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, May 26, 2011


With grandeur there it stood.  And it took my breath away.  His eyes fixed on me long before I even noticed him.  In the farmer's lush green field, an eagle regally stood less than 50 feet away from me; his size that of a toddler child.  I slow my run to a shuffle just so I can look at him longer. 

He watches me and I, him.  His greatness delivering me into a mesmerized awe.  And I had almost missed him.  Consumed in my own thoughts that morning while talking to God, my attention was not on my surroundings.  I focused on the long country road that lay ahead of me and not on the scenery I was running by.  Not until he'd turned his white-crowned head had I noticed him.  To think had I disregarded what caught my eye, I would have missed out on such greatness.

This makes me wonder.  How many times in my life have I been too focused on what is directly in front of me that I miss out on the greatness around me?  The elderly woman I pass in the grocery store who faithfully, and without complaint, tends to her ailing husband.  The middle school girl standing in the hallway who's unrealized gift will blossom into greatness if only through an encouraging word.  The tired parent who sacrifices much to ensure the child learns responsibility, kindness and empathy. 

Greatness like this surrounds me each day, I just don't often see it and fail to recognize it.  This does not lessen the fact the greatness is there; more often than not, it is my perspective that must change.  If a smile, a "hello" or telling someone to have a great day will encourage them enough to do so, then in some small way it is contributing to that person being great.  And encouragement is desperately needed in this world.

I mull these things over in my mind as I finish my run.  No longer am I looking at just the road in front of me, but I intentionaly look at the scenery around me.  A new pair of eyes looking less inward, and more outward.   If I am intentional to encourage those around me to show their greatness, at times I will be blessed by seeing incredible greatness close at hand that it will leave me in inspired awe.  Like the day an eagle stood close by, in a field and looked upon me. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beth's Story

The streets of the town were lined with people. An excitement that only an Olympic Trials can bring, filled the air. 10 year old Beth held the hand of her father, staying safely by his side. The women’s marathon was running through the streets of Olympia, Washington and would soon be nearing where Beth stood. In an instant, Joan Benoit Samuelson runs by, leaving behind her sprinkles of marathon dreams in the mind of a little girl.

“Daddy,” Beth said, “someday I am going to run a marathon.”

It was winter and Mary Kay was working hard on the training for her second marathon. This petite Southern Belle had been watching Beth run on the treadmill at the local health club for quite some time before introducing herself. The two personalities clicked into place like the last two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; neither one realizing the pieces were missing until they had fallen perfectly into place. They made plans to meet that weekend and run.

Beth had never forgotten the dream born of a 10 year old girl to run a marathon, and watched with great admiration as Mary Kay trained for her race. Beth, who enjoyed the competition of racing the shorter distances, soon found herself running the longer training runs with Mary Kay.

Mary Kay and Beth ran well together. Harmony was found in their footsteps and they ran strong and effortlessly. The best of friendships are solidified in running side by side. Life and distance running bring many of the same emotions and opportunities. During the difficulties, the other takes the lead and encourages until strength is found to continue on. While the times are easy, laughter is heard and conversation is light. The time will come, in running and in life, when you must lean on your running partner and trust them without question. The miles were more than just a run for them, the miles were their lifelines.

Beth knew how to compete in the short and mid-distance races, but a marathon was something different. Not believing she was anywhere near the fitness level required for 26.2 miles, she always waved off the nudges Mary Kay would give her to run a marathon. That is until the day Beth finished a 22 mile training run with Mary Kay by her side.

“You are ready. There is no reason why you can’t run the Capital City Marathon with me.” Mary Kay encouraged. The next day, Beth mailed off her entry form. The hopes and dreams born of a 10 year old girl came alive that day. And with Mary Kay by her side, she would toe the line of her very first marathon.


The tears came. She knew they would. Beth blinked back the tears of joy she had welling up inside of her. It’s not every day one stands in the moment of an aspiration coming true. And yet here she was at the starting line of her first 26.2 mile adventure and sharing it with Mary Kay. She looks at Mary Kay and smiles. Tears speak what words cannot utter.

A horn blows and the race begins. Beth and Mary Kay fell into a familiar rhythm and easy conversation making the first half of the marathon speed by. Shortly after, Mary Kay began to slow and encouraged Beth to keep going. Beth hesitated, Mary Kay encouraged, and the competitor in Beth sparked. With her strong pace and Mary Kay’s blessing, she pushed forward.

