300 Miles Down…13.1 to Go

 

bibThe training for my first half marathon has come to an end. The only thing left to do is run it. I tallied up the number of miles I’ve run since January, when I began to think about taking on this goal. I was amazed to find that it added up to over 300 miles. Not bad for someone who has never considered herself a runner.

I haven’t told too many people about this half marathon in my future. It makes me uncomfortable.  I am afraid that they will look at me with the same assumptions I used to have about people who were running long distances. I assumed they had some kind of special magic. Like they were born into an elite group known as RUNNERS. And as RUNNERS, this whole running thing came easily.

I haven’t felt worthy of people assuming these things about me. Because I have no special magic and running is certainly not something that has come easily.

When I do talk about it, I find myself wanting to tell people my story so they realize that this accomplishment, when it happens, was never on my to-do list. I had labeled myself a non-runner a long time ago. I had no plans to take up this challenge until one thing led to another…one foot landed in front of the other over and over again…and 300 miles later, I’m doing it.

There was a time when I said, “I could never run five miles.” Now I say, “I haven’t run 13.1 miles YET.” The difference is not simply one of semantics.

But to really understand that, you’d have to go back to the beginning.

Almost 20 years ago I was a spectator at a marathon for the first time. I was dating someone who was running it. So my girlfriend and I, hungover from a night of partying, filled our to-go mugs with Bloody Marys and parked ourselves along the race route.

I remember watching with horrified fascination as these people willingly put themselves through what looked like hell. Men’s shirts were bloody where their nipples had been chaffed raw. Agonized women staggered by on painfully stiff legs. I saw someone fall. I saw people crying.  I couldn’t believe it.

I sipped my drink, shook my head and said with all the wisdom of a 23 year old, “Never. Not for me.”

For a long time, running any distance at all was out of the question. After several years I was asked to do a charity 5K. I trained and got myself to the point of being able to run three miles. The day of the race came and, because of my inexperience, I started too fast. Any experienced racer knows this is the worst possible strategy. I quickly exhausted myself and ended up having to walk most of the way.

“You see,” I told myself, “you’re not a runner.”

Years went by and I stayed true to my commitment to no running. Eventually some of my family members began a tradition of running in a Fourth of July race. My parents did the walk. My husband and sister, Toree, would run and often medal. My brother would run, sometimes while pushing a stroller. Pretty soon most everyone was participating. They didn’t always win, but they always had fun.

As for me, some years I was pregnant.

Some years I had a newborn.

Some years I just wanted to drink wine instead.

Finally, I gave in and walked the 5K.

Then I ran the 5K.

I did that for a few years—started training in April, ran the race in July. Then I was done.

“I’m not really a runner,” I’d say. “I just don’t want to be left out of the after race celebration.”

Then, two summers ago my sister, Sara, and I were sitting on the dock after the race. She said, “I need motivation to keep running. We should do the Detroit Marathon Relay.”

At first I thought she was crazy. It sounded impossible. That was a real race and I was not a real runner. But we researched the legs and found that there was a short one—just four miles. We talked and planned and dreamed of being the kind of people who could do it. When we asked Toree and my best friend, Angie, both of whom are experienced runners, of course they agreed. Team Fede-Bohr was born. (Named in honor of our maiden names–Fedewa and Bohr.)

I trained like crazy for that relay. My teammates were contributing distance, so I felt it was my job to at least try to contribute speed. I got down to a 9:40 mile which, for me, is fast. We had a blast training together and running the relay. After the race we celebrated our shared accomplishment and began to think about next year.

“We should do the half,” Sara said to me.

“No way,” I said. “I’m not a real runner. I could barely do this.”

But I couldn’t ignore the cracks that had begun to form around my my non-runner label. I had to admit, when I crossed the finish line after my four mile anchor leg, I kind of felt like a runner.

So I decided to keep running. In January, I begged my friend Jen to do a 5K race with me at the end of February. She agreed. So I ran all through the cold winter months. I pulled on two pair of thermal leggings, layered turtlenecks and sweatshirts, bought running gloves and a headband and faced subfreezing conditions. As long as there was no ice, I ran.

