Change is something I have always struggled with. This is not unusual- as human beings, we are creatures of habit- yet I have always felt I experience more anxiety than my peers. Perhaps my medical conditions are to blame- a new environment means a new sleeping, eating, and exercise schedule, which can (and has!) thrown off my blood sugar (I have had to get up almost hourly in the night for the past week to check my blood sugar and often have glucose.) A new environment means new people to educate about my allergies (more detailed post coming soon!) A new environment means being away from the comfort of my family. So how do I deal with the stress of change as I transition from a relaxed summer at home to sophomore year at Emory? I cling to the activity I can always bring along- running.
It might sound strange then, that the day before leaving for school, I finally decided to donate my old running shoes. Facebook was bombarded by the Ice Bucket Challenge and while I didn’t particularly want to dump ice on my head, all the hype lead me to think of an easy act of goodness. Just as I have trouble with change, I have trouble parting ways with the things and people that I love. Therefore, I had seven pairs of Nike Lunarglides piled in my laundry room, too worn on the bottoms to run in but otherwise perfectly fine. My mom had been nagging me (along with my dad and brother) to get rid of these useless shoes for quite sometime, but I always refused, explaining the value of all the miles each pair of shoes had carried me in and the memories that they brought back.
Well, since I was all packed and had nothing to do on that last day, I took all of my running shoes outside, got Daniel’s as well, and had a running shoe photo shoot. It provided an hour of entertainment, some of my favorite photos, and a realization- I had a ridiculous amount of shoes for no reason. I did some research online and found an organization called Share Your Soles, which donates shoes to severely impoverished people in several parts of the world. My shoes have been with me for a long time, but it’s time to give someone else a new beginning.
So next time you’re dealing with a change in life- however large or small it might be- find something constant to take with you. I find it best if it’s an activity you can do alone- something to bring you comfort and clear your mind- but even better is when you can take your passion and find others with similar interests. I’m trying a new strategy I’d like to call the “say yes” approach- when someone asks me to do something for these first few weeks of school, I’m going to say yes as much as possible. It’s worked- I’ve already found some great new buddies for morning runs!
Nearly every Saturday morning this summer, I have dragged my mom along to accompany me on my long runs. Perhaps dragged is not the correct word- she admits to enjoying biking alongside me on the trails. However, every Friday night, she questions my motives- “Why do you have to run ten miles?” She has a point- I have no upcoming long races on the calendar, and my body could probably use some rest- but these longs runs are the highlight of my week. While they can be physically and mentally exhausting, they are what make me happiest.
Whether or not you’re a runner, I think it’s nearly impossible not to be fascinated by the runner’s mentality. We push our body through pain, as overcoming doubt and challenge makes us feel like we can conquer anything. With each tough run, we grow stronger, eventually reach our goals, and thus set new ones. As runners, we constantly push ourselves through suffering because we know it will ultimately make us better people. This summer, I’ve collected a variety of quotes about this phenomenon. Here are some of my favorites:
“People ask why I run. I say, ‘If you have to ask, you will never understand.’ It is something that only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good if feels.” -Erin Leonard
“If you’re doing it right, at some point you will want to drop out of just about every race you run.” -Mark Remy
“Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time winning got difficult, I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.” -Olympian Desiree Linden
“Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down” -New Balance Ad
So challenge brings us the greatest happiness- quite fascinating, in my opinion at least!
I had been searching for a creative way to display my race bibs for quite some time, so I decided to make them into a book. Like my medal rack, my race bib book is already giving me running motivation and exciting me for the future. This book was extremely simple to make and only cost a few dollars (not including hundreds of dollars in race fees!) All of the materials can be found at Target, and you can customize it however you like.
All you need is a bright polypropylene folder, two loose-leaf rings, Sharpies, a hole puncher, and scissors. Cut the folder to a size that is a little larger than your largest bib (I cut mine to about 9 x 9.5″) and decorate however you would like. Line up your bibs in chronological order and place on rings. If you have bibs of different sizes, you may have to punch holes in the larger bibs. Simply punch corresponding holes in the folder, place on rings, and you’re done!