On her own, she continued to race well. Mile 20 came and with it she hit The Wall, making it extremely difficult to stay on pace. By mile 21 her left quad began to cramp, forcing her to stop and stretch. In stretching her quad, her hamstring tightens. In pain and miserable, she hears an all too familiar laugh. May Kay has caught up to Beth, and with the authority of drill sergeant she barks, “Keep moving, stop stretching”

Beth listens. And it hurts. But with sheer determination, she keeps her eyes focused on Mary Kay ahead of her. Mary Kay is pulling away and Beth discovers the power of the marathon. Alone, hurting and fighting a mental battle she looks inward, digging deep. These are the tough miles, the miles in which one discovers a strength never known before.

Beth continues forward, knowing her friend has gone before her. With the final mile ahead of her a new found energy emerges. The finish line is in sight and with it, Mary Kay cheering her on. As she got closer, Beth could hear Mary Kay screaming, “We qualified! We qualified!” Knowing their times were fast enough to qualify them to run the Boston marathon, plans were being made to run it together even before leaving the finisher’s chute.

Beth and Mary Kay ran 5 marathons together, including Boston on April 15, 2002. Running friends see the worst, bring out the best and always believe in the strength they see in you. When Mary Kay received the news she had breast cancer, Beth knew she would see her friend through the ugly miles they knew lay ahead. Mary Kay’s fight ended on December 29, 2006. Beth now runs alone.

Her foot falls quietly on the streets of her town. Beth’s love of running died with Mary Kay that day. She runs to forget, she runs to remember, and the miles are lonely.  In the solitary miles Beth feels the closest to her friend.

It would take 2½ years before finding the courage to run another marathon. Strength emerged, and in the miles ran that race day Mary Kay was there. When the struggles came, Beth could hear the echoing words of Mary Kay, “Keep moving”.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Spring Rain

The sound of Chuck Swindoll speaking lured me from my slumber.  Reaching over to turn off the alarm, I became aware of another sound; the sound of rain hitting the skylight.  Every ounce of me wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, staying far, far away from the rain.  The excessively long and rainy winter has taken it's toll on me and leaving my warm bed to run in the rain ranks right up there with a root canal. 

I get up.

Opening the slider door and stepping out onto the patio, I enjoy the last bit of staying dry as I stand under the eave of the house.  It is surprisingly warm.  The towering, massive evergreens show no movement in their branches letting me know there is no wind.  Rain in my town rarely comes without wind; this is a welcome change.

My run begins with a slow and easy pace.  Monday night's workout is still felt in my legs and shoulders. With each step I feel the stiffness dissipating and the fluidity returning to my muscles.  Even with the falling rain, the run feels good.  The rain is almost warm and I realize I don't mind it as it gives affirmation that spring may have finally arrived.

The raspberry fields have recently been tilled and the rows of budding green leaves sprouting off each raspberry bush look stark in contrast to the rich, dark brown of the soil.  Further down the road I pass the farmer's expansive field which is sprouting vibrant green grass soon to be cut and placed into hay bales.  On the other side of the field, about a mile away, my eyes follow a milk truck traveling down a road on its way to a dairy farm to pick up the farm's daily production of milk.

A small light cascades from a kitchen window of an old two story farm house; wrapped by a front porch that invites one to sit and sip lemonade while watching the world go by.  Soon the home owner, an electrician, will leave there, climb into his work van and head off to work and wave to me as he passes.

The smell of clean clothes emanates from a dryer vent  on the side of a modest home.  The house is quiet sans the evidence of the early-rising mother doing laundry.  The smell reminds me I will need to start laundry when I get home.

I turn down the road that will take me home, my 6 miles finished.  The neighbor's garden is bursting with the bright colors of tulips and daffodils. The rain has not let up and I am soaked from head to toe.  I do not mind.  Birds are singing their morning songs, the temperature is warm enough for me to be running in a skort and the scenery showed me winter has finally bowed out and allowed spring to emerge.  Today's run was amidst the gentle warmth of a spring rain.

