Five tips if you’re considering your first marathon

Five tips if you’re considering your first marathon

Fall Marathon season is upon us. The Berlin Marathon was Sunday. Chicago Marathoners are starting their taper now for the October 8th event, and New York City is the first weekend in November. In addition to those World Majors, FindMyMarathon.com lists another 201 Marathons scheduled for just October and November. It’s quite easy at this time of year to get bitten by the Marathon Bug.

People decide to run their first marathon for a variety of reasons. Some are seasoned runners who have accomplished other distances and the marathon seems like the next logical step. Some decide to tackle the distance for the first time as part of a charity team as a way to honor their values or pay tribute to a loved one. For some, like me, they see news coverage of a marathon event, and suddenly think for no apparent reason, I want to do that.

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Three (or four) reasons I’m hiring a running coach (again)

Three (or four) reasons I’m hiring a running coach (again)

Two weeks ago I mentioned that I had signed up for the 2018 New Jersey Marathon. It’s Sunday, April 29th. Although that is still almost 34 weeks away, it’s not too early to start some training (and between now and then I will include in the blog a little of what I’m doing to prepare in case you want to join me in this next challenge).

I actually started preparing months ago. Most importantly, I had to be healthy. Some first steps included making sure I had core strength to support the increased effort, had developed a consistent warm-up and post run stretching routine to minimize risk of injury, and finally, was consistently running 20 miles or more a week (note the repetition of the word “consistent”).

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Flexibility

Flexibility

This past weekend was the New Jersey Marathon and Half Marathon. I ran the Half – my goal race for the spring, I didn’t come anywhere near a personal best. Was off by almost 20 minutes actually.  But that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to get back into training shape, on the way to a bigger goal of a personal best in the full Marathon a year from now. I was thinking the bench mark for “training shape” would be a sub-2 hour Half. Didn’t quite get there. I wasn’t disappointed though.  I did way better than I did at Newport last fall. I finished really strong with the last 5k being my fastest and running stronger in the 2nd half of the race overall. So mission accomplished, right?

If I am honest with myself, I will admit that had I stuck to my training plan, I would have easily run Sunday’s Half in under 2 hours. Its kind of like in school when you didn’t study for the test, pass, but also realized that had you studied, you would have gotten an “A”. I guess it comes down to understanding why you didn’t study, asking yourself if getting an “A” really matters that much, and where does the “lower grade” leave you in accomplishing the bigger goal? There is often a fine line between being “flexible” and sucumbing to that voice in our head that is sabotaging us.

It’s important to listen to what we are all telling ourselves when we make excuses.  When we hear ourselves say things like “I don’t have enough time” we need to ask “what about that is true?” and “what about that is false?” We don’t have enough time because we are making a choice to do something else with our time. We build our lives on the choices we make in each moment. Is the choice we’re making good or bad? I believe making a choice to be flexible is good. Flexible branches move with the wind, rigid ones break.

We all need to create a balance in our lives so we can do and be what makes us happy, make a living, stay healthy, and maintain the relationships that are important to us. That isn’t always easy and sometimes our values are in conflict with one another. Yes, sticking to our training schedule honors our values of discipline, health, achievement, and accomplishment, etc.; but what we value about our family can take time away from our workouts. Or sometimes our health is more important than getting through a workout. Pushing ourselves through illness or injury has consequences. Those issues are real. Saying we have no time to work toward achieving goals when we are spending an hour or two on social media everyday is not.

Two questions that I repeatedly ask my clients are ‘what do you want?” and “what’s important to you about that?” The answers to these two questions clarify priorities and help us make decisions. A follow up might be, “what affect does this decision have on your bigger goal?” Re-establishing a commitment to the big goal helps us evaluate those voices in our head. In allowing ourselves to compromise on smaller goals, are we ultimately sabotaging the bigger goal?

Running for 20 plus years has shown me that our commitment to intense training ebbs and flows. The reasons why we run change. That’s a natural occurrence that helps us avoid complete burnout. That flexibility is important. There are times when we need to be more available to our kids, our work schedules are more of a priority, or we are more committed to other goals. Its all about creating balance. Being flexible helps us stay balanced.

Yeah. I could have trained harder and ran a better time on Sunday. But it doesn’t matter. Through the training I did, I stepped closer to the big goal. I also developed some good habits like getting back to the gym for strength and cross training and eating healthier. By remaining flexible in the time I put into my training, I still had time to dedicate to my role as a mom and building my business. I’m feeling very balanced. Now if I can just spend a little less time on social media, I’ll be all ready for next year’s Marathon. 🙂

IMG_6525Long Branch, New Jersey. April 2017.