You may be thinking, “I don’t have any race bibs to place in this book.” Well, if you create this, think of all the motivation it will give you to race :)
I’m calling this recipe Southwest Salad, but in my house it’s just known as “Melissa’s Salad.” I could go on and on about how much I love this salad- it’s bursting with flavor and is filled with healthy veggies. Many of the ingredients shown are canned, but it tastes even better with fresh produce from a farmer’s market (I had already depleted my weekly local supply when I decided to take this photo!) The recipe below serves three. I eat this salad almost every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night for dinner- and no, I never get tired of it! It’s evolved over the years, as I’ve based it off of a variety of salads that I’ve seen in restaurants but could not order because of my food allergies. It’s my go-to weekend meal, and I hope it will become yours as well!
6 c salad greens
½ cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
Green onions, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1½ c corn
1 can beets, drained and chopped
1 avocado, diced
Fresh Gourmet Santa Fe Style tortilla strips
Kraft Catalina dressing
Combine above ingredients in large bowl. Sprinkle with tortilla strips and toss with Catalina dressing.
Since my family couldn’t get over last week’s ice cream cake goodness, we decided to try a mint Oreo version! Instead of crushed candy canes, I added a cup of chopped mint Oreos to the vanilla ice cream, along with some peppermint extract. We can’t decide which version we like better- you should try them both!
This week, I finally got around to hanging up the medal rack that I purchased at last month’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Chicago. It was a splurge, but I can already tell that it was well worth it. Every morning this week, I have woken up and immediately been reminded why I run. Each medal has a story, representing not just the physical race, but what was going on in my life at the time. But more inspiring than the medals themselves is the word they hang from- believe.
“Believe” is, in my opinion, the most powerful word, and I strive to think of this word in times of challenge- whether it’s ten miles into a half marathon, in the middle of a difficult chemistry exam, or even in certain social situations of doubt. In the absence of belief, where lies the mere possibility of success?
One of my favorite quotes, said by Thomas Jefferson, is “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done before.” Believing in yourself is the first step.
Pick a word that energizes you and aligns with whatever your personal goals may be- whether they’re related to running, academics, or exercising vigilant care over a chronic disease. Perhaps your word may be “calm,” “preserve,” “strong,” “focus,” “forward,” “smile,” “patience,” “appreciate,” or anything that motivates you towards progress.
I haven’t had the best running week- I’ve gotten in my normal mileage, but I’ve felt quite exhausted and sluggish. However, every time I see the word “believe” plastered on my wall, I know that I must get out the door and do my best. I urge you to choose a word and place it somewhere as a constant reminder. I hope you find as much encouragement as I have- comment below!
I’ve always wanted to try ice cream cake. I remember going to countless birthday parties growing up where ice cream cake was served, but my mom and I never tried to make a safe version for me ourselves. Now that I am addicted to Dunkin Donuts unsweetened ice tea, I am tempted by their ice cream cakes everyday on my lunch break at work. This weekend, I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself for not being able to have this treat and start creating my own dream ice cream cake.
This recipe is simple and foolproof yet absolutely delectable. It’s only four ingredients, yet I promise your taste buds will be thanking you! Best of all, it’s dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free, and vegan as well. Can’t have soy? Substitute with coconut milk. Can’t have gluten? Use your own favorite sandwich cookie. The possibilities are endless- you could try a crushed graham cracker crust, a different flavor ice cream, or mixing in your own favorite candy or fruit. Let me know what combinations you come up with!
Place 24 Oreos in a food processor and blend until desired crumb texture. Add melted margarine and pulse until well combined. Place the ground crumb mixture into a 10” springform pan and press evenly onto bottom. Refrigerate this crust for at least one hour.
Peppermint Ice Cream
Take ice cream out of freezer and let soften for 20 minutes. Put ice cream into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 crushed candy canes. Mix with hand mixer until smooth. Add more crushed candy canes if desired before pouring mixture into springform pan. Place in freezer for at least 2-3 hours.
Remove cake from freezer and top with chopped remaining Oreos and crushed candy canes. Place back in freezer until ready to serve.
