“So this is what grief feels like.” – I say to my counselor, as the tears begin to fall.
Like coming to the edge of a cliff and looking down into the abyss.
Like standing in an empty room, devoid of light and sound. There are no windows, no doors, no ceiling, and no floors.
A vast emptiness. Nothingness. An unbearable sadness.
There are no words to truly describe it. There are no further lessons to be learned, no comfort to be found. There is simply nothing left.
Stare into it long enough and you shall certainly lose yourself, as well. I know this.
As October 26th approaches, I can feel myself falling; giving in to all that is not and no longer here.
For the past three years, however, there has always been something “more”. Something more to do – to attend to, to address, to rectify or fight for. I could feel my parents everywhere and in everything. But now, there is nothing. We have closed their legal case, ended their trial, and as we’ve entered the final stages of liquidating their estates, it feels as if there is nothing left. They simply cease to exist. I don’t feel them anymore. I don’t “see” them anywhere. Just this empty space where, once, they used to be.
You see, I am not afraid of the “dark” and I have no problem turning to face the deep. I’ve been able to sit with the uncomfortable and sift through the pieces. I turn it over and over to see it for what it really is and do my best to find the meaning in it all.
Perhaps there is beauty here? The closing of a chapter; the turning of a page. But, right now, I simply do not see it. I can not yet see beyond this day, beyond their lives, beyond the loss, and beyond this void.
If none of it matters anymore – what was even the point of their lives? Of your life? Or of mine?
This is not to insinuate that their lives did not have meaning. It goes without saying that they loved and were loved by many in return. They did many good things for many different people throughout their 60+ years upon this Earth, despite the relatively small scale upon which their kindnesses were performed. But if “Life” just simply moves along, with everybody and everything in it, when we die what is the actual point of our time spent here?
It’s a slippery slope to consider such things for a prolonged period of time. Look too closely, think too deeply, and you could easily lose yourself to the fragility of our own existence. I have, at times, lost hours of my own life spiraling within this mental matrix. I find myself having to force my own thoughts and body forward, intentionally shaking off the heaviness of this morbidly hopeless thought process, numbing this pain with the fluid motion of a daily run.
“The development of the mind comes through movement.” – Maria Montessori
Running has, once again, become my safeguard and my savior. I can say it no better than my friend, Tony Garcia, already has:
It’s been three years.
A long and complicated grief.
But, when I run, suddenly there is calm.
*See the following links to purchase one (or all three!) of my friend, Tony’s incredibly inspiring books!
After surprising myself with a 3:57 marathon finish in the fall of 2019 (a whopping 31-minute marathon PR!!!) I truly believed that my Boston Qualifier (3:40) was finally within my reach.
I trained hard, ate clean, and took multiple whole food and herbal supplements to support the amount of stress I was placing on my body as I pushed through the physical barriers which had always kept “Boston” as an elusive achievement that I could only see in my dreams.
In March of 2020, however, Covid-19 made its official debut and the world began to shut down. As I entered the taper phase for my goal race, my Garmin was predicting my body to be physically capable of a 3:31 marathon finish time; just then, the race announced its cancellation. Shortly thereafter, nearly every live event followed suit throughout the spring and summer months. As this “global pandemic” continued, events scheduled for the fall months also cancelled.
It’s difficult not to become disheartened. And it’s hard for someone who’s chasing a dream to stay disciplined and motivated when the purpose & prize behind the “push” is no longer in sight.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to run; but running full marathon distances is not something I want to or plan to continue beyond the realization of my Boston Marathon dream. The Half Marathon distance suits me much better and is much easier to maintain while still experiencing and living life to the fullest.
In June, I received notification from my next goal race that they had reinstated their original date of September 13th and had every intention to hold a live event which would enable athletes, like me, to attempt to qualify for the 125th Boston Marathon. They made many changes and set up multiple COVID-19 precautions but, as the time drew near, so did the jury trial for my parents fatal crash; and it was predicted to last for more than just a few days.