And to think I would have missed all this had I stayed in bed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Favorite Marathon Through The Eyes of Another

I'm 4 days removed from the 2011 Eugene Marathon and still feeling the euphoria from it.  Words are hard to pen as to how running 26.2 miles makes a person feel mentally and spiritually; sure I try, but I come up terribly short.  Not every marathoner feels the same emotion, but every marathoner will completely and wholly understand it.

During the Eugene Marathon, as most of you know from my  Race Recap published earlier this week, that I had the privilege of having my good friend Jeff McKay run by my side the entire 26.2 miles.  Also a gifted writer, he publised a story for concerning our race.  What I love is how these writings showcase how you have one race and two different perspectives although they came from two people who ran side-by-side the entire distance.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, snuggle down, and enjoy a great read about one of the best weekends of my life from a perspective not my own.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Eugene Marathon

We meet in the lobby of the motel, chatting nervously and anxious to make our way to the start a mere 2 blocks away.  It's early and the desk clerk clearly does not understand our excitement.  Within minutes we are making our way out the door at a very slow jog to warm up for the race.

People are milling around everywhere.  Some doing strides, others walking and the corrals even have a few people lined up waiting.  We jog up a backstreet away from the crowds to get some dynamic stretching in.  My friend Jeff sees his coach, and introduces us to The Joe Henderson, who quizzes me on my pace, time goals and such and then gives me some encouragement.  Jeff and I find the rest of the group on one of the many practice tracks at the University of Oregon.  The campus is gorgeous and we quickly fall in love with it.  We even had our own "private" porta potty to take care of pre-race necessities.

With 12 minutes to go before the race start, we slowly jog our way back down to the starting area.  We break off into our pace groups and wait for the start.  Jeff, a Eugene native, has graciously offered to run with Kathy, Karen and I to pace us on the course and guide our every step.  Waiting for the announcer to start us, we talk nervously among ourselves soaking in our surroundings.  It wasn't long before Jeff and I hear someone call out, "Hey Maniac!".  As Jeff and I are Marathon Maniacs we both look and meet a fellow Maniac named Dave.  This is Dave's 29th state he's running in.  Races are the best places to meet people.  You find an instant comraderie knowing you are embarking on 26.2 miles together.

The crispness in the air was welcome and the cloudless blue skies we knew would deliver a sunny race.  One can not ask for a more perfect recipe in racing.  The announcer introduces us to a brave 9 year old girl who would sing the national anthem.  In something I had never heard before, her precious voice brought an utter reverent quiet on the crowd of 8,000.  No one spoke a word.  A quiet moment that made you proud to be an American.

The announcer counted down and we were off and running.  We stayed in a tight group weaving our way around the crowd.  Jeff gave us excellent instruction informing us of left hand or right hand turns.  We had our own personal pacer and tour guide, filling us in on local stories others would not ever know and reminding us to speed up or slow down depending on our pace.  The miles began to click by and we were having fun.

Around mile 4, she asked if she could run with us.  Rachel grew up in Seattle and was making Eugene her first marathon.  Her happy disposition fit in quickly with the group, and she easily fell in pace with us.

Approaching mile 6 our friend Joy and her Dad Steve were waiting for us.  At the first sight of them, we peeled off gloves and coats and threw them in their direction.  We had our own pacer and our own concierge service, we couldn't have asked for a better race.

Mile 8 gave us the biggest hill we'd have to face and we were all grateful it was so early into the race.  The backside produced a great downhill where we enjoyed some faster paced minutes making up for the time lost working our way up the hill.

Streets were lined with supporters and we received encouragement from all.  A man held up a sign stating "I am so proud of you complete stranger", a woman and her children held a banner simply telling us to "SHINE" and took the time to color in the wide-written letters with sparkly paint.  Everywhere we turned, we felt the genuine and honest support of the town's people.

Mile 9 took us right by our motel and I knew my husband and children would be on the corner waiting for me.  The sidewalks are swollen with well-wishers and I strain to find them.  I spot my oldest and then my youngest.  Shedding my arm warmers I toss them to boys and Jeff points me in the direction of my husband.  He has climbed onto a ledge in the middle of the street taking pictures of us as we run by.  We smile and wave big for the camera.

Between mile 10 and 11 the half marathoners turned back toward town and the full marathoners headed to Springfield.  We waved goodbye to Karen and she went on to run a negative split race.  Kathy, Jeff, Rachel and I made our way down paths and city streets.  Mentally I broke the race down into 3 separate sections and we were now running the second section.  Our pace was good and strong.