When you’re nineteen-years-old, you want to look your age. You want to appear like the mature, college-student that you are- maybe even older. You do not want to look like you’re twelve. Well, for some reason, since I was about sixteen, I have continuously been mistaken for a twelve-year-old. This phenomenon is increasingly common, and I can’t tell you why. It truly bothers me, yet it makes me laugh- after all, twelve is the same distance from five as it is from nineteen. What follows is a collection of the more interesting remarks I’ve received:
It started to bother me when I became an upperclassman in high school…
Librarian: Are you a freshman? You must be nervous coming to such a large school. Do you have any questions- I’d be happy to help!
Actually, I’m a freshmen mentor. I just wanted to ask if you could tell those youngsters in the back to be quiet! Am I carrying a map? No! Am I carrying a freshman backpack (okay, well maybe) Do I look lost, overwhelmed, or confused? I sure don’t think so!
So I thought that once I got to college, people on campus would inevitably assume I was at least a college freshman, but I was wrong…
Attractive Upperclassman in Cafeteria: “Are you a visiting high school student?”
What on earth would cause you to approach me and ask me this?!
But that’s not the only hopeless romance…
Lifeguard at My Brother’s Overnight Camp: “Umm how old are you? You have to be twelve to ride in the ski boat without a life jacket.”
I later found out he was my age (and attractive,) but I doubt your typical college guy would see a twelve-year-old as a potential partner.
There are some benefits…
Horse Racetrack Ticket Agent: “So that’s two adults and a child?”
At least I save my parents $10.
But I don’t necessarily want to be thought of as a child…
Waitress: “We do have a kids menu, you know.”
I didn’t order anything because of my allergies, not because I would’ve rather had chicken nuggets.
Nurse at Camp: “Where is your buddy? Are you okay? What cabin are you in?”
Actually, I am the intern for the American Diabetes Association, not a camper at a camp for kids ages 9-13.
I thought maybe runners naturally looked young- the lean, athletic, no-makeup look- but perhaps I’m too hopeful…
Workout Class Instructor: “Wow, look at that girl in the pink shirt. She’s really getting into this! But how old are you sweetie? This class is for fourteen and up.”
Thanks for making everyone in the class gawk at me.
And then there’s this thing about airports…
Airport Ticket Agent: “We have an unaccompanied minor!” After showing her my license- “Wow, you really look like you’ve twelve.” Then, to her coworker- “How old do you think this little girl looks? She’s actually in college! Can you believe it?!”
No, I can’t.
TSA Agent (as I begin to untie my shoes): “Excuse me, but how old are you?”
Maybe I should be taking advantage this- kids under twelve can leave on their shoes as they go through security.
Another Airport Employee: “Sweetie, do you know where you’re going?”
I am walking with a purpose, passing several people as I go, carrying my Longchamp bag on one shoulder and Vera Bradley duffle on the other, wearing knee-high leather boots, an infinity scarf, and my Kate Spade glasses- what makes her think I am a lost child in need of help?!
It is a blessing yet a curse. A relief yet a disguise. While I am small and may appear young for my age, from the outside, I look like a healthy teenage girl. For the most part, I am- I eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; I exercise daily; I try my best to prioritize sleep- I do all that I can to live a healthy life. What no one can see, however, is what is going on inside my body- what I cannot see, what I cannot control- an antibody overload.
I was diagnosed with my life-threatening food allergies when I was a baby, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during my freshman year of high school, so about four and a half years ago. Therefore, you would think that, by now, I would be accustomed to the challenges of managing these chronic medical conditions. Numbers would verify your assertion- my last episode of anaphylaxis was to a bee sting (something out of my control,) and I have not had a food-related anaphylaxis episode since I was in elementary school and ate a cookie with trace amounts of milk (the cookie was then sent to the FDA, and the company was shut down!) My hemoglobin A1c is consistently near five percent- meaning that my blood sugar is comparable to that of a non-diabetic individual. Based on these scientific facts, you would think I am the perfect example of a teen successfully managing food allergies and diabetes. You would think that these conditions do not bother me on a daily basis. You would think that I have become fully acculturated to these medical hardships. I wish I could say you were right, but I cannot.
I want to illustrate my point with a hypothetical situation similar to one I’ve dealt with before. For situations involving multiple nights away from home or airplane travel, multiply the stress and preparation by ten.
