Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Runner Giving Thanks

Just four days before Thanksgiving and five days before my 32nd birthday and I am asking myself, where did this year go? It is hard to believe that 2010 is coming to a close in 41 more days. While many folks love this time of the year, I have to be honest and say that I am not really exhilarated by it all. I often think that holidays are so overrated...full of unnecessary stress, countless parties that have no real meaning and purpose, pressure to buy meaningless gifts for everyone from the co-worker to the long-lost cousin, a frantic shopping day called Black Friday full of crazy shoppers, long lines at all my favorite stores, and an overdose of cookies, cakes, pies, and all things sugary...just not my cup of tea.

Call me Scrooge, but I just don't get all hyped up about presents, stockings, Christmas music, lights, egg nog, collard greens, and turkey. Well, I don't discriminate against Thanksgiving or Christmas, I treat all of the holidays the same. My husband and I don't get too worked up over any of the holidays because they all seem superficial and too commercialized, often losing their true meaning. We also believe it is fundamental to give thanks, express our love and admiration, show care and concern, and give to others all year round not just on February 14th or December 25th. Okay, so I am digressing and you probably don't care how I feel about the holidays.

Well, despite my apathy towards this time of the year, I do like to use this time to take an inventory of my life and to count my blessings. I try my best to do this on a regular and consistent basis. However, Thanksgiving reminds me of the value of doing so.

Reflecting on 2010, I must give thanks for all of my blessings. I became engaged and married to the most wonderful man in a matter of just eight months. (That sounds like I just met him in February, we had been dating for almost four years when we became engaged.) I also ran three of the biggest races in my life this year which included two half marathons and a full marathon. Overall, I have been blessed with a year full of love, peace, health, and happiness.

While this has been a phenomenal year, I am not going to lie and say that it hasn't brought challenges and obstacles. It most certainly has. It has included illnesses and sudden deaths resulting in the lost of close family and friends which were devastating. Nonetheless, I have tried to remain optimistic and I feel beyond blessed at this point in my life. I have a phenomenal husband, an amazing family, wonderful friends, three jobs that I really love, good health, a roof over my head, and enough clothes for a family of six. What more could I ask for? Well, I would like a warmer pair of running gloves for the pending freezing temperatures and I would really like another North Face full-zip fleece for lounging around the house but really, NOTHING!!

Well, I was inspired by a fellow athlete on Dailymile who shared her post about a runner giving thanks. Well, I thought it was awesome and I wanted to follow suit. So, what particular things make my life more enjoyable as a runner? Well, here is a list of a few things that I am thankful for, in no particular order:

-My Garmin 405: It is simply amazing. I have only had it for about 6 months but it is hard to believe that I have been running for all these years without it. It helps keep me focused on my runs and it tracks my pace, distance, and heart rate providing me with motivation to push myself farther and faster.

-Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews: They taste fabulous! They are great for my long runs and quite honestly, they are just good when you want something sweet and fruity! Love them!!!

-Fat Free Chocolate Syrup: It makes my post-run protein shakes taste amazing.

-My Ipod: It truly is a wonderful invention. Don't you remember those days of trying to run with a Discman? Don't act like you didn't! You remember going to the gym trying to decide which one or two CDs you wanted to workout with. Well, thank goodness for the Ipod. Just last night, I was creating a new playlist to serve as my motivation for my run this morning. I never run with my Ipod during races but it is my lifeline for my training runs! Thank you, Apple!

-Dri-Fit Clothing: Again, another incredible invention that makes running so much more enjoyable in all four seasons. I am particular thankful for the Nike Dri-Fit line because their shirts and pants are actually long enough for my tall body!! My running tights don't look like running capris!

-My Health: I am beyond thankful to be blessed with good health that allows me to put two feet on the ground each morning and keep going. We often take our physical (and emotional) health for granted, not realizing that it could be gone in an instant. Some days I run simply because I can and I am thankful for that.

-My Husband: I am thankful to have such a wonderful and supporting husband who allows me to neglect some of my responsibilities to pursue my love of running. I work ALOT and he helps reduce the burden by helping out at home and with my work. He also understands when I sacrifice our time together in order to get a good night sleep or a long run in. He is also the best cheerleader, photographer, and my number one fan. He believes in me when I don't even believe in myself. He has been to almost every race that I have done, often waking up at 4:00a.m. to drive to the race. I heart him!!

-My Friends and Family: I don't run with a running group and all of my runs are done solo. Thus, I am thankful for my family and friends who allow me to vent and listen to my crazy running stories. They always offer their love and support even when they don't quite understand why I get up at 6:00a.m. to run 15 miles. For those that are runners, I am particularly grateful for their mentoring and advice over the years. For those who are not, I am appreciative of their compassion and empathy as I share my joys and pains of running. Bless your heart for even listening to me rant and rave about all of my races, buying new running shoes, black toenails, runner's knee, achy back, hip pain, and the list goes on!!

-Dailymile: Another incredible invention that allows me to track every workout! I use to write down every single workout in a notebook trying to determine my pace and calories burned, it is no longer necessary with Dailymile. Not only it is a great tracking tool, it is also an awesome social network of athletes who provide me with inspiration to continue to pursue my goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for all of your support!! You help to get me out of bed some days!!

-Considerate Drivers: I truly appreciate those drivers who take the time to look both ways and allow me to cross the street. Running can be dangerous anytime of the day and I am thankful for those drivers who express concern about my safety and are willing to wait a few seconds for me to cross the street.

