With All My Sole

The Power of a Run

“If you had
one shot
or one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
would you capture it
or just let it slip?” – Eminem

 

November 5th, 2016, that was my day. My opportunity. My moment. The one I had trained and worked so hard to reach and capture as my very own. To show up, work hard, and bathe in the excitement of my accomplishment. So the question is…did I capture it, or did I let it slip away? My emotions of how it all turned out have been all over the place, but I have also been reminded of the lessons that can be learned through running. The power of a run can be found in both the good ones and the bad ones, and sometimes…even more so in the bad ones.

Here is my very first half marathon recap…

It has been almost 2 full months since I “ran” my first half marathon. I use the quotations because there was very little actual running involved in those 13.1 miles. It was probably something closer to 3 cumulative miles of running, 5 miles of walking, and 5.1 miles of painful limping. So that alone should tell you how well it went…not so well at all. Yet when I reflect back on that day now, it was actually kind of perfect (in a very imperfect kind of way). How confusing, I know, so let me explain…

Going into race day, I knew that the outcome was completely up in the air. Because of my injury, I had been forced to decrease my mileage significantly during the last several weeks of training, and I didn’t run at all during the two weeks leading up to the race. I had only reached 10 miles before my training came to a halt, and so the whole event had a huge question mark surrounding it. Just two days before my half marathon I was seeing an orthopedist to confirm my diagnosis, start a treatment plan, and to make sure I wasn’t overlooking an even bigger injury. Thankfully, I was only dealing with my original diagnosis of piriformis syndrome which could certainly be treated, but my body needed time. But time wasn’t something I had going for me. I saw a physical therapist later that afternoon and we did as much as we could without irritating the muscles even more so before the race. I had reached the “it is what it is” mentality, and I knew that all I could do was give it my all, hope for the best, and not let it steal any of my joy. So that is exactly what I did. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I was definitely cautiously optimistic about the outcome, but I was also very excited. And I wasn’t going to let anything take that away from me.

I always imagined I would be extremely nervous right before my first half marathon. I assumed I wouldn’t eat well the night before or sleep much at all, and I definitely thought I would be a big ball of nerves on race day morning. But much to my surprise, my excitement seemed to take over, and the nerves never really showed up. My husband and I traveled with friends to Savannah, Georgia for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon, and I was soaking in the entire experience. The night before, our friends’ sister opened her home to us all and prepared a wonderful homemade pasta dinner which served as our pre-race fuel. I met new people, talked about our upcoming race, and ate two delicious platefuls of spaghetti! Even while I was talking to others about running those 13.1 miles, I still never got nervous, but I remained very aware of the reality of my situation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the entire time. My goal was to take it easy and do walk/run intervals throughout the race, hopefully keeping the pain at bay, at least most of the time. While I once had a finish time goal, my only goal at this point was to finish, and preferably pain-free. But I really had no clue what my body would be able to do, so I simply enjoyed the company and embraced that no matter what, this race was about to become a big part of my running story. I laid out my clothes before going to bed, slept fairly well, and was ready to go the next morning. I still never experienced those nerves I kept expecting to show up. I think I was just so anxious and ready to get going and see how it was all going to play out for me…

Ready, Set, Run!

