Inspiring? Who me?

Two people in the past 5 days told me that I’m an inspiration.

Huh.

Really?

Me?

I’m an inspiration?

I’m not saying this as an, “awe, shucks, you’re too kind – I’m not an inspiration”, while secretly thinking… “hell yeah, I am”!  And these folks aren’t good friends where they would have said it to try and make me feel good.  I’d call them acquaintances and I really only interact with them through social.

I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, some good and some bad.  I’ve gotten compliments – usually about my hair; some people think I have good hair – but I’ve never been complimented by being called an inspiration.  And I think that is probably one of the nicest compliments I could ever receive.  I don’t take being an inspiration lightly, because I know how much I value those who inspire me.

I don’t have kids, so it’s not like I’m inspiring my kids to do anything  I don’t even have a big blog fan base (but I do love the fans I have!!), so it’s not like I am blogging to inspire others.

When I started blogging, and sharing my training updates on social, I did it first to keep my family in the loop and to also, on occasion, give someone a good chuckle,  I mean come on, you can’t tell me you haven’t been following the Great Poison Ivy Outbreak of 2017 and haven’t chuckled to yourself and thought, “better her than me!”

I blog and share my journey because it’s fun for me and I hope it’s somewhat fun for you. But I never, ever, expected it to be inspiring.

As I always say, I have NO athletic ability and the only reason I am able to run marathons or complete an ultra is because I’m basically just too damn stubborn to quit.  To me that doesn’t make for an inspiring story…. but I guess to some it does.

I’ve watched marathons, ultras, triathlons and Ironmans and I’ve been so inspired I’ve been brought to tears.  I’ve signed up for more than one race as I was coming off an “inspiration high” from watching someone else do something incredible.  And I’ve been known to share videos, pictures and posts of strangers doing incredible things just to feel a bit more motivated.

But I never thought I’d be on the other side of this story.  I never thought I’d personally help motivate people.  I never thought someone would actually take up running because of me.  I never thought I’d get people inspired to try something new or go for it.

I’ve been really surprised at how my journey into triathlons has been received.  I’ve had a lot of people tell me they can’t believe I’m learning how to swim and how incredible they think that it is and how they give me credit for conquering my fears.  (And FEAR it is!)  People who I never realized were following along on my quest to learn how to swim, have been secretly cheering for me.  It’s pretty cool to not only know I have their support (I believe everyone’s positive energy and positive thoughts help!) but that it’s gone the next step and I’m helping inspire them.

There may be some of you out there where this is old hat.  Like I said, as a parent, I think you inspire your kids all of the time.  Or as an athlete, if you’re repeatedly kicking butt and/or winning…. that inspires so many people.  But I don’t have offspring looking up to me and I don’t win.  I don’t even have a good “comeback” story to help inspire others.  I’m at the back of the pack and I have no delusion I’ll ever be any place but the back.  Each race I run, my time gets a little slower and I’m pretty sure the letters “PR” are gone for good.  But that’s okay, because what the past few days have thought me is that you don’t need to cross the finish line first to inspire people.  Sometimes the best stories and the most inspiration aren’t coming from those upfront.  I guess the view-from-the-back-of-the-pack can be filled with inspiration too!

Who knew!?

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)

 

Why do I do it?

I had the most random and unexpected compliment yesterday.  I had an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner who I’ve been seeing for probably 15+ years.  So while I’ve seen her a long time, we only see each other once a year, so it’s not like we have this big deep relationship.  But she does know that I’m a runner and whether she remembered or read it in my chart, she also knows I not only run but have done multiple marathons and completed an ultra the last time I saw her.  She asked what I had planned for 2017 and I said that I’ve really scaled back on my running and I don’t have any major endurance events planned.  I added that I planned on doing a triathlon this year and she gave me only a half-enthusiastic response (like a tri was small potatoes compared to an ultra).  That is until I told her that I don’t know how to swim.  This intrigued her.   She spun around on her little wheeled stool and wanted to know more (thankfully I was not up in stirrups at this point!).  She could not believe I am taking on this endeavor considering I don’t know how to swim.  She thought it was just amazing.  Her enthusiasm took me by surprise and I must have looked it because she went on to explain. She said she sees young women every day with no goals, no enthusiasm and no desire to try – try anything.  She said it’s sad.  She thinks I’m an inspiration. She even said that whatever is motivating me to try new things, the drive to set a goal and do what needs to be done in order to reach that goal is what makes a person successful at life.

