Category Archives: Running

I Am A Runner

2014-11-27 09.09.16I am a runner.  I run long distances, and I compete often.  I’m also fat, and pretty damn slow.

I started my relationship with running in 2012, when I decided I wanted to run a 5k.  Previous to this, the longest I had ever run was to the bus or subway when I was late.  I had lost just under one hundred pounds, and I needed something new to work towards.

Unfortunately, I had come into running with the idea that since I had been fat and mostly lazy my whole life, now it was time to pay for it.  I treated running the way I treated food: as a punishment.  I trained really hard.  As a result, I did two things.  First, I ran my first 5k.  Second, I ended up with two fractured metatarsals.

The following months were spent healing, moving apartments, and secretly wishing I could run.  It was a secret because I felt foolish wanting to run, almost the same way I felt foolish openly wishing for love.  I wasn’t good at either one, and wanting to do it anyway was surely a sign of denial.  Running and love were not made for fat people.

In 2014, I decided to try again.  I started my punishment training 2014-12-21 09.18.46again, and forced myself forward.  At the time I was convinced if I ran fast enough or far enough, I could escape my fat.

And then it all changed.

I was preparing to go running in a nearby park when another runner asked me how much I was running.  I laughed, like we were sharing a joke, and said, “I have to run five miles today.”

He didn’t react with a chuckle like I thought he would.  He shook his head and replied, “You don’t have to do anything.  You GET to run five miles today.”

Whoa.  What.  Get to run?  What do you mean “get” to run?  As in, a gift?

2014-11-09 09.24.32From that point on, everything changed.  If moving my legs for a long time (even though I was tired), was a gift—what else was a gift?  I stopped planning “smaller” goals like what I would do when I lost enough weight, or how small I could get my rear through running.  I started planning bigger goals, like when I could realistically run a marathon.

Shortly after the New York Marathon, I read an article written by one of the finishers as she explained that slow runners made her medal mean less.  She claimed the point of the marathon wasn’t to just finish the race, but to run it well.  She said that any time over five hours was a completely unacceptable finish.  I calculated my finished marathon time based on my 5k times.  Six hours and three minutes.  I was crushed.

I spent the next three races 2015-12-05 09.26.19extremely self-conscious of my racing speed.  Forget about the fact that I had managed to increase my pace from over 15 minutes per mile down to 12 minutes a mile—I was still too slow.  I even started to apologize for my lack of speed.

Another runner set me straight.  As we waited for a race to begin, she nudged me and wished me good luck in the race.  I laughed, and rolled my eyes.  Yeah, luck would be not finishing last.  Luck would be people not seeing me huffing and puffing my way to the finish line.  Luck would be the photographer catching a shot of me that didn’t make me look like a running Bassett hound.

She slapped my arm and corrected me.  “Hey, there’s no shame in being a heavy breather—back of the pack is where it’s at!  Someone’s got to finish last!”  I later found out she won a gift card once for finishing a race last.

2014-11-16 10.14.09Since then, I’ve surpassed every goal I’ve set myself.  I’ve run farther than ever before, faster than I’ve ever run, and even managed to grab some pretty sweet awards—who cares if there were only two people, I still got second place in my age category!

Running has taught me six very important things about life, running, and racing:

  1. Listen to your body – Something hurts?   Stop running.  Have more energy?  Push forward.  Take rest days when you need them and when you don’t.  Always honor what your body is telling you, even when you are forced to take off during a vital running time.  Injury is a runner’s worst nightmare—it’s always better to be slow, well-rested, annoyed, or last.
  2. Enjoy every step – Take a moment during your next run to really 2015-11-29 10.01.14be mindful and enjoy it. Let your mind feel your legs moving, your muscles working, and maybe even burning.  Feel your lungs pulling in air, and feel your heart beating.  I remember the first time I felt my heart when I was running.  I have never been so rudely reminded that I am alive and I needed to practice gratitude.
  3. You’re braver than you feel – I’m serious. Size two and the fastest runner in the group?  You make me want to be the best I can be.  You have no idea how cool I think you are.  Super-sized and trailing the back of the race?    You amaze me with your courage to keep running.  You may think we’re all laughing while we pass you, but I really just want to give you a high-five and tell you to never stop being awesome.  Every runner I see inspires me to be better.
  4. Forgive often – Forgive yourself, forgive other runners, forgive 2015-11-22 08.24.40those who don’t quite understand what it is you’re doing, forgive the couple taking up the entire running lane with their stroller, and forgive that guy with the perfect He-Man abs that made you run right into the back of the runner in front of you. More important than anything else, forgive your body for not being the best all the time.  Starting a run as light as possible is important for success.  This includes the weight you’re carrying in your heart.  Leave it all behind.
  5. Understand that you GET to run – Running is a gift. It’s a gift when it feels horrible.  It’s a gift when it’s raining.  And snowing.  And doing that weird snow/ice thing everyone hates.  It’s a gift when you’re winning awards, and when you’re at the back of the bunch, staring at everyone’s chiseled bum while you move on.  Talk to a runner who’s injured and you’ll realize that even at its worst possible moment—it’s a gift. 2014-11-16 10.13.50
  6. Pay it forward – Share knowledge, acceptance, and love with other runners, especially the new ones. I’m always amazed at the kindness and care that comes out during races.  Runners, spectators, and volunteers will cheer for you, even though they don’t know you.  It’s a force powerful enough to fill every crack in your soul with light and warmth.

NYRR Superbowl 4 Miler

On my birthday, February 1st, 2015, I decided to run my first NYRR race.  It was a superbowl themed race, which seemed super cool.  I polled my students before hand to see which team I should run for.  They told me, but I forgot which one it was.  I think it was the team that didn’t cheat.

Nick and I got to the race okay, and while we were crossing the street, I decided we should take out pre-race photo:

2015-02-01 08.41.54

He’s in the process of telling me there’s a car coming.  NYRR tends to corral their runners, meaning you’re sectioned off by times, the slower people being in the back.  Since this was my first race, I was put in the back corral.  I thought this would bother me, but in the end it was pretty cool.  I later passed people with other color bibs, and it let me start the race without feeling like I was being chased by gazelle.

The race started at the lower half of the east side of Central Park, and looped up two miles.  At the two mile mark, there were two lanes you could run in to cast your vote for the team you thought would win.  I followed my student’s advice and ran through the one that didn’t cheat.  It was pretty fun.  From there it cut across the park, and ran down the west side.

It was a really beautiful day to run, and I loved the energy all the volunteers had.  I was super nervous about running a NYRR race because so many of their runners are super awesome and run at insane paces.  I felt right at home during this race, and even got personal cheers and high fives.  I’m definitely running another NYRR event.

At the end of the race I saw an old coworker, which was cool, and took this awesome photo of Nick high-fiving a volunteer.

2015-02-01 10.19.20

After the race, we hobbled to lunch, but not before I took this post-race photo.

2015-02-01 10.25.07

All in all, it was a pretty amazing race.  I can’t wait to run more of races like this–it’s got such an amazing community feeling.

Oh!  And they had literally one million potties.  Check it out:

2015-02-01 10.30.52

Race Stats:

Date: February 1st, 2015

Distance: 4.21 miles

Total Time: 52:23 minutes

Pace: 12:27 min/mi

Place: 4758/5051

Bad Hip, Bad

Two weekends ago, I had to cut my long run short because I was having an extreme amount of hip pain that started about two miles in.  I thought it was just that I had to stretch my muscles more, but the pain didn’t go away.  Two weeks later, pain is still there.  I have been injured before because of running (damn you, foot!) and I remember how crappy it was to want to run and not be able to.  I made sure to be really careful this go around, but alas–not careful enough.

Theories on what’s been causing the pain vary from fractured hip bone to angry hip muscles–nothing is certain until there are x-rays.  All I know is that I’m not allowed to run and I’m really sad about that.  I did, however, solidify my love and affection for Advil.

I had to miss a really shnazy Valentine’s Day run so far, and will most likely miss my race scheduled for this Saturday as well.  Please send my hip any healing energy you have, and go out for a run in my honor.  I’m sending you all my love in return.

PS: The photo is unrelated to the hip pain, but I thought it was oddly appropriate.  The real story is there was snow in my way while running and I was pretending to be mad about it and somehow took a terrifyingly mad photo.

Hot Chocolate 5 Miler in Central Park

First of all, I’m still extremely proud of this run.  I would have never been able to do this a year ago–not by a long shot.  You can’t see me right now, but I’m patting myself on the back.  Again.