 Standing at the starting line, I was super excited and hopeful. More than anything though, I was ready to get going and find out how the miles were going to play out for me. I wanted to start running, realize I was okay, and reach the point where I knew I was going to make it just fine. But I was still cautiously optimistic, and I understood that I would likely reach a point where I would struggle with my injury. I just never thought it would happen so fast, or that it would hurt anywhere near as much as it did. There is this feeling I would always get before the pain set in, a slight tug or pull that acted like a little knock to my muscles, letting its arrival be known. It was my body’s way of offering a fair warning that it was about to get painful and that I should probably stop. I had listened to this warning during training…I slowed down…I stopped…I rested for days and even weeks at times. But on this particular day, stopping wasn’t one of my options. I had arrived at the starting line with one goal…to arrive at the finish line through the hard work and energy of my own two legs. Unfortunately, I felt that little tug to my muscles at only about a quarter of a mile in, way sooner than ever before. Over the course of my injury it had initially shown up around mile 2 or 3, and eventually, through listening to my body, resting, and cross training, I had been able to hold it off until closer to mile 4 or 5. So the fact that I felt that unwanted knock at only a quarter of a mile into the beginning of 13.1 long miles…absolutely crushed me. I remember trying to put on a happy, outwardly positive face. I tried not to let my husband and friends see how discouraged I was right from the beginning, but I knew the pain was coming, and since I had never had to push through it over such a long period of time…I was scared. Scared of the pain, scared of hurting myself even more, scared of not being able to finish, and scared of letting them all down. I vividly remember the sound of dozens of watches ringing aloud when that first mile was reached. My heart sank along with the sounds….I was only one mile in. How could I possibly do this for 12.1 more miles? I felt like my dream of finishing was getting farther and farther out of my reach. Sadness and doubt were setting in fast, and I found myself feeling like I was somewhere I didn’t even belong. But then I heard familiar voices. The voices of my husband and friends telling me that we were going to do it together, that they were not going to leave my side, and that I would make it across that finish line. It was their encouragement and support that helped me shut down the voice in my mind that was telling me I couldn’t do it, and got me to continue on with the long journey ahead. They let me go the pace I needed to, to run when I could and walk when I needed, and they constantly assured me that I would make it to the end. It was that love, friendship, and support that kept me going even through the slowly increasing pain. I wanted to finish not only for myself, but also for them. The people who had not only stuck by me through many miles of training, but who were also giving up the outcome of their own runs in this race to ensure that I made it to the end. By mile 5 the pain was pretty constant and it was really starting to weigh on me that it would only continue to get more difficult…and painful. My mind was racing on how I would possibly be able to finish, but I wasn’t giving up. I found myself bargaining with my body…begging it to please let me make it through the remaining miles. I promised it rest afterwards, that I would go to physical therapy, and to take a break from running however long I needed to. I just wanted this so bad. How could I not…I had trained for months, given up sleeping in on so many Saturday mornings, and pushed myself through sweat, exhaustion, and the fear of even being able to do this. The exact fear I was experiencing in that moment. I ran when I could, but the running intervals were getting much shorter and the walking intervals were turning into a limp. Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 we stopped at a medic stand and made an ice pack to hopefully help with the inflammation. I limped along to mile 10 and that is when I hit my major wall. The pain had reached its all time high and in my mind, there was absolutely no way to continue. I was fighting back tears…tears of pain, anger, and confusion. And then I received a text from my best friend and my very first running partner that said “I would carry you if I could! Do not give in. Do not stop. God will carry you.” Her message filled my eyes with tears and when I looked up from my phone, I had reached the mile 10 sign which read “Finish! Get what you came for.” The combination of those messages sent a flood of emotion through me in that moment, and while I was hurting incredibly bad and wanted to stop just so the pain would stop, I also knew then that I was NOT going to give up. I knew I was being carried…by the love, support, prayers, and encouragement of those surrounding me both near and far. And so I stopped for a refill of more ice and I pressed on.

Those last few miles were really painful, but I tried to hide it as not to worry my husband to death. I tried to enjoy the beautiful day, the charming streets of Savannah, and the company of great friends beside me, but the pain made it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I gritted, I beared it, and I didn’t quit. I remember watching the pacers go by and getting discouraged when I realized just how long this half marathon was taking me to complete. But the closer I got to the finish line, the more I started to see my strength, determination, and perseverance in a new light…the light it so rightfully deserved. If you would have told me before I started that I would take 4 hours to finish the race I would have thought it to be a complete failure. But after living out those hours…hours of giving it my all, pushing my body beyond what I thought was possible, and not allowing myself to give up…I had a whole new perspective on a 4 hour finish time. I remember looking up at my husband and telling him “If I finish this race in 4 hours in this amount of pain, I am a complete bad ass.” And I meant it. That initially horrible finish time sounded like an amazing accomplishment after working as hard as I did to get there. And then the moment arrived where the finish line was finally in sight. Regardless of the pain, I knew I wanted to run across that line, and thankfully, my husband and friends wouldn’t let me give up on that dream either. As we turned that last corner and could see the end in the distance, we started to run. And as soon as I did, I wanted to stop. It felt like nothing short of a dozen knives being stabbed into my left leg and lower back….over and over and over. I couldn’t remember experiencing any type of pain like that in my entire life and I started crying immediately. I looked at my husband who was running to my right and I told him I had to stop, but he encouraged me to keep going. He assured me “You can do anything for one minute. You CAN do this. Keep going. You’ve got this.” He may have said more, I don’t know. I kept repeating that I couldn’t go on and that it was too painful, but he talked me through it until the end, and I didn’t stop until I was done.

