June and the Micro-Ultra Marathon

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A beautiful start, to a beautiful restart in life

June was a big month for me.  The closing of a door, and the subsequent (and fortuitous) opening of more than a dozen other doors…  It was an emotionally taxing time…and it made settling on a race or making plans for the rest of the month difficult.  So I settled on the idea of going out on my own and running a marathon some where around my home.  The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea of not paying for race entry and dealing with race day nerves this month.

I didn’t think I had the energy for the race-day nerves at the time.

I came up with a run route – proposing to run from my home out in the sticks at the edge of some horse farm country, to my husband’s workplace on the far side of Downtown Cincinnati.  The route, if run as a straight, point-to-point route would give me 16.5 miles.  I figured with some looping through a couple of sub-divisions and an out-and-back for a local park along the first half, near my home, I would be able to get the distance up to 20 miles before I got into the neighborhood of East Walnut Hills (If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the area in the Flying Pig Marathon after the big climb where the marathon and half marathon races split).  Overall, the route would involve some short, but steep hills and rolling hills along the beginning miles, followed by a long downhill and some flats heading through town to the river.  After the bridge, it would be all climbing, heading up through Eden Park and toward the office.  Then, if I played it right, I’d only have to do 3.1 miles toward the square at Hyde Park, and then back to the office.

My friend, Minh (You’ll remember this fool.  He’s the guy that hopped onto the original run from my home to my husband’s workplace a couple weeks ago) said he’d like to try and run this “marathon” with me.  I set the day for a Thursday, and the start time for 7AM – So Minh and I could “sleep in” but still try to beat the storm…uh…I mean heat…yeah.

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Minh rolled into the driveway early, and was sporting a race bib and a goofy grin.  A last check of the weather for the day (the night before we were staring down rain storms starting around two hours into our run) and a re-check, as we confirmed the prediction: sunny skies the whole day; And we were off ahead of schedule.

The first miles went by easy.

We rolled along happily chatting.  Sweating like it was our job, but happy.  We looped two subdivisions, and we made the detour to the park to refill some water and take in some nutrition.  We rolled down the long hill into town and stopped at a McDonald’s for another refill and a pit stop.  Some lady asked me if we were “walking very far” and I smirked as I said, “We’re running a marathon today”.  She was not impressed in the least.  She took a long drag from her super-sized soda, glanced at the counter waiting for her food, and said to me, “Well.  Try to have fun.”

Thanks, Lady!  We were having fun….  not, necessarily at the same time any more, but we were.

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I was happily churning along, only bothered by the heat…Minh was…not.  And a few minutes later, the tables would turn…

I had ice sloshing around inside my hydration pack, and it was making all the difference when I took a pull on the nozzle.  And yet, coming into 13 miles and the City of Covington, I was starting to drag.  I was feeling a little woozy, a little grumpy, and very, very hot.  I wanted nothing more than to stop running and just walk out the rest of this nonsense.  Hours later, while cooling our systems with a well-earned beer, Minh would confide that he knew I was “going through it” from mile 13-16 because I became very, very quiet.  I didn’t realize that I made a noticeable impact.  For my part, my mind was loud.  It was screaming with numbers, pacing, distance estimates, water estimates, and trying to gauge if I was really overheating or if it was just in my head.  A break.  That’s what I needed.  I needed to step out of the sun and heat, cool inside and out for a moment, and then see about moving on.

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I’m not sunburned…nope.  Just Irish.  Minh described it as “Translucent skin, and all the blood rushing under it”… that’s why I’m all red.  Irish.  I’m telling you.  We’re the real “vampires”.

At mile 16(ish) we stepped into First Watch, just before crossing the river.  Dripping sweat into puddles on the floor if we stood in one place too long, Minh and I refilled our waters again.  The staff gave us cups of ice to add to our water as well.  I swiped handfuls of paper towels and wiped myself down a few times.  Minh and I spent a little (too much) time “spreading the good news of running” to the manager of the place.  She happily chatted with us about how good we were looking – being 16 miles into this long run, how much she wanted to get into running but starting out was tough, and how she was fitting into this new-to-her area.  While we dripped, and dripped, and started to chill, she kept chatting along.  Finally, we knew that if we didn’t get going, we would stop there.  The girl wished us luck on our journey, but in a way that came out like she wasn’t surprised and expected we would have no issue achieving this run.