While I am not proud to admit it, I became overwhelmed by my emotions and the details surrounding their untimely deaths. It was hard to simply function in my day to day life while rehashing all of the details regarding the crash, the events leading up to it, as well as, the aftermath and longterm effects on myself, my sister, my daughter, and our families. More often than not, I did NOT run. And when I did, it was all I could do just to cover a few miles let alone run with purpose or a plan.
I watched as my overall fitness decreased drastically and my Garmin now predicted my race day potential to be 3:53 – which is NOT a Boston Qualifier for me.
As the trial began, I became engrossed in the details and consumed by the fight. Unfortunately, not everyone tells the truth and not everyone plays fair. I was taken aback by the things I saw, heard, and was forced to sit quietly through while expressing “no emotional reaction”. I broke down on a daily basis and found it nearly impossible to sleep. The whole truth and nothing but the truth was most certainly not heard in that Ohio courtroom. As the jury announced a “Not Guilty” verdict on all counts after just 40 minutes of deliberation, my heart sank. Justice was not served and it was difficult not to be angry.
I returned home and began the process of putting the pieces of my heart back together. Frequent counseling appointments helped me to realize that forgiving the man who took my parents lives has nothing to do with his acknowledgement of his actions or remorse for the pain that he has caused. It’s about finding peace for myself – and the desire to relieve myself of the burden which I am not responsible to carry. I wish I could say that I forgive him; but I am thankful for Dr. Michael and his ability to make me see that my intention to do so is clearly there and that fact alone, right now, is enough. I’ll get there someday and, in time, everything will be alright.
Just two weeks later, however, we received notification from our lawyers that the Judge’s ruling to withhold critical evidence and facts from being heard by the Jury was, in fact, unlawful and now open for our appeal.
My heart began to race all over again.
To pursue this appeal, we would spend months trying to convince the appellant court that the details withheld could, without a doubt, change the verdicts decided upon by the Jury. If the appellant court agreed and ruled in our favor, we would then begin the process of pursuing an entirely new jury trial – to the expense of another 3+ years of our lives reliving the details, preparing a new case, as well as, the stress of another 1-2 weeks spent inside an Ohio courtroom for 8+ hrs a day. (Not to mention the 4 hours spent driving to and from it, day after day.) And none of these things can guarantee that the truth would be told on the part of the defense and that no further dirty maneuvers would be made, as was done the first time around.
After several days and conference calls, my sister and I decided to let it go, refusing to appeal the case. Nothing we do inside any courtroom could ever bring our parents back to life. Pursuing peace of mind and healing the hurt that has been inflicted upon our hearts & minds is so much more important to us than “being right” and inflicting punishment upon this unrepentant man and his family. We chose to leave it to the universe and the laws of karma to decide what it is that he deserves and have faith that everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t see what that reason is at the time.
Throughout all of this “personal drama”, my upcoming race weighed heavy on my mind. The field size had been cut in half and was now sold out, with a waiting list in place. The sole purpose of this race is to qualify for the Boston Marathon and anyone who is not able to perform within 10-minutes of their Boston Qualifier is asked not to register. If I were to go, knowing that I do not currently have a realistic chance to qualify, it would prevent someone else from legitimately achieving their Boston dream. I opted to defer to the 2021 event, opening up a spot for an athlete on the waitlist to take my place.
Immediately following this decision, my friend Joe told me about a very small, relatively local race that was open to all 2020 Boston Marathon Qualifiers who desire to run their “virtual” event LIVE so that they may attempt to requalify or better their current qualifying time for the 125th Boston Marathon. That is, obviously, not me – yet, my friend Joe assured me that the race director was more than willing to accept my application and would not permit my presence to “block” another qualified runner from registering. I couldn’t say no! So as race day drew near, despite many self doubts about my current abilities, I made up my mind that I would show up and run – not “race pace” fast, but honest enough to go the distance and finish this race beneath the 5:00 hour course limit.
So on Sunday, September 13th 2020, I showed up and toed the START line alongside 25 other runners and set my mind upon achieving my very own P.V.! (Personal Victory).
“Welcome to Hopkinton…it all starts here!” – boomed the voice of the race director as he addressed the 26 athletes and prepared to blow the whistle which would start the race! (A quick .20 mile turnaround followed by 5x 5.20 mile laps around Lake Latonka.)