At exactly 4 hours and 8 seconds after crossing the starting line, I finally crossed the finish line. All of that doubt, fear, pain, and perseverance…and I had actually arrived and reached the goal I had desired so much. So to answer the original question of whether or not I captured my moment or let it slip…I totally captured it. But I certainly didn’t capture it alone. I did it with the people who never gave up on me. Because when others believe in you so much and they don’t let you give up, they never leave your side or they continue to send you encouraging messages until you make it the rest of the way, it provides motivation and strength that you didn’t even know existed inside of you.


Looking back on that moment I am overwhelmed, not just that I did it, but in all of the life lessons I learned on that day, and that running continually teaches me. The power of a run is more than your body moving you forward. It is realizing that you are capable of so much more than you ever believed. It is achieving something that you once though of as impossible. It is realizing that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to finish something…it’s the finishing that counts, and the hard work that was put in between the start and the finish lines. It is thinking that you have nothing more to give, digging deeper, and finding out you have SO much more inside of you. It is realizing that we don’t only run with our legs, but also with our hearts. It is about discovering what we are capable of, and discovering the power of love, encouragement, and support. It is about more than just ourselves…it is about being there for each other, believing in each other, and cheering each other along on the journey.

Life is a series of moments that are constantly passing us by, and these moments in time are what make up our beautiful, wonderful lives. Capture all of your moments and experience them fully and completely. Feel the power and joy they bring to your life. Embrace them, enjoy them, and never let them go, for they are yours to grasp and keep in your hearts forever. I wouldn’t change a thing about my perfectly imperfect moment on this painful, memorable November day. Not one single thing…

My Half Marathon Training Recap: Ready or Not, 3 More Days!

I have thought about my running journey a lot this week. It has been an emotional path of nervousness, excitement, determination, accomplishment, and a whole lot of hard work. I think about where I started… a very unhealthy, unfit body that struggled and hated everything about running (actually, I hated everything about exercise in general) and where I am now… in love with running and always anxious to get home, lace up my tennis shoes, and get some miles in… and this total transition still amazes me. Three short years ago I couldn’t even imagine running an entire mile without stopping…but then I did. Even after that major accomplishment, I never thought I would run in a 5K race… and I did that too. Then a 10k?? It seemed impossible, and I remember the overwhelming feelings of fear and doubt that filled my mind… and yet I did that too. And here I am today, staring in the face of thirteen point one miles… and I don’t fear that number at all. Because if I have learned anything on my running journey it is this – I am capable. It took a couple of years and hundreds of miles to reach this point, but I finally know that I can do anything I set my mind to do when I put in the hard work and give it my all. For me, this is the greatest gift running has given me, and one of the many reasons I love it so much. I will never give up on running or on myself ever again. But (yes, there is a but…) despite my unfailing confidence in my ability to run this distance, my body has placed certain limitations on me these last few weeks, and I don’t know what that will mean for me on race day. Let me start from the beginning….