It’s the afternoon of my sorority formal. Nervous excitement fills the air as my friends scamper to get ready. Does this dress make me look fat? Who is good at curling hair? Which purse goes best with these shoes? How far do you think they’ll go? I hope he likes me. I hope this night lasts forever. Typical college-girl anxieties.
In my head, quite different thoughts arise. Is it better to leave my comfort zone and possibly cause a scene at a restaurant I’ve never been to while trying to explain my allergies or to bring my own safe food? Is it worth it to fit in but risk a reaction? If I bring my own food, how will I keep it cold until we get there? The hotel assured me that they would provide a refrigerator for my room, but what if it’s not there? What if it’s too cold for my insulin (don’t want a repeat of the school nurse freezing my turkey on the 7th grade Springfield trip!)How many extra sandwiches should I bring? What if our group decides to stay in Atlanta later than planned the next day? How many cups of Cheerios? I need to measure mine out in advance to know how many carbs I’m eating- but what if my friends see my food and ask to share? I don’t want to be rude. Should I just bring the whole box? I’ll bring my own bar of soap, but what if the hotel’s soap contains milk or almonds (also don’t want a repeat of a playgroup party where everyone washed their hands in effort to keep me safe but ended up making me sick!) How many lancets should I bring? Pen needles? Alcohol swabs? Where will I put my purse during the dance? Most girls will hand their guy their cell phone to stick in his pocket, but I don’t think all of my supplies- two EpiPens, Benadryl, meter, insulin pen, and glucose- will fit. I hate looking like an obnoxious girl who can’t bear to leave her oversized purse- I wish everyone could just know the reason why. How left out will I feel when my friends are drinking? Will people think I’m no fun? What if my date and I hit it off and he tries to kiss me? I can pretty much guarantee he will have eaten something I’m allergic to within the past few hours. What if I need medical help and everyone is too drunk to notice or care?
These thoughts seem to belong to a ridiculously anxious person- one who fears everyday life. I do not fear daily life, and I take every opportunity I can to embrace my food allergies and diabetes. But these are the thoughts that run through my head- I presume that, upon looking at me, no one would imagine this. I am different. By no means do I wish that my medical conditions defined my outward appearance, but it does make it harder for my peers to understand. By no means is it their fault-only other individuals living with similar challenges would know how I feel.
So as we are getting ready, I reply to my friends- No, that dress does not make you look fat. My hair is naturally curly, so I cannot help with that. I think your silver clutch is killer with those platforms. I’m really excited for tonight too- but am I? Yes, of course I am- it’s my first college formal, after all. The nervous excitement is contagious, and I’ve heard spectacular stories about this weekend from the older girls.
I wish I could shed the weight that all of my medical preparations bear upon me. I wish I could have the same worries as a typical college girl. But my allergies and diabetes have made me the person that I am. While these medical conditions are sometimes considered disabilities, in several ways, it is easy to see them as abilities- instilling within me the persistence and perseverance that make me an endurance runner, the discipline and drive that make me a strong student, and the conscientiousness and responsibility that make me a loyal friend.
It was 4:30 on Friday October 4th. I was feeling very homesick and struggling with chemistry, so I was eager to log some miles before getting ready for dinner. I am not your typical college kid- I don’t enjoy staying out until two in the morning, don’t do random hookups, and, largely because of my medical conditions, don’t even drink at all. Therefore, I was not expecting to get hit by a beer bottle on my run.
As I ran out past my dorm, which lies atop fraternity row, I could see a few guys throwing something around in their frat house’s lawn. We made eye contact, and they stopped what they were doing as I passed. All of a sudden, however, I felt something heavy puncture my ankle. I wasn’t sure what was happening, so the first thing I did (as any runner naturally would) was pause my watch- 0.06 miles elapsed. Lying next to my foot were the remains of a beer bottle, and only then did I realize what had happened- one of the guys had kicked a beer bottle, and it hit my ankle and shattered on it.
