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I dedicate my Tuesdays and Thursdays to cleaning my house (mornings) and Foot Patrol (afternoons). The Foot Patrol coaches and runners have been hard at play for five weeks now, integrating fun games (running in disguise) with some distance training. The coaches and I have worked with nearly 40 boys and girls, K-5th grade this season. Some days thinking about it just blows me away. Ten years ago, if you had told me if I’d be a kids’ running program coordinator and coach, I would have laughed.

Across the street from our YMCA is a paved trail around a man-made lake. The entire circumference of the lake is 1.6 miles. For our younger runners, completing this loop is their season goal. For our older runners, two laps around makes for a great challenge. With this program and its acceptance of anyone who wants to sign-up, we really don’t know what mix of kiddos we’ll get until they show up the first day. What a great surprise we had when we found out that eight of them want to complete the full 5K run. They don’t just want to, they WANT to . . . and they want to go FAST.

Another handful of runners beg for us to play more games. They play whole-heartedly and then start suggesting new games to the coaches, or request games we’ve played earlier in the season. When our day’s session is finished, these little bodies are still in motion as they get their fellow runners together to play “just ONE more!” while they wait for their parents to finish signing them out and parent chatter. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I do look forward to integrating some of their game (and stretching) ideas into the next season’s plans. What is interesting about this bunch is that they aren’t at all interested in distance running, yet I’d be willing to bet that they cover more distance with the games than the distance runners do when they work on running around the lake. At first this bothered me because I wanted every runner to complete at least the 1.6 mile run by the end of the season, but then it hit me that this goal is MINE, not theirs. Some of these running gamers WILL complete the run, mostly because their running buddies want to. But some of these great spirits will choose to do what works for them, which truly is the goal of Foot Patrol – to introduce children to running in a FUN way so they will learn to see it as something they can do throughout their lives without seeing it as a punishment. Are they having fun – YES. Would they see running as fun if I pushed them to do the full 1.6 miles? Maybe not. I’d say the goal accomplished and we’ll just let this bunch revel in the joy they’ve discovered in the games.

And what of that last handful of runners? I’m not one for choosing favorites, but I do really like this bunch. Maybe it is because these kids remind me of my own discovery of running, or maybe because I’m a sucker for witnessing “Ah-ha!” moments, but I’m really enjoying my “I didn’t know I could do that!” group. These are the runners who are part of Foot Patrol because a sibling is also running, because on a whim they thought it “might” be fun, or because one of their friends told them about it at school and their parents were happy to have them participate in a low-cost, local fitness program. For the most part, these are 2nd & 3rd graders who are active in other sports, but who have never really paid attention to what their bodies can truly do.

Last week we were blessed with cool, but dry sunny afternoons for Foot Patrol, truly PERFECT running days. Some of the runners had been asking if we could go ALL the way around the lake. Since many of them had covered 3/4 of the distance comfortably the week before, the coaches and I divided the kids into a few different groups to meet their pacing/distance needs. I took a group of 4 boys, 3 of whom were ready to go, go, go. The fourth boy thought maybe he could, but he wasn’t sure. With one last chance to run with another group, he decided to stick with us and off we went. Thankfully there is a bathroom half-way around the lake, for despite the requirement that everyone make a pit stop before Foot Patrol starts, all four boys were happy to make a second pit stop. At this point that fourth boy started having doubts about continuing. The other kids were amazing at encouraging him and I promised to stick right with him so we could choose distances and then take walk breaks if he wanted. Feeling more confident with our newly set plan, we were off for our second half.

About .10 mile from the cross walk back to the Y, the boy looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I can run anymore.” Since he had been pretty chatty along the way, I didn’t share his doubts, but I didn’t argue with him. Instead I had him lift his chin to look ahead and see where on the path we were. When he did, his already big eyes got even bigger. “We’re HERE already? That’s the Y up ahead!”

