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.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I lay in bed listening to the rain hit the skylight hoping it would pass in time for our run.  Tip-toeing out the door I got into my car and drove into town.  The streets were quiet this Saturday morning, the world must still be sleeping.  Pulling in to the parking lot at the waterfront, I see my running friends milling about preparing themselves for the 22 miles we were gearing up to do.  The misty rain had all but stopped.

After a few encouraging words from Coach Pat, we began our journey amidst the beeping of everyone hitting the start button on their watches.  We are a large group today, everyone anxious about the run that lay ahead of us.

The grey skies brought perfect running conditions, keeping it cool and far from the 85 degree heat we experienced the weekend before.  A handful of miles into our run we found ourselves on the trail connecting downtown to the ocean; a trail usually bustling with people was quiet this morning.  It was a dreary Saturday and people we nestled in their homes, sipping their early morning coffee. 

Running Taylor dock, with the Pacific Ocean beneath our feet, I glance over looking for the seals we sometimes see somersaulting  in the tide.  I see no seal, just a few sea gulls rocking gently on the waves.  I breathe in deeply the salt air.

Karen waits for us offering us water or electrolytes if we need them, we tell her we’re good and make our way onto the next trail.  Sherry and I weave our way down the path talking about this crazy thing called life.  My week had been more than hectic and I was enjoying the mileage we were doing together.   There are times in life when a hot shower or bubble bath can not come close to the cleansing that a good, hard-earned sweat can bring.  In the quiet of the woods, on the trail with friends, I felt what I had been needing.  And it felt great.

Up ahead we could see our friends waiting with water, electrolytes and carbs.  Their laughter sprinkled joy on the trail.  I handed them my water bottle and told them I’d be back after we reached the turn around point.   Without fail, there was Kathy with my water bottle in hand filled to the brim with fresh water.  Snapping it into my belt I headed down the trail back toward town for the final 10 miles. 

Running through my favorite part of the trail, I was lost in the scenery around me.  The trail cuts along the mountain side high above the ocean affording incredible vistas.   Alone on the trail, I fell into a rhythm listening to my foot fall on the path.  Trees formed a perfect canopy as I run under them.  They had dropped their orange, yellow and red leaves bowing to the season of fall and whispering ‘goodbye’ to summer.  The leaves crunched under foot. 

Leaving the trail I made my way back to the water and ran the dock.  Sun had peaked out from the grey clouds and glistened off the ocean.  Sipping their coffees and hot chocolates, Pat, Karen, Kathy and Amy were once again waiting for us to give us what we needed.  A brief stop, handing them my packet of Gu, I was off again and telling them the coffee made me jealous.

Here I began to tire.  This portion of the trail takes the traveler away from the edge of the ocean and up into downtown.  The uphill intensified the struggle but I persisted, determined to run all 22 miles.  With the appearance of the sun, although brief, people had donned their fall clothing and came out of their warm homes to walk the trail.  Runners would pass in the opposite direction, always giving big smiles and a friendly hello.

As I came back into town, I found Kathy waiting for me near the alleyway behind the farmer’s market.  With two and a half miles to go, she joined me for the final push.   It was what I needed.  Knowing she had a race to do later in the day, I asked if she was sure she wanted to run more miles.  Without hesitation she said yes and I was grateful.   Kathy pulled me out of my own head and helped me keep my attention on our conversation.   I would have walked had it not been for her.

Nearing the 22 mile mark, I could see some of my running friends gathered around the water cooler all relishing in the accomplishment of the morning.  My watch chirped for the 22nd time that day and I gratefully hit the stop button.  The run was done.   My watch and I logged 22 successful miles.    High fives and pats on the back were handed out while we all talked of how the run went for each of us.

Heading back to my car, from the corner of my eye I could see a woman running to me with her arms open as to hug me.  Within a split second, I recognized her as a classmate from high school whom I had not seen in 15 years.  Deb reached me and we squealed in delight amidst our hug.  She didn’t care I was drenched in sweat and salt, only that after so many years had passed we had finally run into each other. 

The drive home I reflected on the juxtapositions my morning had.  There was summer mixed with fall, rain amidst the sun, strength and weakness intertwined in the run, but the consistency came among the friendship; new as well as ones from my past.  And in that, I find, I am incredibly blessed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strangers, Friends and Angels

The weatherman predicted the weekend to be the hottest of the year.  Murphy's Law laughed and said "But of course it is" as this is the weekend in which my friends were to run a marathon.

Karen, Kathy and I, with a truck loaded with ice, water and Gatorade, headed out of town.  Armed with a GPS and course maps we made our way to our first stop on the marathon route; approximately mile 8.  Spirits were high, jokes were plenty and smiles were seen on all.  As soon as our friends had run by, we were back in the truck heading off to our next point.

