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, November 16, 2013

A Different Kind of Marathon

Years ago when I started this blog I did so to write about my experiences while running and to give you a glimpse of what it's like to run in my shoes.

Today I share with you a different kind of race.  
A marathon of 15 years run by a woman I am blessed to call Mom.  

She is in the final miles of her race and is beginning to feel that rush we all feel as we approach the finish line.  
A feeling of accomplishment with her hands raised in victory.
She continues to run toward her prize.

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8


It was a hot Friday morning in mid-July.  The chair she was sitting on just went cold.  She stared at the nurse crying before her and not certain on what to say.  This was not the reaction she had expected.  The laughter she and her sister were just enjoying now silent.  She glances at her sister; then back to the nurse.

Last week's CT scan told them why the stomach pains had gotten severe.  The cancer had metastasized to her liver.   She knew what that meant.  After 15 years of sitting in the Chemo Chair she had lost enough friends to know what lay ahead.

So this is what it came to.

August, September and October were filled with the harshest of chemo therapies.  None of which were working.  Just when she started feeling better, another round in the Chemo Chair would make her sick and brought no improvement against the cancer she fought.  

A rainy Tuesday in November she phoned the doctor's office.  She told the nurse she wanted to meet with the doctor before the Chemo Chair; her decision made.

The doctor told her what any good doctor would tell her - the truth.  She knew her options, after 15 years one knows.  Today she was choosing quality over quantity.  She rises out of the chair and tells the doctor goodbye.

The nurses - her friends - shed tears.  After 15 years they have shared a lot in each other's lives.  Oh she'll stop in to see them, but it will be different.   

She turns to walk out the door.  She walks away from 15 years of doctors and nurses and surgeries and needles and the Chemo Chair and the healing poison that ran through her body.  The door opens and she steps into a different life, a shorter life - yet one she is still grateful to live.

Although her days are fewer in front of her than lay behind her she knows God has only given each of us this day.  God has comforted her, held her and blessed her in ways she would never have known if cancer hadn't been in her life.  And in that she finds much joy.  Despite the hurt and sadness and fear, God has given her much joy.

With dignity she walks through that door.  With gratitude to God she embraces the life now before her.  A life always worth living.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Chicago Marathon

Security is tight.  We are entering our specified entry point on Jackson Street in order to make our way to our assigned corral.  Security personnel are checking bib numbers making sure we are where we are suppose to be.  This is causing a bottle neck, but no one seems to mind.  We feel safer.

The Chicago Marathon is the first World Major Marathon on American soil since the terrorism at the Boston Marathon in April.  Runners everywhere are wearing items in support of Boston - shirts, hats, bracelets.  Pride entwines itself with my pre-race anxiety.

There are 6 World Major Marathons (Berlin, Boston, London, Tokyo, New York, Chicago) and this is my first.  There are 40,000 runners making their way around the start village and never once do I feel like I'm being herded.  It is evident this race is a well-oiled machine.  With the world watching, there are no hiccups.

Stephanie, Pat, Kellan, Kathy, Karen and I are standing in our corral.  Security closes the corral 10 minutes before the start of the race and we are safely tucked inside.  There is music, there is excitement, there is plenty of nervous energy.  Everyone is smiling.  The announcer begins to introduce the elite athletes lining the start.  We can't see them, but it is awe inspiring knowing they are there to race for their countries.

A woman begins to sing the American National Anthem.  Hats are removed and placed over hearts.  There is a sense of pride that one can feel permeating the air.  Her mic cuts out several times.  In unison, 40,000 runners sing the song for her.  Voices raised loudly and proudly singing the words which proclaim the love of our country.  As we sing the final line "...and the home of the brave" we think not only of our military but also of those brave spectators that lined the streets of Boston that day in April.  A single military fighter jet flies over.  I watch men and women wipe tears from their eyes.

The start line the day before the marathon.
At 7:30 the race begins.  It will take 12 minutes for our corral to reach the start line.  It will be well after 8 before the last corral starts.   I pass under the arch of the start and take my first steps of my first World Major Marathon.  I am running the streets of Chicago.

Pat and Stephanie fall into their pace and are gone.  Stephanie would set out and smash her goal of 3:45 and finish with a 3:42:43.  After running a 3:39 a few weeks prior, Pat would later finish with another sub-4.  Kellan takes off and despite little training due to a hectic college schedule and work, finishes with an impressive 4:22:05.

We enter a tunnel almost immediately and laugh at the men lined against the wall using the wall as a relieving station.  Before the race, the porta-potty lines had been long and never moved and one has to do what one has to do I suppose.  We are out of the tunnel and now running downtown Chicago.

There are people lining every side of the course cheering for us.   I have never seen so many people at the start of a marathon solely to cheer us on.  We are weaving through

the streets.  All around me are sights I have seen from my previous 3 days in Chicago.   My first time visiting this city and I am mesmerized by it's beauty.  Things I've only seen in pictures are now in my sights in front of me.  