I immediately took my place at the back of the pack, as I knew these Boston Qualified runners were going to run paces I was completely unprepared to match. I did, however, get caught up in the inital excitement and ran close behind them for the first 0.35 mi at a blazing 7:35/mile pace. I quickly reigned that in, reminding myself to focus on running my own race.
I silenced my mind and lost myself in the rhythm of my footsteps and the pattern of my breath. Encouraging words of faith, hope, love, and peace written by my dear friend, Tony Garcia, occasionally echoed in my mind and my thoughts seemed to transverse the 1400+ miles between me and the state of Colorado where I knew that he, too, was running his own 26.2 mile virtual Boston Marathon in honor of his mother, whom he recently lost. I wished, for him, solemn peace and the comforting enlightenment that a long run can often bring.
I continued on and ran relatively well for the first half – even better than I had expected, considering how little (and poorly) I had trained in the previous months. I was taking in the sights with the lake on my left and so many beautiful homes and cabins along Latonka Drive, a private community constructed along the shores of Lake Latonka in Mercer, Pa.
I was entertained and impressed by the little things that the race director and volunteers had done to make this particular event as much like “Boston” as they possibly could. Like the “Wellesley College” themed Aide Station where they refrained from offering kisses, but offered cheers and bloody marys and beer! The proverbial “Heartbreak Hill” where they had set up an extremely supportive Aide Station with water, electrolytes, and cups of beer while playing music so loud you could hear it for half a mile before you got there and for half a mile after you’d left. And then there was the Citgo sign – one mile from the Finish Line. But when I saw that they had set up a “Hereford & Boylston” street sign at the final turn before the Finish Line, I was literally blown away!
By the 16th mile, my “wheels” began to fall off. The miles were taking their toll on me physically, greatly slowing my pace, and causing me to walk through the water stops as I sipped and stretched and pep talked myself back into a running pace.
As the leaders of the pack began to lap me in their race towards the Finish Line, I began to realize that it was quite possible I would be one of the only athletes still out on the course when running my 5th and final loop around the lake. I refused to apologize or feel sorry for myself though. I came here to run 26.2 miles and I had five hours in which to do it. I knew that I could do that.
I came through the Start/Finish area once more to greet my husband and steal a kiss when I realized that my boss, friend, and personal mentor, Dr. Amanda, had shown up with her daughters to offer their support!
I was soaked from the rain that had poured down in the first few hours of the race. I was tired and sore from running so far on such little training. And I was nauseous and cramping from my inability to take in any amount of proper nutrition after vomiting in the 4th mile. But I was so happy (& relieved!) to see my friends – and ecstatic to learn, as she fell in step beside me, that Dr. A would be running the entire final hour right along with me! (Just one of the many reasons why my Boss is better than yours! 😂)
I doubt that I was the greatest of company throughout those final 5 miles. There were multiple moments of mental blackout, where I was aware that Dr. A was speaking to me but I just couldn’t concentrate on or make sense of her words. Other times, my mind took me elsewhere; to a time or place (real or imaginary) that I could remember or envision clearly, as if watching a movie play out on a screen in my brain. This consumed small chunks of time and continually chopped down the amount of mileage we had left to run, bringing the literal Finish Line ever closer to the striking of my feet. At one point, near mile 24, I heard the first few notes of a song begin to play out on my phone as it shuffled the music on my favorite running playlist. I started laughing out loud (quite maniacally, if I remember correctly) and it took me several moments to be able to finally explain to Dr. A : “I’m not crazy. It’s just that we’re coming up on the “Heartbreak Hill” portion of this race and this song is called “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart!”. I couldn’t have planned that better if I’d tried!
Somewhere in the final mile of the course, my Garmin showed that the full 26.20 miles had been covered…yet, the Finish Line was not even in sight! Damn. I thought I had done well in running the tangents. But then I recalled the turns along the course and how we had been instructed to stay on the left side of the road and never cross center line as the roadways were not closed for the event and were, therefore, still open to vehicular traffic. Well, that distance had accumulated an extra .40 mile of additional running for me. As I checked the time on my watch, I realized that we were now cutting it very close to the five hour course limit and I began to think that we might not make it in under time.