“Yup! Did you surprise yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah I did. I didn’t think I’d ever make it around. But I DID! That was EASY!” He quickly shook off his self-doubt as he stood a bit taller to finish up his run. That Saturday he showed up for the YMCA’s annual Fall Classic 1.6 mile/5K fun run to run with his parents and little brother. His little brother is a Foot Patrol runner, too, and was so inspired by his big brother’s accomplishment (and his own good training, of course) that he decided HE could do the 1.6 mile run, too. And he did.

What about you? Do you find yourself facing a daunting task and wonder how you’ll ever accomplish it? Put your chin up, face that finish line and surprise yourself. You can do it.

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persist – (pər-sĭst’, -zĭst’) 2. To hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.

Last April I started bugging  encouraging my running/walking friends to join me on Saturday mornings for a trail run. The idea behind the regularly-scheduled run was initally to provide accountability to MYSELF and hopefully drum up some company as I really got back in the swing of integrating running into my life. I know many, many people who toe up to the start line of our local 5K/10K races every summer, so surely they are out there running on non-race days, right? Right.

At first it didn’t seem like much of a chore – I sent out an email invitation on Fridays (usually before 9PM).  Most Saturdays for the first few months I’d be joined by 2-3 other women. It wasn’t the same ones every time, but there were “regulars”, to be sure.  It was a great chance to get to know them well as our feet grazed the trail, with nothing but the occasional quacking of ducks or mooing of cows to interrupt our chatter. Then summer hit and travel schedules left me running solo (on those rare weekends when we were actually in town ourselves). Fall brought the return of the runners, sometimes as many as eight at time, as moms celebrated the return of the school year and a more predictable life schedule. A few gals hung in there for the start of winter, though I do admit to bowing out myself for a run or two when the rain and fog were so thick that you couldn’t see past the edge of the trail.

Still, it seemed worthwhile because I was getting thank you emails and some response that even though they couldn’t make it THIS weekend, a few runners had every intention of joining in soon. The schedule was doing its job for me, as my running mileage was steadily increasing as I had planned. Also, the purpose for the run was morphing in a very positive way, becoming more about encouraging new runners and returning runners to come out for support, than it was for self-accountability. So, I persisted.

I persisted, despite a dry spell – there was NO response to any running invitations for over a month. After a few Saturdays of solo runs (and two that I missed – one for my hooping training trip and another because my husband surprised his dad with a visit on his 60th Birthday) last Saturday I was thrilled to be joined by one walking gal (a mother of four daughters, and her sweet dog, Tinkerbell) and two fellow-mom runners. One likely was a cross-country star pre-children (1 boy and a set of boy/girl twins) – long, graceful legs that make an 8:00 pace look easy. The other runner, Jennifer (one of my regulars!), encouraged Ms. Speedy Legs and me to go on ahead, that she was just happy for the accountability to get there and she’d meet us at the finish. So, pushing myself, I managed to hold a conversation (a bit gaspy, from time to time) while we knocked out a very fast 3.1 miles (*pant, pant*). I enjoyed a cooling walk to the parking lot while Ms. Speedy Legs sprinted for one last quarter-mile burst – amazing!

That’s not where the persistence paid off, though.Wait for it . . . it is coming! I waited around for a bit for Jennifer to return, but even after checking down the trail a bit, didn’t see her. I figured she was running the 4.4 mile route, so I headed back home. I sent her an email yesterday to check with her to make sure everything went alright with her run. Turns out, it was better than alright.

In a nutshell: On her way back from the turn-around, Jennifer found a set of keys on the trail. She had seen a woman walking her dogs a few minutes back, so she headed back for the turn-around. They WERE that woman’s keys and she was thrilled to know that someone had found them! As it turns out, the woman with the dogs is Jennifer’s neighbor (she didn’t know it until they got to talking) and has recently lost 50 lbs. She’s motivated to keep on her fitness path, but has really wanted to meet more women in our community and find a gym partner to keep her accountable. Jennifer has also been looking for a gym partner and so they’ve set their schedule and now have a familiar face to see in the wee hours of the morning at the gym. I suspect we’ll see this new friend on the trail Saturday mornings, too.