Running put living back into my life. What exactly do I mean by that? Simply this… running has greatly increased the quality of my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. It released me from chronic stomach pains. It released me from stress, anxiety, and worry that weighed heavily on me every day. It released me from thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t capable of certain things. I am so much happier and healthier now, and for all these reasons… running gave me my life back. Some of the most exciting parts of running has always been setting new goals, reaching them, and of course, celebrating them. And while there was a day that I never thought I would have the ability to run a half marathon, I eventually gained the strength and the confidence that I would, just as I had conquered those other milestones.

There is a distinct mixture of excitement and nervousness when you register for an event like this, and I have spent the last few months getting even more nervous but equally excited. Thankfully, I have not been alone on this journey, and I have had the opportunity to share the nerves and excitement with not only my husband, but also the best running friends I could have ever asked for. They have encouraged me, celebrated with me, and they have been there every step of the way to remind me that I can do this. It is with their encouragement that I finally reached that “I’ve got this” moment and I hope they know what a priceless gift that is to me. Together, we followed a training plan that increased our mileage safely and gradually, and we stayed hydrated and fueled for every run. My alarm went off at 4:30am many Saturday mornings for our long runs, and my husband and I met up with our running group with sleepy eyes and lots of yawns. But I can’t tell you how much I loved being with my friends, working towards this once unimaginable goal, and watching the day awaken with them. I put in the miles. I stayed focused and determined. And while it was hot, humid, and very hard at times, I have loved every single sweaty mile. Ten miles is my number though; to date, it is my longest consecutive running distance, and I remember the emotions that soared through me when I hit that milestone like it was just yesterday. It was a really good run. I left feeling strong and excited, and it was just what I needed to keep my confidence alive and strong. Just remembering that feeling is making me smile (my post 10-miler is my feature picture for this blog). My next Saturday long run, however, did not go as well. Sciatic pain caused me to cut my run short by a couple of miles… and so it began. This was the point I realized that piriformis syndrome had joined me on my training journey. Which really, really threw a curve ball into what I considered my perfect path to the finish line. A wave of constant emotions began. One day I was mad, and I yelled. The next I was sad, and I cried. The reality of it is…this is not the reality I had envisioned in my head. I had done everything right, I had put in so many miles, so much effort, and so much determination. The question of why this happened continues to race through my mind every day. But many times it doesn’t matter what we do or how well we plan, because life steps in and reminds us that we don’t have total control. What is to come, will come. What happens, happens. It is what it is. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it or that I understand why, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m giving up. That is the furthest thought from my mind.

For the last several weeks, I have read plenty of articles on this injury, I have seen a chiropractor, and I have been consistent with ice, foam rolling, stretches, and strength exercises. I have rested, cross trained, eased back into running with intervals, and rested some more. But the pain keeps creeping back up when I run. It has been extremely frustrating, heartbreaking, but also humbling at times. But while my frustration and concern seem to take over from time to time, I assure you that it has not taken away my excitement and my hopefulness. As I was reading story after story from runners who have had injuries that interrupted their training and even kept some of them from running their race, I realized something very eye-opening to me. These were their stories, their struggles, and their memories to share. It wasn’t the end but rather a part of their running journey to look back on and grow from. Life isn’t seamless, and things don’t always go as we plan, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of our story. The important part is how we choose to move forward from it and let it grow us as a person. Ultimately, this has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for me…major highs to major lows…but I am not stepping to the side. The only place I am stepping is across that start line in three days.  I have dreamed of how it will feel to cross that finish line for too long to step aside and give it up. I will fight until the end, and no matter what the outcome may be, I will be thankful and embrace it as part of my journey. I am a runner. And this is simply part of my story…

Three days. One goal. It is my journey to embrace no matter what.