 

 

Showing up…because I can

Showing up…because I can

Woody Allen said, “Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.” For me that couldn’t have been more true than this past weekend. On my training schedule for Saturday was a 5k race. The River Edge Run. I had run the race 10 times in the past. Its a course on which I have two of my five fastest 5k times. Saturday? Not so much. One of my slowest. But in the Female 50-54 age group, my time was good enough for third place! On Sunday, I had six miles on the schedule; my last long run before next week’s New Jersey Half Marathon – my goal race of the spring season. Since I had to do six miles anyway, I figured why not donate to a local cause, have support on the course, and get a tee shirt! I signed up on race morning for the Thunderbird Run 10k. And, you guessed it, won 3rd place in my age group – again! And actually went home with the 2nd place medal since the fastest in my age group was fast enough for 3rd overall.

I have to confess that I was three out of three on Sunday. Only three woman between the ages of 50 and 54 got out of bed and participated in the 10k. Technically, you could say I finished last!  My time was far from my best and far from my 10k times from just a year or two ago.  I don’t feel totally deserving of a medal for that.  But I showed up! I got out of bed before 6 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning and put shorts on. And I ran…for six miles! And I feel damn good about that! So yeah, I took the medal and added it to my collection. Because I can. I run because I can.

There is a peace to be found pushing against pain, thirst and an ongoing mental conversation with yourself about “why the heck am I running 26.2 miles?”

The answer is: Because I can.

– Alfred P. Doblin,  Tom Fleming: a champion I would have liked to meet.  Read the full article.

I was saddened to learn last week of the death of Tom Fleming. I had the good fortune of meeting Tom a couple times over the years. I remember being inspired by someone so passionate about and dedicated to the sport – and in awe of his accomplishments. Especially in a local guy.  Tom was a New Jersey native who had won the New York City Marathon twice, was a runner up at Boston (twice) and winner of several other Marathons.  While most of us will never be the kind of athlete Tom was (or subscribe to his 150 miles a week marathon training regime), we understand his love of running and competing, and why he loved coaching kids and introducing so many to the sport.

The New Jersey Half Marathon is only five days away. I didn’t keep up with the training enough for a time goal, but I did do enough training to be fit, and to finish. And that’s satisfying enough. While I said I wanted to ramp up to run a fast Half, my heart wasn’t really in it. So I changed my goal. I wanted to run races with my boyfriend, and check off a few “bucket list” races; do some sightseeing and train just to cover the distances. And maybe sign up for more races than seem reasonable.

The New York Times wrote about Tom Fleming, “In 1973, during his senior year in college, he competed in a track meet on a Saturday, then ran the Boston Marathon two days later, finishing second.” So maybe we are following Tom’s example when we sign up for more than one race on the same weekend. And maybe in his death, Tom is a reminder that we should seize the moment. Run whenever we can. As runners we are  not invincible. And we are certainly not immortal.  So show up to everything for which you are able to show up! Don’t take for granted the opportunities you have before you – right in this moment. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll bring home a medal.

IMG_6296A stark reminder of the fragility of life seen on my run. A tribute to 2016 graduate, Sam Berman. Ramsey High School. April 2017.

 

Put your oxygen mask on first

Put your oxygen mask on first

This is a bit of a follow-up to last week’s post. That post, shared on our town’s Moms FaceBook page garnered the most views for anything I’ve posted for this blog. I am grateful for that. Thank you for sharing. When I started writing about mental health about a year after my husband’s death, it was my desire to help open more eyes and ears to something that deserves so much more attention.

Another post in the last week on that moms page which got a lot of attention got me thinking about how the standards to which we hold ourselves and each other can be quite harmful to our mental health. The post (for those of you not following along) was from a mom of younger – I assumed elementary school-age children – who was fed-up with the speed at which one particular teenager was driving down her residential street.  This of course would be a concern to any mom whether coming from the perspective of a parent of small children whose safety was in jeopardy or the parent of the teenager who may be speeding. Had that post stated the issue and then maybe something along the lines of if any knows who this is, please tell them to slow down, the safety of all our children is at stake! the response probably would have been all positive. Instead the post was addressed to “the parents of the teen” and concluded with the line Get your kid under control!!!!