Starting back up was sluggish, and crossing the bridge was marked by the tight muscles loosening back up.  We weaved through downtown Cincinnati, meshing with the crowds and becoming a little delirious with the rising heat.  We walked through another nutrition pack each, and sipped our waters.  Some lady, walking well-faster than we were, commented to us that it was a pretty day for a run.  We agreed, but that it was a bit warm.
“You guys look like you’ve been running for a while now.”  She commented to us as she surged across the street.
“We’re 18 miles into our run!  We’ve been running from the backroads and farms in Kentucky!”  I said.  She asked how far we were planning to go
“26.3 miles!” Minh answered.   She gaped at us a moment and I basked in finally getting the “right” reaction from someone finally.  I was getting a little put-off by the nonplussed reactions we had garnered so far.  From my husband’s typical response as we started in the morning, “Have fun.  Don’t die.” to the just simplistic responses from the people along the way.  Hell.  Even other runners tend to react to the announcement of going that far for fun with some kind of awe, respect, or humor.  Everyone we were meeting had me thinking we needed to start adding, “And then we’re going to race back down into town on skateboards, scale the side of the Carew Tower, and finish it all off with a bungee jump from the roof.” in order to bring the effort back into sounding impressive.

I mean.  We’re a couple of idiots out running 26.2 miles for shits and giggles, on a very hot and humid, sunny, practically summer-time, mid-week day.  And we’re getting ready to go up a big hill climb.  Give us some credit and look at us like we’re crazy like people normally do when we say we’re running a marathon at the weekend!

Minh and I turned our attention upward, and began the climb past the casino and up the hillside into Eden Park.  The sun blazed and the sky was an impressive blue.  Minh ran smart on this hill and I taught him how I distracted myself on hills and hard runs so that he could focus on just getting up the hill.  We made the loop through the park and refilled our water and nutrition again.  The view was gorgeous, and the serenity of the run and companionship of running friends was broken momentarily by a group of teens throwing firecrackers at geese.

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We hoofed out of the overlook and up the start of the rollers, swooping through a cul-du-sac and taking in the view from a private overlook.  We were approaching mile 20 and Minh was still talking to me, albeit, disjointedly and with a hint of delirium.  Just about a 10k left, and we could eat burgers and have beer and he’d be fine.

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We cut through the split that usually marks the split of the half and full marathons of the Pig, and made good time down the road toward Hyde Park’s City Square.  We stopped over in a local running store to refill waters again (hey, I’m not lying, it was freaking humid out there) along the way.  We hit our final turn around, took a moment for a pit stop in a fancy clothing shop, and then started the annoyingly uphill trip back toward my husband’s office.  After one final stop at the running shop again, we were hell-bent to the end.  Minh started to drag now, hitting mile 25 on the uphill.  He was dropping back, and I was hitting that lower-limit of my running paces… you know, that speed where its outside of your “zone” and it actually hurts to go that slow. I didn’t mind.  I would run ahead a bit, and then pause and wait for him to get close, and then I’d run ahead again – grateful for the break from the running.

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The last mile was marked by Minh screaming through it.  I don’t mean “screaming” in terms of he was running so fast for where we were in the journey.  No.  I mean that man was screaming bloody murder.  Passers-by in cars, and nearby construction workers were glancing at us with eyebrows raised.  Minh claimed, later while we drank our beers, that this was his ‘battle cry’, like that of Mel Gibson in Braveheart.  I call BS.  I saw tears on his face at one point.

Shortly after he ran out of the energy to scream, we hit our distance…and a little more:  26.3 miles!  A micro-ultra!  Minh collapsed on the ground and I texted my husband that it was all over and we could all grab lunch now.  Minh groaned and rolled and my husband answered back, “Great job!  Now, come down to the other office.”
Excuse me, mutha-f-er?!  What?
The “other office” was about a mile and a half back down the hill we had just conquered.  My husband, our ride to lunch and then home, had gotten pulled into a meeting away from his usual office, and communication was incomplete that he wasn’t going to come back to meet us.
“Come get us, jerk.”  I responded.  I was done.  So, so done.  HangryTired.  I was certain that I sweated off my sunscreen along the way and was bound for a massive sunburn.  And I was so.  Very.  Hot.  I just wanted all the water, a beer, a burger, and tons of sleep.

Also.  I wasn’t peeling Minh off the ground on my own.
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Thankfully, my husband saw reason and came for us.  We washed up real quick at his office and went for burgers like the champs we were.
And that, folks, was a marathon run in hot and humid weather… for the fun of it.
It was a great confidence booster for Minh, who has been struggling with how to side-step that ever-present ‘wall’ on the marathon.  He said he outdid himself on this one, making it to mile 24-25 before the wall hit, rather than mile 20.

As for me, the knot in my Achilles tendon didn’t bother me much at all until the very end.  Even then, it was nothing compared to how it has been over the past few weeks.  The new shoes rubbed a blister on my heel, but otherwise worked out very well.  Shocker, running your shoes “over-mileage”, or until they disintegrate is not a healthy idea.
I’m looking at your shoes, Minh.  Sheesh, dude.