Dr. A assured me that she would get me there; and that is exactly what she did! As the orange cones marking the way to the Finish Line came into sight, she called out words of encouragement and coached me to control my breathing as we quickened our pace. That’s when the iconic (albeit makeshift) street sign came into view and I cried out: “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston! All the way to the Finish Line!” and, just like that, we were there!
4:57:30 was our official time.
I know I make a lot of jokes about how much some runs “suck” or how painful some workouts can be, but that’s just my way of coping with the “struggle”. The truth of the matter is, behind the jokes and beneath the “blood, sweat, and tears”, I live for the struggle and I love the pain. Even though it’s hard as hell at times, the struggle is exactly what makes it so great. The struggle is what makes you better. Nobody ever got better by taking it easy.
There’s a big difference between pain and suffering. It really is all about your mindset and how you choose to think. There’s no doubt that running this marathon caused me pain; but never once did I “suffer”. And, after everything I have been through these past few years, I believe that this fact, in and of itself, is my greatest personal victory yet!
“You’re the luckiest girl in the world.”, my mother said to me. “Most people spend their whole lives searching for the truth, and the majority of them never find it. But you – you KNOW it.”
My mother was right – but not in the way that she meant it.
Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, I always felt different from the world around us and the people living in it; like an outsider, looking in, never truly fitting in. In a cult-like upbringing, that it is exactly what they want you to feel but, for me, it went even deeper than that. It enveloped my entire being so that, even amongst my own family, I felt as though I didn’t belong.
Running became my “escape” – much like a moving meditation, the rhythm and flow of my body as it ran the back country roads and ridges of Ohio created a freeness of mind quite difficult to explain to someone who has never felt it firsthand for themselves.
Perhaps this is what kept me grounded and in place for so long? Or perhaps this is what finally gave me the strength to pick up and leave? It’s hard to say – but the year I turned 25, I took my stand, admitting that I do not agree with them or their beliefs, and asked to leave their religion.
Immediately, I felt the fiery backlash from the organization and all who remain a part of it. I was labeled an “apostate” and marked as if I were the Devil, himself. “Worse than a person without faith”, I believe is what they called me. My friends and family were no longer allowed to speak to me or socialize with me, lest they be punished within the congregation. If I saw one of them in public, they looked the other way and if I called out to them, they pretended not to hear me. I even returned to one of their church meetings once and it was like being completely alone in a crowded room – they looked right past me as if I wasn’t even there. I was treated like I didn’t even exist, aside for the not so subtle whispers as they spoke about my prescence with great disdain and looks of disgust upon their faces. Except for my parents, of course. They simply looked sad and, at times, humiliated; genuinely longing for me to return.
“Repent and ask to be reinstated.”, they begged, “And we’ll welcome you back with open arms.”
But who, in their right mind, would ever want to return to such a superficial people whose friendship with you is 100% dependent upon your conformity to their specific belief system? With them, there is no room for questioning or thinking for yourself. It is not up to you to establish such things as “truth” in your own mind. If their governing body says that something is so – they simply accept this and believe it to be so. Anything less is considered sacrilegious.
So I ran – as far away as I could, while still keeping their granddaughter involved in their lives.
It was during this time that I experienced some of my darkest moments…and found my way through. The concept of “mindfulness” came naturally to me back then and quickly became my way of life. Looking back was painful; it hurt to realize all that I had lost and could do nothing to change. It was terrifying to look ahead; into a future of unknown which I was going to have to navigate alone. Living in the present moment – right here, right now – became my way (the only way!) for me to live life and learn how to love it again.
Running, once again, became my passion. Bad day? Go for a run. Good day? Go for a run. Stressed? Anxious? Bored? Tired? Happy? Sad? Sore? The question itself was irrelevant, the answer was always : GO FOR A RUN! And somewhere amidst those miles of moving and breathing, my mind would clear and any “answer” I had been seeking would appear. If there were no physical answer to be found, a simple sense of calm would wash over me and I’d return home at peace with whatever it is that I had been feeling.