Soon we set a goal to to run a 10K in June. To meet this goal, I kept running and racing. We ran a race in the frigid, drizzly rain of early March and on a glorious day in May. Both races were hard. I had to slow down in order to make sure I could finish. I was frustrated by how much I was running and how hard it still was to run 3.2 miles.

Even so, I kept at it. Steadily my miles increased. One day I realized that by the time I got to mile four, things felt better. Something had changed. Running was getting more comfortable. Having reached this new level of fitness, I worked like crazy to be be ready for my first 10K.

When the day of the 10k arrived, although I was nervous, I felt ready. It was a beautiful June day but it was hot…blazing hot. By the time we started at 9 a.m., it was almost 90 degrees. After three miles, I was so hot I was dizzy. I prayed for a shady spot on the path but that never materialized. I stopped for water. I tried to run again, but my feet felt like bricks. I walked for a bit. Each time I tried to get back to a jog, I couldn’t. I was gasping and sweating and my heart was pounding. In the end, I walked the last half of the race. I was bitterly disappointed. So much work, so much training and for what? The frustration stayed with me for a week.

That let-down was a turning point for me. My old habit of giving up didn’t feel like an option anymore. I had come too far. Instead of deciding that I wasn’t cut out for this, I became determined to finish a 10K. A month later, I did. After that, I officially registered for the Detroit Half Marathon. I was the last member of Team Fede-Bohr to register. In fact, Toree was even doing the Full Marathon. I was definitely afraid of how hard I would have to work to do it; but I was more afraid of how disappointed I would feel if race day came and went and I didn’t try.

As I write this, I am amazed by how much I have changed in twelve months. This time last year I wasn’t sure I could run four miles. Now, I know I will finish 13. I know it will be hard. I know I will struggle. But I know that one way or another, I will cross the finish line–as a runner.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself from all of this. I learned how hard it is to change a notion you’ve held on to for twenty years…especially when in certain ways it protects you. I learned how my own ideas of myself have been my greatest barriers.  And I’ve learned it won’t be magic that gets me to mile 13. It will be the same hard work and dedication that got me through the first 300. But I have also learned that a little magic does exist. It is the magic of running with sisters and friends who knew you could do it before you did.

november-2015-024

Detroit Marathon 2015 Medals:  Relay Team Fede-Bohr plus Toree’s Half-Marathon Medal

february-2016-366

Paczki Run 2016:  Celebrating with Jen after a Bitterly Cold 5K

 

res_1458439248040

Corktown 5K March 2016:  It was raining and freezing cold. We needed hot drinks desperately.

20160611_085230

Riverfront 10K:  My first attempt at a 10K. This was taken before the race…when I was still feeling positive.

 

 

20160704_093732

Greatest Fourth in the North July 2016:  My First Successful 10K

 

 

race-picture

The Brooksie Way 2016:  The final 10K before our half-marathon. Sara and I have reached a point where running can be fun!

 

 

 

Anniversary Celebration…with Kids

My husband and I just finished celebrating our thirteenth year of marriage with an extended weekend trip to Mackinac Island. We like to take our kids to the Island every summer but we usually also go away, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. This year we decided to combine the two trips and make it a family celebration. We love the idea in theory. In reality…well…there were moments when we found ourselves questioning the wisdom of foregoing our relaxing adult weekend to instead listen to whining and manage fights.

When I was a kid, I can count the number of times I stayed in a hotel on one hand. There was the one big trip to Mackinaw City with a day trip to the Island and Tahquamenon Falls. Then for a couple of years we spent a weekend in Midland at the Midway Motor Lodge just for fun. When I was in high school, we went to Chicago for a cheerleading competition. That was pretty much it.

Back then, my parents owned a small cottage on a beautiful lake and that is where we spent our summer weekends. I loved it and wouldn’t change it. Because we rarely traveled, those trips seemed like such a big deal. On Mackinac Island I was so grateful that my dad let me get a rabbit’s foot and a box of jumping beans for a souvenir. I remember my mixed feelings as I held that bag of treasure. I was so excited about my purchase, but I also felt guilty knowing the money my parents had spent. I’m not kidding. That is really how I felt.

Things are different for my kids.

I wouldn’t even say that my kids are particularly well traveled, but they’ve definitely been to more places than I had at their age. We are fortunate. I have my summers off and my parents own a larger cottage now. They allow us to spend as much time there as we want. So we go for a few weeks in July and from there, we venture to other destinations in Northern Michigan. July feels like one big extended vacation.