Kathy, Karen and I try and talk, the crowds are screaming so loudly for us it makes it impossible to hear each other.  It doesn't matter, we are lost in the wonder of it all.  We've run countless miles together and we understand our silence just as much as we understand our thoughts.  Mile 5 comes and I make my first - of what would be later 4 - pit stops.  They continue on.

Around Mile 6 I look to my right and see the lake in the distance.  I try and tell those around me to look but my words are drowned in the excitement of the crowd.  I notice a man up ahead looking up toward a second floor of a building.  He waves.  Upon reaching the building I notice it is a rest home.  It's residents sitting in wheel chairs gazing out the window down on the runners.  I smile and wave.  I thank God for my ability to run.

We reach a turn around point and head back toward the city.  It is mile 8 and the crowds have not thinned out.  People are still screaming for us, their energy propelling us forward.  I see a man dressed in a Sponge Bob Square Pants costume blowing a horn.  I laugh as I know if my youngest son had been there, that would have been him.

The course brings us through a variety of neighborhoods.  Each one proud of their heritage.  Runners from all over the world are running next to me.  Some in shirts proudly declaring their nationality, others carrying flags.  A man standing along the course, in USA attire, screams in excitement for the runner next to me, "GO MEXICO!!!"  The man gives him a smile and a thumbs up.  I love the unconditional acceptance and wish that kind of exuberance was seen every day.

To my right I see a large group of girls, dressed the same, holding encouraging signs all with different slogans, but on the same paper.  I read "This is not your practice life".  And it hits an emotional nerve.  I had hoped this would be my race, but events and situations would prevent me from racing.  Rather than be upset, I took my Mom's mantra of 'It is what it is' and I decide to make the best of every situation.  Although my anemia would keep me from racing this race, it could not keep me from enjoying every single step.  And I was.

I am at the half way mark and knowing the elite athletes are already finished, I wonder who won the race.  Someone comes up next to me and yells in my ear, "Hey Maniac!"  I am in my Marathon Maniac shirt and as I turn I expect to see a fellow Maniac next to me.  I am right.  He tries to talk to me and I to him, but the crowd noise is so loud we can not understand what the other is saying.  He bids me well, and gently pushes me forward.

Aid stations are roughly a mile apart, making it easy to push yourself forward.  "Just get to the next aid station, just get to the next aid station" helped each mile click by.  I would walk the distance of the water tables which was perfect for bringing my heart rate down and keeping my anemia in check.  I was feeling strong.

Compete strangers would bring me bits of inspiration from home.  A song my husband loved while we were dating blared from speakers as I ran through a neighborhood.  Soldiers lined another section handing out high fives remind me of my oldest and his love of everything military.  I spot a woman holding a sign; she has used a four letter word in her effort to tell cancer what she thinks of it.  I think of my mom, and understand that woman's sentiment exactly.

It is somewhere around mile 23 when I hear someone scream my name.  I am completely confused.  I remember I have written my name on my bib, and conclude they are cheering me on.  Then, I hear it again but coming from behind me.  I turn to find Kathy and Karen running to catch up to me.  How did I get ahead of them?  One of the many mysteries of the marathon.  Karen's legs are angry with her and won't let her do what she wants to do.

We try to run together; yet with my mom firmly planted in my mind, I push ahead.  The miles click off and I realize I am in my final miles of the Chicago Marathon.  The crowds are still thick along the course cheering us on.  It is as if the people of Chicago came out in pure defiance against the bombings in Boston.  Nothing was going to stop this town from supporting us.  The thought brings me tears.

The final turn lies ahead.  It is a hill and it is difficult to run against after 26 miles of running.  I push forward knowing how difficult chemo treatments have been for my mom yet you'd never know as she has never once complained.  I am in the chute and the finish line lies ahead.  My mom is in her final battle against the cancer that holds her.  The irony is not lost on me.  I cross the finish line at 4:29:37 with my head held high and my hands raised in victory just as mom has taught us in the way she lives her life.  This is not my practice life.

A volunteer drapes a medal around my neck.  Tears sting my eyes.  I give high fives to every volunteer lining the chute.  I celebrate the finish,  I celebrate every bit of inspiration that got me there, I celebrate the life God gave me that is worth living.  No matter what I am faced with, life is still worth celebrating even while standing at the finish line.  My mom taught me that.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hoodlums in The Hood

​​Their flight was late giving my brother-in-law Dave, my son Stefan and I lazy moments for light conversation around the patio table.  It was a perfectly warm Sunday evening and despite the calendar reading September, it still felt like summer.  Thirty minutes later my aunt's van pulls into my parent's driveway next door.  We soon hear laughter.  My Aunt Alice and cousin Kate have just arrived from Arizona.

