New Year's eve 2015, I was in the hospital after having a total colectomy with ileostomy. I was in bed, a bracelet on my wrist read "fall risk" and a walker sat beside me. I had met the physical therapist the day before and he gave me a beautiful pair of bright yellow socks that matched my bracelet and told me that if I wanted to get out of bed, I had to wear those socks, have someone with me and use the walker. I was tired and in pain but I had been given a small bit of freedom so I was going to take it. Every chance I could I was paging a nurse or dragging a friend out to walk with me. This is the start of "my new life and I was NOT going to spend it sitting still. On New Year's eve I got my husband to help me get my socks on and help me out of bed and we walked to bring in the new year. In the morning, while friends were running their first day 5k's I was dragging my nurse around the hallways so I could get another lap around the nurse's station. The days that followed, if I couldn't sleep I was up walking...3 AM and my pink haired nurse Emily was wandering the quiet hallways with me with nothing but the beeping machines cheering us on. I learned the places where my walker would slide easily across the floor and the places where I would need to rely less on it so it's scraping wouldn't wake up my fellow patients. This new year is more than just a change of the date, it is a change in my vision of myself. I am excited for the new opportunities that lie ahead of me and even have challenged my surgeon that if I meet a goal he set for me, that he had to run a half marathon with me and he agreed. It is all about perspective, perseverance and having the belief in yourself that makes a difference... even if you have to wear "fall risk" yellow socks and use a walker to get started.
Run, walk, crawl or roll ;) just keep moving forward, Megan
In the past few months I haven’t been actively running (due to some major health issues) but I have been active within the running community. I work in one of my local run shops and I spend a lot of time on local and non-local run groups reading and celebrating the achievements of my fellow runners. However, just recently, I came across a comment that really resonated with me. It referred to “those people who walk in races” as “runners.” Now, I had seen this before on various pages and I had let it slide, but with my most recent “non-running status,” I had already been questioning where I fit in the community and those little quotation marks set me off.
You see, even when I was actively running, I wasn’t the fastest. I wasn’t even one who could run an entire mile without stopping. I was a back of the packer, smiling face, encouraging those around me. I took A LOT of walk breaks, sometimes walking more than running but I was out there doing it. It took a long time for me to see myself as a runner and not a “runner”. Those quotation marks mean so much to someone who always questioned whether they were adequate, whether they could be part of a community that was so positive to “real” runners.
Being called a “runner” leads us to believe we aren’t good enough, posers, if you will. For me, it took almost 6 months and 10 races to call myself a runner without quotations. I had to hear it from everyone around me before I could set my own limitations aside and believe them. It isn’t easy to convince yourself to get out on a race course with people running 6 minute miles and not compare your lack of speed to theirs. It makes it even worse when you get onto running pages and find that in their eyes you aren’t part of their vision of the community. I think the biggest thing to understand is that even though we have fought the good fight to get out there and participate, we still need to feel like we are part of the total package. If you see me on an out and back, I may be at the back of the race but I am cheering for you, offering high fives and clapping, all the while knowing that my slow time is delaying the awards ceremony for your age group win and keeping you from your post race celebratory pancake breakfast. It is a lot to take on, but for me, it is a huge piece of the journey just to finish.
I ask this, I ask that when referring to back of the packers, you consider us are part of the community. I ask that you grant us the courtesy to see that how your calling us “runners” isn’t very welcoming. If you see someone struggling or blocking your way, that you find them after the race and politely congratulate them on finishing and offer a suggestion on race etiquette. But please, please, do not demean our effort, our completion of the same course, our enthusiasm as being just a “runner”. We are already battling that demon on our own. Just see us as the slower part of a great, big, happy family.
