Have Something for Yourself: A Reason to Run

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Oct 11

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.”

–Author Mandy Hale

runningA few weeks ago I was shopping for some clothes for my kids and along the way I saw a blanket that caught my eye. It was gray and white chevron print (which matches everything in my house) and it was super soft. The best part about it was that it was only $17! Bargain, right? Let me back up and tell you that all of the other people that live in my home, including my husband and the dog, have their own special designated blanket. This is a blanket they use to sleep with in bed, to watch TV on the couch, and anytime they want to just for overall comfort. I usually just grab a corner from whoever is willing to share. So I decided I deserved this blanket.

As soon as I got home and my kids saw the blanket, they immediately started asking for it and then proceeded to argue over it. Before you knew it my husband was sitting on the couch with MY new blanket. This went on for days and finally I stopped and thought…….This was supposed to be my blanket. It was supposed to be something for me and I have had it for days and I haven’t even used it! Right then a thought crossed my mind. As a mother and a wife we sacrifice so much and have very little time and very little things for ourselves. And this I thought….is EXACTLY why I run. It is the one and only thing in my life that is just for me. It is time alone, or time with friends….it’s time to think, get in shape, and decompress. It is time to better myself in more ways than one. I have a friend who recently started getting up early before sunrise and before her kids got up to walk with her dog for some exercise. She told me that she couldn’t believe how peaceful it was outside that time of morning. Those are my thoughts exactly, it is such a great way to start the day.

So when people ask me how I do it? How do I get up so early and work and have 4 kids? It is really me hanging on to the one and very important thing I do just for me. I deserve that and so does every parent out there. However I do have to say, I did decide that I was going to stand my ground and take back my blanket. (I deserve that too)….I am ok with an occasional trade, I can deal with a Cinderella blanket that is equally as soft. (It’s better than a little corner of a Minnie Mouse blanket).

marathons

Next up, Saturday October 11, is the Murfreesboro Half Marathon. I love this race because it is reasonably priced, flat, the shirt is always great, and I always go with a few of my favorite friends that I don’t get to spend enough time with. Another plus, Jim N Nicks usually had food at the finish line for the runners. They happen to have the best rolls in town. And if you know me, I judge a race heavily by the food at the end. Whatever motivates you right? I am looking forward to all of it…..food, fun, friends, and running. All things that I love. I saw this quote and it cracked me up, yet it was so true. I actually feel this way every time my alarm goes off at 4:30….EVERY TIME. But I get up any way and every single time it is worth it.

 

 

The Nashville Women’s Half Marathon-A Great Race

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Oct 02

Womens Nashville Half Marathon StartThis past weekend I participated in the Women’s Half Marathon here in downtown Nashville. It was the second time I have done the race.  It was my first half marathon in over three months and I was honestly pretty nervous.  This is a fairly hilly race and I knew it would get a little sunny.  Since the Boston Marathon last April I have really struggled with a long term goal for my running.  For five years it was all about qualifying and then re-qualifying. And then re-qualifying again!  So I have kept up with my miles since April, I just really haven’t pushed myself as hard with speed work.  I have really just stayed in a very safe and complacent running spot in my mind.  The last two weeks had been a little bit better because I knew I had this race coming up.

So the race was exactly as I remembered.  It was fairly hilly, got a little hot but not terrible, and the crowds were fairly slim compared to many other races. I ended up running a 1:38 which was two minutes slower than I ran it last year, and 5 minutes slower than my best. I ended up 2nd in my age group out of 370 and 10th overall out of almost 2300.  The first place winner of the whole race was in my age group and was 39!  I think that is so awesome and it gives me hope that even though I will be 37 in November, maybe I still have a little spunk left in my running!