-Sunny and Calm Weather: As a runner, the weather obviously plays a fundamental part in every determines what I wear, when I run, and sometimes, even my mood. While it is nice to wake up to sunny weather during my training runs, it is truly awesome to be blessed with great weather on race day. I am still thanking God that I didn't have to run 26.2 miles in the rain on October 17th = )

-Races: I love every aspect of races. I love the camaraderie of the fellow runners who provide their support, I love the amazing spectators who cheer us on, I love the volunteers who sacrifice their time, and I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel from completing a race. I also don't mind the free t-shirts, medals, and post-race food!!

So, for all these things, big and small, I give thanks!! I am thankful for an awesome year thus far and I look forward to the years to come!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflecting on the Big M's: My Five Cents

Almost one month after my first marathon and 13 days into marriage, I am still wondering if it is day or night. The past few weeks have disappeared like a thief in the night and I have been frantically searching for this time bandit. Consequently, I feel as though I've had minimal time to reflect on these monumental experiences of completing a marathon and entering matrimonial bliss. The past week my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Jamaica and it was the first opportunity that we had in a long time to simply rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Days of jerk chicken, "no problem man," feeling irie, pina coladas, walks along the beach, and warm weather were just what the doctor ordered for both of us.

During those days in the Caribbean as we lounged at the beach, chilled at the poolside bar, drank a glass of wine at dinner; my husband and I contemplated the past few months and took stock of our lives. I recall sitting at dinner, my eyes flooded with tears of joy, telling my husband, "I feel so very blessed." Thinking back on that moment, there are no better words that can describe how I feel about my life right now. Feelings of gratitude and appreciation disable me and I am frozen in this very moment. I feel beyond fortunate to have completed my first marathon, one of the most mentally and physically challenging experiences in my life. I am thankful to have had the strength, courage, determination, will-power, health, and support to finish the race. Additionally, I feel so privileged to have married my best friend in the company of my family and closest friends. I am thankful to have found such a loving and committed partner to share the rest of my life with. What more could I ask for?

As previously noted, it has been almost one month since the marathon, but the day remains etched in my mind like it was yesterday. My first marathon was remarkable... The weather was incredible, the course was beautiful, the spectators were amazing, and the fellow runners were supportive and encouraging. I can recall the first couple of miles of the race as we crossed the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise and I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded awe of the complete experience amidst thousands of runners. As we ran through Canada, Corktown, Indian Village, Belle Isle, and downtown Detroit; I thought about the months of training leading up to the race but I ultimately allowed myself to get lost in the moment. I thanked each volunteer every time I grabbed a cup of water or Gatorade. I took the time to "high five" the spectators along the course and even sang along with some of the bands. I appreciated the high school students who had sacrificed their Sunday morning to entertain and motivate all of the runners. I chatted with other marathoners who were also seeking to finish their first marathon. I allowed myself to enjoy each and every moment...

While I sing praises for such a wonderful marathon day, I have to admit that it was full of its challenges and obstacles. As I shared before, I have struggled with several cases of runner's knee and you guessed it, this race experience would be no different. I had been experiencing knee discomfort the week preceding the marathon and started race day with the same level of discomfort. However, I loaded my knee up with KT tape and was determined to put two feet on the ground. I started the race just hoping to finish and manage whatever pain came my way. Well, it was quite possible until mile 17. At that moment, the pain became unbearable. I stopped in my tracks and headed to the sidewalk. I attempted to massage the knee, stretch out my muscles, and began praying that I could manage the next nine miles. Well, to keep a long story short, the next nine miles were atrocious, consisting of stints of walking, jogging, and running. While I was determined to cross the finish line, there were moments that I felt defeated and wanted to quit. However, the support and encouragement that I received from the fellow runners and the spectators along with my stubbornness, transported me to the finish line. The last mile was just brutal but I was invincible... As I came to the last tenth of a mile, the tears rolled down my face and I threw up my hands feeling proud, ecstatic, humble, and thankful to finish the race. My final time was 4:50:53. While it wasn't the time I had been anticipating, nothing compares to the sense of accomplishment that I felt for achieving this goal of mine.

So our wedding day came and went and I've been wondering if I was even present..but I have the video and my signature on the marriage certificate to verify my attendance. I was forewarned that the day would whiz by, but I wasn't prepared for this kind of swiftness. I couldn't believe how rapidly both the ceremony and reception began and ended. I've already watched the video just so I can relive the day. Despite the fleeting time, it was an amazing day, my feelings indescribable. Tears streamed down my face as my brothers walked me down the aisle and I met my soon-to-be husband. My mother offered an impromptu speech at the reception expressing her love for my husband and her support for our marriage while paying homage to my was simply beautiful...Overall, it was a wonderful day bursting with love, joy, and happiness.

Thirteen days into marriage and my life is transforming. While I am surely a spring chicken when it comes to marriage experience and any matrimonial advice for that matter. Although, I must share that I have already learned many invaluable lessons in less than two weeks. I am learning how to be a wife, to love more deeply, and to completely share my life with someone else...I am thrilled with every moment. I am amazed at the revolution that has occurred within our relationship and I am truly looking forward to the days, weeks, months, and years to come...

So, at the end of it all, a marathon and a marriage was a phenomenal way to end my October! Yes, I am hoping for more marathons but praying for just one long, happy marriage! = )