Since my last blog things have yet again thrown me for a loop and I have had to make some adjustments. I had blogged about how I wanted to become a better "daily runner" and had started down that path. Unfortunately, that path led me straight to what I have lovingly deemed as "Funkytown" and it isn't the fun place that the song leads you to believe. More-so, I have joined the ranks of those "I can't currently run so now I am in a permanent funk" JunkEes. I know you are out there. I see your posts where injuries, illness, life in general have you sidelined and the people around you fear for their lives because you can't get your running "therapy."
I recently was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (on top of my Psoriasis and Ulcerative Colitis) and I was told not to run until I was on some sort of medication to help with the joint pain. Plus, I am still having issues with plantar fasciitis , which I also recently learned is probably linked to the PA. So my miles had been sparse and my spirit was suffering. Two days after my PA diagnosis, I was slated to run the Monument Ave 10k and my doctors advised for me to skip it. Being the stubborn person that I am, I didn't listen and walked it. It was my slowest time ever and on top of that, it took me longer to recover from it than it did from my half marathon in November. Every joint in my body swelled to at least twice it's normal size and I was left feeling defeated...
Since I am no longer someone who particularly likes to wallow in self pity,and I was finding myself doing just that, I had to find a way to change that. I know that the running community, by in large, are some of the most positive, supportive people out there and I didn't want to lose that connection. I started thinking outside the box on how to (figuratively) run away from Funkytown and still be surrounded by positive runners. So, I went to my favorite running store, Lucky Foot and applied for a part time job. I work 40+ hours a week with animals at my family kennel and now I also work a few hours a week with runners. I am exhausted between battling with the autoimmune diseases and working all the time, but my heart and my spirit are happy. I get to celebrate running goals, help new runners find the magic in the misery and in the end, feed my soul with the positivity that runners exude. That is how I got out of Funkytown.
Sometimes we just need to figure out how to stay involved in the community when we can't participate. While I understand not everyone can just get a second job, what you can do is volunteer at a race, cheer at the finish line, or even work a water stop for a local run club. Figure out how you can stay positive with positive people in your own way :)
It is a new year and with that comes resolutions. Personally I never make a resolution anymore because for such a long time I would resolve to do some significant thing and then I would break the resolution. It would cause me to spiral into a deep, dark depression since I had yet again, let myself down. So when I made the decision to be a better me, I vowed to take it one day at a time. Goal setting for me begins when I wake up in the morning. Each day I vow to make the day positive. What that means for me is to eat healthier, exercise and be kind. Some days I fail but with that small failure comes a new day tomorrow. I can try again.
When it comes to my running goals, I am currently focusing on getting back to basics. I accomplished my dream of completing a half marathon but I want to be better. I want to focus on building endurance and getting faster. I will still do races this year but my main goal is to become a better daily runner. Any PR's earned along the way will be icing on the cake but for now I just want to be a better me.
My past year brought a lot of change in my life. Most discouraging, is since I started immunosuppressive therapy for my autoimmune disease, I gained some of my previously lost weight back. The thing is, I am not letting that determine my ability or worth. It is just something I have to acknowledge and move on from. If I focus on my daily goal, I will get back to where I was and go further. Again, if I fail one day, it will be easier to dust myself off and try again the next day.
So I ask that anyone who is battling with what to do this year to join me in being positive each day. Take it one day at a time, eat better, move more and be kind (even if that only means you need to be kind to yourself) and together we can grow and in the process accomplish great things.
525,600 Minutes in a year... taken from one of my favorite Broadway show's RENT. In the last 525,600 minutes I have learned more about myself than I ever did in the last 17,344,800 minutes of my life. I chose to write my blog based on this number as opposed to saying a year, because as a runner, the minutes, even the seconds count. A minute can be the difference between a PR and being pulled from a race. A minute can stand between you and the goals you have laid out for yourself. I started these past 525,600 minutes out with some uncertainty and skepticism about whether I could actually achieve anything. These last 525,600 minutes, my goals were:
Run More: While I didn't exactly run as much as I wanted to, I did run more than I ever have before and I became more confident in just going and not relying on someone to be there with me.