That’s really what it is all about: reaching out to the community to make connections and support one another in our personal quests. So the next time I’m feeling frustrated about emailing 40 women with no response, I’ll remember how I’ll never know when or how, but that my persistence will pay off, often in ways I never imagined.  

And now – for what 5 of you have been waiting for . . . the winner of the Mother’s Day copy of Run Like a Mother (over a week late because I live, breathe, and run like a mother myself – lately late for EVERYTHING!) is:

Meghan Ling (Entry #4, as chosen by Random.org)

I promise I didn’t pick her because she shares a name with my daughter! Meghan, I will contact you so I can get this awesome book in the mail to you ASAP!

Happy persisting to you all!

Here’s my APA (a throwback to my Master’s days) citation for the above mentioned definition of persist:

persist. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/persist

The kids are down & out with the double whammy of environmental allergies & croup, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things for which to be thankful! As this last week of school gets going (well, it will get going for us on Wednesday when he’s not contagious anymore), I am thankful for:

1. The wonderful educational foundation my son has received in his two years of Montessori preschool. Wouldn’t trade it for anything and I look forward to my daughter enjoying her years there when it is her turn.

2. The friends I’ve made through my son’s school. At least two of them have joined me for runs, so you know they are amazing women (even the non-runners are great)! Yes, parents can make friends at school, too.

3. My 25:51 PR at the Duvall Days 5K on June 6th (and placing 14th out of 220 women)! Thanks to the combination of group runs, Sane Fitness strength training, and a little “kick in the pants” from my husband (more like a dare, really), I discovered that YES, this body can go a bit faster and actually enjoys the challenge. Think I can break 25:00 by the end of summer? Hmmm . . .

4. The promise of the lazy days of summer. Our family calendar is filling quickly with camping/hiking/music filled adventures. In fact, last weekend we managed to ride 2 ferries, visit 2 State Parks and I still got in my Saturday morning run. As my son says, “This summer I want to spend A LOT of time outside. Outside, outside, outside.” Done!

5. The honor of being the author of a successful book. I’ll write more about this later in the week, but in these days of struggle for the book publishing world, I’m thankful for the readers who spread the word about We Are Girls Who Love to Run and encourage others to make it part of their treasured book collection. For an independent publishing company with a minuscule budget, Balanced Steps is really having a positive impact on young readers and their families!

Wishing you health, sunshine and happy running!

Saturday was the official running of the John Wilt Memorial 5K. Thanks to Facebook, I can tell you that John’s friends were running everywhere on Saturday – thus far I’ve seen photo evidence of runners in Manhattan and Tuscon, and have read reports of others running, too. I expect more photos will be posted this week showing those runners in action. My friend Beth, the race’s director, reported that the race started with John’s best friend, TJ, and her husband (a fellow former Marine, like John) starting out 20 seconds early with the Marine flag. It was a somber start to the race, a true heart-felt and silent tribute to John. But, as John would have insisted, the race quickly picked up energy and excitement once the rest of the runners got going, ending with a post-race celebration with quite a large group of our classmates who were able to attend the race.

I originally thought just a few local runners would join me for my Washington-based tribute run. While my closest running gal friends showed up, I was thrilled that an additional 3 were able to join, bringing our tally to six moms out for an early morning 5K on Mother’s Day Eve. Since we started in the parking lot by our local police station, we were able to flag down an officer to take our photo before he headed out on his rounds. The fog hadn’t completely lifted yet when we got started, but it didn’t slow us down any. With six runners on the course, we were able to comfortably split into two pace groups. One gal sprinted ahead to do a fast final mile (WAY faster than I could maintain – she truly left us in her dust!), but my neighbor and I managed a respectable 28:30 finish and we jogged back to accompany the second pace group to the finish just a few short minutes later. Two of those gals report that they ran PRs! We were truly “Girls Who Love to Run“. And, yes, that is me with my yellow hat!