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In all, I had a blast.  And running that distance with a friend made all the difference!  My marathon-a-month challenge continues.

Cheers!

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6 months, 6 Marathons: An Update

June marks quite a lot of big changes for me.

After the storm, brilliant red skies and a double-rainbow

The end of struggles/strife, a battle I have been fighting so long that I forgot what it was like to do anything beyond survive.  Every run over the last two years has felt like the slow draining away of the last of my life force.  Waking up became more than just a part of the day…it became beyond inconvenient….  It became nearly impossible a few times.  Even on days when I didn’t have issues getting up or out of bed, it felt like a waste to do so.  I was fighting to exist in a world that didn’t want me, and spared no opportunity to remind me so.  Why show up somewhere that I would have to pretend I didn’t exist, when it would be easier to just …. not exist there period?  Why go somewhere to be nothing, when I could just hide away comfortably in bed and be nothing without the inconvenience of having to put on pants?

When my running began to feel like a struggle, I pushed back.  I determined that more running would be the answer to this problem, rather than stopping.  Because where I was in the world, at that time, with how I was feeling?  I would’ve stopped running, and then I would have stopped doing everything.

I didn’t want that.  I wanted my life to expand…my world to expand…I wanted fulfillment…not darkness….not less… and for the last few years, everything felt like it was shrinking down and crushing me.  I could have folded under that, but I decided to push back.  And part of that push, was to put myself in a position to run 12 marathons in 2016 – Ideally one per month.

a card my friend sent me during the worst times

I never said I was smart.

 This idea, a glorified “more is better”, made sense at the time.  I was desperate.  I was grasping for that easy comfort and wholeness that my running had pumped into my veins throughout all the highs and lows of my running life up until that year.  I was drowning, and the only thing I had left in the vast emptiness that was killing me was a deflated yellow ducky float….and I was damn-well going to make it save my life.  By faith or hope or shear stubbornness, this raft was going to fucking float and I was going to survive this.

That didn’t mean that my marathons or the training for each one came easily.   It hasn’t.  Not until this month…not until the resolution came.

“Be patient and tough.  Some day this pain will be useful to you.”


My first marathon distance, January, was a 55k on the 1st of the year.  A potential great start to the year, maybe?  Or just a symbolic one?
My back was injured, my hamstring was going out as well because of the back injury…  I slowed down massively, took my time, and focused on just getting it done.  I was ashamed of my finish time, and of even trying to do that race.  At the same time, I tried to make myself feel proud about  how smart I played it…easing back to avoid more injury.
February I took most of the day and had various friends run 4-6mile loops around my neighborhood with me.  It was fun, and relaxed, and so low-key that I felt inspired after it was done.


March, when things finally came to a head, I ran Asheville – in the pouring rain.  I loved it, but I didn’t do as well as I would have wanted.  The whole run was a struggle, as I tried to make friends and stick with them so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts.  In the end, I made a lot of good friends, and finished okay, but was still sad with it.  Then I ran Florida less than a week later, 25.5 miles with Superman.  That run was good…but the injury started: A top of the foot pain that had me limping for days and worrying about a stress fracture.  The fact that I got injured after these two runs had me super-concerned for how April and May would go.  After all, those two marathons were the same weekend, Saturday and Sunday.


April‘s Derby marathon was a soaker, and I (Happily and gratefully) ran the whole thing with my friend Jim.  I did not feel too hot throughout, and my stomach rebelled through the last dozen miles.
The night after the Derby, looking toward the Flying Pig Marathon in the morning, I felt for sure, as my stomach continued to be a problem, that my May marathon was going to be a DNS (Did.  Not.  Start).  I woke up, rolled out, had a rough morning, and ended up having the best race of the year by far.  I hate to admit, but I’m ashamed of my times for both the Derby and the Pig, and yet, I felt so good running the Pig.  Even with the desalination (lack of salt from too much water and too much sweating) issue in the last 6 miles, the Pig felt “comfortable”.  I spent the race alone, catching up with three different friends, and then losing them because I had to pee so damn much.  I was alone on the run, but content, for the first time in years.

After the April (Derby) and May (Flying Pig) marathons,  I was hobbling around on a swollen Achilles tendon. Sure, I felt no pain (Seriously!) during the Pig, but afterward, while walking the 100 miles to where my husband parked his car… okay, like 3 miles, but seriously, it was faarrrrrrrr… my tendon rebelled.  I could feel it “crackling” and “sliding” with every step.  Yes.  “ick“.  Exactly.

