Running in circles and getting nowhere

Running in circles and getting nowhere

As I write this I’m standing in line at the Illinois Social Services Office in the Humboldt Park section of Chicago. I’m here because something went off track in my effort to transfer my health insurance from New Jersey. Last year at about this time, I applied for insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace. The ACA was supposed to be a great benefit to the self-employed like me. And it was – until I moved.

The marketing of my business was largely put on hold this year because of my pending move. My part-time job doesn’t include healthcare. My lack of substantial income has made me eligible for low-cost or free healthcare through Illinois Medicaid. Lucky me. Sort of. I wasn’t given any other option. I received my notification of the determination from the Healthcare Marketplace in mid-August and was waiting for the specifics from the state (like I had received from New Jersey last year). When October rolled around and I still hadn’t received anything, I called. While the kind woman on the phone said she’d file a complaint, she said the best thing I could do to expedite my coverage was to come down here.

It should be noted that while I still have healthcare coverage with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NJ that was obtained through the marketplace, participating doctors are only in New Jersey. Doesn’t do me much good here in Illinois. The finger that was injured almost eight weeks ago when my dog saw a squirrel isn’t healing and I need to get it examined. This is why disadvantaged people are kept down. Problems aren’t as easily solved, and life has a way of spiraling downward.

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My “Mallet Finger” almost 8 weeks ago. Waiting to see a doctor.

This is an important lesson in how the disadvantaged live, what they are subjected to and who makes up this group. Of the 50 or so people sharing the line with me and the few dozen sitting waiting for the next step, I am one of only four Caucasians. Other than that it’s a pretty diverse group of shapes, sizes, genders, and generations – toddlers and pregnant women and the elderly. Everyone is being patient and quiet. No one is angry or boasting a sense of entitlement to anything.

I’ve been here for a half hour. There are eight people still in line ahead of me.

This was not what I wanted to be doing today of course. I’m trying to focus on my business plan and creating a strategy for execution. I am trying not be distracted by the sense of despair I tend to feel at this time of year. The anniversary of my husband’s death is coming up on Saturday. I’ve learned over the last few years to ride the waves, and that yes, this too shall pass. But knowing that still doesn’t make the negative feelings or the depression go away. And times like this – waiting in line at a social services office – makes me long for everything I feel I let go – my six-figure income, my four-bedroom house in the wealthy suburbs of New York City, and yeah, employer based healthcare that didn’t require I wait on line to prove my eligibility.

Finally seen by an agent, I explain my issue; she tries to give me the number I called yesterday when I was told to come here. I was assertive and was then told to sit and wait for my name to be called. I’ve now been here for almost an hour. I am wondering if all of these people will be assertive to get what they need, or have they been beaten down enough by the system that they will backdown when confronted with a challenge.

I’ve been on edge and overly sensitive over the last week or two. I ran the Bucktown 5k on Sunday and felt really sad, homesick I guess, longing for the races where I knew so many of the other runners and race staff. I thought of the Cheers theme song, “where everybody knows your name.” No one knows my name here.

And yesterday, I needed a walk in the woods, to be surrounded by tall colorful maples and oaks, to climb to the top of a mountain to uplift my soul and embrace all that I still love about autumn. But that is so far away; I am so far, too, from anywhere I want to be at this very moment. Waiting.

I don’t like waiting. I’ve always been a doer. I’d rather drive out of my way than sit in traffic. I feel so much better when I’m moving. Movement makes me feel in control or at least like something’s happening – forward motion, accomplishment, miles logged.

After my name is called I explain, again, what has brought me here. I am told that there is a 60-day backlog on applications, and that providing a copy of my pay stub (why didn’t the woman on the phone yesterday tell me to bring that?) will assure that they have all they need to process my application. So after investing two and a half hours here, I have to return home to retrieve it and bring it back, and start over. They said at 3:30 the line might not be as long.

My daughter still needs to get her Illinois driver’s license. Tomorrow I was planning to take her to DVM. LOL.