We are now standing in mom's kitchen placing groceries in the fridge.  After a brief discussion and entirely too much math, we calculate it has been 30 years since Kate has been to our small town. Weird as we are all only 28.  The weather is too nice and we decide we need to move our conversation outside.  I glance up and notice two teenage boys walking down the street in front of the house.

"Who are those kids?" I ask my mom.  They look out of place.

"I have no idea.  I've never seen them before."

I move to the back hall and stop as I see them loitering around the back of Stefan's car.  Although still on the sidewalk, they have obscured themselves at the edge of my parent's property.  One of the boys raises his hand and takes the stance of a pitcher, winding up to throw something at one of the cars.  I yell "HEY!!!" from inside the house as the object launches full force into the side of my aunt's van.  The two teenage boys take off running.

Leaping the 4 steps in one giant step, I am out the door in a full sprint.  As I cross the driveway, I huck the flip flops off my feet. Once at the edge of the property I see the boys on the other side of the block.  They see me coming and take off running.  Fine.  I can play this game too.

Within seconds I have crossed a main street and am in full pursuit of these boys.  I contemplate stopping.  I mean, really, what in the world am I going to do once I catch these kids?  I realize I'm gaining on them.  The one who threw - what appeared to be an apple - turns around.  He sees me still in a full sprint and gaining on him.  The look he gave was pure fear.

There was no quitting now.  That look was all I needed and I found another gear.  I'm pretty sure I passed a cheetah like it was standing still.

I discovered when one is running on 100% adrenaline, crazy and insane thoughts race through one's mind.  This shouldn't surprise me, after all, there was absolutely nothing sane about a barefoot 44 year old mother of two chasing down 2 teenage boys. Yet there I was in a full sprint through the streets of town.  A small town where everyone knows everyone else's business.  Is the phone ringing at my parent's house yet?

Dang it. I wish I had my Garmin.

I am running a marathon in a week and I'm suppose to be running short, leisurely miles.

This isn't leisurely. 

This better be short.

How fast am I going?  Fast. 

Cheri, you are going fast.

HA!  That kid is slowing.

Where the heck is my brother in law?


We round a corner and the one who threw the object turns and finds me 15 feet behind him.  He realizes I am not going anywhere but on his tail.  He stops and a nano second later I have grabbed the collar of his shirt.  He looks ready to throw up.  I've seen that look before many times at a finish line.

Welcome to the big leagues kid.

"What in the world do you think you were doing?" I yell.  Yes, yell.  My flaring temper may have actually been physically visible.

"I didn't throw anything!!  I didn't throw anything!!"  He cries.

"Well, I never said you threw anything now did I?" My grip on his shirt tightens.  He tries to get away.  I horse collar him and tell him - in the meanest Mama Bear voice ever heard on the face of the planet - "YOU ARE COMING WITH ME."

"Why?  I didn't throw anything! I didn't throw anything!!"  He tries to pull away.

The collar of his shirt is firmly in my grasp and I pull him along.  I feel like I'm trying to lead a horse to drink.

"Where are you taking me?" He asks with fear in his voice.

"You are coming back to the house and we are going to see if you caused any damage to my aunt's van.  And if you did, you are going to pay for it."

"I didn't throw anything!!"

"I suggest you stop lying to me -, " I pause, "-What's your name?"


"Well Carlos, I suggest you stop lying to me because I watched you throw something at my aunt's van.  And if you tell me one more time you didn't throw anything I'll take that as you calling me a liar.  DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?"  Mama Bear voice again.


"Carlos.  It's time you learned a little about respect.  I am willing to bet your mama taught you better than this.  Taking something and throwing it at someone else's property is completely disrespectful and not to mention rude.  We DO NOT damage other people's property.  That van was not yours to touch.  You had no right to do what you did.  You need to show a little respect to the hard work people have put in to buy their property.  Do you understand me Carlos?".

"Yes.  Can you let go of my shirt?"


I become aware of the town folk driving by and staring at me - the crazed 44 year old woman with the tall teenage boy's shirt collar firmly in her grasp. 

Oh my, do those people go to my parent's church?  

Why are there so many cars?  

I think half the town is driving by right now.



We round the final corner taking us to my parent's street.  I see my cousin Kate pacing nervously in the driveway.  She looks up and sees the two of us approaching - me stomping; the kid still trying to catch his breath.  She turns to speak to someone to her left and I read her lips saying, "Oh my gosh, she caught the kid."  We come to the property and the family greets us.  All of them.  Every.Single.One.  My Aunt Mari, my mom, my sister Amy, her two kids, my boys as well as my visiting Aunt Alice and cousin Kate.

"Hello everyone.  This is Carlos.  We are here to check the damage he did to your car Aunt Mari."

I see tomato smeared all down the sides of Aunt Mari's white van.

Within seconds Carlos has my mom on one side of him and Aunt Mari on the other.  If Carlos thought he got an earful from me on respect, he was about to learn from the masters.   I am leaned against the patio table, trying to catch my breath and I hear my two favorite women in the whole world begin to impart wisdom on young Carlos.  A lifetime of being together, they bounce their conversation back and forth against Carlos.