Mile 12 was also mile 14 as the course was an out-and-back route.  Parking the truck on the side of the country road, Kathy found a good radio station and cranked up the stereo.  Here is where we first noticed runners were getting hot.  We shouted encouragement and clapped loudly.  One by one our three friends ran by and each time we had ice cold water ready as well as sponges for them to wring out over their heads.

Karen made signs for us to hold to give greater encouragement.  One of our favorites, "Way to go complete stranger!" had been a great motivation to us while running the Eugene marathon in the spring and proved to be just as motivational on this day.  Runners smiled and laughed and said, "Thank you" when running by the sign.  As we had now seen many of these runners three times they were no longer strangers, we recognized them coming down the road and also knew where our friends should be in relation to them.   We got several of their names and did our best to seer them into our memory.  Inevitably, as our running family got bigger and bigger, we couldn't remember them all and eventually they earned names like "Cool Shoe Guy" and "50 Stater Guy".

Once our friends had gone by, at paces strong enough to qualify for Boston, we jumped in the truck and navigated our way to the 18 mile mark.  The sun was hot; the farmer's fields dusty.  Parked in a raspberry field, we swung the truck doors open letting the music fill the country roads. 

The runners were hot, the suffering etched on faces.  We offered bottles of ice cold water to any who ran by.  Many runners, upon recognizing us, had dubbed us "The Stranger Ladies" because of our sign, proving that even in pain a sense of humor can prevail.

The eyes told their stories.  The heat pounding on them as they ran on shadeless country roads had taken its toll.  The I-Can't-Do-This Dragon had leeched itself on many of their backs.   Staring straight into their eyes, we shouted "You got this, it's yours".  Heat is nothing to make light of and we paid close attention as each ran by.  All three of us could feel their suffering.

As each of our three friends ran by, their pain became our pain and we did our best to hide our concern.  We gave them ice for their necks and sponges for their heads.  They no longer got the option of "if" they wanted something cold to drink but "which" cold drink they preferred.  Our hearts felt their anguish and exchanging glances between us uttered what our words would not.  The heat was concerning.

Winding our way through the back roads, we came to mile 21 and this is the first time where we felt completely unprepared.  Volunteers directed runners to our truck who were searching for ice.  Would we have enough?  Kathy ran alongside some handing them chunks of ice.  Tears could be seen in others as we offered them water from our ice chest.  And without hesitation runners were offering - and taking - the water bottles from other runners; showing us that the pain of a marathon brings people together in a way that can not be described, only felt.  With unselfish consideration, each runner shared the gift of water with all those around them; all complete strangers just a few hours earlier.

At this mile marker Karen's phone rang.  One of our friends had to make the heartbreaking and extremely difficult decision to drop out of the race.  The heat had stolen every bit of energy he had.  Our hearts broke.   Knowing he was off the course, we got back into the truck to make our way to mile marker 25 to bring our other two friends support.

Here we could see the relief written on many faces.  Armed with the knowledge that the race was only 1.2 miles longer, the faintest smiles could be seen.  Strangers driving by stopped and brought us more water to hand out.  It wasn't long before we could see our friend coming down the road.  With a sponge and water in hand, I ran to meet her.  She asked how our other friend was doing.  The knot in my stomach made me sick, but I had to lie to her and tell her he was doing just fine.  Knowing the truth would have been painful making the last mile that much more difficult.  I'd apologize to her in 1.2 miles.

The finishline was filled with people, runners completely spent as well as family and friends sharing in the joy of it all.  There were tears of joy in some and tears of sadness in others.  We found our one friend sitting on the curb in quiet reflection thinking on the hard decision he'd made to pull himself off the course.  Words not needed, we all felt his pain.

Stopping us were runners who searched us out to thank us for what we did out there.   These strangers thanked us repeatedly, calling us life-savers and angels.  Everywhere we turned, another runner thanked us.  It was here where I became aware of just how many people we touched that day.  We had not set out to do this, it simply happened.  One small gesture had left an impact they would not forget.  What none of them realized, was it was them who gave back to us.  Their smiles paid us back in ways they could never imagine and gratitude could be seen in their eyes.

Long after the day was over, my mind wandered to all that happened out there on that race course, each emotion flooding back.  Sometime after the race, Karen emailed me a piece of a conversation relayed to her that had taken place out there during that 26.2 mile journey; a conversation that brought tears to my eyes.  Shortly after the 18 mile mark, a fellow runner turned to our friend and stated how wonderful it was for him to have friends who would come out and support him like that on the course.  He turned to her and said, "Not friends.  FAMILY."

The marathon.  It gives you the most incredible window inside of yourself and it takes complete strangers and turns them into angels and family.  What a gift.