I don’t remember the last time I ran with someone else, let alone a handful of women for a group run. I really enjoyed it. And apparently, so did they (not so surprising, based on what I’ve read on other people’s blogs and on on-line running communities, group runs ARE inspiring). They asked if I’d put together some group runs again soon, which I plan to start-up in the next week (and already know of a few others who would like to run with us). And to top it all off, my neighbor and I decided today to sign-up and train for a fall half-marathon together since our pacing is so similar. I guess I AM doing a half this year, no more excuses!!

So, thanks to my friend Beth and our John (and his parents and close friends), for bringing together this little group of women in Duvall, WA for a run on Saturday. It seems their reach of influence far exceeds the John Wilt Memorial 5K – they’re now responsible for influencing a Saturday morning running group and a pair of women who can count on one another for half-marathon training support. Aren’t runners and girlfriends the best? I love being part of this community.
So what’s next on my race plate? I’ll be running with an 11 year-old girl for the Duvall Days 5K the first Saturday in June! Her parents won a package the REF auction that included a copy of my book and the chance to have me run with someone at the race. I’m excited!

I’m not really a competitive runner. I just like the way running feels, the way it clears my head and the way it leaves me feeling strong. I enjoy races, but haven’t been one to push myself toward any goals since having the kiddos. But all that is about to change!

Now that I’m back in my running shoes 4-6 times/week, I’m curious about how much distance I’m actually covering. Before now I think the statistics would have frustrated me since I really couldn’t get in more running. But NOW I’m in a groove and I think the statistics will help me build up my distance and encourage me to consider building speed as we approach the summer months and some fun 5K & 10K races.

I know there are fancy things I can do to track my runs (heck, I can do so on my Garmin, right?!), but for starters I’ve been recording my distances by hand on our family calendar. There’s something satisfying about hand writing the numbers. Perhaps June will be the month that I learn to utilize the high tech tools I have – when I’m really getting outside more for my runs and gearing-up for some races.

I look forward to reporting my total for May at the end of the month!

How about YOU? What motivates you to go the distance or pick up your pace? Take a second and leave a comment!

Have a great week . . . and happy running!

One of my favorite aspects of running is how once you decide to run, you are instantly welcomed by an enormous community of runners. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you go, just mention to a fellow runner that you run and you’re likely to get a response like, “Running is what gets me through the week,” or “I hope to still be running when I’m eighty.”

At one of my first races, The Lamplighter 5K in a dinky little Carolina town (can’t remember if it was in North or South Carolina, as we lived along the border and ran races in both states regularly), I was following the Marathoning for Mortals run/walk training plan, so I’d take walk breaks regularly. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow runners encouraged me with “Keep it up!” or “Lookin’ good, Red!” There I was, new to the sport, but so openly welcomed. It was there that I also noticed for the first time that most of the runners started and finished their runs with smiles. Even the most serious of runners can’t hide their smiles the entire time.

I wish I had discovered running when I was younger. Looking back, I’m surprised that I didn’t. A friend of mine in high school was one of the top 5 girls in the state. An even closer friend of mine, John Wilt (or just “Wilt”), was a runner who managed to get in regular runs despite all of the marching band & football practices, guitar lessons, band practices with friends, volunteering and academic competitions he did. Now that I know running isn’t something to be feared, I suspect that running may have been the glue that kept it all together for John. Sometimes he ran with friends, but I know that as much as he enjoyed socializing (EVERYBODY loved Wilt), I know he must have basked in the solitude of running from time to time, too.

John never knew me as a runner, though I wish he had. Running has made me a much better person than I ever was during our shared high school days. I like to think that he would have said, “Well, put on your shoes and let’s go!” I can only imagine the wisdom I could have gleaned from a run with him – running or life-related, it wouldn’t matter. Wilt had a way of just knowing. Knowing the right thing to say, knowing when not to say anything at all, knowing the perfect analogy to help you think more clearly, knowing that he was the perfect person to deliver harsh reality to you instead of sugar coating the truth or dancing around it. He served up Truth better than anyone I’ve ever known.

