2013 Year of Running

2013 has been a huge year for me- both in my running life, professional life, and personal life. It definitely wasn’t the easiest year but I think I’ve really grown and my running has completely exceeded my expectations. To wrap up the year (before writing my 2014 goal post) I thought I’d take part in Miss Zippy’s link up that I saw some of my favorite run bloggers doing. So, here it is, my 2013 year of running:

Best race experience… Although I ran my first two marathons this year, I honestly think my best race experience was running Hood to Coast. It was my first relay and the memories I made over those few days with my team are unforgettable. I also, unexpectedly, ran some of my fastest race times ever. I would do it over again in a heartbeat.

Start Line

Best run… About a quarter of the way through training for Marine Corps, I was already feeling pretty run down and unenthused by being in marathon training again. But just when I needed it the most, the running gods gave me a completely perfect and blissful run in Maine. It was incredible.

Best new piece of gear… Saucony Mirage 4, life changers. I started wearing these in October and they have completely changed my running. Before switching over I was in some pretty clunky stability shoes but I wanted less, a more natural feel. My co-worker, and RW Gear Guy, Jeff, let me wear-test the new Mirage 4s and I fell in love with them.

mirage

Best piece of running advice received … from Dorothy Beal- “You are that fast.” Before running Hood to Coast, Dorothy said this to me. I’ve been known to really hold back when it comes to running fast. I don’t like to get to that uncomfortable place. But Dorothy somehow knew I was going to run hard during HTC and she was right. It was the first time I had ever average sub-8:00/miles and it was incredible.

Me and Dorothy

Most inspirational runner… Oh gosh, this is a tough one. I’ve met so many incredible people running this year that it’s really hard to pick just one. But if I had to chose I’d say Sarah Canney (Run Far Girl). I met Sarah when we were teammates at Hood to Coast and hearing her story about her son brought me to tears but it also made me so incredibly amazed at how resilient, positive, and strong she was when facing the worst. Not to mention she kept running through it all. Kudos to you Sarah! You’re incredible girl!

Throwing up a power arch for Sarah on her last leg!

Throwing up a power arch for Sarah on her last leg!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

My mantra this year was “She believed she could, so she did.” I even wore an Erica Sara bracelet with this saying engraved on it during my training for Big Sur. This was a year of big goals for me. I became a marathoner and fell even deeper in love with the sport and everything that running has brought into my life. This saying helped me when I first started running in 2012 and has kept me going this year.

She believed she could

My Performance Enhancing Drug: Confidence

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Today I had the honor of meeting Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon. He was speaking in Bethlehem to announce that he will be the keynote speaker at our half-marathon this October. I was there to represent Runner’s World with some of my co-workers, as well as write a story about the announcement (see the story here). I also edit Dave’s blog on our site but this was the first time I was able to really meet him in person.

Dave spoke to a group of us, including kids from the local chapter of the Mighty Milers, an organization managed by the NYRR to help get kids moving. His speech was mostly directed towards the kids but his words resonated with all of us. The part that stuck with me the most however was this:

“There’s a phenomenon going on in the industry right now, the walls of intimidation have crumbled,” Dave said. “People now believe that they can do this.”

Dave was a “last pick” kid growing up, meaning he would be the remainder at gym class when it came to picking teams. He said his handicap was that he was “vertically challenged.” So, by default he took up running because anyone can run.

This resonated with me because although I played tennis and lacrosse in high school, I was far from being the team star. I played second doubles in tennis, not a great position, and was better at lacrosse but our team was new so we didn’t have varsity. My problem was I was very self-conscious. Other girls were better, faster, and stronger than me. So, instead of really pushing myself, and risking looking like an idiot, I took the easy way out and stayed back in the wings.

Dave said he loves his job as race director because he can say he raises the self-esteem and confidence levels of tens of thousands of people in America. This is what running does.

I didn’t know the power of running until I started in March 2012. But now I know the power it has over my self-confidence and will to persevere. I know that I may not be the fastest runner, but I’m strong and I can finish a race no matter how hard it may seem.