Wow, a success at life!  That’s a heavy conversation to be having in a medical gown, but please go on!

She said that no matter what the outcome of my trying to learn to swim or how the tri goes, she said that she’s proud of me and she wishes me luck.

Again, wow!  All of this from a lady I see once a year!

She asked me where the drive comes from and what it is that makes me want to tackle new goals and challenges.  I didn’t have an answer for her but I really wanted to find an answer for myself.  So I’ve been thinking about nothing else since she asked me.  And while there isn’t one clear-cut, easy answer I do have some thoughts as to where my drive comes from.

I have to give some credit to my parents. And while they never did anything like what I’m doing, they passed on some qualities that make me who I am and the person that signs up for an ultra even though I’m not a very good runner or the person who signs up for a tri even though she can’t swim.  My stubbornness to not quit came from my mom, and I don’t say stubborn as a negative.  I’m definitely my mother’s daughter when it comes to that.  Being stubborn is the only thing that got me across many finish lines and it’s what helped my mom raise 7 kids.  Stubbornness is a good thing – my husband may not think so – but I do!

I got my dad’s drive.  He was a self-employed farmer and he did what was needed in order to get the job done.  No excuses, just do it.  So once I sign up for something I will do what it takes to reach my goal (thanks dad), i.e. training, lessons, practice, early morning workouts, etc. and even if it gets tough and I want to quit, I won’t – because I’m stubborn (thanks mom).

But why even sign up for a race or take on a new challenge?  When I was asked what in me made me want to sign up for these things and to push myself like this… it really got me to wonder the same thing.  I think a lot of my desire to try to challenges and set new goals is that I’m extremely aware that life is short.  And I want to make the most of the one I have.

I want to try new things and have adventures.  I always say I want to live not for “things” but instead for “experiences”.  And while a lot of really cool experiences and adventures that I want to embark on cost money – these really don’t.  Okay yes, there are entry fees and gear, etc.  But it’s not the same as saving up to go on a European vacation.  Brian and I aren’t wealthy and we work extremely hard for our money and it takes time to save for some of the big things we want to do and see.  But signing up for events and working towards those goals are more short-term goals that I can control and have nothing to do with money.   It’s a way to make sure I experience life, not from a couch doing nothing more than binge watching Netflix (but I do enjoy the occasional binge weekend) but instead in the “thick of it”.

And lord knows I wasn’t always like this.  I spent most of my twenties and even a portion of my early thirties on the couch.  Probably because it’s hard to go for a run when you’re hung over!  But thankfully that was a phase and once I grew up, I grew out of it.  (Sort of!)  I enjoy setting goals.  I enjoy working towards them.  I enjoy reaching those goals and getting that sense of accomplishment.  I was talking to a friend who is currently training for his first marathon and I was telling him that it’s the feeling of accomplishment that makes you come back for more.  It’s addicting.

Maybe that’s what the young women who have no drive are missing.  They need that sense of accomplishment that will push them to try again.  Maybe all they need is to set one goal and once they achieve it – no matter what it is – they too will be hooked.  They will realize to live life is to experience life.  Not from a comfortable spot on the sidelines, but instead by being part of the game.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

 

13.1 miles of sights, sounds and “signs”

Anyone that knows me or has followed me for some time knows that I had a HUGE problem running on my own.  I typically do most training runs and almost all races with either my husband or friends.  Last summer I started training by myself and I surprised myself and made it through okay.  And in 2010, I started doing one race a year on my own.  Yesterday I finished the Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon on my own even though I had a lot of friends running it that I could have tagged along with and could have had fun with running as a group.  But it’s a different experience running a race alone.  I’m not fast, so I’m not actually competing but running on my own allows me to run my race and experience things that I may otherwise miss if I was talking to a friend the whole 13.1 miles.

Here’s the race as I experienced it:

I got to the start early so I had plenty of time to see nervous first-timers.  I saw anxious runners scrambling to find the starting line, relay teams ribbing team members on who’s going to be the slowest among them, kids kissing their moms and dads good-bye and wishing them luck and the parents promising to see them at the finish line.  I actually listened, probably for the first time, to the sound track the marathon had playing for the runners and spectators to enjoy while mingling around.  I took all the start sights and sounds in and I really enjoyed it because I not only didn’t have the nerves I normally have for a big run, but I was completely alone and was really able to be in the moment.

