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Next time, I’ll stay on the road…

 

runner-cartoon

If I haven’t mentioned before, I run.  I have misgivings about calling myself a “runner” at this point, because I have a definition in my head of what a real runner is, and I’m not quite there yet.  But that is a blog for a different day.

Yesterday I went running in a park near my home.  It was a beautiful day, a little chilly, which I really like.  Only planning on 3.5 miles, I was running a simple out and back.  My last segment before I turned around involved running on the street, facing traffic.  The road had a shoulder and the speed limit is 25, so it was relatively safe.

As I neared my turn around point, a man on a bicycle was headed toward me.  I figured he had the right of way, so I hopped off the pavement and into the dirt to give him the road.

As I moved into the dirt, I must have clipped a branch because my feet got tangled and I began falling to the ground like a human domino.  I landed flat on my knees and stomach in wet dirt and leaves.  And the man on the bike just zipped past me.

I was on hands and knees, level with his spokes and he zoomed right by without so much as a pause.  Nothing.  Not like I was expecting him to stop and give me a ride to my car on his handlebars like two aged members of the Von Trapp family, but a drive by, really???

I think it would have been easier for me to understand if he was dressed head to toe in biking gear.  Then, I could have told myself that he was training for some important event and couldn’t afford the distraction.  But this guy was wearing khakis and a fleece jacket, not quite a performance bike uniform.

Shocked, yet still capable of a little snarkiness, I blurted out “Just trying to make it easier for you, Sir.”  I’m not even sure where that came from, calling him sir as I picked myself up off the ground.  No reaction, again, nothing…

I stood up and assessed the damage, some dirt, and another minor dent to my ego.

“You’re okay,” I said out loud as I began to run again.  I felt fine and I wasn’t hurt, so I continued.  It was then that I noticed a strong and very yucky smell.

“OMG, did I fall in dog poop?!?!?”

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***Apparently it was a false alarm, I kept running and the smell of dog poop went away.

Oops, I did it again…not the Britney Spears song

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Last year, when I did the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November, my day was all about finishing the race.  I had completed more than a half a dozen 13.1 mile journeys, but this was my first attempt since having my children.  Acutely aware that races are littered with women mere weeks after childbirth, I operate at a different pace.   This was challenging enough.

I enlisted my sister in law as a running buddy. She was and is far more disciplined in her training and workouts than I was.  Infinitely patient, she put up with me and my ambivalence about the race.  On and off, I followed a very rough plan to get me to the necessary mileage.

On Race Day, we showed up, we ran and we finished.  Despite being slower than ever, it was the most enjoyable half marathon I have completed.  Crossing the finish line was a huge personal victory for me.  The feat was mine.  I had carved out a space in time that was for only me.  I had not anticipated how powerful it would be to be reminded that I was still a person, a mother, of course, but a person first and foremost.

Armed with my taste of personal victory, I vowed to maintain my mileage so that next year would be less of an uphill battle.  I would practice and train all year.

Well…not so much.  Here I am again.  The Philadelphia Half Marathon is 7 weeks away.  And I am once again, piecing together my training to get myself to the finish line on race day.  Not ideal, it’s just where I am, again.  I struggle to accept my next sentence.  It is okay.

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Wasn’t it “Snake in the Grass?”

So, I’ve got a little bit of my mojo back, and I decided that it was time to get out and run.  I packed up the kids, stuffed animals, snacks and sippies, diapers, and the endless litany of things necessary for our travelling circus to operate and drove to the park.

The kids were super cooperative and quietly came alone for the ride in the jogging stroller on our 5k path,  a straight out and back on a paved path about 3 feet wide through 2 parks.  Not conditioned to run 3 miles with the stroller and kids yet, I ran a mile and spent the remainder doing intervals of running and walking– plenty of exertion.

About a quarter of a mile from my car, a man was standing directly in the middle of the path.  It was one of my running intervals, so I was confused that he wasn’t yielding to the oncoming double wide jogging stroller filled with kids and a huffing and puffing mom behind it.  He was looking in my direction, so I was puzzled.

