FaceBook: A story of addiction

FaceBook: A story of addiction

August 2009 was when I joined FaceBook – kicking and screaming. I was never on MySpace believing social media was just for the kids. Most of my staff back then was on it. Although they used it to promote our organization, I didn’t see how my presence was needed. I was invited by a former business colleague to LinkedIn in ’07 and saw the tremendous benefit in expanding my network there. Some social media, I figured, was purposeful and could be good for business.

March 2009, I started a new job as the head of fundraising and communications for a large social service agency in New York City. Our CEO tasked me with increasing our social media presence. I immediately delegated to staff. That month I also attended a class reunion. Since everyone had already connected on FaceBook, I felt like I came into the reunion in the middle of the conversation. I was beginning to think that maybe FaceBook had a purpose, and yet I resisted.

Finally, that summer things came to a head. My boss was pressuring me to know more about what the communications staff was doing on social media. To understand their strategy, I really needed to understand how this stuff worked. At that same time, the father of one of my closest friends died and I was one of the last to know because people now felt it was acceptable to make such announcements on social media and I missed it.

I succumbed and joined FaceBook (followed not too long after by Twitter and Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and eventually even SnapChat). I figured I would just use it to keep in touch with my elementary school friends. I would be friends only with real friends and keep my business persona on LinkedIn. FaceBook had other plans.  The lines between personal and business connections began to blur. I justified time on social media promoting my employers and eventually my own business. Even now I wonder how I could live without social media – FaceBook in particular – when I have a business page and business groups and it figures so prominently in my business development strategy.

Social media has also allowed me to stay more consistently and fully connected to my relatives in Ireland and the UK. It has grown my network of people with whom I can share my experiences, get advice and ask questions – as a runner, as a near-empty nesting mom, and as a citizen. Social media has connected me to causes that I care about which has translated to actual activism and new real-time friendships with like-minded individuals. FaceBook is where my friendship first blossomed with the wonderful man that is now my boyfriend.  Yes, there is no doubt that there are many positive attributes to social media. There’s the dark side too.

I have a problem. I often find myself scrolling mindlessly through post after post from friends, and people I don’t even know who are members of groups I don’t really need to belong to (Aussiedoodle owners group? Really?). I read articles from the New York Times and Washington Post, only to be sucked in to the comments sections, ultimately arguing with people I don’t know. Some of this, I’ve learned, is not my fault.

FaceBook (and other social media), like junk food, is created to be addicting. If you didn’t watch the TED Talk by Tristan Harris I shared in last week’s blog post, please invest the 20 minutes now. Between a desire to stop wasting precious time and anger in realizing how we’ve been manipulated and our data compromised, there is a need to break free. But How?

I don’t know exactly except to replace the bad habit with a good one. I’ve written about that before. And of course, we must be mindful of the quality of our time spent (watch this other Tristan Harris TED talk). Someone could make a lot of money in developing a 12-step program for social media addiction. Or perhaps creating more responsible social networks.

Harris concludes, “We have to demand this new kind of technology. And we can do that. And doing that would amount to shifting from a world that’s driven and run entirely in time spent, to a world that is driven by time well spent.”

While we are waiting for this new technology, we need to create that consciousness within ourselves. We need to be the change we want to see in the world. Who’s with me?

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It’s a great time of year to explore away from the keyboard.                                                         Ramapo Reservation, Mahwah, New Jersey. April 2017.

This week in Marathon Training

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3 months and counting

3 months and counting

It’s been over six months since I wrote about the countdown to high school graduation. While I am committed to being respectful of my daughter’s privacy, sharing only minimally about her here, I am entitled to a proud mom moment every once in a while, right?

My daughter was accepted into a four-year college in Chicago (one of her top choices). This might not seem like an impossible feat. Especially here where we live. 89% of our high school graduates go on to attend four-year colleges (95% go on to some post-secondary education). But for us it seemed like a long road.

My daughter was always someone who has marched to the beat of her own drum. My parents described her as “a spirited child.” One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as her parent is that she never accepts the status quo; always looking deeper, always challenging. Her middle school guidance counselor said this was a personality trait that would serve her well in college and career, not so much in middle and high school.

She encountered a structure perhaps too rigid for her personality and learning style. While that was somewhat demotivating for her, my cancer diagnosis and then losing her father when and how she did certainly had an impact on the secure life she had known at home.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl

My daughter’s high school transcript does not show the good choices that she has made and the maturity and growth that she possessed in managing grief and loss on top of the struggles of adolescence. By her junior year she was facing the possibility that maybe a four-year college wasn’t in the cards for her.

But I believed in her. And she believed in herself. We both ignored the naysayers and last summer I took a risk and made an investment in a 3-week college program for her at this school in Chicago. It wasn’t in the budget.

She got an A in the course and proved to everyone she could do college level work. Then she came back to start her senior year and made the honor roll! She finally took the SATs and did much better than expected. She courageously applied to a bunch of four-year schools.

There were a number of disappointments before the email from Chicago. Her surge in the last quarter of the race however, paid off. But most importantly – and what makes me the most proud – is that she mustered the courage to start; she put herself out there when others were telling her that it was a long shot. She didn’t settle for anything less than what she wanted. She set her sights higher and didn’t listen to anyone who told her it couldn’t be done.