Through all of May and most of June I was rolling and icing and using anti-inflammatory meds to try and ease the tendon down.  Rolling helped.  Icing didn’t do much.  Friends and family marveled and awed at the grossness that was seeing and touching the swollen knot just above my ankle.  It was like being a side-show at the carnival… only… not awful?  Yeah.  More, morbidly entertaining.  Maybe I’ll have this knot forever and when I die, they’ll display my foot/lower leg at that creepy medical maladies museum… Then I’ll be famous.  Yeah.

Some runs caused the tendon pain to flare up and hurt for days after.  Some runs didn’t do anything to the knot.  I could run 4 miles and be hobbling…run 10 and be fine…  Eventually I figured out that if I ran at my pace and kept it consistent, I was fine.  Slowing down and stopping a lot bothered it.  Running downhill really bothered it.  As does going downstairs.

I figured it was time for a new pair of shoes…my current pair having carried me through marathons and ultras and all the training for these races since October….  Putting something like 900 miles on those shoes.

About a week ago I ordered a new pair of shoes.  Brooks still, but no longer the Ghost line.  I think I’ve been running in Ghost for about four years now.  These shoes, “Launch”, are pretty blue colored, bright, and after the first two miles (which are always awkward in new shoes) are feeling pretty good too.  In fact, I ran about a total of 9 miles without any more issue beyond the rubbing/blistering typical of a new type of shoes against new spots*.
*Beginners.  This is one reason why you run in new shoes a few times before racing in them or doing big distances in them*.
And then, on Thursday, I ran my June Marathon.


For June, I could have easily signed up for a couple of different trail races that I found.  But the beginning of the month was still “unsteady” with regard to what was going to be happening with me, and I didn’t feel comfortable committing to a schedule for anything.  In the end, I just committed to running on my own, just like I did in February.

Sure, some people think that the marathon a month challenge should only count if every run is a “real race” with swag and shirts (or not) and definitely a medal and a way to look up “official” finish times.  To me, that sounds more like a financial challenge than a running one.  There is no such “local” marathon every month near me.  And I do not enjoy trail races, so doing a trail race is a “last resort” as far as I’m concerned.  Besides.  I didn’t challenge myself to pay for and travel to and spend the money on 12 marathons.  I challenged myself to run twelve marathons.  I keep it honest.  My Garmin and MapMyRun distances are available to be reviewed by friends.  And, I have been lucky enough to have friends run with me… “witnesses”, basically.

For June, my buddy, Minh, covered the full 26.3 miles with me.  We went the 0.3 so he could call it an ultra.  And so I could say I “tricked” him into running an ultra.  The whole run was a blast.  We had fun and joked and talked.  It got humid, and then it got super hot, and the “cloudy with chance of rain” forecast failed us.  We ran under brilliant blue skies with a raging hot, bright sun.  The course was difficult, with harsh, rolling hills during the first half, and more smooth, but long, hill climbs toward the end.  I’ll have that recap posted, because it was such a great experience that it deserves its own thing.

I won’t lie and say that my June micro-ultra marathon was easy.  It was tough for me too.  And I’m not happy with the time on it either.  But my attitude during running has improved immensely.  I look forward to running again!  Even today, when I should be taking the day off to completely recover (yes, my tendon is still swollen, but it’s not as painful as it was before, and it didn’t get bad after the run) and I have some chores around the home I should do….  But my new Garmin watch demands that I make 12,000 steps per day now…  and I want to meet that goal.  And… well… running is fun again.  It’s relaxing again…  It’s like playing outside again…  It’s my time in the sun and nature…and my body craves it again.  Now that my systems can focus on more than ‘survive today’, they hunger and crave and….well…   And. It. Is. Wonderful.


Run Happy, my friends.

Run the Earth


I have felt the earth turn from the soles of my feet
I have watched the rising of the sun,
as it chased me across the land

I have heard the stars spark to life in the black

I have bathed in the mud and streams

Of the wooded paths


I have cried and  I have bled

I have experienced the victories

and the growth in failures


I have forged friendships

More sturdy than diamonds

More beautiful, by far

But made through a like process

I have watched rainbows spark and fade within the droplets of my own sweat.


My name has been uttered

With hushed awe to compare

to the animal kingdom

Gazelle.

Cheetah.


I have been deemed “Intense”

By people who never tried

to understand the why


My life is lived

By locomotion

under my own power

I am a runner

And I run this Earth

The Greatest

Muhammad Ali.
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Everyone knows the name…especially after this week, with his death.

I knew he was a great boxer.  I knew he was a solid athlete and that he had brought the gold to USA in the Olympics once.  I don’t know the year.  I didn’t even know he was from, let along had been living, in Louisville, KY until a couple days ago….and I got invited to go to the memorial after his burial.