Then the man said the 5 letter word that stopped me in my tracks.  “It’s a snake,” he said with a smile.  My halt was super abrupt.   As I stood behind the stroller, bouncing from foot to foot, probably looking like I needed a restroom, I announced that I was very afraid of snakes.

“Me too,” said the man who stood about 12 inches from this particular snake who I could see was stretched  across the middle of the path.  I wanted to educate the man, tell him that if he was indeed afraid of snakes, he was awfully close.  I wanted to suggest that maybe he was actually snake averse or maybe snake avoidant but that I, the person that was contemplating a different route home involving a major road without a sidewalk, was the one who was truly afraid of snakes.

I blurted it out at least once more, emphasizing the very, “I am very afraid of snakes,” as if the snake was supposed to hear me and move along.  In true snake form, he did not and remained across the path.

My best irrational thinking taught me to determine the snake’s suspected direction, run behind him and get to the car.   I asked the man which way the snake was facing, made zero eye contact with the snake, and zipped past him.  As I looked ahead to the pavement, to make sure I wasn’t running into relatives of my little brown nemesis, I laughed to myself as I realized that this was probably my best interval.

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My Saturday Morning with Jackie

For anyone reading from my blog’s start, you already know, I run. Serious runners might call me a jogger because of my times, but I take offense to that. Jogging sounds way more nonchalant than the effort I’m putting out there. To me, jogging sounds like sashaying. And I am definitely not sashaying.

Over the years, a group of great friends have assembled, gathering for this 5k or that 5 miler.  And it’s become a habit, standing around before and after, catching up and talking about the next race. Here we are on the boardwalk yesterday after the race for the Special Olympics.  I’m the little head peeking over in the center, and that’s my calf on the bottom too!

Everyone at the race Finish

Everyone at the race Finish

My day started out well. We left the kids with a very generous family member who was willing to wake up at 5:30 am so that we could be to the race start on time. The weather was windy, damp and chilly, which I don’t mind, it gives me an excuse to get moving to warm up.

After mulling around for an hour, we took our positions at the start. My husband, who could probably get a full body massage in the time between his finish and my finish, positioned himself toward the front. I typically move toward the back. Nothing jabs harder at the ego than being passed by a few hundred people in the first few minutes of a race.

I put my iPod on a great playlist, beginning with Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland and Land of Hope and Dreams. Yes, sometimes I wear an iPod. For me, I consider it a complete crutch to get through the miles. I prefer to run without music in my head and take in the experience of the people and sounds. But because I am undertrained at this point, I wanted to avoid the possibility of dragging and feeling tortured for 5 miles, so I brought music.

As I slugged through the first miles, I noticed a woman in a black shirt with a man who seemed to be coaching her along. For this post, I will call her Jackie. Not her real name, which I actually know because she had her race number with her name on it pinned to the back of her shirt.  Jackie, Jackie, Jackie…

From what I gathered, Jackie’s strategy for completing the race was to run and walk in intervals then begin running again. Now here’s how Jackie’s strategy affected me. My pace was steady, so when Jackie would stop and walk, I would catch up with her and her partner. And just as I was ready to pass them, they would resume running and get yards ahead of me again.  Frustrating.  I told myself that her actions had nothing to do with me, and that her strategy was planned out long before race day, but she was getting in my head.  This cat and mouse game happened at least a dozen times between mile 2 and 5.

The race finish was along the boardwalk. The wind was strong, and I was ready to be done. Jackie and her partner were ahead of me, as they had been for the last 5 miles.  And I had had enough. I could see the people gathering at the finish line, so I knew I had limited time. I increased my pace with the last bit of energy I had left. I closed the gap between me and my Saturday morning nemesis. I cut to her right and hit the finish about a yard and a half ahead of her, knowing full well that this little battle resided solely in my head, my silly idea of victory.

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