That should be a lesson to all of us. Ignore the naysayers. Don’t give them power over you. Be courageous. Focus on your own dreams. Don’t back down. One foot in front of the other. Forward. Commencement.

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The New York City skyline as seen on my run through the Heights of Ridgewood, New Jersey. March 2018.

This week in Marathon Training (getting real now! -only 5 weeks to go)…Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 11.04.35 AM

Twenty miles was the longest I’ve run in almost 2 years and was a big jump from the 16 miles I ran 2 weeks ago. I took it slowly with a goal of only covering the distance comfortably.

The 2018 NYC Half Marathon Reviewed

The 2018 NYC Half Marathon Reviewed

The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon this past weekend was my 42nd Half Marathon and the 275th race of my 22-year running career. While I had run the NYC Half five times before, this was a new course. Here’s my review.

I have experienced the work of many race directors and have directed or been involved in the organization of many races myself. I know what makes a good race experience. The course and the start and finish logistics are what it’s all about. Without counting them, I’d take a guess that of all the races I’ve run, probably 20% have been organized by New York Road Runners. I have run a variety of their races from 5ks to the New York City Marathon, and for the most part, they have always done a fabulous job. The NYC Half is no different.

I ran this event in 2006, the first year it was held, and again in 2009. Those first few years it was held in August. It was then moved to March and I ran it 3 more times (’13, ’14 & ’16). March is a much better time of year. The course was one loop around Central Park, down 7th Avenue through Times Square. West on 42nd Street and then south along the West Side Highway, past the World Trade Center, through the Battery Park Tunnel and around for a finish on Wall Street. It was a great “PR” (personal record) course, because after leaving the park at about the halfway point the course was essentially downhill.

A lot of people were skeptical about the new course, which started in Prospect Park, Brooklyn and finished in Central Park. Admittedly, if a local running club hadn’t organized a bus from near my home in Bergen County, New Jersey to the start, getting to Brooklyn before 6:30am, for me, would have been difficult. 22,000 people didn’t seem to find navigating the additional borough to be problematic.

It was about a mile walk through Prospect Park to the beginning of the start area from where the bus was able to drop us off. I jogged. It was a good warm-up. Security was tight but easy, signage was good, and port-a-potties in the start corrals was an added convenience. This wasn’t unlike the start in Central Park in years past. Lots of room for warming up and staying warm; big bins for donations as layers of clothing were discarded.

The start was at Grand Army Plaza. It continued downhill on Flatbush Avenue and onto the Manhattan Bridge. That incline was the biggest elevation climb on the course. From there, the views of city were spectacular. Making the trip out to Brooklyn worthwhile.

Once in Manhattan, the course weaved through Chinatown and onto the FDR Drive heading north. I’m not sure at this point whether I preferred this East River view to the Hudson River view of past years, but it was breathtaking. We exited the FDR at 42nd Street right by the United Nations. I felt from here the course was a little more interesting as it passed Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, and Bryant Park. Crowd support all along the course was decent.

The new course also included running through Times Square as the old course did, but north on 7th Avenue. It was uphill into Central Park. The park route included “Cat Hill” but cut across the 102nd Street Transverse eliminating the Harlem Hills.  The “Three Sisters” came in the last 3 miles but the final 800 meters was all downhill, finishing in front of the iconic Tavern on the Green (in the opposite direction as the NYC Marathon).

The finish area in Central Park was a major improvement over the old course downtown. There was a lot more room for runners to get their medals and refreshments, collect their gear from the trucks and finally reunite with family….or their bus back to New Jersey.

A few others I spoke with about the new course said it was definitely more challenging with more turns and the hills of Central Park in the final miles. I didn’t have an issue with the hills at the end, surprisingly. Hills are rarely my friend and I was not looking forward to them. When I reached Central Park though, its familiarity was comforting and I sailed through. The last four miles were my fastest.

So, thumbs up all around for the new course. I am especially glad that I was able to do it this year. I am already registered for Half Marathons #43 and #44 later this year: the Chicago Spring Half and Fall Half. Not sure when I’ll be back to New York City for another race. But I highly recommend the NYC Half for anyone who can find their way to Brooklyn.

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At the Expo. Metropolitan Pavilion.  New York, New York. March 2018,

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In running or life, a Coach can make the difference

In running or life, a Coach can make the difference

I’m going to ignore for the moment the snow outside and reflect on the fact that the official start to spring is just around the corner – 2 weeks! This is a good time to commit to something new! This week, twenty-two years ago, I started running.

Because it’s almost spring, I am again preparing to come out of hibernation in a big way. I start coaching my beginner 5k groups in the next week and the week after that my volunteer role coaching Let Me Run.  I will be telling everyone how I started like this – just one slow step at a time – how we all start like this. Read more

The Art of Running in the Rain

The Art of Running in the Rain

It don’t matter if it’s raining
Nothing can phase me
I make my own sunshine
And if you think you can break me
Baby you’re crazy
I make my own sunshine

“I make my own Sunshine” by Alyssa Bonagura, and recorded by Steven Tyler

I have a lot going on right now. My house just went on the market, so there’s lots of people coming through to look at it – and there is of course the constant battle to keep it neat and ready for the next realtor’s call. I’m also getting ready to launch two spring beginner 5k group training programs next week and there’s my own marathon training. Read more