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I learned a lot yesterday.  About the brilliant athlete who came home wearing the Olympic gold, walked into a restaurant, and was still denied service on the color of his skin.  A man who was pushing so hard to create an identity that his fellow Americans, no matter the color of skin, would recognize as “somebody” and having “worth“.  I learned about the Olympic champion who left that restaurant, without his cheeseburger and coke, and threw his gold medal into the river.  His name was known everywhere.  He was the greatest.  And yet, he was still being judged as “lesser” because of his skin.
Anyone would be frustrated in that.

Hell, I found common ground in that story.
I worked and proved myself to be very good at what I was working in….  I was repeatedly recognized, by outside groups and individuals, for the things I achieved .  Repeatedly touted as “great” at what I was doing. Only to be treated as “incapable” and “weak” by my own workplace for no other reason than my gender.  Now, I’m not saying I know the struggle of the Blacks, or the Jews, or anyone else our Country gets up it’s ass to treat like shit at any given time.  I don’t.  That’s a different level of struggle.
But I do know what it is to show up, do the work, excel or be “great” at what I’m doing – bringing honor to a place, and then return to that place only to have them remind you that “you ain’t shit”.  I understand that struggle all too well.

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Ali’s struggle went to a bigger scale.  He stood against the segregation.  He stood against the maltreatment and violence among religions.  He stood against a war he didn’t believe in and that his religion forbade him from.  (“No ‘Cong ever called me a Nigger, I don’t have any fight against them”).  He called for America to fix the problems at home first…to find peace.  He made a number of friends, spanning all over the faiths, all over the races…all over the world.

Ali wasn’t about just the struggle of the Blacks.  He was about everyone’s struggle.
The People’s Champ” …  Such a fitting title, for such an amazing person.

And then I learned about Mohammad Ali, the person beyond the athlete.

I learned that he was such an inspiration to this City, that even the “ordinary”…meaning not famous… people felt comfortable around him.  He was always gratuitous with his time, and his fame, and especially with his love and encouragement.  He inspired the African American race, yes.  There’s no doubt about that.  Dr Kevin Cosby, a speaker at the memorial, pointed out that Ali gave the Black People a sense of “somebodyness”.  A sense of worth.  And it’s true.  He showed a down-trodden and abused class of people that they were still people.  And that they deserved rights as well.  images-2But it wasn’t just Blacks that found Ali’s inspiration in life.  All races were inspired by the man.  He showed the inner city youth that they could get somewhere in life if they worked at it.  He showed all of us that great things could be achieved through peace.  Through communication and working together…. never  through  violence and oppression.

Ali the person made connections and brought people together.  He wanted everyone to find goodness, give goodness, and grow the world in peace and cooperation.  He had athlete friends.  He had politician friends.  He had friends that spanned the cultures, the world, and the religions.  This was so very apparent at the memorial.

Three big names

The memorial was beautiful.  As was the funeral procession.
Ali’s daughter posted on social media about the outpouring of love the family saw from the City, as so many people lined the streets and chanted “Ali!  Ali!  Ali!” or threw flowers on the cars.

My Dad finally got to experience his dream.” She wrote, continuing, “He had a reoccurring dream he would tell us about.  He dreamed that he was running down Broadway in Louisville, and that all the people lined the road and cheered for him, and he would run, taking off in flight as the road stretched on.  Thank you all.

The image that sticks out to me so vividly from watching the funeral procession was the little kids who jogged along behind the hearse, shadow boxing.
boy boxes while running after herse

It was so beautiful, the inspiration and the love that the City felt from Ali…and to see that heaped back toward the family in this time of loss was more than inspiring.  It was beautiful.  It gave hope.  Hope that Ali’s dreams for a more unified and peaceful world could be found.  That injustices would someday come to an end.  That America would become, as one speaker at the funeral said: “A world leader, not through the already tried and failed tactics of domination and weapons, but through becoming a safe place; A country that welcomes people and allows them the freedoms already promised.  Lead the world through peace, rather than war.” (Paraphrased)

The memorial service consisted of a collection of religious leaders, famous individuals, and the Ali family coming together to share the heart of Ali’s dreams: That we all recognize that it doesn’t matter what color our skin is, what religion we pray through, what name we call God, or how much money we have.  We are all together, and we should be together as we work toward a great future.

Rabbi Lerner
Rabbi Lerner – who called for Peace.  Peace among religions, among races, and for the people to demand that the in-coming president Drive that peace.