Fall on the Prairie. About an hour away. Long Grove, Illinois. October 2017.
2018 Chicago Half Marathon Reviewed

2018 Chicago Half Marathon Reviewed

The Chicago Half Marathon/5k was this past weekend. Like all of the other city races I’ve run here, it was a great course and a well-organized race.  It was a Lifetime Fitness event that served as a Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Circuit Race and the USA Track & Field Illinois (USATF-IL) Half Marathon Championship. The event also boosted fundraising efforts for charity partner Chicago Run, which promotes “the health and wellness of Chicago children through innovative, engaging, and sustainable youth running programs.”

The start and finish were at Jackson Park on the southside. Once exiting the park, it was essentially an out-and-back course along Lakeshore Drive with views of the lake and city skyline. Entertainment, refreshments (pizza and beer tickets included on all runner bibs), vendors, running groups, and charity teams had a presence in the big post-race celebration at Jackson Park. And the one thing organizers had no control over – the weather – was absolutely perfect. The cool temps and relatively flat course made it a PR (personal record) race for many!

The only thing that could have made this event challenging was the location and early start time. Corrals closed at 6:45 in anticipation of the 7:00am start. There was limited parking at the Museum of Science and Industry ($22) and much less in the local neighborhood.  Public Transportation (which would be a long trip with a few transfers between train and bus anyway) doesn’t operate at that hour on a Sunday morning.

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Race organizers provided shuttle buses from Millennium Park and from the Belmont “L” station. And this is my only complaint. I registered for the race, what, six? Maybe nine, months ago? – when I was still living in New Jersey. I don’t recall needing to choose a shuttle bus option. Not knowing where I was going to be living, I probably would have chosen the one from Millennium Park, but according to my bib, I hadn’t chosen any. So, I chose Belmont “L” at the expo which is walking distance from my apartment.  I was required to pay an additional $20 (shuttle bus was included at the time of registration) and of course no one was checking passes when we were boarding the buses. I hope the charity got my $20.

This event is strategically held two weeks prior to the Chicago Marathon on the first weekend of tapering for anyone training for that – a weekend that usually has a 12-mile long run on the schedule. If one can be disciplined about not racing too hard, this half provides a great dress-rehearsal for the main event on a course supported with volunteers and fluid stations. And that’s why we were there. My boyfriend will be running the Chicago Marathon – his first! – on October 7th.

My goal in training over the last 10 weeks or so was to be ready to help pace him so he didn’t go out too fast, have confidence in the training he did up to that point, and make the most of the dress-rehearsal. Given my performance at the Chicago Spring Half in May (read my review here) and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half in July (reviewed that one too, read it here), I was also wanted to be sure I didn’t drag him down. When we run together, we tend to stick together. Mission accomplished, although after hitting the 11-mile mark and having maintained a conservative 10-minute-per-mile pace, I encouraged him to go on and run his own race and finish strong. This gave him the confidence boost he needed. I finished less than 2 minutes later, so I felt like I redeemed myself from my Half Marathon performances earlier this year.

Finally, I can’t say enough about “the bling!” The medal earned for the Half was 4.25 x 6 inches and weighed over a pound! No exaggeration (yes, I weighed it)! Additionally, this event was part of the “Chicagoland Half Marathon Series” that included the Chicago Spring Half, and therefore came with an additional medal for those that completed both. The third medal serves as a holder for the two other medals that together depict the Chicago skyline. Anyone motivated by hardware got their money’s worth at this event. For those of us who suffered through that cold and windy Chicago Spring Half, this event was a pleasant finale for a well-earned keepsake.

Six tips for running alone

Six tips for running alone

I did something this morning that I’ve done a lot over the past 22+ years. I ran – alone.

When I first started running, it never occurred to me to run with others. I didn’t belong to a running club of any kind and I had no concept of pacing. I was of course aware of safety, and to achieve that I didn’t run late at night or any place that I deemed to be too desolate or a “sketchy” neighborhood.

When I did finally join a running club, I joined group workouts for the competition and comradery. Safety wasn’t really an issue. Sure, there were times when I went out in the early morning on weekdays alone in the predawn darkness that my senses were more alert to danger. I wore reflective clothing, blinking lights, and carried my keys in my hand (figuring they would be a good tool to gouge someone’s eyes out).