This one is dedicated to my biggest running supporters…you know who you are heart

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Running Shorts and Red Lipstick

“Self-confidence is the best outfit you can wear. Rock it and own it every single day”

Many days I can be seen wearing my running shorts and red lipstick, usually on a weekday when I get to enjoy an afternoon run after work. I come home and shed my work clothes as fast as I can and throw on my running shorts, anxiously ready to hit the pavement and run off any stresses the day may have brought with it. But my red lipstick stays with me. No, I don’t re-apply it before I head out the door; the color just lingers on beyond the 8-hour work day. So I confidently run, like I never have before…

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t too long ago that I wouldn’t have been caught wearing either. Nope. Not at all. NEVER. As far as the shorts go, it was a classic case of hating my legs. I always did…I was overly critical of them…of myself as a whole actually. And as far as the lipstick goes, it was a classic case of being extremely timid and overly concerned of what others would think. Wasn’t it too bold and daring for the person everyone (including myself) thought I was? I didn’t want the judgement, the questions, or the attention. So… I laid low in my neutral colored lipstick and my blue jeans or yoga pants, hoping to avoid the criticism from myself and others. But those days are gone (thankfully). It didn’t happen overnight, and I wasn’t even conscious of it while it was all unfolding, but recent comments from friends and even complete strangers have made me realize this major breakthrough I made somewhere along the way. In a way, it kind of feels silly to even be talking about this, but I have realized that it is actually all very symbolic for me. When I first started wearing my new lipstick earlier this year I was terrified. I’m not even sure what really lead me to do it after all these years other than being tired of holding back, tired of worrying about what other people think, tired of questioning every single thing and not living my life bravely and boldly, and the fear of getting older and wondering why I didn’t just wear the red lipstick in my youthful years.

Earlier this summer while attending a local play, a stranger complimented my red lipstick. I promptly thanked her, and also went on to tell her how much her compliment meant to me since I had never worn such a bold color in my entire life. I was still in that phase of slight unease where I was questioning my decision to wear it, and I wasn’t fully comfortable yet with the major change. She assured me that it was a beautiful color and that it looked great on me. What was a simple comment for her was a huge deal to me; it made me feel a little more confident, so I bravely continued applying it each day. I continued wearing it throughout the summer until it finally felt like my normal. The red was just…well…me! But it really all came together and hit me last week. I had stopped at the grocery store after one of my late afternoon runs so I was sporting my running shorts, red lipstick, AND a massive amount of sweat. I was stopped by one of the employees to try a sample of the dish she had prepared and I graciously stopped and accepted her offer. We started chatting, first about the food I was trying and how she prepared it, and then she specifically mentioned that she sees me there often in my workout clothes and my red lipstick, and she told me that she loved the color. She herself had on a bright, beautiful shade of pink and I immediately returned the compliment. But it wasn’t just her lipstick that was shining brightly, it was also her personality. She had a huge smile that made you feel welcome and want to keep talking to her. We had a brief but powerful exchange of words…just a few comments about feeling beautiful, being happy, and being bold enough in life to wear colorful lipstick. The conversation made me happy, and it also left me thinking. There used to be a day that I never wore shorts, and there used to be a day that I never wore red lipstick, yet there I was wearing both, with absolutely no worries or concerns. Running has done more for me than shape and strengthen my body. Running has strengthened my mind, my soul, and my confidence. It has allowed me to see life through a different lens, to take chances, and to be bold in life. Somewhere along the way I stopped looking at my legs negatively and started viewing them for the amazing gift they are. They move my body, they allow me to fly, and they never fail me. And somewhere along the way I stepped outside of my comfort zone, I stopped worrying so much about what others might think or say about me, and I confidently started wearing the red lipstick that I always wanted to try.

What I hope you take away from this post has nothing to do with wearing shorts or a certain color lipstick. It is simply this –

Sometimes we forget how a few simple words can make a big impact on others. Speak with kindness, give compliments often, and uplift each other, always. We are all in this together.
Be confident in who you are and be brave enough to do the things you have always wanted to do. Don’t let your own worries, fears, or criticism get in the way, and certainly don’t give others that power over you. Life is too short to live it in yoga pants and neutral colored lipstick. Be brave, be bold, and be the person you want to be…

FLY, My Darling

“To love yourself is to understand that you don’t need to be perfect to be good”