Before any of the frat guys came down to apologize, a man- who turned out to be the head of the interfraternity council and just happened to be the sole spectator of this event- came running across the street to tell me that the paramedics were on the way. Paramedics- this is ridiculous, I’m fine, I thought. My ankle was completely numb, so I was shocked when I looked down to find blood pouring out of my ankle and into my shoe and sock- great for my anemia. The perpetrator- let’s call him Chad (sorry if your name is Chad, but when I searched typical frat guy names, Chad was #1 on the list)- was extremely concerned about my bloody socks. While we waited for the paramedics, he assured me that he would replace them (which he did not) and also invited me to his fraternity’s famous all-white party the following night (which I did not attend). Later, my friend thought it would be great if I went to the party on crutches, carrying my deep red socks.
After inquiring about my MedicAlert bracelet, the paramedics informed me that the cut was very deep. I would need to get the wound stitched up immediately, so my best bet was to ride in the ambulance with them. Unfortunately, I did not see this working out well. I could be in the emergency room for hours, and I needed my medicine and safe food. All I had with me in my running fanny pack was an EpiPen, glucose, phone, and keys- no meter, insulin, or dinner. I was in an extremely distressed state when, seemingly out of nowhere, my sophomore advisor, Zeena, appeared, headed for the parking garage. That’s when I lost it- I felt so relieved that she was there, yet so overwhelmed by this whole situation. The goal of this run was to alleviate my stress, not create far worse problems!
She calmed me down and called my other sophomore advisor, Meredith, and we worked out a plan. Meredith and I went up to my room (for once, I took the elevator rather than the stairs to the 5th floor) to get all of my medicine while Zeena went to the dining hall to get my specially prepared meal. We then walked to Emory Hospital. While this was on campus and not very far, in retrospect, it was a terrible idea- surely it exacerbated to damage to my ankle! Once in the waiting room, I called my mom to inform her that I was in the emergency room. She could think of many plausible reasons that I would be there- anaphylaxis, asthma, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, etc.- but never would have predicted this. Luckily, the wound was still fairly numb, and my two amazing advisors and friends kept me distracted by taking ER selfies.
The doctor informed me that my tendon was damaged- great for running- but that I should be able to walk without crutches as soon as the stitches were removed, which should be in five days. Well, given my medical history, I was not too surprised when, after five days, an Emory physician informed me that the stitches were not ready to come out. After twelve days, they still didn’t look ready, but he figured he would try. Well, the wound reopened and started bleeding the next day, so I was given Steri-Strips but instructed to stop using the crutches. After a few days of this, I developed severe shin pain in the other leg (at least I now had a use for my compression socks) as well as pain in the ankle. So back on the crutches it was for six weeks. All the time I would normally be spending running was replaced by physical therapy. Not running was unbearable, and while I enjoyed getting to know the physical therapists, I was quite alarmed when a doctor informed me that I had a “rapidly growing staph infection” that I had most likely caught from physical therapy- so much for that five-day recovery.
The most difficult part of this time was, without question, not being able to run. I missed not only the beating heart, sweaty skin, and throbbing legs, but the use of my mental endurance, will power, and drive. Therefore, as Thanksgiving approached, I was determined to keep my spot in the Turkey Trot. While I switched my registration from the 10k to the 5k, I successfully completed the course on crutches. It was the slowest 3.1 miles of my life, but it satisfied my craving for challenge.
While I did not envision spending my first semester of college on crutches, using Paratransit, relying on others to carry my tray in the dining hall, a lot of people (including Bart Yasso and Scott Jurek!) were intrigued by my story. It was an extremely difficult experience, but I found some caring friends. It gave me a greater appreciation for running and for my legs, and a remarkable sense of respect for disabled athletes. Largely because of this experience, I want to join Achilles International and become a guide for disabled runners.
Life threw me a beer bottle, and I learned to accept the unexpected.
If you’re a serious runner, you will empathize with this post. As you laugh along with the seemingly ridiculous emotions I describe here because you would feel the same way. If you’re not a runner, you might be inclined to label me a drama queen. I promise (well kind of) that I’m not- it’s just a runner thing.
After running on cloud nine with Shalane Flanagan in yesterday’s 5k, my watch flashed “low memory.” I have had my Nike SportWatch GPS for about three years and don’t recall ever seeing this message. I was a little worried about this in terms of tracking the next day’s half marathon but figured I could easily free up space my uploading my runs to Nikeplus.com later that afternoon.