I want to share some statements from the speakers that really stuck with me…  Some spoke to me because my struggle finally came to a resolution and I felt that the sentiments matched my life on a level, some struck me because of what is important to my life and character, and some struck me because of the beauty and power they evoked as the life of this great person was shared with all of us.

One of the most powerful speakers was Dr. Kevin Cosby (Who sparked the MC to comment, “Never give a teenager a phone, and never give a preacher a microphone” jokingly, when he retook the podium).

Dr Cosby, like almost all of the speakers, was passionate when he spoke about Ali the person, and about the dreams Ali had for the world.  But what struck me was his point when he said:
“Louisville is known for two things, mainly:  Muhammad Ali and the Derby.   … We want you to come back, the first weekend in May, and we want you to visit us for the Derby.  We want you to bet on the horses.  But you have to know the rules… you have to know how a race works.  First, the horses are lined up in the pens at the start.  Everyone is in, and the horn sounds, and the race begins.  The horses run in a circle for two minutes.  Two minutes!  For Two minutes, they run in the mud.  They run in the mud and one will win.  And the winner is taken over to the winner’s circle, where a wreath is put around their neck.
You have to know the rules to bet on a horse race.  The rules are this:  You cannot bet on the horse after he is in the winner circle.  You have to bet on the horse while he is still in the mud.
That last sentiment…just that… That was powerful to me.

Among the religions and people present were the representatives of the Native American Nations:  Owen Lyons, Sidney Hill & Ernie Stevens, Chiefs, each one of them.  Sidney Hill said, “Values and principles will determine a person’s destiny.  And the same is true of nations.
He shared a story about how in the 90s, a Washington State Senator proposed a bill that would nullify all the agreements and treaties signed by the US Government with the Native American Nations.  And when that happened, Native Peoples walked from the west to DC…and Ali walked with them.

Ali was the type of person who stood with anyone who was oppressed.
He also stood with his friends when they were honored.

Billy Crystal shared a story about how Ali, this famous Muslim, went to see his friend (“little brother”) Crystal being honored as a Jew by the Jewish Community.  He talked about how Ali going to that event helped Crystal raise enough funds that he could start a program at the Jewish University that promoted peace among traditionally violent religious through the arts.  Crystal noted that Ali had a great sense of humor.  Important, I felt, given that he had to face so much adversity to get to where he could make differences and inspire people.
Crystal then described Ali as a lightning bolt.  Beautiful and powerful.  And in the moment it strikes it lights up everything.  Ali, according to Crystal, struck America in a dark time, and was able to illuminate the wrongs at the time…the discrimination, the hatred, the pride.  And by his beauty in how he struck, he was able to inspire us to do better.

Funeral Held For Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali In His Hometown Of Louisville, Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, KY – JUNE 10: Lonnie Ali speaks during a memorial service for boxing legend Muhammad Ali on June 10, 2016 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali died June 3 of complications from Parkinson’s disease. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Ali’s widow, Lonnie, spoke.  She spoke that Ali wanted more than anything, peace.  She said that yes, there were bad cops (And that’s so true), but she said this,
America must never forget that when a cop and an inner city kid Talk, miracles happen.”
And I loved this sentiment.  It spoke to how a white cop stopped an upset kid on the street, sat down and spoke with him, and encouraged the kid (who’s bike was stolen) not to seek revenge, but rather to join the cop at a gym…where the kid learned boxing… Where that poor inner city kid started on a path to make such a huge difference in the world.  Sociology / Criminology will show any of its students that the police are the “gate keepers”, and that how they handle a young person in a difficult situation in the ghetto can make or break an amazing future for that kid.

With regard to the police and segregation and brutality… the message was clear that, yes it does happen (Again.  YES!  It is still rampant), but that there are still good people wearing those uniforms who want to help make the change (YES!  Very true).  All the speakers made it clear that everyone needed to remember that when it came to Muslims, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, or Police – there will be bad people, but a few bad people do not spoil all of the people.

Lonnie Ali also said, “It is far more difficult to give up one self in the pursuit of peace, than it is to take up arms in violence.”  She said this, remarking upon how despite all the bitterness that Ali could have taken on through the hardships – through being stripped of his titles and imprisoned because he disagreed with a war in a different country when there was a war on race happening hourly on the streets of America.  Despite all that, he held on to peace and worked through the difficulty to earn his place back.
He disagreed with the government, but he didn’t fight it and he didn’t run from it.

Then a young woman took the podium.  Not a relation of the family, not a famous movie star or politician.  This girl, I suspect, won the opportunity to share what the legacy of Ali brought to her life, and how learning his story and struggles helped her to feel proud in her skin and how it inspired her to move beyond “the rocks thrown” by her haters and detractors.  Natasha Mundkur said in her speech, “Impossible is not a fact.  Impossible is an opinion.  Impossible is nothing.”  Then,   “Impossible is not enough to knock us down.  We. Are. Ali.