You should know better.

How old are you?

A sophomore? A sophomore!

You oughta know better.

Cheri, bring Carlos the hose.  He's going to wash the van.

You need to apologize to my sister.

You missed a spot here Carlos.

One doesn't throw things at other people's cars.

What were you thinking.

Carlos, here's a spot.

Do you think you learned a lesson here?

My sister Amy casually walks up behind Carlos and says, "You messed with the wrong woman.  See that woman there?" She points to me.  "She runs marathons.  You'll never out run her."

My mom and Aunt Mari, thoroughly convinced our job of educating Carlos is complete, send him on his way.

I am tired, I sit in the chair.  I just ran a quarter mile at a top sprint while barefoot.  Oy vey, my marathon is in one week.  Lord, I hope I didn't just screw that up.

We all start to giggle.  None of us can believe what just transpired. We all talk at once and our laughter grows louder.

Amy comes to the table and states, "I'm pretty sure you scared him Cheri."

I start giggling again.  "Yea, you should have seen the look on his face when he turned around the second time and saw me gaining on him."

Amy asks, "So do you think that is the point when he peed his pants?"

And that my friends, I am most certain, is when Carlos could here us laughing as he ran away a second time.  This time, there was no need to chase him as I am certain he learned a lesson he will never forget.

Mission accomplished.

Moral of the story : Don't mess with a mom who owns running shoes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

It's Muggy

Sweat stings my eyes.  My watch is yelling at me.  It wants me to slow down.  I have no desire to listen to it.  I don't.  

I push forward.

I am on my second 800 meter repeat and the air is thick with humidity.  Why oh why did I wear a hat?  My watch chirps at me to stop my 800 and cool down before picking up the pace again.  The data on my watch tells me I ran my 800 meters a second faster than the first one.  The easy pace I'm doing ensures I cool down.  My watch begins to beep; it's time to pick up the pace again.

The pace is a hard comfortable.  Oh my gosh it's muggy.  Why did I wear a hat again?  I notice a teenager doing strides while her dad tries to keep up.  I smile at the incredible father /daughter bonding moments that will come out of sweating out hard workouts together.  My watch is telling me to slow down.

Beep, beep, beep.  My 800 is over.  A second faster again.  Nearing my water bottle, I flick my hat off and it lands right next to the bottle.  SCORE!  I take a swig or two of the liquid gold and continue on my cool down pace. My watch beeps again telling me break is over.  I am completely unsure how this is possible as I thought it told me to slow down only 5 seconds prior.

Have I mentioned it's muggy?  My 4th 800 repeat goes by quickly and I've knocked another 2 seconds off my previous time.  Calculations quickly tell me I am now 4 seconds faster than my first which is 15 seconds faster than what the training plan called for.  I'm sure a coach somewhere would be yelling at me to slow it down.  I'm a week into my 3 week taper and the Taper Tantrums have struck.

Two more repeats to go.  The heat is getting to me and I notice my 5th 800 meter is 5 seconds slower than my last; more in line to what it should be but my effort seemed harder.  My cool down time is less than a millisecond long before my watch is telling me to get going again.

Last one.  Thank you Lord.  I push it knowing I am on my last one.  I try and wipe the sweat from my eyes.  It stings.  Suck it up princess.  It's almost over.  I round the last turn and with mercy my watch beeps again telling me it's time to cool down.  2 seconds slower than my last.  I'll take it.  It's muggy.

My friends and I start our cool down mile and talk about today's workout.  The easy pace feels good.  The conversation is good and before we realize it, the mile is over.  We stretch our well-worked muscles and talk about football; finally the season begins.

Walking back to our cars, we high five each other and solidify the weekend's running plans.  Sitting in my car, I turn the key and reach to press the button which puts the top down.  It's definitely a top-down kind of a drive.  

After all, it is muggy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


It's a little after 5 a.m. and it's dark.  Summer is about to end despite my efforts to hang onto it.  The air is chilly enough to warrant long sleeves, yet I refuse.  Tank tops and skirts need to be worn as long as possible; a rule written in stone in the Cheri's Laws of Running book.  It's a classic.

Today's run is a simple 4 mile run; 2 miles out and 2 miles back.  My legs crave the simple.  Monday night's brutal track workout of ten 800 meter repeats left me spent and excited.  My pace was spot on for each repeat which fuels my confidence for my upcoming marathon.   10 hours after completing the track workout, my girlfriend Corrinna and I are running our normal 6 mile loop.   My legs were shot but we still managed a good, strong pace.  This Wednesday morning, I was having no trouble keeping my 4 easy miles, easy.

A full, blue moon glows in the western sky.  I realize the beauty of the full moon is magnified because of the darkness of this morning; an upside to shorter days I suppose.  