And as the starting gun went off and we started running, I purposely kept my music off.  I instead listened to the runners around me and I heard everything from people giving each other advice, to people joking and in general a lot of exciting banter.  But what I didn’t expect to hear was the footsteps of 8,000+ runners hitting the pavement. I had never ever noticed the sound of all of our collective feet running as a group before and it was pretty damn cool.  It’s even more cool to realize I was just a tiny part of that sound and realized – that what I once learned in school was really true – that the sum is really greater than the parts!

As I was running it was great to just be able to take in all sights and sounds.  I always have been a person who looked around and read the signs that strangers hold on the side of the road but running by yourself really lets you take even more in.  I got to see the group of 5 friends who were trying to spot their runner and when one finally saw her coming she yelled, “here she comes” and all the friends started jumping up and down, waving and cheering for their friend.  The excitement they had for spotting their friend was contagious, I couldn’t help but smile.

I saw how happy the little kids got when they got high-fives from total strangers that ran past them.  I tried to high-five as many as I could and each and every one was so excited and that gave them the extra encouragement they needed to keep their little arms out stretched no matter how tired they got.

Running by myself gave me the opportunity to chit-chat with other runners that I knew.  It’s amazing how many people I can spot that I knew in a crowd of thousands.  It was fun being able to talk to them for some time until one of us decided it was time to say “good-bye and good luck” and pick up the pace and move on.

There were a few places on the course that had a wall of spectators on both sides of the road and as we ran past it was like running through a tunnel full of cheers. I got goosebumps listening to it and thinking ahead to running New York in fall and anticipating what millions of people will sound like compared to the hundreds in Green Bay.

I was getting pretty warm during the run and a few families who lived along the route were nice enough to put sprinklers and hoses out for us to run through.  And I ran through them all.  It’s probably one of the few times, as an adult, you can run through a sprinkler and get away with it (sans being a parent and doing it with your own kids).  I think I ran an extra half a mile from zig zagging all over the road to get to the sprinklers.  But it was totally worth it.

I made a point of not looking at my watch while I was running because I figured I wasn’t going to do well (because of the heat and the fact I was on my feet the past 2 days working the expo) and I didn’t want to bum myself out by seeing poor mile splits.  But late in the run I thought to myself… “I wonder how I’m doing, I think I’m actually having an okay run.”  So it wasn’t until mile 12 that I snuck a peek at my mile split.  And I was thrilled!!  It was about a full 60 seconds faster than I had run in training.  So, even though I was on the verge of overheating, I gave myself the green light to “go for it” in the last mile.  I ran and I ran hard and it felt good.  Okay, I lied.  It felt HORRIBLE then, but now it feels good.

Running by myself gave me the freedom to run as fast or as slow as I wanted and I didn’t have to apologize to anyone for holding them back or wish I could go faster if I was with someone a bit slower than I wished to run.  I had freedom and it was fun.  I pushed through to the end and was rewarded by the sound of people yelling my name.  About 10 feet before the finish line I saw a bunch of friends (my fellow Operations Team buddies) along the fence all screaming my name.  While I was so damn tired and I couldn’t actually acknowledge them as I ran past, I was smiling from ear to ear on the inside.

Once I crossed the finish line, I soon saw my husband who is the Director in charge of the finish line so he was busy working.  But he was able to break away and hug me and congratulate me.  He said he was proud of my time, because unbeknownst to me, he was getting updates on my progress and my pace from the rest of the Ops Team that was tracking me along the way.  He too knew my time was way beyond anything I thought I could run.

I had a hard time recovering from the heat and my effort but once I did, and I left the finisher’s chute to go out to the runner reunite area I heard the post-party band playing.  I couldn’t instantly make out the song but after I listened a few more seconds I realized they were playing “Let it Be”, a song that has very special and significant meaning to me.  And I got pretty teary eyed.  Not just because of the song, but because of the entire day.  I have read a lot lately on how people need to pay more attention to the “signs” that the universe puts in front of them.  And I am desperately trying to pay attention to any sign given to me.  And Let it Be, was definitely a sign.  I’m not sure what it means just yet but hopefully I will soon.

So, as I wrap up my Half Marathon recap and I start to prepare both mentally and logistically for the marathon I am running this Sunday, I will leave you with this thought.  Running, truly is a spectator sport.  It may not be an obvious spectator sport like football or basketball but I think it’s actually more inspiring to watch than either of those two.  The human spirit you will witness is crazy… all you have to do is know how to read the signs as they pass you by.

Until next time,

Gotta run.