“Runners And Dreamers”

Ten years ago today (June 5, 2010) I ran my very first 5K race. I was overweight, out of shape, and unable to commit to running the full 3.10 miles without frequent walk breaks. Participating in that event reignited my long lost love of running and I made the decision to keep it up.

A few months later (October 2010) I ran another 5K race with NO WALK BREAKS.

Fast forward even further and I had lost the 40 lbs of extra weight I had been carrying around on my 5’ 6” frame, had gained multiple distance race experiences, and was now toeing the line of my very first full marathon.

Since that day in 2014, despite swearing that I would “never run another marathon”, I have continued to run and race all levels of distance ranging from the exhilarating rush of the 1-mile time trial to the enormous commitment of the highly respected 50K Ultramarathon.

Since shedding those extra forty pounds, I have successfully kept them off for nearly a decade and have greatly improved my 5K performance since that very first race.

Somewhere along the line, from then till now, I fell in love with Boston and the idea that I could, possibly, one day be “good enough, strong enough, fast enough” to qualify for and be invited to run the iconic Boston Marathon.

The unicorn has graced the Boston Marathon finish line for decades. This mythical creature, which started as the symbol for the Boston Athletic Association, has become synonymous with the historic race, gracing runner’s jackets, medals, and trophies. The athletic club was founded in 1887 (the first Boston Marathon took place in 1897) and the unicorn was associated with all the organization’s sports.

“The unicorn is a mythological figure that is meant to be pursued, but, in that pursuit, you never catch it.” Jack Fleming, the BAA’s chief operating officer, said. “So it inspires you to continue to try – to race harder in the case of running – and though it may be elusive, it really is the pursuit of the unicorn that makes you better and better and better.”

It is this thought concept that replays over and over in my mind as I continue to run and train and try again and again and again to become a better, harder, stronger, faster marathoner in an effort to qualify. I continually inspire myself with stories (like the ones featured in the documentary “The Barkley Marathons”) of other runners who, also, strive for hard things. Most marathon & ultra runners know all about Barkley – a race intentionally designed to make finishing impossible…and affectionately, yet aptly, dubbed “the race that eats its young”. While Boston (or even the qualifying process for Boston) is nowhere near as difficult as the Barkley Marathons, the concept remains the same : setting the bar so high that not everyone can achieve it. And, by setting this bar so high, it encourages and inspires only the truest and most sincere of athletes to continually strive to achieve this next level of athleticism. Sometimes, however, even your “next level” is still not good enough. Sometimes it never will be. But there’s victory in the attempt, and honor in the defeat.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Which brings me to NOW.

As I settle into my newfound role of Ambassador for Rabbit, a California-born running apparel company, while entering another training cycle for my next Boston Qualifying attempt. I’ve submitted applications to other companies in the past, in an attempt to represent them as an Ambassador, but have never been selected until now. The mindset of this particular company is definitely one that I relate to and wholeheartedly support.

“Crafted in California, rabbit is a female-founded running apparel brand that supports runners and dreamers of all levels.”

“We love running, but we love runners even more, and a key part of our mission at rabbit is to contribute to the sport by supporting runners at every level.”

“Obviously not all of us can be Olympic champions or even contenders. It may be the PROs who set the records, but the everyday runners are the people who really define the sport. Our RADrabbits (Runners And Dreamers) are amateur runners of every skill level who truly embody the spirit of running and who we are proud to have represent us all across the country.”

“Our rabbitELITE and rabbitELITEtrail teams are composed of amazing athletes who are balancing the challenges of competing at a very high level with all of the demands of daily life.”

“Above all, running requires dedication, and the discipline that PROs exhibit inspires us all to be better runners and to continue to chase our dreams. We are extremely proud to support our rabbitPROs in their pursuit of success at the highest levels of our sport.”

This slight addition to my running “resume”, along with the moral obligation to keep up encouraging others, further empowers me to keep on keeping my own chin up, high with hopes of chasing and, one day, catching that elusive “unicorn”. You see, so long as we just keep trying, we continue to WIN!

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

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“Footsteps & Breaths”

Today was a difficult day. No real reason for it, other than the realization that we are exactly three months away from the trial date regarding my parents fatal crash.

Preparing my impact statement feels like a real punch in the gut.

Reliving the moment with all its sounds, smells, emotions; things I can’t ever unsee and photographs I’m unable to destroy. The feeling of this monumental loss threatens to bury me, suffocating my soul.

Once again, it’s hurts to think, it hurts to feel, and it was even harder to get up and move.

I knew I needed to run…but it took me hours to simply lace up.

Once running, however, things got easier.

They always do. I know this.

Running is great mental therapy; especially when you don’t look at your watch or concern yourself with pace. Just one foot in front of the other, counting footsteps and breaths, becoming one with yourself.

Physical synchronicity comes as early as the second mile.

Mental clarity followed suit in the third.

Next thing I knew, I was flying and letting it all go.

Transcendence is a learned skill; a reward for the persistent, yet patient runner. When you finally quiet your mind long enough, you can push past any pain and, literally, see yourself as just a small piece of a much bigger picture.

These moments are fleeting and achieving this level regularly requires much practice – but it’s always worth it in the end.

And so I am reminded of this very simple truth: No matter how hard things get in this thing called “Life”, EVERYTHING is better when I just keep running.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“My Pittsburgh Marathon Story : Through The Years.”