God and I start a conversation.  I pour my heart out onto His ears.  He responds by smothering me in peace.  All around me it is quiet.  The only sound I hear is my shoes hitting the gravel.  My mind quiets.

The sun is beginning to rise over Mount Baker as I turn around at the 2 mile mark.  Birds begin their song.  The view is incredible.  I feel blessed.  

My mind begins to wander and I dwell on the unknown future.

I stop.

I look at the sunrise.

God reminds me I have been given this day and this day only.  I must enjoy the blessings given me on this day.  With the sunrise before me, I make my way toward home.  I quietly open the slider door and walk into my home.  A home full of blessings to enjoy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Trail Calls

The marina parking lot is peppered with cars giving evidence to boat owners sleeping on their boats.  The sun kisses the ocean good morning.  The sea is still.  I start my watch; it is 6:33 am.

My pace is easy and it feels good.  For this I am thankful.  I had run a simple 4 mile run a day before and it was difficult, but today, the running felt good.

I wind my way out of the marina and head toward downtown.  I will connect with a trail there and follow it to within a mile of the next county.  Turning into the alley which connects me to the trail, I run by the Farmer's Market.  One or two vendors are starting their day; on my return the place will be bustling with people.

The trail is empty.  My footfalls are the only sound I hear.  As I near the ocean's edge, I see sailboats gently rocking on the sea.  All is quiet at the park except an occasional sea gull.

In just over 4 miles I am at the trail head, "The Urb" as we call it. The trail winds the edge of town for a couple miles, yet one would never know.  The trees hide the roadway and block the sounds of any traffic.  This morning I hear only birds.  All singing praises, and I quietly join their praises by thanking God for such a beautiful run in such a beautiful place.

The deserted trail, lost in nature is exactly what I need.  Life has been exceptionally crazy, many stresses, and this deserted trail along with my alone time with God is the salve I craved.  No one calling, no one needing my attention, no one asking me anything; with each step I was unwinding.  There are footfalls and birds singing and me.

Shade is plentiful with small sun streams reaching the forest floor.  I am in awe of the beauty.  The trail parallels the ocean and when the trees part I am given the most incredible vistas of an endless ocean.  

I have met only 3 runners this morning, and one was approaching me.  In the farthest part of the trail, I realize my friend Joy is running toward me!  We stop for a minute or two and catch up as quickly as we can.  Injury has kept her away and our running group misses her so.  With a hug, we part ways.

A mile later I have reached 10 miles and turn around to head back into town.  God and I talk; I feel better.  It never ceases to amaze me how much better I feel.  The verse from Matthew comes to mind, "Come to Me all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest."  After running 10 miles I feel rested.

Something up ahead catches my eye.  It is a deer, facing me, and it is standing in the middle of the trail.  I kick my feet in hopes the noise will scare it off.  No such luck.  The deer looks to be about a year old and I wonder if I've got the age right or if mama is hiding around the corner.   The deer isn't moving and I slow my pace and make louder noises.  She isn't scared, but rather, lowers her head and scrapes her hoof in the dirt.

Oh no.

I stop; very well aware she is standing her ground and not going to move.  I know she is not old enough to have babies so I wonder if she is trying to let mama know how brave she is.    Finally she raises her head and stares at me again.  With a jerk to the left she begins to buck her way off the trail and into the brush.  Whew.  I prayed mama wasn't near by.

Mile 14 chirps on my watch and I recognize my friends Dawn and Jackie coming toward me on the trail.  We pause our watches and all talk at once.  Our laughter is caught in the branches of the forest.  Big, long hugs are given and we continue on each in our own direction.

As I leave the forest, I know the hottest part of the course is in the final 4 miles.  I remind myself to run this mile and nothing more.  I feel good and my pace is strong.  Along the water people have started their weekend; they are milling around the park, lazily walking with coffee in hand.  They are loving the ocean view.

The final hill awaits on South Bay Trail and I take it slow and steady.  Shade dots the trail giving relief along the way.  The Farmer's Market is now in full swing with vendors selling their wares and food cooking on the grills.  Surprisingly it smells good - nothing usually smells good at 18 miles.  I turn and head back to the marina.

With a final mile to go, I realize even though I am tired, my solo run has cleared my head.  My legs are heavy, my heart is light.  With my car in sight, my watch chirps.  20 miles of solitary alone time has given me exactly what I needed, yet I miss the high fives from my friends that we always give when the long miles are completed.

Chocolate milk is on ice waiting for me in my trunk.  I lean against my car enjoying ever single ounce of it.  It's been 20 miles since I'd been at my car and I feel more rested than when I had started.  There is something rejuvenating about the created being among creation.  

The trail gave me more than I ever thought it could.  And it silently waits until next time.  Next time when I need to hear the birds sing and my footfalls quietly echo in the branches.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No More School, No More Books

It's hot and the sun is bright as I step onto the black oval of a local high school track.  My friends and I meet every Monday to push ourselves with speed or tempo runs.  Meeting earlier than I could make, they had already begun their workout.  I step onto an outside lane and begin my easy paced warm up mile; alone.  The quiet is what I need.