Over the course of the next 15 years, I reestablished my life, personally and professionally, and began to compete in races, eventually setting my sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. (Thus, the birth of this blog – to chronicle my journey towards achieving this next level of athleticism.) The relationship between my parents and I improved somewhat, mostly for “emergencies” and the sake of my daughter, but never fully recovered or returned to “normal”. I felt no ill will towards them, as I had come to the conclusion that their faith was so deeply engrained in their hearts and their minds that they truly believed they were doing what their God had asked of them. They were His “faithful followers” clear up to their deaths in October of 2017.
In the 3 years since, I seemed to have lost my way again. I got stuck, for a time, caught up in the past and the pain, sadness, guilt, and regret that comes from looking back.
Shortly thereafter, or rather enmeshed in between, I fell victim to the paralyzing anxiety and fear that comes from looking too far ahead into the future and the unknown. As my sister and I fought the legal battles that followed the investigation into our parents fatal crash, it became impossible to heal as the wounds were repeatedly being ripped open, day after day, as we rehashed all the details of the crash and the events that led up to their untimely deaths.
Once again, I had become lost in my thinking as to what this life is all about and how to go about truly living it. As I continued to make some drastic life changes both personally and professionally, in order to take better care of myself, my focus on qualifying for Boston began to take a backseat to everything else on my plate. And with Covid-19 canceling nearly every single live event on our 2020 calendars, it didn’t seem to matter if I was “prepped and ready”, as the opportunity to execute was most likely not going to present itself this year afterall. Still, I continued to run. Not always far and not nearly fast enough or long enough to earn me a BQ base from which to launch, but regularly enough to keep my thoughts from stagnating and stopping me in my tracks. It was within this “delicate balance” that I, once again, began to feel my breath and find myself. I became aware of my thoughts and the paths down which they attempt to lead me. I’ve begun to practice mindfulness again; doing my best to remain in the moment – right here, right now – and letting the regrets of my past and the fears of my future present themselves yet, gently slip away, not allowing myself to follow them.
This concept is not new to me.
It came naturally to me when I was growing up, running the ridges along the hills of Ohio. It liberated me when I made the decision to release myself from the controlling grasp of organized religion.
It’s crazy to think that losing my parents on that bright and sunny October morning subsequently caused me to, for the better part of the last 3 years, lose myself. And suddenly it strikes me that, after someone we love dies, we have a tendency to redefine ourselves – to question who we are and what we’ve done. But, if given the chance to speak with them again, I’d simply like to say : I’m still the same “Aubs” you’ve always known and loved; only my viewpoints have changed, but I’m pretty sure you saw that coming. And Mom – I have no doubt that you “get me”, just like you always did.
So, yeah. My mother was right – I AM the luckiest girl in the world; because I know the truth. I just needed some time to find it in myself again.
Being my own worst enemy; telling myself I’m not enough – not good enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough, or brave enough.
I’m giving up…
Doubting my integrity and ability; wondering if I can, worrying that I can’t.
I’m giving up…
Pressuring myself to perform to anyone else’s standards but my own; at home, at work, in running, and in life. My best is my best at any level and, so long as I’m doing my best, it will always be “enough”.
I’m giving up…
Losing myself in the “noise” of this world; the millions of voices raising their volume with so many nonsensical and repetitive words but rarely having anything of value to actually say. To truly find myself I must quiet the noise, embrace the silence, and derive my strength from the only voice left speaking in the realm of my mind – my own.
I’m giving up…
Explaining myself to those who refuse to put themselves in anyone else’s shoes but their own. I’ve come to realize that communication is not the same as comprehension; you can talk all you want, but if the person listening is unable or unwilling to understand, it’s still just silent chaos.
I’m giving up…
Apologizing, explaining, or making excuses for who I am, what I do, or what I need in order to be the best version of me; only when I am the best of me, can I help you to honor and respect your own self enough to be the very best version of you.
I’m giving up…
Saying “I’m sorry” for saying “I’m busy” at times when I feel the need to be selfish with my time, my energy, and my attention; most often it is during these times of silence and isolation where I re-discover the motivation and strength I need to stand back up and be all that I am capable of.