I think it’s important to note a very big similarity here, between young Mundkur and our current POTUS, Barak Obama, who wrote in his statement (delivered on his behalf by a woman associated with the Ali family) about how watching Ali in the ring and in society, fight for the win and achieve all that he did, “inspired a young mixed-race boy to believe that even he could become President of the United States of America some day.”

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John Ramsey (I think someone told me that he’s a local sports announcer) told a story about how he was announcing a fight and Ali was there.  Ali was taken to meet the winner of the fight, and after that turned to Ramsey and said, “I wanna see the looser.” The idea was foreign to everyone.  Ramsey led Ali to the other locker room, where, sitting alone in the corner on a stool looking all the world like the lowest point on Earth was the kid that lost.  There was no crowd.  There was no one else there but him.  And he wore this expression that just “showed that he felt like he had let his people down, his country, and his dreams.”  The minute Ali entered that room, the kid lit up.  Ali joked a little with the kid, threw a couple easy punches, and then put his arm around the kid’s shoulders and said, “I watched you out there.  You looked good.  You’ve got the moves.  Don’t give up.  You could be a champ!”
Ramsey said that, “in seconds, Ali took this kid from down here” (He indicated the low) “to here.” (raised his hand).  Ali knew how to inspire.  He was inspiration.  He also knew how to make people feel good about themselves.

Bill Clinton related some stories about how Ali just had the knowledge, “you don’t learn this from a book” – the “how” in knowing when someone is down and needs some encouragement.  Ali knew it.  Clinton said, “In the second half of his life, he perfected gifts we all have… We all have gifts of mind and soul.”  Clinton said that to honor Ali, we should all “give our gifts” and live how Ali lived.

Want to see who all the speakers were and some of the other statements made?  Maybe watch some of the videos and hear the full speeches?  Go HERE to read the LA Times feed.

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We all know that Ali was an amazing boxer…athlete… And after what I witnessed all over Louisville, KY yesterday…  Ali sounds like an amazing person.  And I wish I had known his story before all of this.  I wish I had had the chance to be introduced to his philosophies and his humor earlier in my life.  I was going through a hard time where having known this story and this struggle would’ve helped me keep things in perspective better…would’ve inspired me to handle some things better, and let me know that I was doing it right: how I stood my ground for my morals and my ethics.

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We really lost something, someone, special.  I can only hope that Louisville, and the Ali family, continue to work together to strive and push Ali’s goals for the world.

We all need so much more kindness.  So much more greatness.  So much more peace.
Ali knew that you achieved greatness only by building bridges… NOT by building walls.” – Billy Crystal.

 

– I Am Ali.

Cheers.

Roses in the Sun

When my Mom died, I decided to plant a little flower garden for her. To fill it with all her favorite flowers.
Things got shaky….ah…. Ridiculously bad for me soon after, and the plan went on the back burner. But I did go out and plant a rose, large and pink (as the photo and description on the dull brown stem depicted) Mom’s favorite flower and color.

Mom was a devout believer in God and all the trappings. She always prayed, and she would ask for a rose as a sign that her prayers were answered. I enjoyed sending her roses as often as I could, because I wanted whatever she was praying for to always come true… Or, I at least wanted her to believe it.

Anyway. Roses had to be part of the plan. And hummingbirds. And lilac.

Mom’s Lilac at Dad’s House

In the midst of hard times and extreme stress, I managed to pick up a windmill shaped like a hummingbird, and this rose stem. I planted the rose in the garden my we jokingly call “Dante’s Garden” (after our dog).  Our dog spends days rooting and digging around this flower bed, napping and crushing plants…and every spring, this garden blooms bigger and faster than any other flower bed in our yard.

Proud Garden Dog

It’s the perfect fit, after all, having moms garden be in Dante’s garden. She loved that dog. He loved her. Who wouldn’t want a doggy gardener?

The rose grew scary big.  About three times the size of the plain, thorny stem I planted back in March.  Bigger than any other rose I planted at this house. And then it bloomed. Big. Beautiful. And bright pink.


The rest of the blooming flowers in the bed have gone to seed and are done for the year. This rose is a welcome splash of color, and I want nothing more than to pick a bloom and take it to mom….show it off… Listen to her coo over it, because she would love it, and then know that deep in her heart she felt a prayer was being answered.


There’s no showing it off to my mom…  Not anymore.  But it’s nice to think of how much she’d love this plant.

Things have settled down for me finally.   A resolution has finally come, and in my favor to top it (meaning I “won”).  It means that I get to go on with my life, and get back to enjoying things.  And.  I think it’s time to really get in and build up this garden I share with my dog in memory of a woman who loved to admire pretty flowers.