The last day of school is normally a day of celebration in our household, yet today I found myself deep in melancholy.  Selfishly I could not wait for this day - no more packing lunches, no more homework, no more grade checks.  I was done with conversations centered around school work.  The day was finally here.  YES!

What I was not ready for was the feeling of sadness at the bus stop earlier that morning.  My youngest hops on the bus to embark on his last day of elementary school; after today he would be walking the halls of middle school.  The bus driver, Mary Anne, shuts the door and turns to wave at me ~ just as she has done every day for the past 11 years once each of my boys had boarded the bus.  As she pulls away and I start my car to leave for work, it dawns on me : this is my last day of elementary school.  My days at the bus stop are over. 

I wasn't ready to close that chapter.

My feet are carrying me around the track and helping me let go of the emotions of the day.  To hold tight to those feelings would not change the reality of that part of my life being over; no, this was a chance to embrace something new, something scary and I will be just fine.  But it doesn't mean I'm not staring this opportunity in the face without sadness in this mama's heart.

My friends, Kathy and Karen, are on a cool down lap and turn around to meet me as I finish  my warm up.  The next couple mile repeats we run together.  Kathy just watched her youngest son graduate from high school two days previous and understands every single emotion.  The three of us talk and more importantly, we laugh.

As they started before me, I am off to run the final mile repeat on my own.  The sun is hot.  The black track reflecting the heat suddenly gives me incredible amounts of empathy for how bacon feels in a frying pan.  Despite it all, I nail the pace of my final mile.  I feel good.  I feel better than I had all day.

The workout is over and we head back to our cars.  We gather in the parking lot and the conversation gets long.  There is no homework to go home to, there is no rushing home to pack lunches, there is only me with my running friends talking about whatever it is we want to talk about.

And I am enjoying every single minute of it.   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Boy In India

Last year I was contacted to write the experiences of others in an effort to bring light to community involvement. The stories, from myself and others, were then published to raise awareness in reaching outside our comfort zones.  

Although this particular story does not focus on my usual love of running, the subject of this story is of a fellow marathoner therefore, I suppose, it fits perfectly.

When running long distances, the finish line brings often clarity to our lives as well as a new sense of strength.  
Sometimes it takes a little boy.


The callous on his heart controlled his emotions.  God had brought him here, to India.  Never had he beheld so many abandoned or sick people, tossed out of their homes by family as carelessly as one tosses out a bag of trash for Tuesday’s garbage day.  His heart felt very little for the pain and suffering he saw all around him.  This bothered him, yet the callous remained.

Today’s visit brought the team to a hospital.  Here the main task was to simply reach out and touch those who have forgotten what a touch by another feels like.  As directed by the staff, they would each spend time with a patient before moving on to the next. 

His job today would be holding a child that could not use his legs.  Scooping down he lifted the child onto his lap.  Words were spoken in different languages yet transcended understanding.  Only God could make two people understand each other’s language with a simple stirring in the heart.

When it was time to move on, he set his new friend down and rose to leave.  Walking away, he heard the heartache in his sister’s voice as she called his name.  Their eyes locked and he saw the tears brimming her eyes.  Turning around he found the child desperately pushing himself along the floor, dragging his legs behind him, in a desperate effort to get closer to him once again. 

That sound.  That sound pierced his heart and it was that sound that broke him.

The sound of the boy’s legs dragging behind him violently ripped the callous off of his heart.  His heart was now raw and flooding with emotion.  God used that precious little boy to give him the unmistakable picture of God desperately coming after him.  Just as with this child, God only wanted his love.  

He broke down and wept.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Greatest Run

The bed was warm and I lay wide awake.  Four of my running friends were on the opposite coast set to run the Boston Marathon.  Anxiety and excitement rolled around my nerves making sleep scarce.

I glance over and watch the clock flip to 4:00 a.m.  Should I just get up and go for a run?  Knowing I was headed to the track after work to run with others from our group, I decide the smart thing to do is rest my hamstring.  My next marathon is 3 weeks away, and although I am not racing it, there was no need to push my recovery back into injury.

Local cable did not carry coverage of the Boston Marathon; I had to be content with pulling it up online and watching it on the computer.  My social media newsfeed began filling with pictures of the Athlete's Village and bus rides to Hopkinton.

The race begins, my family and I watch all while preparing for a normal Monday.  My heart longs to be there.  There is no jealousy, simply twinges of longing knowing your friends are there experiencing one of the world's greatest marathons and you are home missing the party.  With a sigh, I shut the computer down and head to work.

Once at work, I go about my day while keeping one eye on the Athlete Tracker.  I have plugged my friends' names into the online tracker and I watch their 5k splits.  Karen, Pat and I trade emails throughout the morning rejoicing with each new split that appears.  3,000 miles away and we are watching Arlane, Melissa, Kathy and Amy nail their goal times.