The last time I saw John was at my wedding, three years before running got its wonderful hold on me. Though he and I hadn’t really seen one another for years (I moved before our Senior year), we stayed in touch some and he made a point to get leave from the U.S. Naval Academy to meet up with his parents for my wedding, for which I will be forever honored. He stayed right up to the very last dance, for which there were only about a dozen of us left in the whole place. Two short years later I returned to our common town for his memorial service.

On Sunday, May 9th I’ll be joining runners from all over the world (one of the benefits of being Air Force brats) to honor John’s life and raise funds for the John Wilt Scholarship. While the actual run is in O’Fallon, IL, where John’s parents still reside, I’ll be running it right here in Duvall, WA. While some of his friends still live in the area, and are likely to be there in full force, I bet just as many of us will be taking part in the virtual event. I get chills just thinking about how our love for Wilt and his love of running are uniting us all.

Next time you go for a run, take a minute to think about how the running community has strengthened you and enhanced your life. And on Sunday, May 9th, if you run (make that “WHEN you run”), think of John and his far-reaching circle of family and friends who are running, too. I’ll be thinking of John and the other runners who have influenced my path. While Wilt’s feet won’t be hitting the pavement like ours, he’ll be there. Runners are always there for one another. John Wilt was a runner. And I’m proud to be a runner, too.

John Wilt graduated from O’Fallon Township High School in 1996. His interests included music, sports, math and science, literature, international relations and history. He was a member of the Honor Society, the concert and marching bands, the speech team, and Model U.N. He also played varsity football, participated in track and was active in his church. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in Physics, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

John died May 8th, 2002 in an aircraft accident while undergoing flight officer training at NAS Pensacola, Florida and was posthumously promoted to 1st Lieutenant in August 2008. In John’s memory, a $1500.00 renewable scholarship has been established to recognize a member of the graduating class who has enthusiastically pursued academic excellence, been involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities, and has displayed exceptional levels of commitment to achieving personal goals. Proceeds from the 5K run will apply directly to the scholarship fund. Visit http://sites.google.com/site/johnwiltscholarship5k for more information.

My morning run was a great one. I found the perfect pace – even Albus was pleased with our speed (usually he pulls to go faster!) – and could have run forever (our 30 minutes were good, though). I was so completely in the zone with my foot strikes, breathing and noticing the interesting smells around me (dryer sheets, worms, the perfume of the runner that crossed our path, etc.) that I didn’t even realize we were running in the rain until my leg brushed against Albus’ wet fur. Yes, it was that good of a run. I’m feeling more confident about next Saturday’s Riverview Runs Turkey Trot 5K . . . my first race as a 30 year-old (just 2 days after my birthday) – yikes, that’s a new age bracket, isn’t it?

Today’s run, along with some other things, has led me to the decision to make some changes with our family routine (which my husband and I discussed together. I’m no dictator!). Just a few minor tweaks are bound to pay off:

– Tuesday nights will be TV and computer-free. That’s right – no blog reading, no CSI watching, no working from home, no Facebook status updates. Monitors will be off. Books will be open, or who knows, we might even pull out a game or *gasp* sit and talk. Time without the kids climbing on us is slim, we really need to do a better job of making those rare moments more about quality and less about technology (which I love, I just need to get other things into my life, too!).

– My husband is returning to yoga. He is slowly getting back into running after a few months off and realizes that he runs best when he has an active yoga practice. Sound familiar? I think he’ll go one night and I may go another. We have yet to work out all of these details.

– I’m actively pursuing some bigger media attention for the book. Newspaper articles, radio shows, even TV perhaps! I’m gleaning some knowledge from other authors and working to put it to good use. I’m making Monday nights my Media Night.
– I’m continuing my Balance Ball routine. I know I’ve mentioned it over and over again, but REALLY the difference in my posture and my running is AMAZING. My body fat has also dropped 2% in the last two weeks and my pants are fitting the way they should. Talk about instant results. I’m passing along the book to my mom – she’s excited to try it out, too!

How about YOU? Are you making any new healthy changes to your life routine? Have you found a simple change that has a significant impact on your family’s health and life quality?