Race with Purpose: in my first year of running, I wanted to have a race for every month of the year, which I did. These last 525,600 minutes, I wanted the races to count. I chose races that were charity based and would impact more than just me. I ran for my veterinarian's daughter with Leukemia, I ran in memory of my dad, and I ran in honor of myself.
Finish a Half Marathon: on November 15, 2014 I did, in 257 minutes and 30 seconds with friends patiently waiting for me at the end.
In the last 525,600 minutes, I have learned I am more than I ever thought I could be. I grew emotionally and spiritually. I made friends who lift me up instead of tear me down. I gained a confidence in myself that allows me to overcome much of the negativity that we are all surrounded by on a daily basis. I have learned to be more than Okay with who I am and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Most importantly, in regards to RunJunkEes, I took a chance and applied to be a Sponsored Athlete. I owe this small group of people so much for helping me on my journey and to Dan for choosing me to be able to share my journey with the rest of RunJunkEes. In 525,600 minutes have made lifelong friends and felt more a part of something than I ever have. Running has given me more than my life, it has given me peace. It has allowed me to become a little less afraid of success and a little more in love with myself.
"525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life? How about love?" Seasons of Love- RENT
They say doing a half marathon means you are only "half crazy" but I don't think that is entirely true. On November 15, 2014 I completed my first half marathon and the emotions I experienced in those 4 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds put me on a rollercoaster that even the best of therapists would have enjoyed riding. When I signed up for my first half, I had these grandiose ideas of training hard, racing harder and being 100% badass. In reality, I lost my mind.
I have already talked about how my training was derailed in a previous post so I won't discuss that too much other than to say my longest run before the half was 8miles, so going into this on Saturday morning, I was NOT feeling very confident, but I had something to prove to the people around me and more importantly, to myself. It was bitterly cold, 27degrees at the start line, people were everywhere, I was there with 2 of my friends (a 3rd friend and fellow sponsored athlete Mike, was running the full) and I was freaking out. I didn't notice that my wave had started and we were moving... faster than I typically am. My two friends were be my side when I teared up, panicking that I shouldn't be doing this and we were only .25 miles in. My Garmin said we were at a 14:35 pace and my average was a 16:30, in the back of my head I could hear random voices saying "don't start too fast or you will burn out" so I slowed down, partially out of fear and partially out of need. I watched as my friends pulled away from me and every time they would look back, I would wave them along.
I made friends with a super nice lady who would become my half marathon best friend for the next 8miles. We kept each other going by talking about our journeys, family, her son, my dogs, how freaking far apart the port-a-johns were... she was my sanity. We pushed through the never ending park of hills, we cheered when we were finally able to pee, we had become warriors together. As we came out of the park around mile 8, where the half and full courses came together, I watched Mike fly by. He was the first familiar face I had seen in miles... I cried. Around this point it was evident that my new friend and I were going to have to power through even if it meant separately and as she kept telling me, "you are here to run your own race" and waved me forward. I kept looking back and she would keep waving me ahead so I sent up a bit of thanks to her for being my angel the last few miles but my feet had set a pace and I was unable to try and change it.
The next thing I knew I was surrounded by full marathoners coming over into the half side of the course and they were flying by. Every time someone took the chance to tell me I was doing good, I would tear up. My arms were starting to feel like they weren't working and I felt weird. I looked at my hands and they were so swollen I was afraid they would split if I tried to close my hands. I downed some almond butter and the swelling almost immediately went away. Then I saw the next familiar face, a fellow RunJunkEe, Nick, who was cheering at mile 10. I could barely form words and behind my sunglasses I was full on crying, he gave me a bear hug and told me to grab some gummy bears. I was so thankful he had been there or I think I would have lost my resolve.
At mile 10.5 I sent Mike an incoherent text that (should have read) "10.5 can't stop crying" although he apparently understands race text gibberish bc he texted back in his own form with "stay calm you're almost there."