The 3 of us become concerned when Kathy's splits stop at the 20k mark.  For well over an hour we are left wondering why she seems to have stopped racing.  Injury?  Faulty timing chip?   We knew it had to be something big to pull her off the course.  To travel that far, to run that race and not finish would be heartbreaking.

Little did we know how prophetic our fears would be.

At the 35k mark a split floods in and we are relieved to realize she is still running.  It must be a faulty chip.

Amy finishes, soon after Arlane crosses and a moments later Melissa does too.  We are ecstatic.  We watch and wait for Kathy unsure of anything as her chip is not working correctly.  Did she already cross the 40k mark?  How close is she to the finish?

Then it happened.  Panic set in at the realization our friends were right there.  After racing, Arlane and Melissa would have made their way back to the finisher's chute to watch Kathy come in.  Wasn't the explosion near their meeting point?  I felt ill.

Karen called me immediately.  We both cried openly as we tried to make sense of the senseless.  I called Stephanie, who was there on the sidelines solely to cheer on our friends. I couldn't get through.  Text messages went out to all of them, even though we knew they weren't running with their phones.

After 30 agonizing minutes Stephanie was able to call me.  Arlane and Kathy are unaccounted for; she was with Melissa and Amy.  The phone went dead.  Emails, phone calls and text messages fly rapidly between Karen, Pat and myself.  Social media was flooded with little information, just many questions.  I cry when reading "All from Bellingham are accounted for except Kathy and Arlane."

An hour later a number I do not recognize registers on my cell phone.  I answer before the first ring finishes.  Stephanie has made it back to the hotel and they are now with Arlane.  They have heard from Kathy.  Relief floods every fiber of my being and I collapse into my chair.

Arlane comes to the phone, she speaks, I cry at the sound of her voice.  We talk and I am hard pressed to register anything she says, I am just so happy to hear her voice.    We hang up and as I post an update to our group I receive a private message.  It is from Kathy.  Strangers have taken her in to their home.  She was safe.

I cry again.


Spring skies open to a downpour.  Rain bounces off the ground.  I am heading to the track to meet my friends.  After the bombings in Boston and all the emotion of the day we knew, now more than ever, we still needed to come together.  We needed to run.

The rain has all but stopped as I pull into the school's parking lot.  Karen is waiting in her car.  We jump out of our cars and hug each other.  We cry again.  Today wasn't suppose to be like this, today was suppose to be a celebration of our friends running the greatest run of their lives.   Pat pulls in and we share in more hugs.  The sun begins to break from the clouds bringing a glisten to our tears.

We walk toward the track.  Stepping onto the black rubber of the quarter mile oval we feel at home.  But home is empty.  Part of our family is not there.  We begin to run with our 
hearts 3,000 miles away.   Our emotion spills into the run; anger quickens our pace, heartbreak propels us forward.

As numb as we feel, we are filled with gratitude.  We will see our friends again.  We will lace up our shoes and run together again.

And I suppose that alone makes for the greatest run of our lives.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Much Needed Answer

To say I've been struggling with my running over the last year is to understate my battle.  Although I've tried to keep my struggle private, it often flowed out into my words as I told of my races; most notably the Wintrhop, Bellingham Bay and the California International marathons.

Any runner can attest to having a bad run or a bad race day; I was experiencing a bad race year.  The head games birthed from so many consistent bad races left me feeling more than overwhelmed.  I spent many quiet moments debating on giving up racing, especially marathons.  My friends are the ones who would push me when I couldn't.

About 6 weeks ago a group of us met for an easy 8 mile run; it was 8 miles on a simple route at a conversational pace.  I couldn't keep up.  I was walking at mile 6.  Mile 6.  I felt as if I had no skeleton and was running on empty despite a solid week's sleep and eating right.  Once I got home the only thing I wanted to do was sleep.  For 3 days. 

This is when I knew something was wrong.

Not one to run to the doctor for a sniffle or an ache or a pain, my doctor knew something was amiss simply because I was sitting in her office.  She asked a multitude of questions, poked and proded.  We sent my blood sample away to the lab and awaited results.

The answer didn't take long to receive.  I am anemic.  Never have I been happier to hear there is something wrong with me.  This diagnosis validated my struggle.  It wasn't that my mind wasn't tough enough, or I wasn't determined enough, or I wasn't good enough.   My body could not physically do what I was asking it to do.  Iron deficiency stole my ability

I stand now in the middle of hope and promise.  There are millions of people who live with this every day and I know I am not alone.  But right now it has given me an answer, a much needed answer, to questions I faced for too long. 

A new marathon season lies ahead and now, finally, I am excited to see what it holds.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cows, Roosters and a Run

Karen’s headlights illuminate the ground as she turns down our road.  I tiptoe out of the house with my shoes in hand.  Slipping them on my feet, I then walk to her car as she gathers her things.  The sun is not quite up hiding the grey of the sky.  No rain; yet.