As we were now running more city streets, police officers worked intersections holding and directing traffic.  There dedication was great, as two days previously they laid one of their own to rest; an officer killed in the line of duty, the first in decades. I thanked as many as I could.  Mile 15 Kathy gave me a high five and told me she had made her goal for the day and was going to slow it down.  Coming back from an injury just a few weeks previous, she was racing an incredibly strong marathon.

Mile 16 brings us to a footbridge where my husband and boys quickly spot us.  They let out cheers and high fives and my husband snaps more pictures.  Their smiling faces help me push forward.  I'm starting to tire and I refuse to give in to it.

We are now on the bike path winding its way around the lazily running Willamete River.  Our vision beholds God's beautiful nature and captivates my attention.  My struggle is intensifying and I pepper myself with positive reinforcement - I can, I can, I can.

One would think a path near the river's edge would be sparse of people cheering on runners, but it wasn't.  The town loves running and it showed on the faces of all ages.  My heart still smiles when I think of the dozen or so chairs lining the path, filled with the smiles of the elderly.  Armed with their noise makers they gave us encouragement in such a way that made one think they were saying, "Run for me and these tired old legs of mine".

Just short of mile 19 Jeff's wife Tonya was manning an aid station and had a personal stash of goodies for us.  I swapped out my empty water bottle for a full one and was on my way again within seconds.  Shortly after we crossed the last footbridge over the river taking us to the final stretch; my watch chirped 21 miles.  And I was still running.  This was the farthest I'd ever run in a race without stopping.  Me elation was masked by the exhaustion in my legs.

Mile 22 came and no matter how much I tried to hold on for 4.2 miles I just couldn't do it and had to succumb to the using the bathroom.  Never in a race have I had to use the bathroom.  There was no waiting and I found a handful of empty port-a-poties shortly after.  In stopping the running, my legs began to cramp up.  

For the final miles it was a battle of wills between my cramping legs and my dictating mind.  Jeff gave me encouragement and would walk when I needed to and then got me back on pace as the running resumed.  Even though my only goal was not to walk at all in this marathon, I discovered I was not upset with myself at all.  I had run the furthest I'd ever run in a race and found tremendous satisfaction in that.  The cycle of mentally beating myself up for not meeting my goals had stopped and in that I found great victory.

My mind wandered to Steve Prefontaine's memorial we had visited the day before.  He had accomplished so much before his life tragically ended.  I envisioned him running on the trails and city streets I was now running.  There was no giving up.  I had to push myself mentally. 

The running stretches grew longer and we grew closer and closer to the finish line.  We passed the 25 mile marker and I am surprised we've come that far already.  I look at my watch and I know a Personal Record is within my reach.  This is almost over and I am thrilled my race day demons are dead.

Leaving the bike path, we work our way onto the city street and Jeff points out our motel. We are a few blocks from the finishline.  The closer we get to Hayward Field the thicker the people lining the streets.  People are yelling and encouraging and pushing us forward.  The famous entrance gates to the historic field are now in my sights.  We enter into the stadium and I am now running where some of this country's greatest runners train and race. 

I soak in the living history that surrounds me.

My family and friends are some of the many voices in the stands screaming my name.  It's all a blur and I can't hear anything.  The stadium rocks with excitement and the noise is deafening.  My strongest race to date and I am finishing it on the track at Hayward Field. 

Captured on the Jumbo-tron is
Joe Henderson giving me a hug
I cross the finish line in 4:12:39 with Jeff at my side and give him the biggest hug.  As we pull apart, I hear a voice say, "Good job Cheri" and then receive a hug from legendary Joe Henderson himself.  Words can not describe how immeasurably immersed I was in history at that moment in time.  The echoing footsteps of legends collided with my own, and I became overwhelmed.

At dinner that night the laughter gave evidence of the great races had by all.  The hallowed streets of Eugene had given Melissa a PR qualifying her to run New York; Brad and Audra both bested their times and Pat came within 20 seconds of a new PR.  We laugh, and eat and drink while re-living each moment of the day.

There is something special about this town, and looking around the table I couldn't think of a better group of people to spend it with.  We raise our glasses in cheer and I clink my glass with my friends; my running friends who've seen my worst and helped me deliver my best.  That is why we run...together.