It’s been an interesting week in our running world. A survey was released noting the disparity between the haves and have-nots of elite runners. Tyson Gay tested positive for banned substances and everything coming out of the sports news world has talked about “will track ever escape the plague of doping.” (We admittedly wrote a lot about it too.) But what we lose sight of sometimes is, instead of focusing so much on those who get caught using banned substances, why don’t we shift the conversation to the clean athletes. Like Nick Symmonds who publicly tweeted his “supplement regimen” this week, which consisted of vitamins you can buy at CVS. And Lauren Fleshman who, just one month after given birth, has dropped the baby weight like a boss and is hitting training hard and clean. Or Kate Grace, the Oiselle phenom who is setting PRs and taking names. Or Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce who had the balls to take on the subject bluntly in a blog post last week.

These runners and so many other clean athletes have that confidence running gives them. They know the kind of self-esteem Dave was talking about today to the group of young runners. They know it because they are confident enough in their abilities as elite athletes to race against those who take the easy way out.

These are the runners I look up to. I’ll never be as fast as them but seeing their confidence gives me validation that I can do this. I can run and I will keep running.

{Monday Motivation} Convince Your Mind

Running is not a physical sport, it’s a mind game. Ok, that’s not 100 percent true but how many times have you been on a hard run and thought to yourself, I can’t do it. You barter with yourself, “Well, if I run to that mailbox, I can take a break…” or, “Maybe I just need to stretch against that street sign for a bit…” or, “I can’t finish this long run, what if I just finish a little early, that’ll count right?”

Your brain is the most important muscle to work during marathon training. Over 26.2 miles the mind can come up with all kinds of excuses to give up, throw in the towel  and just head for the massage table. But you can’t let it. I had my first long run of Marine Corps training yesterday and it was a boiling 90 degrees when I left my apartment. Believe me, I would have much rather stayed at home in air conditioned luxury but my training was more important. I wanted to quit but I didn’t. I’m sure there will be times in October when I’ll want to quit too but I won’t. I powered through my long run and ran my fastest long run average pace ever. Success like that is so much sweeter than giving in to the mind games. Happy running this week, y’all! Stay cool and hydrated!

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

{Monday Motivation} Renew Your Inspiration to Run

I have a pretty concrete running schedule each week. I run five days a week, do at least one speed workout, one long run, and easy runs to fill in. I cross train on Mondays and take a rest day on Friday. This has been my running schedule every week since January. It gets old though and sometimes, especially when I’m not training for anything in particular, it gets boring. I’ll admit sometimes my runs are very un-inspiring. Yesterday I had planned to do a long-ish run, 8-10 miles. But I woke up, it was hot and very humid and I just wasn’t feeling it so I didn’t do it- and that’s OK. Sometimes it’s better to take a rest day when you’re not feeling it than to go out and slog through a run, especially when you aren’t training for something. Sometimes you need to start fresh to feel inspired again. That’s what I’m doing now and I think it’s working. Happy running!

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

Finding Comfort in Time

Today is a very special day. It’s my friend, Jake’s, 22nd birthday. Jake was the kind of friend everyone should have- fun loving, spontaneous, energetic, loyal, and just a light to everyone who knew him or had the pleasure of meeting him.

Almost a year ago, as I was getting ready to graduate college and enter into the “real world” I was seriously contemplating taking a reporting job overseas as a freelancer for a prestigious international news agency. I would be headed to Afghanistan or Iraq to cover the War on Terror. I remember telling Jake about this one night a few weeks before graduation and the fun loving, energetic guy I knew became stern and steadfast in his reaction.

“Hannah, you can’t cover a war,” he told me. “If you do that, and get kidnapped, you know I will have no other option but to go over there and go all Rambo on the terrorists who took you and get you back.”

Jake was joking of course, but at the same time he wasn’t. He had sincere concern, as most of my friends and family had, and he objected to the whole idea of it. He didn’t want me to get hurt.

Time passed, I didn’t end up taking the position, and opted to be a reporter at a small local newspaper in Massachusetts instead. “Now that is MUCH safer,” Jake told me.

Then a few months into that job I landed an editor position at Runner’s World. I stayed in touch with friends from home and visited when I could. Then, on January 21, I received the most awful call of my life. My best friend Sydney called me and delivered the news. Jake died in an apartment fire.

I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. But months have passed and my friends and myself have all had time to accept our emotions and remember Jake. I remember wanting time to just stop. But it doesn’t.

Months went by and before I knew it we were coming up on Jake’s three-month anniversary, right around the time of the Boston Marathon when another unexpected, tragic event occurred. This time I was right at ground zero.