At mile 11 all I could hear in my head was the words from another fellow Sponsored Athlete, Addie, "run the mile you're in" so I tried to run some more. I felt I was shuffling backwards at this point.
11.5 a coach named Sue from team in training walked alongside me. I cried because I was going to get swept off the course. She assured me I wouldn't, even if I was over 4hours, and handed me a pack of sport beans. I thanked her, she patted me on the back and I cried.
Holy Shit Mile 12! I am convinced anyone who saw me thought I was nuts since I kept repeating, "Just keep moving, too close to quit, run the mile you're in, you've come too far, run the mile you're in, if you quit now I will kill you!" Another coach, this time from Sportsbackers named Aaron jogged up to talk to me, he asked if I was okay, I told him I wasn't sure and asked if I really wasn't going to get swept, he assured me I wouldn't, patted me on the back and checked in one more time on me and made sure I knew I could do it.
13 miles people are yelling, cowbells lots of cowbells, more yelling, a couple people reach out to high 5 me on the way down the hill... My eyes are burning from the tears. My feet are having trouble finding the ground. Are these even my feet? I see the blue mat, I turn off my Garmin. Shit camera guys! Try and smile... Body is shaking, arms are jelly... shoulders racked with sobs... I cross the finish line. I aimlessly wander looking for someone who still has some half medals since everyone has changed to full, I find one. Someone thrusts a hat and a blanket in my hands. I fumble for my phone. I find Mike waiting just past the finish line in the grass. He gets up to hug me and a sob all over his shoulder. I find my gear I had checked, someone hands me a banana, I forgot to eat it. I find my other friends and we limp to the car.. holy crap did I just actually finish?
It isn't until hours later after my husband has put me into a hot bath and tells me how proud he is of me that I am alone. I sob. Thankful of my friends who were there, of my family that supported me, of the strangers who reached out when they could tell I was in need. The sobs racked my body and I realized that I can do anything. I may be a really slow runner but I made it through even when my weight and my disease has tried to hold me back. In that 4 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds I found myself. I realized am worth something and on top of that, I am a half marathoner.
crawl, walk, run... just keep moving, Megan, the Half Marathoner
Every RunJunkEe has been there at some point, whether it was when they were in middle school on their cross country team or like me, 32 years old and overweight, everyone was once a newbie. Some have found the first steps in their journey fairly easy, personally I still am struggling every run. I understand the intimidation some feel when they see others posting fast, high mileage runs, when I myself struggle breaking 15 min miles regularly. The best words of advice I can give if you are feeling that way is to give it a little time, that intimidation will fizzle out and if you let those "crazy fast" JunkEes in, they will be your biggest cheerleaders in your journey.
I used to be embarrassed of posting my runs in the group, of posting my overweight pictures and "lame" times and low miles. Then something magical happened. I started getting hundreds of likes and "way to go's", I started getting friend requests from some of the "intimidating" people and I stopped comparing my journey to theirs. RunJunkEes has become an extension of my local friends and some have become as close as family. When I stopped comparing myself to them, I was able to celebrate their victories, and genuinely be happy when they do something I feel is completely unattainable. When I stopped feeling like I was never going to do better, I found I did get a little faster and able to go a little further. When I found myself sidelined because of an injury or because life got in the way, I found that my runner friends were the ones who understood and helped me through some of the tough times.
I am 3 weeks away from my first half marathon, I will be heading there with some of my local running team, but I will also be there with someone I met throughout RunJunkEes who has run a sub 3 hour marathon. I think that when I cross that finish line, he will be as excited as I am, if not more. I tell you this because at one point he was one of the people who's running intimidated me the most, but I know that when race day comes, he won't see me as a turtle and I won't see him as Speedy Gonzalez, but instead we will both just be runners, and RunJunkEes at that.