Blogs are supposed to be honest right?  So here was my one problem with Saturday’s race.  Let me start off by saying that I am VERY directionally challenged.  I always have been.  As a teenager my father got me a personalized license plate that said “WICHWAY”. Once in high school I tried to take my car out to Rivergate and somehow ended up in Kentucky. I use my iPhone map all day long because I am in an outside sales position. (I feel like the app was made for me.) For about the first 3 miles I was running behind about 5 or 6 women and a pacer group.  They were ahead of me and were at the very front of the race.  Eventually at about mile 3, I just couldn’t see them anymore.  As I turned around I could barely see anyone behind me.  So there I was running literally all alone. (Kind of boring).  For fear of making a wrong turn I had to pull my ear phones out several times to ask the volunteers to verify “which way” was the correct turn.  It was blocked off with cones but there were several times it just didn’t seem 100% clear which way to go and I had no one to follow because those speedsters up front were long gone.  Then about mile 8 or 9 two more women passed me and then I was alone again.  Right at mile 10 another girl passed me but I could still see her ahead.  Then I noticed that I never saw the mile 11 sign and time clock. I thought it was strange because every single other mile had a sign and a clock, as most marathons do have them at every mile.  So then the lady that passed me at the end finished right in front of me.  She stopped me to say good run and also informed me that I and the other girl ahead of me had taken a wrong turn.  She apparently had started to follow us but the cops very loudly informed her that we had gone the wrong way.  They were yelling for us but I guess we were into our music and heard nothing.  She was not from around here and was worried we would be headed in the completely wrong direction.  Luckily it seems we just ran an extra block or so.  I am really, really bad about zoning out in a race.  I am probably the only person that ran the St. Jude’s Memphis marathon and completely missed when we passed the gigantic St. Jude’s hospital.  I miss 90% of what goes on in a race because I get so deep, too deep, in my zone.

This race is a good time of year because it gets me back in racing mode after what is usually a slower, tough to get motivated summer.  In two week I will have the Murfreesboro half marathon which will be flatter and probably cooler.  I am looking forward to that.

The highlight of my run was having my friend Kelly, her daughter, and her mom and dad come to watch me race.  I met Kelly when I was 11 years old. My husband was home with our kids and a friend’s son as well getting everyone ready for soccer and flag football. After Kelly read my recent blog about the power of spectators at a race to support you (glad to know people actually read them!) she immediately called and asked ‘when is your next race?’  Kelly not only packed up her 17 month old, but she is also pregnant.  So she is a real trooper.  All of my friends and my family are always so supportive and for that I am lucky.  Even running down Belmont and seeing two of my favorite friends on the other side gave me a little pep for the next mile. Races are early and it really is hard to get up and down there.  There is never a race though where I don’t get several encouraging texts from family and friends.  I do have to say that knowing I would see Kelly and the fam at mile 10 helped me break up the race in my mind.  Then I got to see them again at the finish, it truly made my day!

Kelly and Company Womens HalfNashville Womens Half 2014 Medal

This is definitely a race I will do again.  The medals are HUGE!  I mean weigh your neck down kind of huge!  And they are pretty cute, shaped like a pair of shiny cowboy boots. (Very Nashville!) For me it is a great kick start into fall racing season.  I would like to say that maybe next time I will study the course map a little better, but it is doubtful.  Maybe it will give me some motivation to try to keep up with the runners in front of me, so I don’t end up making wrong turns again.

Stephanie Nashville Womens Half Marathon 2014Womens Half Marathon 2014 Music City Center

 

Rebecca’s Run

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Sep 26

Rebeccas RunThrough the years I have often had friends of mine show interest in starting a running program. Well there is no better motivation than to run for a cause.  Coming up this October is the perfect time to start.  I would love to ask you all to join us on Saturday October 26, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. at Rebecca’s Run.  It will be open to everyone, pets, kids, etc. and the cost is only $15. You will get a t-shirt and a bracelet for participating in the run. The run is a 5K and will take place on the Richland Creek Greenways.  Sport Seasons will be providing water for the participants.

Rebecca Vandemark is currently battling Lyme disease.  The goal for this race is to raise $300.  Half of that will go towards Rebecca’s treatment and half will be donated to the Lyme Light Foundation.  They provide grants to children 3-25 years of age to help cover their costs of Lyme Disease Treatment. To register for this race you can go to the gofundme.com page that has been set up for this run.  Then you can email Emily at evandemark@sport-seasons.com and let her know you are in, and also give her your t-shirt size.  Even if you cannot run, we will still send you a t-shirt and a bracelet for your $15 donation. Just email Emily and let her know!

http://www.gofundme.com/rebeccas-run-2014

This is a very laid back run and is the perfect time for anyone who has considered getting into races to get out in this fall weather.  You can also help by spreading the word.  Like the Rebecca’s Run Facebook page  and ask your friends to do the same.  You can also follow Rebecca’s blog about and learn more about her struggle at caravansonnet.com. Emily, Rebecca’s sister will be at the race along with her parents.  Whether or not Rebecca will be there will depend on her health at the time…but she plans and hopes to come!  If you have never walked or ran the greenways, this is your opportunity to start!

So register today!  $15 is a very inexpensive registration fee, yet if we all give it will add up to a significant amount of money that will go towards a great cause.  We hope to see you all there!