In Northwest Bergen County, New Jersey, I rarely felt threatened. Although, I was always aware that there were places (those peaceful, desolate places that are always seen in the Runner’s World “Rave Run” feature), that I wouldn’t venture alone – as a woman.

I’ve spent a lot of my time on the run over the last few weeks thinking about Mollie Tibbets. Mollie, you may recall reading in the news, was the 20-year-old University of Iowa student who disappeared while on an evening run not far from her home in July. Her body was found a month later.  A suspect confessed to kidnapping, killing, and dumping her body.

The running community responded with #MilesForMollie, dedicating their runs to Mollie’s memory. Female runners in particular made a statement in their posts of not letting fear keep them indoors. I have only been conscious of this kind of fear when assessing new running routes. I’ve had male runners suggest different trails or paths, that I know as a woman, I would not feel comfortable running alone. I think men take that for granted.

I continued running on the lakefront trail here in Chicago. A big part of running safety for me has always meant avoiding vehicular traffic whenever possible.  The lakefront trail gives Chicagoans an easy place to do that. On any day of the week during daylight hours the lakefront trail is a popular place and even when running alone, a runner rarely feels alone. So, all good, right?

Not so much. On the last Saturday in August, I ran part of my run alone until I met up with a couple from the group that had more miles on the agenda and started earlier. I met them at around 7 o’clock in the morning near the Lincoln Park Zoo. By Sunday afternoon, news broke that a female runner was attacked around 7:30 Sunday morning a little further north on the trail. A place where many of us have run – alone.

So how do we feel safe when the places we thought were safe aren’t any more? I think we can do the best we can. To do that, I’ve compiled some of my own safety tips:

  1. Run on trails and pathways that are well-lit, not desolate, and whenever possible, separated from vehicular traffic.
  2. Run at hours of the day when you are most likely to share the trail with others.
  3. Always be aware of your surroundings. Steer clear of anything suspicious or that makes you feel uncomfortable. Consider limiting headphone use to the treadmill.
  4. Find running buddies whenever possible. Join a local running club. There are many groups on social media that can help you plan meet-ups with runners in your area as well. If you have difficulty finding other humans to run with, run with your dog. Fido needs the exercise and most would-be attackers will think twice about approaching a dog.
  5. Try not to be a creature of habit. Don’t run the same route at the same time of day every day if you are running alone.
  6. And finally, make sure you have a way to scare off an attacker. Some runners I know run with small weapons, mace or pepper spray. I’m afraid those things will get used on me, so I carry a little personal ear-piercing alarm on my belt. I remember hearing a safety lecture by the NYPD a number of years ago where they said they best thing you can go is make sure you don’t leave “crime scene #1” because “crime scene #2” never has a good outcome.

So good luck running everyone. Stay safe out there. And if at all possible don’t run – alone.

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Chicago’s Lakefront Trail offers spectacular views! Chicago, Illinois. August 2018.

 

Law of Attraction

Law of Attraction

June is an interesting month. No real surprise that I would be making this big transition in June. While the school calendar naturally makes this a transitional month for a lot of people, for me, it’s the month I was married (25 years ago), and it’s the month my mother died (6 years ago).

Eleven years ago this month, I walked into this house for the first time. At that time, we knew living here was a stretch for us financially, but I loved the childhood that I had in Northwest Bergen County (New Jersey). I wanted the same for my daughter. We struggled over the summer to figure out a way to make it happen. We figured it out and we were able to purchase the house in September. Read more

My Story (Part 4): Beyond Surviving

My Story (Part 4): Beyond Surviving

I realized about the time I turned 50 (three years ago this coming weekend) that I was just getting started. I had spent my 30s building my career and creating my family. I had spent most of my 40s working a lot of hours at stressful, and some unfulfilling, jobs to pay my mortgage, save for college, and keep my family afloat. I was sandwiched between my school-aged daughter and elderly parents. I wasn’t unhappy. But my life was about the roles I played, what I was to everyone else, being needed, not personally fulfilled. Read more