The blame evoked in that post got under my skin. And instead of leaving well-enough alone I responded; I believe, as diplomatically as possible.  I said something like, I understand your concern, no one should be speeding on any street in our town, but to hold the parents of  a “child” of driving age responsible is wrong. There comes a time when young adults need to take responsibility for their own actions and at that age, parents have little control over what their teens do. To this she called me a failure as a parent. And I told her we should plan to chat again when her children were teenagers. The thread continued with many other moms weighing in. I can’t tell you anything that was said exactly because the original post and long thread of comments that followed has since been removed. Yes, it got that bad.

Let’s first talk about the expectation we – mothers – set for ourselves. We want to do everything right for our kids and if we perceive that they are falling short somewhere along the way, we often take the blame. We put enormous pressure on ourselves.  At the same time we are trying to raise our children to become successful adults, we are also trying to have satisfying marriages, running a household, managing the care of aging parents, and maybe even trying to balance a successful career. That’s a lot. And when a number of those areas aren’t working out quite as well as we planned. It gets frustrating. And depressing. Our mental health is in jeopardy. We need to give ourselves – and each other – a break and stop blaming, criticizing, and judging, or allowing ourselves to be.

That’s why I couldn’t leave well enough alone and not respond to that post. I was thinking about moms who were dealing with things far worse than speeding, and not wanting them to feel that in anyway they were to blame, As the parent of a 17-year-old, I now conclude that how our children turn out has as much to do with luck as great parenting. Like we can only take so much credit for the success of our children, we can only accept so much of the blame. 

I didn’t always see it that way though. I remember how not long ago I was that mom – the mom of a 11 year-old with good grades and perfect attendance, who loved school, was interested in attending Princeton or Yale, and was a finalist in the DARE essay contest. I was certain I knew how to raise a child; thought I’d have those teenage years covered and my kid – through my example and exemplary parenting skills – would be perfect.  I secretly judged other parents who were struggling, and imagined what they must be doing wrong. But before my husband and I could finish patting ourselves on the back, life quickly changed.  Seventh grade happened. And I began to learn that 1) these kids have free will, 2) we only have so much control, and 3) we can’t protect them from everything. And that’s okay.

As our children grow up, our perspective as parents change. Everything I experienced as a cancer survivor and losing my husband to suicide changed my perspective too. I don’t judge the way I used to. I now understand that everyone is dealing with challenges in their own homes and in their own bodies and in their own minds that the rest of us know nothing about. And sometimes we are simply ignorant, unable to see beyond our own perspective at that moment. I have learned as a coach that we are all – our children included – naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We’ll figure this out.

But let’s take care of ourselves – our own mental health – first. It’s like they say during the flight safety demonstration, ” If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.” Especially as parents, we are no good to our children if we don’t first take care of ourselves – eat right, exercise, de-stress as much as possible. That way we have as much energy and as much mental capacity to deal with everything the kids are going to throw at us. Sometimes even still, that’s a tall order. 

We’ve heard it a million times, parenting is the most difficult job we will ever have — and we often have to do it while we deal with our own insecurities, limited perspective, other stressors coming at us from several different directions. All while under the watchful gaze of other parents who think they can do it better. Have you ever looked through a bookstore for a parenting book? Have you seen the number of often contradictory subjects? Do you know why this is? Because we are all unique. Every parent. Every child. There is no one size fits all solution that will work for everyone. We have to find what works best for us.

Remember in my last post when I said, “as if parenting wasn’t a gray hair creating, anxiety producing fiasco that constantly left me in a state of self-doubt already”? Well, I (we all!) don’t need other parents adding to that self-doubt. We need to support one another. We need to approach our relationships with other parents from the perspective of a coach – that everyone is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Sure we need to look out for each others kids, and talk amongst ourselves to solve problems and discover solutions when there are issues facing our community or our children. But we must work together. Blame, criticism, judgement, and unsolicited advice doesn’t help anyone. 

Most importantly, take care of yourself. We all have the strength we need within ourselves. To find the answers that are right for you and your family, look no further than yourself. Stop listening to everyone else. Trust your instincts, your intuition, yourself. And a journey of self-discovery starts with a clear head. When you’re feeling the heat; get out of the kitchen. Walk away. Get off FaceBook. Meditate. Go for a run. Walk in the woods. Make an appointment with a therapist. Hire a coach. Practice the self-care that works for you. Solving the mental health crisis that I spoke about last week starts with us.

IMG_6338Ramapo Valley County Reservation. Mahwah, New Jersey. April 2017