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The portion of the race proceeds going to charity benefit The LymeLight Foundation. For more information about them, please visit www.lymelightfoundation.org

Why do you run

 

The Power of Spectators at a Race: Why You Should Show Up

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Sep 19

With several races coming up, I thought I would share my thoughts on the benefits of having people there to support you at a race.  One of the things that makes big races fun is the vast amount of spectators.  The masses of people bring huge amounts of energy to a course. I definitely loved the spectators this year at Boston, they were excited and they were loud.  However, if I had to pick a marathon I have done that I would say had my favorite crowd, I would pick Chicago without a doubt.  There was literally not a moment on the course when there weren’t rows and rows of people.  Often times they were six rows deep.  If you ran beneath an underpass you could look up and see rows of people above you as well.  My first trip to the Chicago marathon was with a group of friends that were also running.  We wrote our names down the sides of our arms with a Sharpie marker. That was my friend’s idea, and the first time I had ever done that. Although I was at first thinking it was kind of silly, I went ahead and did it. Well let me tell you, it worked.  Although I didn’t know personally anyone out there cheering, when they yelled my name I actually felt a connection.  I felt like the people were actually there for me and it instantly put a little pep in my step. It gave me that feeling of accomplishment, like a little reminder that I was actually doing something really great. (Something I had worked hard for!)  Another thing that can be motivating, as cheesy as it sounds, is a high five. I really love high fiving the kids with their hands out.  I still remember one thing my friend told me after she finished her first marathon. She said that when the crowd cheered for her, although there were thousands of runners ahead of her, they made her feel as though she was winning.  I think that is very inspiring.

If having someone you don’t even know cheer for you is motivating, can you imagine how amazing it is to have people you do know out there?  Although Nashville is not a favorite marathon course, I love it because it’s the marathon where I have the most people I know cheering for me.  Many of them are out there to see other people as well but knowing that they will be there gives me something to look forward to. In 2013 when I ran Nashville, I had my husband and a few friends standing in the pouring down rain at mile 20 and mile 25 with some of the most amazing signs cheering for me.  Yep, I said pouring down rain.  Most spectators back out when it rains, which is understandable!  So, having people there for you in the pouring rain is pretty special.  Even knowing you have someone waiting for you at the finish line helps. Marathons start early so with small children and road closures it can be hard.  Many of us crazy runners will of course tell you that it isn’t a big deal if you don’t come for the race, but deep down we really love and need the support.

So what makes a good spectator? Here are just a few tips on what may be helpful or motivating for the runner you are watching.  Funny and personal signs are great.  I even love reading other people’s signs.  For my last Nashville marathon some friends of mine made a sign that said “Run For Adam” (as in Adam Levine) because they know he is my celebrity crush.  They also made giant signs with my kids’ faces on them, it was great!  Signs that aren’t as motivating are ones that say things like “almost there” or “just around the corner”.  Sometimes the timing of these signs isn’t very accurate.  No runner wants to see that when you really have miles left to go.

Race course signs

It is also a good idea to have cold water or Gatorade in case your runner is between water stops.  Plus you may have their favorite.  Having something salty, like a bag of pretzels, can help with dehydration and usually is not found on the course. Too, having a camera is a great idea!  It is a good idea not only to take pictures of the runner you know, but other funny or inspiring things you see that they may not get a chance to see while they are racing. One last tip is plan ahead on where you are going to be.  This way the person you are there to see knows where to look for you.  Sometimes it is easier for the runner to spot the spectator than vice versa.

I could share so many funny and inspiring signs that I see.  Things like “Who needs toenails” and of course tons that say things like “We are so proud of you mom”.  But I have to share with you the coolest sign I may have ever seen.  It read “I’m proud of you, perfect stranger”.  It moved me because I realized at that moment I was really doing something special.  It was something recognized by people who didn’t even know me from Adam.  Maybe, just maybe, on that day I had actually inspired someone I didn’t know at all.  That is a pretty cool feeling.

So if you are on the fence about whether or not you are going to show up this time around to watch a race, whether you know someone or not….consider showing up.  Your presence really does matter.

Boston Race SignBoston I Love my Mom

 

Pray for Michael – The Littlest Sports Fan

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Sep 06

Pray for Michael“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

MichaelI have wanted to write this blog for weeks. Finally I decided to reach out to the parents of Michael Sloan and ask if they minded if I wrote a little bit about Michael’s story, and they graciously agreed. Watching him persevere over the last two months or so has been so inspiring to me. Not only watching him actually, but also watching the love and dedication his mom and dad have shown to him has touched me tremendously. I also wanted to share some pictures of his sweet, adorable face both before and after his accident. You can just see the joy in his face and it has caught my attention in a big way.