In my return post yesterday I mentioned that there will be some changes to my blog. That’s right, I’m getting organized!

Now, please note that this is NO small thing for me. I’m organizationally challenged. Big time. I won’t take and post any pictures of my work space, the kitchen, or the laundry room, ALL of which would prove my point. BUT, the thing is, I’m trying to overcome this personal struggle and I thought that one of my first steps could be with my thoughts here on the blog.

If I can mentally de-clutter and organize, then the physical stuff will follow, just like running, right?! Right?

So . . . fellow bloggers, happy readers, and family members who are laughing out loud (I can hear you, you know!) . . . here’s the plan:

1. I’m not going to blog daily – as I learned before, it is a bit much with everything else on my plate.

2. I’m not going to blog on a set day of the week – as I mentioned above, I’m too scattered for that much planning

3. I’m going to be FLEXIBLE with the plan (as POM is with her marathon training plan!)

I am looking for a bit of structure, so I’m picking and choosing some great ideas from my favorite blogs out there, going with a weekday theme, taking this little blog from an anything goes family/running/chaos sharing format to something with a bit more meat. Brace yourselves:

Sunday: Gearing-Up for the Week – Educational connections to running/fitness/experiences my own kids may be having on that day as we get ready to face the school/work week

Monday: Here We Go! – Insight into finding family/work/fitness balance

Tuesday: Trials & Achievements – Challenges, goals and the steps to reach them (and celebrations!)

Wednesday: Lost in the Pages – Book reviews of running/self-esteem/life-balance/children’s books

Thursday: Hanging in There! – Update on anything from earlier in the week as we near the weekend

Friday: Flashbacks – Thoughts on days/years/decades past and how our past experiences form who we are and where we’re headed (I’ve become a bit sentimental with making connections on Facebook)

Saturday: Anything Goes – Reserved for my former blogging days of whatever is on my mind or happening with my book/kids/running/etc.

And in response to Running Knitter, I DO indeed have a few photos of the quilt I finished during my vacation. The back of the quilt is cute jungle print fabric. Hopefully you can see some of the stitching in the close-up photo that shows how I quilted the entire thing (a baby quilt, so it was quick and easy!).
I also managed to remember to get a race photo from my PR on the 4th – that’s me on the right, eyeing the finish line and kicking it into full gear. The second photo is of my kiddos cheering on the runners.

I’m a bit behind with the photo stuff because I couldn’t find my photo card reader and my husband is the one who generally downloads the photos onto HIS computer. Thanks for your patience! And . . . I shall soon have a photo of the near-fire from June. Hang in there folks, I’m getting my act together!

Stay tuned . . . there’s no telling which day I’ll get started . . . but it will be soon!

So, this week was one that required us all to hang on tight and just ride out. I’m happy to report that we made it, but it was touch and go there for awhile.

– We opted out of school for my son on Monday due to a raspy/barky cough (which is still lingering, but not as bad as it was Monday morning)
– I took my daughter to the doc on Monday afternoon due to a head-smacked-into-door-jamb incident (all okay, but there’s a nice bruise there still)
– my husband is sick
– my daughter is sick (requiring 1 sheet/jammie change through half-open eyes in the middle of the night . . . among other things)
– our son has been up every night (but one – and then I was awake out of habit – grrrr) this week for one reason or another
– I only ran one day

SO . . . mix that in with lots of good things:
– my mom’s sisters are both visiting (think silliness, sewing, wine, visiting, eating, etc.)
– the sun has come out to peek at us twice
– the end-of-year school-wide field day and family picnic (think silliness, visiting, eating, running, sloshing through muddy fields to go to the bathroom, picture taking, crying when time to go home)
– the Symphony with the kids and my dad!
– playdates

And you get ONE WHIPPED PUPPY (that’s me) and maybe even a somewhat neglected real pup! My plan to do a 10K tomorrow morning is OUT. I don’t even think we’ll downgrade to the 5K (and my still-sick husband has thrown in the towel, too). I think the plan for tomorrow is:

– sleep as long as the children will allow
– play the remainder of the day by ear
– be sure to fit in a trip to REI to get my dad’s Father’s Day present (one part is already taken care of, but won’t be here by Sunday, so it is ESSENTIAL to have this other part on hand for our Father’s Day cookout on Sunday).
– pray that BOTH children nap at the SAME time in the afternoon so that we can kick back and either nap or just veg out
– if everyone feels well, go for a casual run in the afternoon together with the double jogger

Wishing you dads out there a great Father’s Day! May you find the weekend to be rejuvinating (that’s what we’re hoping for on this end)!

Though the morning was chilly and drizzly, it turned out to be a good one for a run. I got the kids ready for the day while my husband caught a few extra minutes of sleep, then headed out on my own to join about 100 or so locals for the Riverview Educational Foundation Turkey Trot in Carnation. This relatively new race (this was the second year!) offers a 5K, a 10K and a scavenger hunt – The Wild Turkey Hunt Urban Legend.

I opted to run the 5K, as we’ve been passing around cold after cold at our house and I have only been able to run a handful of times in the last few weeks. This race was great motivation for me to get back into a regular routine of running. Also, I’ve been focusing on my foot strike form, so the race presented me with the opportunity to try out my new foot strike outside on a trail. This race was just the thing I needed all around!

There weren’t many of us on the course this morning (compared to the summer races around here, anyhow) and I found that I really didn’t know any of my fellow runners. I usually enjoy the energy of running with friends and neighbors that I know, but this morning I found that the energy in the air was just as positive and encouraging amid the crowd of unknowns, giving me an opportunity to reflect and truly focus on my return to running and my physical form. Yet another thing this usual social bug needed!

The school district’s superintendent, Conrad Robertson, warned us at the start line that there might be a few muddy spots along the way and that we were welcome to run around or through any puddles on the course, the choice was ours. He got a few chuckles of response, but little did we know that in a few places there wouldn’t be too much choice.

I found myself remembering Robertson’s words as I watched the field of runners ahead of me seemingly dance across a narrow bridge, manuvering across the leafy, puddle heavy stretch of the course with fancy tip-toe footwork. I joined in with my own leaps, twists and occasional light splashes, thinking that the bike riders that were politely awaiting their turn to cross the bridge wouldn’t have nearly as much fun as they rolled through our obstacle course.

Only one dog participated in the event, a young Weimaraner who doubled the distance her person had to cover to reach the finish line. I was fortunate to follow this twosome for the first third of the race, laughing to myself about how that pup really had no idea what was going on and why she wasn’t allowed to take a dip in the river along the way. While the river was off limits for her, she did manage to take Robertson’s words to heart, choosing to run full speed ahead through a LONG puddle, splashing her owner as she moved her gangly, too long for her body, legs. This was a good morning for a pup to run, too!

The race course took us along the outer loop of a Girl Scout camp. It was the perfect location for a fall race, which would have been even more enjoyable if the sun had graced us with its presence, BUT, still provided a calm atmosphere for the middle of the race. The unexpected suprise on this stretch was a cabin full of girls in their pajamas cheering for us as they watched us through the giant picture window. There they were, with pigtails and slippers, jumping up and down, waving excitedly as we hurried past and waved our own greetings in return. I wonder how many of those girls might lace up their own running shoes for a race someday in the future, thinking back on our field of runners as we trotted through the drizzly morning in conquest of the finish line.

In the end, this race was probably the slowest I’ve run (I finished right around 30 minutes flat), but it was what I’d consider one of my best. I took the time to enjoy what I was doing, I was focused on my body position and technique, and had time to reflect on my surroundings. Today’s Turkey Trot reminded me of my passion for the sport of running – my love of the process, being in the moment and the groove of a good pace, respecting the generosity of the volunteers who enable me to race, and the fun of rubbing elbows with others who enjoy a good run.

Originally Posted by me on 11/10/2007 on the Balanced Steps site: www.balancedsteps.com