Friends and family franticly tried to reach me on my phone while I was in lockdown in the pressroom, a block away from the bombings. Sydney was able to reach me and she said, “Call me crazy for saying this, but I truly like to believe that Jake was up there watching over you today… He wouldn’t let anything happen to you then, and he didn’t today.”

“It gives me some kind of weird comfort.” It gave me comfort too.

While on lockdown, I was reminded again of time as the race clock continued to tick on hours after the explosions went off. Time passes even when we think it should stop. When something so horrible happens it’s impossible to believe that life continues to go on. But it does. And the comfort in that? We are able to move on.

This week the July issue of Runner’s World will arrive on newsstands. The issue is a tribute to everything that happened that day. As moving as this issue is, there are still countless stories left to be told. Everyone involved had a story and as the days have passed since then, we’ve been able to work through our emotions and find some comfort.

Today is Jake’s birthday. I find comfort in knowing that even though time has passed, he’s still here. He’s not gone and we won’t let him go. Just as what happened on April 15, 2013, what happened on January 21, 2013 will never leave my mind. But I don’t want it to. I want to remember it all. I don’t know if I’ve completely come to terms with what happened on those two days but only time will tell.

Happy birthday, my Rambo!

Jake

The Runner’s Thank You

Running is a giftIn honor of National Etiquette Week I thought I’d share with you a little tradition we have at Runner’s World. In case you weren’t aware, we are very lucky to be able to go out for lunch runs every day. Almost everyone on staff leaves their respective desks at about 10 minutes of noon to head down to the locker rooms. Some choose to run solo, others run in one of two groups- the fast runners and the regular runners. We go on long runs, do speed workouts, tempos, trail runs, hill repeats, and especially, easy runs. Whatever the run, we do it and when everyone is back and showered you’ll hear two words before heading back to your desk, “thank you.”

One of my coworkers, Mark Remy, has written about the runner’s thank you on his blog on our website before. Being a relatively new runner myself, I’d never experienced the runner’s thank you before starting here at Runner’s World. This could be because before working here the majority of my runs were solo miles but when I would run with others, especially when we ran long runs or speed workouts, I think thank you was the farthest thing from my running buddy’s mind.

But when you break it down, being able to run is a privilege, a gift, and something to be extremely thankful for. I do like to run alone a lot of the time but there’s nothing more special than running with a supportive group. There are days when it’s tough to get out the door. Days when I think, Instead of doing that 7-mile lunch run, how about I break it up and run twice.  Days when I ask myself, am I really feeling lunchtime intervals today? But then I walk into that locker room and my coworkers are all game for whatever is on the run menu. I feed off of that kind of enthusiasm.

Even on days when I go for a run alone, once I’m back in the locker room I’m always asked how my run went and I ask my coworkers as well. Runners like to support each other. Think about how many times you’ve been out for a run, see another runner, and just give them a wave. It’s comforting. It’s supportive. It’s what makes the running community so special.

So this weekend, whether you go running with a group, a friend, solo, or pass by another runner, be sure to acknowledge the gift that is running and just say, “Thank you.”

In Other (Happier) News

To say this past week has been nothing short of a whirlwind rollercoaster of emotion, stress, sadness, anger and just shear confusion would be an understatement. Even still as I work through my emotions of this week I remember today is the three month anniversary of the day I lost one of my very close college friends in a horrific accident. If I’ve learned anything from this week, I’ve learned life is short and it is meant to be lived and celebrated as if it could end at any moment. So, I’ve decided to share some of the good things that happened this past week.

Awkward pre-5K photo.

Awkward pre-5K photo.