Everyone has heard people say that life can change in an instant. PJ and Timberly Sloan were reminded how true this is on July 11th when their six year old son, Michael, was found at the bottom of a pool while swimming at his camp. He was given CPR which saved his life, but unfortunately he had suffered a complete loss of oxygen to his brain. He has spent the last two months in a rehab surprising doctors and doing things that no one ever thought he would do. Initially his parents were told he may never open his eyes again or even come off the ventilator. But just as Michael’s parents said, Michael is a fighter. He has not only opened his eyes and come off of the vent, but he is making progress every day. He has spoken a few words, taken a few steps , pushed pedals on a bike, and enjoyed watching Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesMichael 2 and now the beginning of Vanderbilt’s football season. I am sure by the time this article posts, he will have accomplished even more. Michael’s story hit home for me as it did for many other parents. There is just no pain like the pain of watching your child suffer. I have a son Michael’s age and just weeks before Michael’s accident I had a small scare of my own. My four year old daughter decided to take off her floaties when I turned around and attempted to swim after her sister. I turned back to find her floating in the pool. She looked so dazed and that image has been etched in my mind. Fortunately I got to her in time and she was only stunned with a little water ingestion. It shook me for days. It was the scariest moment of my life.

From the moment I heard Michael’s story and saw his adorable face, I have followed his every step on Facebook. When I get up to go run I always check his mother’s Facebook page to check on his progress. One thing that stands out about Michael is his love for sports. He is a huge Predators fan and above all he loves Vanderbilt Football. If you have followed his story then you have seen it too. He may be the littlest sports fanatic I have ever seen! Seeing how his love for Vanderbilt Football has been a theme in his healing and in his fight has amazed me. I am a UT grad so I know what it means to love a football team, but Michael is six! Yet he has the passion of a grown man when it comes to his team. Michael would always dye his hair black and gold for Vanderbilt games. He told his father he wanted the team to be able to see he was rooting for them. Since Michael’s accident however, the table has turned and it has been Vanderbilt football rooting for Michael. Coach Derek Mason even retired the #1 jersey for this season in Michael’s honor, since Michael is their number one fan. Coach Mason delivered the jersey himself. Michael has received gifts from the team, from the cheerleaders and from other Vanderbilt fans as well. The whole community reached out to support him.

Michael 3

In addition to Vanderbilt’s support, they have received support from the Nashville Predators and the Nashville Fire Department as well. Michael even has a signed hockey stick from Mike Fisher. And September 27th will be Michael Sloan night with the Nashville Fire Department at the Predators game. A portion of the proceeds will be going directly back to Michael’s family. But the support from the sports community didn’t stop there. Michael has received gifts from the Cincinnati Reds and even had a visit from a member of the Belmont basketball team.

Michael’s recovery is going to be a long road. But if you look at the constant theme throughout his fight to recover, it’s perseverance, passion, loyalty, and support. It’s the love from his family and friends and all of the new fans of his own he has acquired. It’s having the drive to keep going, to keep pushing, and most of all having the will to never ever give up. All of these are qualities Michael has not only learned from being loved by his family, but by the love he has for sports and especially his true passion from Vanderbilt football.

I have always been a believer in sports and I have always thought kids could learn a lot from them. Michael Sloan is no Michael 6doubt an example of that. Seeing what the sports community has done to support him shows that being a fan is truly appreciated by these college and professional level teams. Even with all of the rough days he has had, Michael has managed to laugh and smile. One thing that makes him smile the most is hearing Vanderbilt’s fight song. His parents say that was his favorite song to listen to when he would get ready for a soccer game or to get him ready to watch Vandy play. In the very beginning I read an article that His father PJ was quoted in. PJ was saying that the doctors weren’t optimistic about Michael’s recovery. He went on to say however that they just did not know his son. Well apparently he was right because Michael is already exceeding expectations. I have no doubt that Michael 5the start of football season will only give Michael an even bigger reason to get better. He knows his team needs his support!

If you are ever having a bad, busy, or overwhelming day, I would challenge you to follow Michael’s progress to see what he endures with all of his therapies and his tube feedings. Yet there is rarely a day that I don’t see a picture of Michael with a smile on his face. Many times there is even video of his laughter. When I get overwhelmed with my kids and my job, and just life in general…. I think also of his parents. They have to be two of the strongest people there is. I have to be honest and say that I am a UT grad so I pull for the big Orange. However this year, for Michael, I sure hope Vandy has a great season. Michael is coming back from the rehab in Atlanta, but his therapies will continue here in Nashville. If you want to donate to Michael’s fund, you can do so here: http://www.gofundme.com/bi4b1c

You can also follow his progress on his Facebook Page, Pray For Michael.

We are all rooting for you, Michael!