the flexibility I now needed as a single parent of a teenager. And I wanted to continue to pursue my new coaching interest – and I wanted to fundraise for a mission I could be passionate about! ”

Going back to work last year, I felt, was a necessity…for financial reasons. In addition to a steady paycheck, I enjoyed being back in an office and part of a team. I enjoyed meeting donors and listening to why our agency’s mission helped them honor their values. I had a really easy going boss and a staff of one who’s company I enjoyed and who worked really well independently requiring very little “management” effort on my part. The nature of our mission created a culture that gave me the flexibility to be available when my daughter needed me and I was only a half hour drive from home. If I had to work full-time outside the home, it was the ideal situation. So why on the 6th of January did I suddenly want to resign?

The Cause Coach blog was born at the beginning of 2016 out of my desire to shift my consulting business to more of a coaching practice and blend my knowledge of fundraising and non-profit management with a knack I had for executive coaching. To do this I decided I wanted to be certified as a coach. After researching options, I enrolled in the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) training and certification process. The first of the courses was scheduled for the last week in March, a week before I was committed to go back to work full-time. I had no idea just how deeply I was going to embrace the coaching life! For the next 10 months I would juggle coaching classes and clients, the full-time fundraising job, and my most important role as a mom, while I also maintained my home. It was a lot. Professionally, I knew I was ready to close the door on my fundraising career; personally, I needed to make a living.

When I wrote and then re-read my blog post from January 4th, the sentence that didn’t sit well with me was, “professionally, I’m still a fundraiser.” I felt “stuck” in fundraising, when what I wanted to do was coaching. Walking the dog that Friday evening I reflected on how I help my coaching clients get “unstuck” and here I was feeling stuck. I proceeded to have a conversation with myself in which I changed my perspective from feeling that I needed my job, to I want to be a coach. When you feel you “need” something you come from a perspective of no flexibility, no choice. “Wanting” something on the other hand is a choice, a new perspective!

As soon as I realized what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, I figured out a way to make it work. Not that I don’t have to make some sacrifices and say “no” to some things as I change my financial plan. But I am making a conscious choice to change my priorities so I can have what I want.

Thursday was my last day as a fundraiser. Effective Tuesday, I am a full-time coach – The Cause Coach LLC.

Oh, and in between? A destination race. Surf City Half Marathon. Because a bad day at the beach is still better than a good day at any job.

img_5857Huntington Beach, California. February 2017.