FLY. First love yourself, that is. It’s not something we are born automatically knowing how to do, but life sure is easier once we figure out how. Many of us struggle with it for a large portion of our lives, which, let’s just be honest…really sucks. I know exactly how this struggle goes…we question our abilities, wonder if we are good enough, and even wish we had different or “better” qualities within ourselves. All along, not appreciating the talents and qualities we do have to offer the world. Learning to love yourself is not an easy task (at least not in my opinion), but it is a necessary component of true happiness. We spend our lives longing for others to love us, accept us, and welcome us into their hearts, but what about doing this for ourselves. How wonderful would it be to reach the point where we are comfortable in our own skin, we are accepting of ourselves just the way we are, and we love all of the things that make us…well…us! I have spent most of my life caring way too much about what other people think about me. Somewhere along the line it began to feel like I was changing who I really was in order to make them happy. All of this negative energy was going into what others thought about me, and I rarely stopped to think about myself and my own happiness. And when you spend long enough trying to please others and constantly worry about their perception of you, you end up putting your own thoughts and feelings on the backburner. I did this for a very long time, but thankfully, I finally started questioning it, and I have made major steps in the right direction to start flying… Read more

Just Keep Swimming

 

“It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger”

This week is simple really. I just want to offer encouragement to never give up. Or should I say….to just keep swimming? In honor of Dory and her big movie release (and because I’m a huge Disney fan and I incorporate Disney anywhere I possibly can), let’s go with that!

JUST. KEEP. SWIMMING.

Or biking, or walking, or running, or lifting, or dancing, or whatever you do to keep moving…just keep doing it! We all need the encouragement from time to time, especially on those days it is difficult to stay the course and continue pushing ourselves. Some days, you just want to throw in your set of Mickey Mouse ears and be done with it (okay, maybe the saying is “throw in the towel”, but I saw another Disney opportunity here so I took it). These are the days that encouragement is the most crucial, and the days we all need to be mentally prepared for discouragement to creep up on us.

Sticking to an exercise plan is not an easy task; if you were told otherwise you were very misguided. It is a major commitment of your time, it pulls lots of strength and energy from your body, and it takes a large dose of dedication. Someone recently asked me when running became easier for me, which is interesting because I keep asking myself the same question…when will it?? There was one night this week that I only had time to squeeze in two miles, and they were two very difficult, sweaty, messy miles. I just wanted to stop and scream as loud as I could “Shouldn’t this be easy by now?!” My conclusion is that we are using the wrong word completely and creating a false reality around our hard work and dedication. Read more

Inspire, and Be Inspired

“To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible”

From the very first day my wellness journey began, I became focused on my own body, my every day choices, and my quality of life more than I ever had in the past. My success depended on it, and I was determined to be successful. I had to keep my mind set on the goal and push myself more and more each day. I had to dedicate a lot of time, put in a lot of hard work, and learn to have patience for the long term results I desired. I now know that it was this focus and dedication that got me where I am today, and I am a completely new person because of it. But while I was in my zone focusing on getting myself better and learning how to make healthier choices every day, something was happening that I hadn’t stopped to think about….others were watching me. Some I realized at the time, others not until very recently, and some I may never even know about. Today I want to talk about the joy in inspiring others.
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Embrace Your Beautiful

“I am not beautiful like you. I am beautiful like me”

I had a random thought the other day. Why is it that often times, a confident woman is seen as being conceited or “full of herself”? Why are they sometimes judged, talked about, or are constantly having their intentions questioned? Isn’t confidence something we try to instill in our daughters at a young age? Don’t we want them to grow up to love and respect themselves and be strong, confident women? Don’t we all want to find happiness with who we are, throw away all of the doubts and judgments we place upon ourselves, and finally achieve self-confidence? Of course, I am completely aware that there are those who have crossed the confidence line and have gone over to the conceited side, but I have also witnessed perfectly non-conceited women be the topic of gossip and judgment, for no reason other than her wonderful, beautiful confidence in herself. And that really sucks. Why does this double standard continue to live on in society, and why do women so often turn on each other, becoming so judgmental and negative? Why can’t a woman’s confidence be embraced? It sure makes it difficult for us all to instill this value within ourselves. Read more

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