My running journey began in 2010 as a simple weight loss goal but, by 2011, had transformed into my passion. As I began to expand my physical ability beyond the basic 5K races and hour long training runs, I started to consider the possibility of running the half marathon in Pittsburgh. My proposal of this inspired a few others in a local running group to work toward this goal as well. In the meantime, however, I became sidetracked by a promotion at work which took up almost all of my time and energy for the next nine months.

On the morning of May 6, 2012, I awoke to see the half marathon posts and finish line photos from all these inspiring women who had taken my idea and run with it (LITERALLY) sticking to their plans and goals and finishing the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I have never felt so down on myself as I did that day. I had always been a self-motivated, self-disciplined person who stuck to and achieved every goal that I’d ever set for myself; but, this time, I had failed. I laced up my shoes that day and went for a run. Nearly 4 miles. It was hard. It hurt. I nearly threw up. I had lost so much of of my previously earned progress, but I vowed to NEVER let myself down like that again!

In 2013, I made my comeback. I ran my first half marathon in Pittsburgh! I was nervous and alone, but quickly fell in step beside a marathoner from South Dakota, Dean Hjelden (sorry, no photo) and, with the help of his company and coaching, eased into a respectable first time pace.

(Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2013 – 2:06:57)

In 2014, I returned with confidence and a friend, Cherish McCartney, as we both set out to complete our very first full marathon along the streets of Pittsburgh.

(Pittsburgh Marathon 2014 – 4:37:36)

In 2015, I returned with the help of Herb Cratty to achieve my very first “fast paced”, sub-2 hour half marathon.

(Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2015 – 1:59:55)

In 2016, I had hoped to achieve a sub-4:30 full marathon but had run my first ultramarathon (31+miles) two months prior to race day and wound up treating tendinitis in my ankle. I opted to transfer down to the half marathon and ran an incredibly fun race with Hilary Smilek as #MavAndGoose – complete with rum soaked gummy worms, cupcakes, and beer!

(Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2016 – 2:30:28)

Upon completion of our race, I was honored to return to the course at the 26th Mile mark and run the final .20 with my good friend, Joe (aka “The RocketMan”) as he secured, yet another, Boston Qualifying marathon performance!

In 2017, I trained hard and smart, and made my full marathon comeback with a self-satisfying PR. I did not do this alone, however. Cherish was there, again, to run me (smartly) through the first 10 miles of my race, and to meet me again at Mile 25 to run me (fast and strong) to the finish line.

(*To read my full race experience, see blog post “Mile 9: Pittsburgh Marathon 2017-“4:27:56”.)

(Pittsburgh Marathon 2017 – 4:27:56)

Truth be told, I could not have done it without her!

In 2018, I had hoped to run another fast half marathon PR with my friend and Coach, Shep, but “life” took a very difficult and trying turn for us both with the loss of my parents in a car crash and the loss of his wife following a medical procedure. We kept running and did the best that we could, but things do not always go as planned. So when Shep told me he had to withdraw from the race due to a calf strain, I reached out to Cherish again. I was pleased to find that she and I were in the same boat- running the race alone and with no set goal in mind. We were simply looking to find the “fire” that Pittsburgh always has a way of sparking inside each and every one of us to keep running towards bigger and better things.

We took to the streets of our beloved Steel City and ran for the pure joy of it all. Some solid running, a few pauses for photos ops and, of course, the South Side’s notorious rum soaked gummy worms at Mile 10! 😛

(*For full details of this race experience, please read previous blog post entitled : “Mile 23: “Choose Discipline”.)

(Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2018, 2:09:15)

In 2019, I was still dealing with alot personally and now professionally, as well. I was struggling to find meaning in my running/racing and was contemplating hanging up my Asics for good. I decided to, once again, forget all about time, pace, my dreams of qualifying for Boston, and JUST RUN. My friends, Sara and Dawn, were dealing with some difficulties of their own and none of us were particularly looking to “race” anything. We decided to team up together and I made it my mission to give these incredible ladies the BEST run around Pittsburgh that any of us have ever had! (Fully equipped with party favors, props, flags, gifts for the volunteers and supporters in the crowd, photos/videos, alcoholic “fluid stations”, and several tasks/challenges to be completed throughout the course.🤗)

I don’t even know our official finish time! It didn’t mattered to any us so we never looked it up. It was the most fun we’ve ever had at a long distance event and, to this day, I simply say that we “got the most out of our registration fee” that year.😂

Pittsburgh Half Marathon 2019 – “PRICELESS!”
Held on Cinco De Mayo 🍹

(*For the full account of this epic race experience, please read my previous blog entitled: “I Am Resilient.”)

This year, 2020, I had registered for the full marathon and was on track to run my strongest & fastest race ever, potentially qualifying for the Boston Marathon. But, like all other runners, have been stopped short, as the world continues to battle Covid-19.

One by one, each and every 2020 race event I have registered for has been cancelled or postponed.

It is quite possible that NO large race events will take place for the remainder of this year.

Is it heartbreaking? Yes.

But is it necessary? Absolutely.

And it’s a small price to pay if it helps to reduce the number of lives lost to this viral killer amongst us.

So while it is difficult not to mourn what could have been on this first Sunday of May (always Pittsburgh Marathon Day) I, ultimately, choose to be happy, grateful for my health, and thankful for my ability to keep running – even if it’s alone, even if it’s untimed, even if it’s “off the record”.

Even if it isn’t for “Boston”…but simply for the love of the run. ♥️🏃🏽‍♀️💨

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun