I completed the Cleveland Half-Marathon a couple of weeks ago with very inconsistent training. I took the course gently and slowly, but with a plan in mind. I knew exactly what my capabilities were and I stuck to that pace per mile even when my adrenaline wanted me to go faster. Throughout the entire run, I kept talking to myself positively and married the thought of completion. A few years prior, I did the same half-marathon with very little training. That was one of the only half-marathons I had difficulty completing. The irony of being in the same circumstances a few years later was on my mind. I didn’t allow myself to own the fear of an exact repeat. In the end, I completed the race about 3 minutes slower than I had wanted to, but I finished it without injury and completely satisfied. While I would never recommend doing a half-marathon without the proper training, I did want to share this story for another reason. When it comes to fitness goals, I would like to underscore the importance of a healthy mind. In this instance, it was my mind that ran this race, not my legs. I look back upon all the life choices I have made over the past 5 years and every single instance began first with supporting the journey through my mind.
Take quitting smoking, for example… I tried to quit using aids like drugs, patches and gum. Each attempt was unsuccessful. If I somehow managed to quit for a short time, I was back at it a couple of weeks later. The difference between all of those times and this time where I have been smoke free for 5 years is that I was ready in my mind to make the change. I had a mindset to quit and then I adopted that through permanent life changes. I visualized my new life by saying, “I am not a smoker. I am now a runner.” Anytime I wanted a cigarette, I would run. I essentially replaced a bad habit with a good one.
Now, I am finally understanding how my mind can be a significant tool for success or an incredible detriment if unharnessed. Today, I still struggle with eating right and exercising regularly. So, now that I’ve understood that my mind can be the root to my success, I am visualizing my success. I am pouring my heart and soul into whole food / clean eating and sharing it with others. I want to bring the joy back into eating, but in a healthy way. As I type this, I am also routing my next run. Having a few weeks in Bay Ridge, I am looking forward to running the shore promenade with a view of my majestic bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows.
According to Cedars-Sinai, “Chickpeas are packed with magnesium, fiber, and protein. Magnesium speeds message transmission in your brain and helps relax blood vessels, allowing more blood to feed your brain.” So, since the power of my brain energy is fuel to my plans for health and fitness, I leave you today with this amazing brainfood recipe. It’s a healthy quick fix, enjoy!
Channa dal is one of those mystery miracle foods that has incredible health benefits. In addition to improving heart health, lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar, Channa Dal is also known to promote weight control and heal digestive disorders. My favorite part, aside from it being delicious, is that it is incredibly filling. My mother-in-law taught me a quick an easy dal recipe. Depending on how fast you can chop, it should only take about 20 minutes to make. I created this tutorial to help you make your own. Enjoy!
I remember when I decided to quit smoking. I attempted to quit smoking several times over 20 years. I just wasn’t a very good quitter. I thought long and hard about what a smoker CAN NOT do; I decided that a smoker could not run. “Anytime I want a cigarette, I have to run.” I decided.
But how would I truly enforce that? “I will run the New York City Marathon,” I said to myself. If I signed up for a marathon, I would have to run.
Between you and me, I had no idea what a marathon was. I thought a marathon meant that you just ran for a few hours. I had no idea it meant you ran 26.2 miles until you completed 26.2 miles. But, shoot… I told my entire network of friends on Facebook and every single one of my followers on Twitter that I was quitting smoking and running the New York City Marathon. Yikes, I can’t back out now, right?
I am obviously not a good quitter. The truth was, after I realized what I had done – I was too embarrassed to quit.
I decided to join the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation endurance team and commit to raising a minimum of $3,500. I began a series of posts on my social networks. I started this blog to document my training. I used RunKeeper to track my runs. I was completely plugged in every step and every mile.
Any time I ran, my RunKeeper would auto-magically post to my Facebook page. What if I didn’t run today when all my friends knew I would be running? The public accountability constantly kept me in check.
Eventually (I like to say because of my social prowess), Pix 11 news decided to cover my story. Who is this overweight woman who thinks she can run a marathon and raise funds for the American Cancer society? That would be ME!
After that interview, social accountability for me went through the roof. There was no way I would fail my marathon. I remember when I finally was running my first marathon, I hit a wall at mile 17. I didn’t want to complete it. But what would all of my friends think? I ran, and ran, and ran, AND RAN for nearly 7 hours. Finally, I completed my marathon.
In a way, social media (read: my network) was my accountability. Technology (think: RunKeeper, GPS watch, videos, blogging) was my motivator.
I am grateful for media and technology. Together they have helped make my new life possible. I’ve completed 3 marathons, 6 half-marathons and countless smaller races. Now, 4 years later, I am embarking on my 7th half Marathon (Detroit in October) and my 4th Marathon (New York in November).
And now that I’ve posted about these races, I’ll make it so.
Endurance running has taught me an important life skill. When I am running, I usually always want to quit because I hate (love) it so much. So I stay on my feet, I engage in a little self-trickery.
Today I had my first “outside run” since I got back on the running-wagon. All of my reconditioning at this point has been on the treadmill. I found running outside significantly more difficult mainly because of the hilly terrain in my neighborhood. Having practiced running for nearly 3 months on a treadmill, I was very depressed by how difficult the run was for me. I wanted to quit and came close a few times.
To survive, I had to fall back on something my former coach (from the American Cancer Society’s endurance team, DetermiNation) taught me. At the time, I was obese and had just quit a 20-year smoking habit. Running for more than just a few minutes was very hard for me. During my first few runs, Coach Jenn suggested that every time I wanted to quit to instead pick a landmark further ahead that I would run to before stopping – then I would be allowed to stop. Once I got to the landmark, she asked me to re-assess my feelings. Could I make it to the next tree or the next lamppost? While there were times I did stop running for a few minutes, most of the time I would keep running.
On the treadmill, I play the same game with minutes: Can I run 2 more minutes? 3 more? 10 more? I find that this mind-game helps me press my limits in all areas of my life. On healthy eating choices, this mind game has helped me give sugar, most grains and alcohol the boot over the last 26 days. There were many temptations along the way. I just told myself: get through this one party, this one client meeting, just this one meal or day. By applying this skill to school, work and even relationships, I’ve learned that if I can master this powerful mind game, I can get through anything painful.
So, I made it through two miles today. I reflect on Jake the Dog’s encouraging worldly advice, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” While I have a lot of work to do before I am ready to run the Mighty Mac on Labor Day, fortunately I have a few mind-tricks up my sleeve so I can put in the miles to prepare!
It dawned on me as I was tying up my laces the other day; as far as fitness is concerned, running isn’t enough, is it? Yes, I fell off the wagon as a runner. But I let go of so much more than that.
Even though my running dissipated, my eating did not! I’ve heard a few runners say, “I run to eat.” Although said in jest, to be completely honest, running certainly made it easier to eat out and eat more. Just one long run could free up 700 calories! So, happily married, I ate like a runner but stopped running. My mother-in-law categorized my weight gain as the “freshman 15.” She said every newlywed couple gains a little weight in their first couple of years when they are happy and in love.
Part of the requirement for running the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run is being able to run a 12-minute mile. That doesn’t seem to bad, right? Most people should be able to walk a mile in 15 minutes. Try taking a 15lb bag of potatoes and running with that. I bet the average person might feel a little more exhausted than usual pacing at a 12-minute mile. I can vouch for the exhaustion! So part of my training process for the Bridge Run is to shed my “freshman 15.”
So back to me and my laces… I had an epiphany. With just over a month left to train for yet another meaningful race, I finally understood a deeper definition of fitness. Fitness is more than fitting in 30-minutes or so at the gym each day; it’s about making healthy choices in all areas of our lives.
When you are open to change and growth; change and growth flood in. Later that evening, I came across my friend Erin on Facebook. Her status update caught my eye; she was publicly declaring her intention to commit to 30 days of purity in her diet and she was recruiting buddies to join her. Her program didn’t fit my lifestyle as a vegan but parts of it resonated with me. The intention or outcome of her chosen program is to build a new healthy relationship with food. I knew in my heart that her posting was meant for me and that I had to try. After a tug of war in my mind, I finally decided to join her with my own modified but similar program to cut out refined sugar, alcohol and unhealthy grains. I have a short list of allowed grains to accommodate my vegan diet (ie, quinoa, tempeh, seitan).
With the first week on my food plan already under my belt, my belt is feeling a little looser! I am feeling confident and determined; two traits that I feel truly make me a runner. At the close of my first week, I was able to celebrate with my fastest 5K since getting back on the running track. And it is quite a celebratory moment for me. I have accepted and welcomed a new challenge and dimension into my fitness. The more I surrender to a healthier me, the happier I feel inside.
If you’ll be watching for me running over the Mighty Mac on Labor Day, I’ll be the one with a big smile pacing at (or under) a 12-minute mile. I hope to see you there!
I’m honestly amazed at the excuses I’ve bought from myself over the last year. After finally completing my NYC Marathon in November of 2013, I got married to my best friend (residing in Michigan). Distracted and in love, I began slacking on my running almost immediately. I engaged in a game of denial: I was somehow magically staying fit.
Becoming a dual citizen of Brooklyn, NY and Detroit, MI; I slowly lost touch with my running mates from the American Cancer Society in New York as I spent more and more time in Michigan. My running ambitions had obstacles I couldn’t seem to overcome: not having a network of amazing runners in close proximity, a brutal Michigan winter and a passionate disdain for treadmills.
Though still a fighter, I signed up for the Cleveland Half Marathon for May of 2014. Having built a mirage that I was still fit – supported by 3 marathons and countless half-marathons, 10milers, long runs, and short races – I thought I had this 13.1 miles in the bag, yet it was not so. The last two miles were brutal and I almost didn’t make it. My favorite sign embodied exactly how I felt, “Chafing the dream.” It was a humbling experience; but sadly it did not wake me up. Instead, I lied to myself while giving up. I used traditional excuses like marriage, family, work, health and time – and I stopped running all together.
Believe it or not, I’m not here to beat myself up; but I am turning to the one place I know that will give me the courage and strength to stand up again. I am turning to YOU. Publicly blogging and articulating my goals and thoughts built in a natural social accountability for me last time around; and so I’m (again) beginning my journey with you if you’ll have me!
Something magical happened which helped inspire my return. On June 2nd, just 7 days shy of my 3-year anniversary of ever running EVER, I received an email from the Michigan Fitness Foundation letting me know that my husband and I won the lottery to run the annual Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run. Then, later that month, I was invited to apply as a Michigan Fitness Ambassador and even better, they selected me!
I am so grateful for this opportunity to represent the great state of Michigan and to contribute to the Michigan Fitness Foundation’s goal to “improve lives and strengthen communities by promoting healthy eating and active living.”
I want to give special thanks to all of my running friends who have kept their faith in me. Timing is everything, and timing is something the CEO of my company had mid-June after wrapping up an event together: Ben Greenzweig challenged me to join him on a running challenge for the next week. The very next day, he encouraged me with a post-run picture. Since then, we’ve been sending each other post-run pictures for a little competition and encouragement. Thanks to Ben, I’ve come to the understanding that running support can come from near and far if I open myself up to the community. The desire and ability to become fit and be fit initiates from inside us – not because of external circumstances… And begins with just one step.
Last week, I spent some time in my home town, Toledo, Ohio. I promised to run with my mom (who is training for the Glass City Half Marathon) and my friend Mark (who is training for the Glass City Marathon) while I was in town. It was cold though, so the idea did not sound like too much fun to me at first – but I was committed to keeping my “running commitments,” so, I asked my runner friends for some help.
Here’s what I learned:
David said: “Wear very bright/reflective/contrasting colors. Drivers don’t pay much attention especially in cold weather. And when you start you should be chilly.”
Angela said: “Wicking base layer, an insulating mid layer and a wind resistant outer later-can also be insulating like fleece. Zippers are great to help regulate comfort level (vent if too hot; close it if too cold). Cover your hands head neck (and face if you want). Invest in warm running tights or pants if you haven’t already (fleece lined but wicking). You should feel on the chilly side when you start! If you are totally comfortable when you step outside, you’re overdressed for the run and will overheat for sure.”
Christopher said: “From a dancer not a runner….extra stretching before, since the cold will make a difference on your muscles. Keep your head and hands covered….everything else will get hot.”
Carena said: “Thin layers, gloves and a hat! You will warm up!”
Beth said: “Make sure the 1st layer is wicking material. Hat, gloves, light jacket.”
Kristy said: “Wicking material! Sweat will make you colder. Clothes with vents you can open are great too as you warm up.”
Rachel said: “Be comforted by the thought that you WILL warm up after the first mile or so.”
Lydia said: “ I’d be wary of a scarf, as it could blow around and bother you. I’d go for a wicking turtleneck or mock-zip-type top instead.”
So I took the advice and ran not once, but three mornings in a row in the colder weather of Toledo. After my cold running, I really started thinking about how much I have enjoyed this year being a newbie runner and all. The way experienced runners have embraced me has made me feel so loved! Not to mention, every week in running is another milestone or something to celebrate for me. Will I be that easily motivated now that I have 7 months under my belt? I don’t want it to end! So, how long can someone cling to newbie runner status?
2012 Newbie Recap:
Although I did not log every workout, I did log 319 miles of running from June 9th – December 30, 2012. I guess it does not seem like a lot compared to more advanced runners, but to me – it represents a great deal, specifically my new, healthier, identity. To put 319 into “xahndra” perspective:
… It’s 319 more miles than I ran in 2011!
… I consumed 10x my mileage in cigarettes in 2011!
… In my FASTEST time of a 12 minute mile, 319 represents over 60 hours of running and 82 minutes of running per week (spread over the 28 weeks I ran).