  • On Sunday, April 14 I set a two-minute 5K PR at the B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K, finishing the race in 25:23. As superficial as this sounds, especially in light of the events that transpired the next day, I’m genuinely proud of my 5K finish. I hadn’t been training for shorter distances so I just decided to go into it with little expectations. I just wanted to enjoy it because the course ends with the infamous, “right on Hereford, left on Boylston,” and leads runners across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was a really incredible moment made even better by the fact that my parents came to watch me race and then took me out to a really nice breakfast afterwards- an altogether wonderful morning.
  • After a very long day on Monday, followed by a longer day on Tuesday, I needed to get out for a run and when I was about to head out my dad said he would join me. My dad used to be a really amazing runner but he doesn’t do much more than a mile or so on the treadmill at the gym. He ran with me for about a mile and then I continued on but it was such a nice gift to be able to share that time with him.
  • On Wednesday, I found out that I was accepted onto the Nuun Hydration Hood to Coast relay team! This was a gem of news in a very dreary and quite awful week. I’ve never run a relay but I’m really excited to join Nuun and the other girls picked to be on the team on a 200 mile journey through Oregon!

htc_300x300

  • Because of the bombings at the Marathon on Monday and the way our coverage unfolded in the following days, I was able to work from home in Massachusetts for the remainder of the week which was a great treat since I was able to spend time with my family. We were all having a difficult time dealing with the Boston bombings and everything that followed so it was a blessing to be able to work through our emotions together and just be supportive of each other.
  • I got to see the strength of Boston firsthand and I’ll never forget the resilience, courage and absolute bravery the entire city exhibited this past week.
  • And finally, ONE WEEK UNTIL BIG SUR!

What the Boston Marathon Means to Bostonians- Especially This One

At mile 20 of the 1990 Boston Marathon, my Mom holds me as she watches for my Dad to run by.

At mile 20 of the 1990 Boston Marathon, my Mom holds me as she watches for my Dad to run by.

Long before running became such a big part of my life, running was in my life. My Dad was a marathoner who ran the Boston Marathon religiously with his group of running friends, the Ragmen. They called themselves the Ragmen because they were a group comprised of half runners and half wheelchair racers, including one of the first wheelchair racers, Bob Hall.

I was a baby when my Dad was coming to the end of his running career. That didn’t mean running stopped being a part of our family life though, because every year, on the third Monday in April, we would return to mile 20 of the Boston Marathon, Along with some of the former Ragmen, we would cheer on strangers, elites and friends as they made the ascent up Heartbreak Hill.

Team Ragmen with my Dad in the blue and yellow jacket.

Team Ragmen with my Dad in the blue and yellow jacket.

The Boston Marathon is a tradition rooted in the lives of many Bostonians and my family is no different. Since infancy, I’ve been out on that course. My parents would always pack a cooler with sandwiches and drinks so we could spend hours out on the course cheering as endless waves of runners passed by. I’ve handed out fuel to runners with one of my Dad’s friend’s sons, aptly named Myles. We’ve made signs. Brought that morning’s Boston Globe with the list of bib numbers and names so we can cheer on friends or call out runners in need of support. I’ve handed out water and Gatorade. Even once, when I was little, I remember running alongside some of the runners as they passed by, wondering if I could do it too.

But, in all those years, it never occurred to me that one day I would run a marathon. My Dad was a marathoner but for most of my life, I hated running. But now, in my 23rd year attending the Boston Marathon, I am a runner and about to become a marathoner after April 28. I’m returning not as a spectator this time but as an editor at Runner’s World. I won’t be at mile 20 this year but I’ll be in a pressroom near the finish line, not-so-patiently awaiting results and post-race interviews. It’ll be different this year but the tradition will still be there.

In a video interview with Shalane Flanagan yesterday, she, a Massachusetts native, said it perfectly, “Boston is everything.” She grew up watching the marathon every Marathon Monday just as I have. She watched the elites in awe, she cheered on her Dad just like me and now she’s returning as the American female favorite. She called it a “full circle moment,” and I have to say I agree with her. Shalane’s full circle moment will be a “W” at Boston but for me, if I ever get a chance to qualify, that would be mine.

Although I’m not even close to qualifying for Boston based on my training run times, I can still say being at the Boston Marathon on Monday will be special. I know my family and the remaining Ragmen will be at mile 20 cheering on the runners and I’ll be at the finish but I’m coming back a different person. As a spectator, I’ve always attached memories and nostalgia to being at the Boston Marathon but now, as a runner, knowing how hard these people worked to make it to Boston makes me appreciate it even more.

But as a Bostonian, the marathon is so much more than an elite race, it’s our city’s shining moment. People say what sets the Boston Marathon apart from other major marathons are the spectators because no matter where you are on the course, someone will be cheering for you. And in Boston, that’s what we do best- we cheer for the pros, we cheer for the underdog and we cheer for the Ragmen, who is everyone else.