So I ran this race on January 11th, 2015, right after having a week-long stomach bug.  I made sure to take it really easy the day before, and then I prepared for what I thought would be the race from Hell.  It even started kind of crappy.  Nick and I had to catch a cab in order to get to Central Park on time.  Somehow we made it just as it started (and then poor Nick got car-sick).  Here’ my icky before picture:

2015-01-11 09.01.08I felt as strange as I look–I was in the middle of running to the starting gate.  I got there literally as the gun went off.  The course was pretty cool–it was one giant loop around Central Park with water stations every two miles.  After running each Sunday in Prospect Park, this felt like nothing.

I was doing well until I hit the first water station.  I drank the frozen water, and about a half mile after that, felt really sick to my stomach.  I kept going, and it only got worse.  When I got to the second water station, I felt horrible.  I mean, I drank water anyway, but I thought I was going to explode.

Nick watched me finish from on top of a rock, and in all my race photos, I look like I am about to vomit (which is exactly how I felt).  I finished five miles in my fastest time for that distance to date, and celebrated by drinking a lot of water.

I felt really sick for a while, as seen in my post-race photo:

2015-01-11 10.54.53Even though it was harder than usual, I’m still pretty happy with this race.  Plus the mug’s image was on the right side this time!

Race Stats

Total Distance: 5.19 miles

Total Time: 1:06:51

Pace: 12:53 min/mi

Place: 493/527

Roosevelt Island Hot Chocolate 5k

This race was part of the Hot Chocolate Winter Series at NYCRuns and happened on December 21st, 2014.  It’s pretty spiffy.  You run and then get a mug.  This mug was pretty doofy, but I liked the race a lot.  The course was beautiful even though the day itself was butts cold, and did I mention the extremely silly mug?  Seriously, its design was just embarrassing:

2014-12-19 19.25.562014-12-19 19.26.062014-12-19 19.26.19Why would anyone put a logo there?  I don’t even.  Also, I have incredibly wrinkled wrists.  What do you do to tone your wrists?

Anyway, the race took place on Roosevelt Island, and as I mentioned, it was so cold.  I got there a little early and hid in the subway station until I couldn’t take it anymore, then I hid in the CVS next to the race start.  While I walked to the starting line, I took my before photo.

2014-12-21 09.18.46The course was around the top half of the island, and was extremely lovely to run.  There weren’t many runners, but that was okay.  I stuck with the same crowd for most of the race.  At one point, at the north end of the island, I passed the lighthouse and got so excited I took a photo while running.

2014-12-21 09.48.58You’d think I’m never going to see Roosevelt Island ever again with the way I was taking photos. Also, note the absence of runners ahead of me.  At this point I had secured my place in the back.

Nick was running late, and somehow managed to magically appear right at the end of the race.  It was pretty convenient.  I needed to see a friendly face to keep going.  I kept on running until the end, and finished just as the 10k was starting.  No pressure or anything.  As Nick and I walked to the car in the unimaginably cold wind, we snapped a photo where I tried to not look creepy and failed.

2014-12-21 10.31.20This is one of my favorite races to date–I loved the atmosphere, I loved the course and I really loved that I ran my fastest time yet.  Booyah!

Race Stats

Total Distance: 3.24 mi

Total Time: 40:09 min

Pace: 12:23 min/mi (14 seconds faster than last time!!)

Place: 366/405

Westchester Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k

On the 13th of December, my racing obsession gave to me: One uphill race.  This was an upstate run that raised money for families hit by arthritis.  They had a lot of young members there talking about their struggles, and it was really touching to see so many people rally together to help them out.  It was a pretty beautiful day–especially when we took our pre-race photo:

2014-12-13 08.51.53This was one of several normal-looking photos.  I think it shows best how fun racing is.  I got a surprise when we picked up our packets–I had a crazy low number.

2014-12-13 09.20.04I’ve never been lower than 100 before–I was pretty confused and excited.  It caused me to do one of two things: I started looking for numbers fifteen and seventeen (which I found and got too loud about), and it convinced me there were about eight people running.