Before heating up my prerace dinner (spaghetti with my mom’s homemade meat sauce, farmers market squash, salad, and watermelon) to bring down to the restaurant, I plugged my watch into my laptop. It was not immediately connecting to Nikeplus.com, but I hoped that it would while we were at dinner. Upon returning to our room, things took a turn for the worse- my watch showed a full battery, yet my computer showed no signs of recognizing it. This is when my stomach began to churn.
After experimenting unsuccessfully with all of the troubleshooting tips online, I desperately called Nike and explained my situation. The representative informed me that he was really sorry and that perhaps they could send me a new watch- well not by 4:00 am tomorrow, I thought. He suggested that I try syncing my watch to a different computer, so off I went to the hotel business center. After paying to use the internet and downloading the Nike software, a security message alerted me that I was not allowed to install software on this computer.
My heart was racing, my face was red, and I was on the verge of tears. In one last hope, I asked the concierge if he had any suggestions. He was extremely nice but informed me that no hotel computers would allow this. Crushed, I walked back into the elevator with tears running down my face. This felt like the end of the world.
As I write this, I know how ridiculous and self-centered this sounds. There are horrific injustices happening worldwide, and I’m crying because my watch is broken. But the emotional toll of running cannot be overlooked. I had been looking forward to this race for months and putting my full physical and mental effort into my training.
Without a watch, I saw no hopes of a PR- how would I be able to gauge my pace without the instantaneous number right there? Running watches are a new phenomenon, and history clearly proves that humans are capable of setting records without this technology. However, when you constantly train with a watch, you feel lost without it- it’s like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, or taking a math test without your formula sheet.
My mom offered to drive home and try one of our desktop computers, but neither of us thought that would solve the problem. Besides, it was already 9:00, and I needed to get to sleep. Brilliantly creative as usual, she came up with a somewhat settling solution- I could use the stopwatch feature of my watch. While it wouldn’t track my mileage and pace, it was the best thing we could do. To supplement this, she handwrote my mile splits for a 7:30 pace on the back of a RunWestin paper bracelet. I didn’t think I would be able to keep a 7:30 pace, but it would be a good reference.
When I awoke at 4:00 the next morning, the first thing I did, naturally, was look at my Sportwatch. I couldn’t believe it- the screen was blank. My watch was dead. If you know me, you know I am always prepared. For a one night, two race trip downtown, I had packed four sports bras, three pairs of shorts, three running tanks, two t-shirts, four pairs of running socks, compression socks, two packs of chomps, four bananas, three servings of Multigrain Cheerios, eight bottles of water, four pickles, ten Tums, four epiPens, three tubes of glucose, two rolls of prewrap, five ponytail holders, etc- but I had never thought about bringing an extra watch. This felt like the worst possible situation, and as I plugged in my watch to see if I could get some charge, I called all the 24-hour Walgreens in town to try to find a stopwatch.
While I had no success with Walgreens, my watch summed up enough battery to function as a stopwatch, and things turned out okay. Well, better than okay- I set a PR by almost eight minutes and achieved my goal of breaking 1:40. Running with only a stopwatch was an interesting experience- not one that I’d be particularly inclined to have again- but it worked. I had overreacted (surprise!), but listening to my body rather than the numbers worked out alright after all.
When I arrived home Sunday afternoon, I immediately called Nike support. The weekend had started on a high note and ended on one too- the representative laughed at my story and dysfunctional watch and agreed to send me a replacement for free! This is what I love about Nike- as long as they do not see intentional damage on my watch, such as dog bites or evidence of taking it apart- there is a lifetime warrantee on natural wear and tear. My watch arrived in just two days. Although the all-black look is a bit masculine for me, it’s the latest Nike watch, it’s free, and it will allow me to run calm once again.
It’s 4:30 on Saturday morning and my mom steps into my room to wake me up. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asks. “YES!” I exclaim, still half asleep, but quickly jump out of bed and into my running gear. I have fallen asleep in the car on the way to every race I’ve run this summer, but this one was different. I was a complete chatterbox and could not shut up about how I was going to run the 5k with my running idol, Shalane Flanagan.