I guess it is no surprise that my children begin to feel entitled to fun and figure everything should be about them. Most of the time, it is. But this weekend, we wanted to be able to have a leisurely dinner or sit on the hotel porch with a glass of wine.

After a particularly irritating round of brother-pick-on-brother, we had to have a sit-down. I laid out my theory that they are suffering from “vacation spoiled-itis.” I contrasted their experiences with mine growing up in an effort to highlight what gratitude might look and feel like. We informed them that we had no intention of having a bad weekend simply because they couldn’t get along. We then explained that there are babysitting options available and we’d be happy to arrange for that. (This is actually true. Mission Pointe offers day camps and we were inches from enrolling them.) Finally, we said in no uncertain terms that this trip was actually NOT about them. In fact, it was about us. It was our anniversary trip and we usually celebrate that on our own.

After they got over the initial shock of this information, they recovered very well. They were sweet and adorable for the rest of the trip. In the end, I’m very glad we brought them. They are a huge part of our what we were celebrating.

As we strolled around the Island, we laughed at the conversations we overheard.

“I told you if you spent all of your money at the first shop you wouldn’t be able to get anything else…”

“If you kids don’t stop whining…”

“No, you’ve already had fudge and popcorn…”

As we observed the pinched faces of parents as their toddlers wailed or teenagers sulked, we knew our situation was not unique. It is the universal experience of parents expecting our kids to stay grounded and grateful while giving them much more than we ever had.

 

Bouncing Back from Blog-Intimidation

I’ve taken a long break from blogging. I could name a simple reason like not having enough time lately. And that might be part of it. But the whole story, like most things in life, is more complicated than that.

An interesting fact you may not know about blogging is that behind the scenes you can find out quite a bit about how your writing is being received. You can see the number of views you’ve had each day, how much time someone spent reading a post, what country he was in and how he was directed to your site. Fascinating statistics. Unless, of course, you begin to over-analyze and become paralyzed by what these stats imply about your writing and, ultimately, you. Continue reading

Swim Lessons: Wisdom Gained Poolside

I’m sure many parents will relate when I say that these days, I spend a significant amount of my life sitting on the sideline watching sports. Before I had children, I imagined this would be a terrific bore. But that is not true. It is a thrill to watch your child participate in a sport, especially when he or she becomes somewhat good at it.

I’ve watched my son become better and better at swimming and it has filled me with parental pride. It has also given me that odd realization that my child is better at something than me. It is obvious at this point that he can out-swim me any day of the week. But recently I realized something even more important. His dedication, determination and mental toughness have also  surpassed my own. Continue reading

10 Things I’m Doing Better After 10 Years of Parenting

Angel_Family_day_2Ten years ago today an amazing thing happened.  I gave birth to my first son.  I would like to say that I was instantly transformed into a mother.  But that would not be true.  The process of becoming worthy of the title took a bit longer.  Unlike many of the instant-moms I’ve talked to, I was initially not sure I knew how to keep a child alive let alone raise him to independence.

Ten years later, I’m happy to say that things have worked out fine.  He’s alive and I am very comfortable with my role as his mom.  And thanks to the guidance…insistence…requirements…of my children, I can say I do many things better today than I was doing them 10 years ago. Continue reading

The Virus That Saved Me

2014 did not end well.  It wasn’t my favorite year to begin with but December was my undoing.

The month began with a terrific betrayal.  The nature of the job that I do means that I have a small circle of trusted colleagues and a few close friends at work.  It is an isolating position but that is part of the job.  It is, in fact, the part of the job that I like the least.  But I always operated under the assumption that I was good at it.  And I believed that, ultimately, by doing good work I would earn the respect of the people I worked with.

That has not always turned out to be the case. Continue reading

Ebola: Is it Time to Worry Yet?

I’ve tried to remain calm.  I’ve tried not to become irrational.  But with each passing day and each escalating news story, my level of concern is raising.  And I’m really wondering, at what point does one’s general feeling of unease turn into alarm.  At what point do you plan to prepare for an Ebola Disaster?

I will guiltily admit that when Ebola was on another continent, I felt much better.  Insulated by miles of ocean and land, I could keep my fears at bay. Continue reading