The course was around the perimeter of Purchase College, which had one million hills–it literally felt like I was running uphill the whole time (there was a downhill really early on in the race, but that doesn’t count).  The really cool part was that they gave out jingle bells for the runners to put on their shoes, so I got to hear that the whole way to the finish line.  The whole way.

This is the first race I’ve run where I was separated by pace at the start.  I usually try to stand towards the back anyway, or off to the side to let faster runners pass.  I’ve got to say, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.  All the fast runners passed me anyway, and anyone I would have normally passed, I quickly passed.  It was significantly more organized that the giant blob moving at once.

After the race, we took our photo:

2014-12-13 11.02.01I was really hot at this point due to global warming–and after, we happily got lunch.  Oh!  And before we left, I saw these really awesome runner statues!

2014-12-13 11.10.48It was a really cool thing to see after a race.  Even though the last one looks like he’s about to fall.

Race Stats

Distance: 3.15 miles

Total Time: 39:41 min.

Pace: 12:37 min/mi (Two seconds faster than last time!)

Place: 271/340

Seaford Hot Chocolate 5k

On December 6th Nick and I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k race in Seaford, Long Island.  We were late to the start, so we had to run all the way to the start of the race, which buzzed right when I got there.  Talk about stressful.  We did, however, have a chance to snap a quick pre-race photo:

2014-12-06 08.53.52I know, we’re adorable.  The race itself was really nice–it circled around the school that was hosting it and through the town.  We got really cute hot chocolate t-shirts for this race, and I was told that racers usually don’t wear their shirts for that same race.  It’s kind of a thing you do after the race.  I decided my policy will be that in order to earn the shirt, I have to infuse it with my race-day sweat.  Fortunately for me, this was a very warm day, and I sweated through my layers like a sinner in church.

When I finished my race, I happy collected a free water and tried to find Nick so I could finish the race with him.  I couldn’t find him, and I was very hot.

2014-12-06 09.43.11Racing now is becoming something fun I do, and the more I do it, the less stressful and serious it becomes.  I take it seriously in the sense that it means a lot to me, but it also allows me a freedom and escape that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  My finishing time is important only in the sense that it gives me a concrete way of seeing that I am getting better.  Not caring too much has been more liberating than I expected.  These are the things I thought about while I looked for Nick.  Running is a gift–one I am very grateful for.

After the race, we stayed for raffles and took our post-race photo.  Notice I’m still hot and sweaty.

2014-12-06 09.59.54They served us hot chocolate after the race, but I didn’t want to drink any.  I did, however, want the whipped cream.  So I asked for a cup of whipped cream.  The lady at the hot chocolate station kind of just stared at me, but I insisted I was being serious.  So she indulged me.

2014-12-06 10.04.39It was a beautiful day and a great race–we didn’t win any raffles, so that was a bummer.  But I was still happy to be there!

Race stats:

Distance: 3.18 miles

Time: 40:13 min.

Pace: 12:39 min/mi (1 second slower than last time.  No biggie!)

Place: 603/748

Massapequa Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5k

On Thanksgiving, the 27th of November, I ran a Turkey Trot 5k through Massapequa (which was a little awkward because all the street names were named after tribes).  It was really cool–it started in a park and ran through the town before looping back into the park.  Nick (as always) was there, as was his brother Christian and his girlfriend Kathey.

We strapped on our cool race shirts, did our best to stay warm, and took a pre-race photo together:

2014-11-27 09.09.57Christian also caught me off guard.  Clearly I hate Nick’s beard:

2014-11-27 09.09.13It was a cool race.  They had a board set up where you could write the reasons you run.  Kathey and I both wrote our reasons down.  I’ll give you a quarter if you can guess which one is mine:

2014-11-27 09.08.502014-11-27 09.08.47It snowed during the beginning of the race, and continued to be cold all the way until the end.  I finished right behind Kathey with a smile–something I was really proud of because she’s tiny and other dumb reasons.  We celebrated the race together at a diner, and took our post-race photo:

2014-11-27 10.41.42You can tell it’s after the race because Christian looks really excited.  All in all, it was great–another race completed with record breaking stats (I almost cried at the end because I broke 40 minutes for a 5k):

Total Distance: 3.1 miles

Total time: 39:13 (my first sub-40 EVER)

Pace: 12:38 min/mi (42 SECONDS FASTER THAN THE LAST RACE!)