I’m giving up…
Running full speed ahead; sometimes I simply need to slow down, perhaps even take a step back – “Focus on that which is closest at hand”, in order to allow LIFE to become perfectly clear.
I am certainly no quitter, but sometimes “giving up” is the greatest gift I can give myself; and sometimes it is exactly what I need to do in order to keep moving forward.
Therefore, right now, I’m giving up…
Telling myself it’s now or never; because the truth is, most everything in this life is temporary – the good and the bad. And in the end, when I am ready, my dream will still be here, patiently waiting for me to reach out and achieve it – but only when I am ready.
One year ago, on June 13th 2019, I took a leap of faith – letting go of everything I’ve ever known and done for the past 18 years of my life.
I knew I needed to make a move – the #EmsLife🚑💨 was crushing my body and my soul; but starting over is never easy and this past year has been full of ups and downs.
My best (and worst) defining moment was probably back in January when I was going through alot personally, with the loss of another close friend/former work partner, continuing to navigate the legal case following the deaths of my parents, doing my best to learn this new job, with all its tasks, responsibilities, and the skillset required to excel at it, all the while training for a Boston Qualifying Marathon performance at a race that was subsequently (months later) cancelled due to Covid-19.
Emotionally, I was drained.
I was breaking down and contemplating faking my own death, moving to Mexico, and supporting myself by mixing margaritas and braiding hair on the beach! 😂
If you know anything about Dr. Amanda though – you know that she is not going to just let you shrink back or fade away from all that you are and all that you can be. Nope. Not without a fight.
That particular fight is one that I am not proud of, yet, one that I am so grateful for now, as I look back.
I remember crying and, at one point, screaming: “If I’m not good enough, then f*ck*ng fire me!”
To which she grabbed my hands, put her face so close to mine, and calmly replied: “YOU are the only one who’s saying that you aren’t good enough. I want you here. I need you here. You BELONG here. If you want to go, then go – but you’re going to have to quit.”
Me : “I don’t quit.”
Dr. A : “I know. I’m counting on it.”
Yeah. That day was tough.
Had anyone else been in that particular moment with me/us, it would have created a division in the relationship. This would have been the beginning of the “leaving”.
But not with her. Not with this team.
To quote myself from a previous interview a year ago : “I am here. Right now. And that’s a really great place to be.”…
…and I have a really good feeling that the best is yet to come!
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!
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.
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.
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.
In 2015, I returned with the help of Herb Cratty to achieve my very first “fast paced”, sub-2 hour half marathon.
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!
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”.)
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”.)
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.😂
(*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. ♥️🏃🏽♀️💨
When my alarm went off this morning, I had no idea that it was going to be a good day.
I knew I was tired and just “didn’t wanna” – so I hit the “snooze” button and went back to sleep.
Nine minutes later, I pulled myself out of my comfy bed and went through the motions of the day.
When I experience days like this, I have to pull myself together and tell myself to focus on ONE THING AT A TIME. Just this moment. Just this breath. Just this one step, one task at a time.
Fast forward a few hours and I was wide awake and truly LIVING! (Strange as it is to say it that way, considering our current “pandemic” situation.) But this is what happens when you focus your attention only on the present moment.
You forget the past and stop worrying about the future. Instead, you simply BE.
Right here. Right now. In this moment.
You stop worrying about what to say or how it will be perceived. You trust yourself, in all your authenticity, to simply be YOU and find that you are received with open arms into the world around you. Because when the energy is positive and the motive is pure, how can it possibly be perceived as anything less than what it is? Genuine and loving.
Sometimes you don’t even know you’re “there” until you’re “here”. When all the “noise” in the world and in your mind settles and all of the sudden you see clearer, hear crisper, and feel everything around you. That’s when you know.
I am still learning and sometimes I struggle to put it into practice (out of fear of being perceived incorrectly) but, as my favorite female elite runner Des Linden says, “Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: KEEP SHOWING UP!” .
*This quote was, obviously, made about running – but the truth of it is strong enough to impact any/all areas of life and, therefore, can be applied towards anything in this life that you choose to strive for.