The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Almost Here

Race Day.  It's almost here.  My nerves are playing their own version of WWE Smackdown contained underneath this layer of skin.  One never gets use to the pre-race jitters.

While winter did it's best to thwart my training, the focus of this coming weekend pushed me through.  Knowing that all the hard work would pay off has a way of sharpening one's determination.  For months I ran through bitter northeastern winds, torrential downpours and the snow and ice that winter delivered.  I logged hundreds of miles on trails and roads to bring me strongly prepared to the starting line.  And now it's so close I can almost see it.

My body is feeling good and strong and more than ready to take the beating of 26.2 miles.  In a moment of complete personal honesty, where I fight my biggest battle lies in my mental game.  With the help of my running friends, I will not fight this fight alone this time.  On the course, I will slay the dragon that leeches onto my back and weighs me down.

Race day demons die this weekend.

If others believe in the potentional they see in me, why can't I?  The hardest part of my training has not been the miles, but the driving out of self-doubt.  For the first time I will toe the start line believing in the potential I hold.   And in many ways that makes me feel like I've already won.

On Sunday as I finish my 8th marathon on the track of the history-rich Hayward Field, following the echoing footsteps of some of this country's greatest runners, look up.  On the jumbo-tron you will see this mom throw her hands up in victory.  And weep for joy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Final Long Run

The final long run, and I am more than anxious to get started. It’s 6:20 in the morning and the lake is deserted of people. I start my run on the trail surrounding the lake knowing that my friend Melissa would be heading in the opposite direction until she and I would meet on the trail.

Birds are chirping their “good mornings” as the sun has just risen stirring them awake. Ducks are scurrying around the lake’s edge before plunging into its cold waters. This part of the trail is flat and a great way to start my run. Nice and easy.

There is the slightest hint of fog rising above the lake. A wind is starting to pick up; quietly beginning to erase the glass-like stillness of the water. The sky is overcast but gives no rain. For this I am very grateful as it has been a long winter of training in the rain and cold.

Shortly after the first mile, I begin to run up the first hill. The back side of the lake is the hilliest section with the trail going down to the lake and then back up into the hillside. Here is where I meet Melissa. She is a couple miles into her run as she ran from her house to meet me. We quickly fall into step and manage to keep a good and steady pace.

Leaving the rolling hills, the trail brings us back around to where I started. This 2.6 mile loop will be the make up of my 20 to 22 mile run today. The trails are excellent for my shins and prevents them from barking at me. I chose this route for that reason. My shins have been bothering me on and off for awhile now and being so close to the marathon I didn’t want to take any chances. The trail feels good.

Melissa and I pick up the pace on the flattest parts of the trail and then buckle down on the hills. She is hoping to qualify for New York by running a 1:40 half marathon in Eugene. She is generous with the pace as she knows my distance will be greater than hers today and I need to conserve some energy for the end.

After the 3rd lap we run into our running group who are running a warm up mile before starting some dynamic stretching. By the end of the 4th lap the rest of Bellingham Fit had found their way to the park and will start their run soon. On the farside of the lake, Melissa and I part ways and she runs home.

I begin the rolling hills on my own, knowing that Karen will be looking to meet up with me to finish out my run. The hills are starting to tire me. For the last couple of days my body was fighting some kind of bug, so I am unsure if I am really tired from the hill running or if the bug was starting to win. I refuse to give into the bug. Before I realized it Karen and Amy were heading my way. They turn around and run in the direction I am running.

They keep me occupied by talking about running, triathlons and different races we’ve each run. I know I am growing quiet and they recognize it. They tell me I am doing good and look strong. We continue. They allow me to set the pace and yet push me. It is what I need.

The 6th time of hitting that first hill I have to walk part of it. Not what I wanted to do, but I wouldn’t beat myself up for it. At the crest of it we are running again. We run the hills and once we hit the flat part, I tell them I want to stop at the Bellingham Fit water station. We stop for a few seconds before beginning again. The Gatorade helps.

Leaving the flat part of the trail and heading up that hill again, I make the decision today’s run will be 20 miles instead of 22. I am just too tired and the thought of doing an 8th lap and doing those hills again is not appealing to me, it’s taking all my strength to get through the 7th lap. Stopping to get more water at the water station, our coach Pat comes over to offer encouragement. We bid goodbye to Amy and Pat asks to join our final miles. We head out the flattest part of the trail and then turn around for the final stretch. Mercifully, it is over. 19.54 miles are finished with a total elevation change of 9,995 feet. I have officially entered into the taper before the marathon.

Training for a spring marathon has been challenging. There have been miles of trials and trials of miles. Wind, rain, snow and ice have been a constant companion making it difficult to train as hard as I wanted. Not one to ever use a treadmill, I did what I could when I could. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

And never alone.

My family always encouraged me and my husband offered advice when needed and had countless meals ready for me at the end of my longest runs. Every weekend my friends were asking me how many miles I’d have to run and where they could join me. Without fail, my longest runs were always with my friends who often did a tag-team effort to ensure not a single mile would find me alone. For that I am incredibly grateful. Those weren’t always the prettiest miles and yet without fail, they were there.

To you, my running friends, thank you. This marathon is dedicated to you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Out On The Trail Inspiration Was Found

We were working on our second lap around the lake and enjoying the flatness of the trail.  Up the gravel path we could see him running along in solitude.  Catching up on the week's happenings, Karen and I were about to intrude on his quiet with our conversation.

Life has a way of getting crazy, and there in the earthen sanctuary of the woods, we felt  ourselves recharging in the midst of our 7 mile run.  Karen and I were running our coach-prescribed marathon pace for two of the miles and began to quickly gain on the man ahead.  Approaching him, we found ourselves keeping the same pace.  I asked him if he was part of Bellingham Fit, the group Karen & I were in.  He said he was and conversation flowed easily between us.

Time had taken out it's crayon and colored his hair grey; his attitude had colored his smile big.  He asked us which pace group we were in and after telling him about our group, he insisted we were too fast for him.  Pointing out he was running with us and running well, we assured him our group has no set pace but rather just a desire to get faster.

He unfolded his story, giving us a glimpse into the man he was while we were running next to the man he had become.  Last year he joined Bellingham Fit for the first time and loved the 6 month training program he participated in.  The man told us at the start of last year's season he could barely walk around the lake once.  At the end of walking one 2.6 mile loop he would have to go home and nap.  And there he was now, running with us and running it well.

At the top of the hill we found ourselves parting ways;  Karen and I off to finish our marathon pace miles, and he slowed to catch his breath.  We were both touched by his story and found incredible inspiration in it.

One of the greatest joys of running is meeting other runners and hearing their stories.  Nothing inspires me more than to hear people, like this man, go from out of breath and out of shape to strong and healthy.  His determination to change his life did just that, and managed to inspire me along the way.