Place in the race: 814/1010

Place in age category: 65/79

Seeds of Hope 5k

So here’s an awesome run story.  You’re going to just love this.  Nick and I ran the Seeds of Hope 5k on November 16th, out in the middle of no where Long Island.  It was absolutely butts cold–I had frost on my car windows.  Talk about massively cranky–I thought I was going to rage flip the car (thanks, Christian).

When we got there, we picked up our shirts, our bibs, and then sat in Nick’s car, warming up.  Highlight of the wait?  Banana.

2014-11-16 08.11.58It was so cold, the banana was partly frozen.  Also, you can see the blue poking-out part of the Wounded Warriors shirt under the orange race shirt.  I wasn’t kidding about wearing it every race since.
We also took our pre-race photo in the car:

2014-11-16 08.17.30The race itself was TINY.  There were only a few hundred people running.  We positioned ourselves in the back of the crowd, by a guy and his dog, and again prepared ourselves to come in last.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last race I worried about coming in last.

The run took us through the beautiful water-side town of Center Moriches, and then back up to the park where we started.  It was frigid nearly the entire run, though luckily not windy.  Also, the water station was heartbreaking.  They were tiny mouthwash-sized cups.  I nearly wept with disappointment.

I realized a lot during this run.  I managed to keep pace with a girl in front of me, and even when I thought I wanted to die, I kept going.  After the sad water station, I had nothing else to do but think.  I realized I didn’t actually care about my time anymore.  I realized I just wanted to do a little better each time.  I felt my legs moving and I felt the cold air in my lungs.  I felt alive, and I felt strong.  And then I finished the race.  After I finished, i turned around, walked back to find Nick, and then finished the race a second time (our tradition).  I felt like I could run around the world.

They had bagels for the runners at the finish, so naturally I shoved an entire half of a bagel in my mouth before taking the post-race photo:

2014-11-16 10.00.08They had given out raffle tickets, and I wanted to stay for the raffle.  They were reading out the awards, and I had stopped listening when Nick started pushing me to go get my award.  I won second place in my age category for my gender.  Honestly, I must have looked like a crazy person when I posed for the photo.  I didn’t even understand what was going on.  Here’s me and my glass:

2014-11-16 10.13.50And here’s proof that it was really an award for second place in the race:

2014-11-16 10.14.09I would later find out that I won second place out of two women, but WHATEVER.  I nearly cried when I held that glass.  I’ve never won anything remotely close to that in my whole life.  To steal a line from my beautiful friend Julie, receiving that glass was like finally feeling my heart beat again.  I had forgotten what feeling proud was like.  I am very grateful for it.

While I was staring at the glass and saying how I couldn’t believe I was holding it for the nine hundredth time, they started calling the raffles, and I won the first one!  I got this awesome giant box of locally brewed beer:

2014-11-16 10.19.16So this race gave me a huge part of my life back.  And a lot of beer.  And a neat glass to hold all my safety pins.  I’d say that’s a pretty big win.

Race Stats

Distance: 3.1 miles

Total Time: 41:18

Pace: 13:20 min/mi (19 seconds faster than the last race!)

Place: 102/109 (oh yeah, baby!)

Wounded Warriors: Run for the Warriors 5k

Our next race was one raising money for the Wounded Warriors.  It was on November 9th, and was one of the warmest days–completely beautiful.  It was humbling to run with veterans, especially ones who were injured from their time serving this country.  That being said, I was extremely nervous to run this race because of how many very fit people there were.  I was sure I would come in last.

Here’s our pre-race photo:

2014-11-09 09.24.32We got really awesome long-sleeved running shirts (that I now use for running all the time) and some drinks, which were really generous.  The route was cool too–it ran along Sunrise Highway on Long Island, and up through the town of Lindenhurst.  The finish came back down onto the highway.  I saw a few vets watching the race, which touched my heart.  It kept me wanting to run, that’s for sure.

Here’s the post-race photo:

2014-11-09 10.48.46My smile is mostly a result of knowing I had already beat my time from the last race.  It felt so good to run–I was super proud of myself.  It’s a feeling I bring with me on every race since then.

Race Stats

Total Distance: 3.25 miles

Total Time: 44:17

Pace: 13:39 min/mi (decrease of 41 seconds from the last race!)

Place: 898/1189