After our “Good morning!” to each other, we start our watches and head out of the driveway.  We wind our way through the neighborhood and Karen takes in the everyday surroundings of my daily runs.  The waft of fresh farm fertilizer hits our nostrils with it’s pungent smell.

“Oh my gosh, is that a cow mooing?” She asks.

“Yes it is.  There’s quite a few of those around here."

“I do not think I’ve ever heard a cow moo on my run before.”  Fifteen seconds into our run and there is already laughter.

The road we take is a straight route leading us to Corrinna who is waiting for us at the 2 mile mark.  There are more Good Mornings and the talk of ripeness of the farm.  With Karen at our side, the route Corrinna and I often run becomes new again; the countryside is an unexplored frontier for our city dwelling friend.

Turning from a half mile jaunt of a busy state route, we run down one of my favorite country roads.  Farms, homesteads and intermittent estates line both sides of the road.  We share the road with an occasional car and always seem to be greeted by a wave from the unknown driver.  Life is friendlier outside the city.

The first of 4 large hills looms up ahead.  As we crest the hill our attention is grasped by an eagle swooping out of the towering evergreen tree rooted humbly on the side of the road.   We see it’s bright white tail feathers peeking in flight as it effortlessly glides into the branches of a  massive tree on the other side of the road.   A short moment later, the unmistaken brown of a baby eagle rises from a tree and flies toward the parent, waiting with commanding nobility on the tree branch.

Hills lie ahead and we tackle each one.  Earlier in the week, I had warned Karen in an email the route contained a few small hills.  My ever present sarcasm lost in translation as today she turns to ask me, "Define small".  I fear the 750 feet of total elevation gain today may have just cost me a friend, or at the very least have my name now associated with torture.

Rolling farmland gives us beautiful vistas in which we can lose the pain of climbing yet another hill.  Horses and donkeys wander to the fence’s edge and stare as we run by the field they call home.  I think I saw a twinkle of jealousy in their eyes.  Then again, maybe they thought we were nuts for running those hills on purpose.

We turn around and head for home.  We keep the pace easy as the hills have worked us hard.  I am grateful the last couple miles are relatively flat and we can talk without huffing and puffing.  Rain is beginning to spit from the grey sky; we are finishing our run just in time.  Karen and I turn into the neighborhood and Corrinna continues straight down the road to head for home.

Just under 14 miles and it was not an easy run, yet the countryside invited us in and it was a run shared with friends ~ and an occasional rooster, cow and eagle.  Ah, life in the country.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pea Soup & Fog

The road is dark, it is cold.  The sun will be rising soon, but for now I am running in the quiet of night.  I am lost in the anonymity of the darkness and I am enjoying it.  No phones, no voices, no questions, no hammers, no saws.  Just me and the road.  My only responsibility lays in my next running step.

Life has been crazier than our normal.  Not only are our boys active in sports and school functions which keep us on our toes, we decided to update our home and we are doing it ourselves.  The last two months have been filled with new floors, new moulding, new trim and now the kitchen.  I am tired and look forward to the finished project.

Right now there is none of that, there is only me and the road.  I am grateful my hamstring is doing well and I am able to run again.  Thank you Jesus.  My mind wanders to the running year ahead and I contemplate on what to do. 

Last year was a very difficult year for me and one I have yet to shake.  My motivation still lacks and I am left wondering what my plan should be for this year.  My running friends  know exactly what their plans are, I do not.  This uncertainty has left me feeling as if I am swimming in pea soup and the fog just rolled in.  I have always had a plan, always.  Yet here I am and I can't get motivation enough to create one.

The Chicago Marathon opened this past week and I was one of the 30,000 fortunate ones to grab a spot before they closed the registration 3 hours later.  For the first time in a long, long time I felt a glimmer of a spark; something I had not felt since the Bellingham Bay Marathon.  It is the spark of hope.  Will I finally see my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon?  I can hope. 
Standing in church, we are clapping and singing along with the band.  I hear a voice say, "Congratulations on Chicago!".  I turn to see our pastor, and friend, standing there.  He had heard I had secured an entry and before making his way to the stage, he stopped to encourage me.  I tell him thank you.  He then tells me Chicago holds his second fastest marathon time and talks of how great the course is.  We talk for a minute or two and I listen to his advice.  I can't help but think this spontaneous conversation is God's way of saying, "Plan and work hard."  Hope is extremely powerful.
My hands curl inside my gloves.  The briskness of the air colder as the sun starts to say hello.  The black of night is beginning to give way and I see blues and greens emerging behind Mount Baker.  The mountain range now outlined in the horizon.  I stare in silence at it's beauty, my breathing the only sound I hear. 

I still don't have a plan, but I have a direction as Chicago stands in the future.  I am ready to climb out of this pea soup and stand on the shores of hope.