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 🙂
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!