Recently we were asked to write about what we do to keep "in shape" while we are sidelined with an injury or on a hiatus. I struggled with this question because I very recently had this happen, smack in the middle of my training for my first half marathon. I would be lying to you, and to myself, if I said that I was out there against doctors orders or doing non-running exercises. The truth is, I was embarrassed to tell you that I did nothing. The reason I am still writing on this topic, is because although I can't give you ideas of alternate activities, I can tell you what NOT to do and even though most of my fellow sponsored athletes know what to do when sidelined, I don't and I am beginning to feel like I am not alone in this and would be remiss to let you think that none of us struggle. My derailment started with a bad case of Plantar Faciitis and was prolonged when my husband was in a serious car accident. My doctor suggested I take a week off followed by a low mileage week which I turned into 2 weeks off because I am stubborn and dammit, it HURT! When I was all set to get back out there on a Sunday night, my whole plan got flipped upside-down along with the car that had my husband and one of our dogs in it. I had been on the other side of town hanging out with friends when I got the call that he was taken to the level one trauma center about an hour from our house and she was taken to the emergency vet. I was driven to the hospital by a friend and stayed the whole night while family went to take care of our furbaby. I remember thinking, while he was lying in the hospital bed, with the neck collar around his neck that I felt helpless. He had a concussion, a broken scapula and a broken vertebrae. I turned to Facebook, namely the RunJunkEes Club page, to keep my mind occupied and read inspirational stories of all these people facing and overcoming adversity. While he was asleep, I went outside. I needed to gather myself together for the long night ahead and while I sat in the center of the hospital courtyard, I wished I had my running shoes. I felt the summer night calling to me, telling me it could make things more bearable. Unfortunately the only shoes I had were knee high boots and the only clothes were the dress and leggings I had been wearing the day before so I, again, felt helpless. After he was released from the hospital, I should have started running but with my own health issues, my personal need to take care of him and working, I allowed myself to put my needs on the sideline and focus my time and energy elsewhere. It took a long look at myself in the mirror, a reality check from my "coach", and an empty feeling inside to realize that either A. I get my butt back out there or B. I can kiss my first half marathon down the tubes. I am choosing the first option. I can let this unexpected hiatus take me off the planned course, or I can get back on the tracks, try my best and hope for a finish. I am not going down without a fight. This little engine definitely doesn't "think [she] can", she KNOWS she can. I guess, if you take nothing else from this, take that even in your darkest days of self-defeat, you can get back on track and if nothing else, you know you got up, dusted yourself off and did what you could, for you. ***Side note: My husband is well on his way to making a full recovery and so is our dog, Zombie :)
I am the queen of hobbies. I have always been great at having fabulous ideas of grandeur and it started at a young age. As a kid I played a different sport every year, I did dance, I tried cross-stitching and knitting. There was even a brief stint of doing calligraphy. When I was in middle school I played lacrosse for a couple years and high school was followed by twirling flags and another shot at knitting and learning to play the violin. I would join clubs and last only a year, sometimes only a semester. I was the queen of joining and quitting. Heck, in college I had 4 different majors before being forced to settle on one so I could graduate. My last year I even forgot that I was enrolled in the college choir (which I had done every semester I was there.)
In my adult life I have thrown myself into jewelry- making and crocheting, learning to play the electric bass, the acoustic guitar and attempting to play piano... again. I still crochet... sometimes..., but everything else is stuffed in a box or corner collecting dust. I am sure when I decided to start running that the thought crossed through more than a few minds that it was going to be a passing phase and that like everything else, I would grow tired of it in a few short months. That was almost 2 years ago and here I am still lacing up my running shoes.
What is the difference this time around? I think this time it is because instead of it being a hobby to keep me busy, it is something more. It was a life changing event. It is something that defines me and gives me a better quality of life.