Cheers!

The “Why” of Running

Ask a runner;
No, wait, bear with me on this:

Ask a runner what they love about running.
What makes them head out every day, no matter the weather, no matter the amount of time… No matter, no matter, no matter…
Why?
Why continue this running thing?

If fitness is that important to you, why do you drink beers after the runs?  Why eat doughnuts and burgers and your weight in pasta and pizzas if you’re just running for fitness?

National Doughnut Day = a run for doughnuts

Truth is, any runner who is deep in this habit will tell you its not about the fitness.

It may have been when they started, sure.

Loose some pounds, get off the heart meds, avoid diabetes.   Fitness is more a catalyst than a reason.  If a runner is telling you their reason is “fitness”, they haven’t been running long.  A few of the farther gone will still say fitness, but they have a list of other reasons added.  The honest ones will tell you what I’m saying here.  Fitness started it.  But the reason it keeps happening?  The reason they keep putting the shoes on, pushing the miles, and signing up for the races?  Well…

The answers will vary.  You’ll really hear the spectrum:  The community (running clubs to race crowds), the competition, the calming nature (stress relief), the adventure (experiences, sights and sounds, getting lost, getting somewhere new), the way you get to see a place (from your feet rather than driving by), achievement (goals and beating expectations)…

The bottom line is happiness.


The run brings people into happiness.  The way they choose to assign is personal, but the output for them all is the same.  Running makes you happy.

Running is hard.  There are bad days and injuries.  But even through injuries and difficulties inherent in this physical activity, people will tell you that they are made happy by it.  They feel better.  They see the changes.  They see the connections.

My happiness comes out of the connections made while running.

Sure, I love the adventures.  I love running through new areas and around vacation spots.  I enjoy going to races and competing in 5ks and whatnot.  I like being outside.  I like the health benefits.

For me, its all about the friendships.  That’s where my happiness is in running.


My running group makes it fun to be out there for hours, running miles in the worst (and sometimes best) weather conditions.  My running group has had my back through all the good times and bad…both in my life and in my running.  Difficult races.  Difficult career changes.  Losses.  Wins.


There’s a saying that you should note those who celebrate your accomplishments with you, and also take note of those who celebrate your failures.  The former are your true friends, the latter need to be pushed out of your life.  My running group has encouraged me through my worst times in running, telling me that it was good training for the next run, or that injury will pass.  They give good advice on how to improve and heal.  And when I win?  They celebrate!  They are genuinely happy for me.  They don’t tell me that I did “okay, but really, could have done better still”.  They don’t belittle the accomplishments.  They don’t compare someone far better or more talented than me to what I did.  My accomplishment stands alone.  Just like everyone else in the group.  You are compared to yourself.

I love having the running group.


I probably wouldn’t have stuck with running as long as I have, if it weren’t for my running group.  (Kudos to Superman for bringing me into the group in the first place).   I certainly wouldn’t enjoy running like I do without them.  And I know I wouldn’t have improved as much as I have since I started running with them (See:  Never Say “Too Fast For Me”)

I love turning the group of people around me in a marathon into an impromptu running group as well.  There’s a lot shared among people who are going through an experience like a marathon together.  No matter how experienced or how new.  And it’s amazingly fun to be running a marathon and hear someone shout to you, saying that they remember you and talking about how you helped them through a tough spot in a race in some other state.  Super cool.

I legitimately did not know any of these people until after this race was over.  And then they wanted me in the photo with them.

Besides.  I do like to talk.  Everyone who knows me will say its true.

Maybe you really enjoy running alone.  Running groups and clubs and talking to others during races isn’t for everyone.  But you should give a running group a shot once and a while.  It doesn’t hurt to be part of the larger group sometimes.  Sometimes its nice to have people who know you holler at you during races.  The encouragement and stories are so worthwhile.

Pre-race, last October.  Getting in the “proper mindset”.

Trust me.

However you justify the why,  remember to run happy!

Memorial Day Miles

Just a short post and some photos today, folks….  

Because…. 

Just. Because.   


  I’m back to following a training schedule for the June and July marathons coming up, but Monday marked the end of the “run whatever I feel like” part of my training cycle.

Monday was also a very warm and very humid Memorial Day.  I was feeling extremely stressed and when a local runner posted that he was looking to grab seven miles at 1PM, I hopped on the offer.  


He carried the flags through the 7+ miles, made more difficult by the unrelenting sun and the sudden high temps/humidity that have struck our area.  

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, if that applies to you.  And that everyone is finding themselves running happy.

Cheers!