It all started the Tuesday of my Project Linus Blanket-Making Event (post to come soon!) I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on the train home from work and could not believe my eyes when I saw that Shalane would be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Chicago. Just a few minutes later, I got an email that she would be running Saturday’s 5k at an 8:00 pace, designed as a pre-half shakeout run. This was a dream come true- my favorite famous person was coming to my town to run my favorite race in less than two weeks!
I literally ran off the train to tell my mom the exciting news. I was going to run with Shalane. Of course, my mom had her worries- surely I should not run a 5k the day before a half marathon. There would be tons of people at this race- what made me think I would be able to run with her? When I would not shut up about this, my parents agreed to sign me up but did not let me forget that running this race might hinder my performance on Saturday.
We arrived downtown at 6:30, just as packet pickup was beginning. The race did not start until 8:00, but I was unable to attend Friday’s expo and expected it to be very crowded. Luckily, I was wrong, and it felt more like a neighborhood race than a major running event. All of a sudden, about a half hour before start time, my mom yelled out “Is that her?” Shalane and her husband were casually chatting, and no one was around them. I literally jumped up and down before running over.
As I neared America’s fastest marathoner and three time Olympian, however, I began to freak out. What was I going to say to her- I came down here to run with you?!- without sounding like a total stalker? I felt like a preteen approaching Justin Beiber. I introduced myself, told her how excited I was to meet her, and asked to take a photo together. She was friendly and polite, but I felt extremely awkward and now saw no chance at running with her. Boy was I in for a treat!
I could tell by the size of the start corral, number of costumed runners, and number of individuals wearing the race shirt (or even worse- wearing the following day’s half marathon shirt!) that this was not going to be a fast 5k. I normally wouldn’t want to start a 5k at the very front the day before a half marathon, but Shalane was there- this was a once in a lifetime opportunity! I ran closely behind Shalane and the RunWestin concierge for the first mile. Although my hopes for chatting on a run with her were now lost, I figured that running near her was the best alternative.
We clocked in the first mile at under 7:30, so Shalane told the RunWestin guy to go ahead while she slowed down a bit. I could not believe what happened next! She turned around, waved to me, and said “Oh hi, how’s your run going?” I cannot put the next 2.1 miles into words. A shakeout run with my running role model- they were simply the best 2.1 miles of my life. We discussed Park City (where she just spent time altitude training and where my family always skied until Daniel broke his leg), the new Nike Lunarglide 6, our favorite distances, Runner’s World magazine, and even some of my medical conditions. This conversation felt personal- while there were a few other folks around us running and listening, it was really only the two of us chatting!
As we neared the finish I could see my mom laughing! When I asked her about it later, she explained that I had done exactly what I had said- run the race with Shalane. “Are you surprised?” I asked. “No, not really…not at all” she said. As we crossed the line, Shalane instructed me to throw my hands up in the air with her- that’s where my favorite picture comes in! She high-fived me, thanked me for running with her (I think I should be thanking her!) and went off to run with her husband before the photo opportunity.
Just when I thought my morning couldn’t get any better, I met some great running gurus in line to take a photo with Shalane! It all started when Melissa apologized to my mom for bumping into her, and her friend Caroline recognized me as the girl who had run with Shalane! Then we met Dave, a hilarious marathon maniac who seems to know absolutely everyone. He took this selfie during the race- how lucky to meet him (I later met The Pavement Runner as well!) As we waited in line, we all had an interesting discussion about race experiences and took some fun photos. These were the people that helped prompt me to start this blog, and they made me appreciate the friendly running community more than ever before!
“It’s my running buddy,” exclaimed Shalane, with a smile on her face as I approached her. Her words were magic to my ears. We got some great photos (the candids are my favorite) and she signed my race bib, encouraging me to go for a PR on Sunday- which I did! I was at a loss for words- this morning had been a dream come true- and I tried to express to her how happy she had made me. After I said goodbye to my new runner friends, my mom and I spent some time in Millennium Park before meeting my dad at the hotel and heading over to the expo. It had been, without question, one of the best weekends of my life, and it was only 10:00!