This morning I was at the track with my running bestie and we were getting in our long run for the week. Noelle was kicking ass and I was slogging along hoping for my calves to finally let go. We had been there about an hour when 4 more people joined us on the track, a couple, an older guy (mid 70s) and another girl about our age. By the time I had been lapped by Noelle (again) and the couple had passed me, and the old man had shuffled by, I caught up to the girl about our age. I said hello and asked her if she was training for anything and her answer resonated through me, it was simply stated "my life." We got to talking a bit, I told her about our running team, about how to find the RunJunkEes on Facebook and unbeknownst to her, she reminded me of why I started this insane journey.
Becoming a runner isn't just a hobby or a passing fad. It has become so much more to me. It afforded me the ability to run around and play with my nieces and nephew. It allowed me to have the confidence to wear a swimsuit in public and not care what people thought. It gave me an outlet to spend time with my friends. It gave me energy to go out and do things with my husband. It opened my eyes to a whole new world out there with endless possibilities. It gave me a family of strangers who have become close friends. Most importantly, it gave me My Life.
We all have something that keeps us running. It doesn't matter how slow or how far, there is something that makes us put one foot in front of the other. Now, I have already blogged about having trouble taking myself out of park, but in the grand scheme of things, I know that deep down I am a runner and everyday I am able to convince myself of that a little more. The reason I can? My motivators. The motivators in my life are my reasons to run, they are my inspiration. I have some great friends that I aspire to be like, I have a wonderful family that supports me and I have a past that I don't want to return to. I have a few friends that stand out as motivators for me. My own little, personal cheerleaders of inspiration. My morning running buddy is also my best friend (of 20 years) from High School, Noelle. She and I started the team TuTu Many Races after our first race together. She just graduated with her bachelors and will be heading to law school this fall. She did this all while being a stay at home mom of 4 kids. She worked from home AND did online classes at night to make her dreams of law school a reality. Noelle ALSO lost an amazing amount of weight, without a gym, by adopting a healthier lifestyle. She is awesome and helps me to get up and get out there on the days when I really just do not want to roll out of bed. The other friends are people I have never met in person, Tom, (a fellow RunJunkEe), and Addie Green and Mike Peragine , 2 other Sponsored Athletes that have literally taken me under their wings and check on my training every day. All of these people take the time to help me figure out fueling, hydration and timing are always there to take a moment to answer my silly, newbie questions and do so without making me feel like I am beneath them because I have never run a marathon. My family is amazing. My husband will run with me if I don't have anyone else to run with, even though he HATES running, he will cheer me on and make me laugh and make the trip a whole lot more interesting. My brother and sister-in-law have both started running and stayed with me while I struggled through my second, their 1st, 10k. My father-in-law has helped me figure out breathing techniques and is always around if I need a last minute running buddy or race coach and my Mother-in-law (who is also my boss) makes sure that I have the time off I need for races or to train. I am really lucky in having these people in my life to support my running. The most inspiring of my family though, is my mom. When my dad passed away when I was 19 from cancer, she stepped in to his shoes and has played the mother and father figure in my life for the past 15 years. Knowing that I was a "Daddy's Girl" growing up, she made sure I felt just as loved and supported as if he was still alive and I cannot thank her enough for that. Finally, the last inspiration of why I run is my past. I used to live a very sedentary life. I gained a lot of weight and was over 300lbs. I couldn't move fast, I was tired ALL the time, I generally just did not take very good care of myself. I suffered from depression and low self esteem and no matter what anyone said to me, I could not pull myself out of the slump I was in. I finally decided enough was enough when I saw a couple pictures of myself and I didn't recognize the girl with the sad eyes and size 28 pants. I had played a great game of making people think I didn't care about my size but deep down, I was dying inside. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed and I knew that the person I had become was not who I wanted to keep on being. I remind myself daily that I am changing. I am becoming a better, healthier person and even though I have not reached my goals, they are no long unobtainable. I have the resources, the support system and the desire to keep on making the steps forward that I need to make to be the woman I want to be. I am inspired by the people in my life who believe in me and in return, afford me the ability to believe in myself and I know, that even when I am feeling antisocial and like a hermit, I know that I get by with a little help from my friends (and family).
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