With smoking and my first marathon behind me and with 2013 and my “DetermiNation” to stay healthy ahead; I have decided attack the months of 2013 aggressively. Inspired by one of my American Cancer Society volunteer coaches, I’ll be committing to 13 resolutions for 2013. Because publicly committing to quitting smoking worked so well for me, I am going to use social accountability once again to help me master every goal I have for next year. So, here they are:
13 Resolutions for 2013:
I will double my mileage from 2012 aiming for 638 miles in 2013.
I’ll participate in 10 races in 2013, 2 marathons and 2 half marathons, 6 races 10 miles or less Marathons:
I have already selected the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio on April 28th, 2013 and the ING NYC Marathon on November 3rd, 2013 Half-Marathons:
I have already selected the NYC Half Marathon on March 17th, 2013. Any suggestions for my other half? Feel free to comment some suggestions!
I’ve been vegetarian “trending toward vegan” for a year and a half now. I will become vegan in 2013, gradually eliminating one food item at a time.
I will lose 52 pounds in 2013, averaging 1 pound a week taking me to an ideal healthy weight.
I will obtain my BA in Communications in 2013, thanks to the CUNY School of Professional Studies Online Baccalaureate program. I am just 24 credits away, which translates into four classes in the Spring and four classes in the Fall.
I will take my daughter on an incredible (hopefully international) vacation in 2013 to celebrate her 21st birthday.
I will read 4 books next year, for pleasure. I have gotten out of the habit of reading on the subway, playing stupid games on my phone. That’s changing in 2013! (Any book suggestions? Please comment!)
I will dedicate time to a good cause; and in my case – I have been chosen (and have agreed) to serve as the Social Media chair for the American Cancer Society endurance team, DetermiNation. Feel free to hit me up for details on joining our team or getting involved! Infomercial: We still have spots available on our 2013 NYC Half Marathon team. A small fundraising minimum guarantees you a spot in this sought after race and excellent training with a team of passionate coaches.
I will spend more time with my family. In the last 2 years, I have only been to Toledo twice. Next year, I will make plans to visit Toledo twice and Cincinnati at least once. Get ready for me family!
I will diversify my exercise routines: translate, I will buy a road bicycle and take swim lessons.
Pursuant to my bucket list wish to run in all 50 states, I will add run in 5 new states in 2013.
I make strides in the effort to help animals. For example, it’s my dream that animal abusers not be allowed to adopt animals. Similar to a “sex offender” list, I believe there should be an animal abuser offender list that would black list animal abusers from adopting animals. So, I will make strides or effort for that cause somehow in the state of New York for 2013. I have to start somewhere!
I will graduate from newbie runner status by helping another newbie runner. And in good fun, I’ll rename my blog once that’s happened! Perhaps my blog will be titled, “Confessions of a ‘once’ newbie runner” – okay, that’s dumb… instead I’ll take suggestions!
I’m a butterfly!
Thanks to everyone that nominated me for the 2012 #RunChat “Best New Running Blog” award. It was an honor and it really encouraged me to keep with my blog for 2013. Those of you who have supported me have really watched me transform from a smoker to a runner in such a short time. Now, I’m a butterfly and the sky is my limit! Accordingly, I look forward to transforming this blog from chronicling my experience as a newbie runner into a blog that helps newbie runners, like I once was.
I’ve struggled with putting words to my incredible marathon experience… That’s why it’s taken me so long to even think about this post; but here I go.
Since I run so slowly, I am usually by myself out the course and alone with my thoughts. So it’s no surprise how much thinking time I had while running for 6+ hours. It’s like my “training life” flashed before my eyes. I was going to write a play-by-play / mile-by-mile rundown of my marathon run, but that could have easily turned into a novel! Just know, those of you out there that have helped me on my journey – I reflected on every moment and every encounter I’ve had – literally. Often times, my reflections are exactly what got me through any rough patches.
One of my coaches (Jen) told me during training not to worry about the marathon day. She said the training and getting to the start were the hardest parts of doing a marathon. She’s right. The morning of the race, I was so nervous to get to the start. My nerves were raw, my stomach was weak – I couldn’t even eat. I forced myself to eat a banana and drink some Gatorade. I was so happy to be able to chat briefly with Coach Anthony and the head of the American Cancer Society endurance team, DetermiNation, about an hour before the start. Both gave me some last minute encouragement and words of wisdom. Thank you Jen, Thank you Anthony, Thank you Sarah!
At the start of the race, I went to turn my phone off after snapping a shot of the start and I noticed a text from my running-buddy, Liz. (Emotionally and mentally, she’s been invested as much as my coaches have by sharing her tips with me and emotional support.) I was so glad I saw her text, as I clung to it throughout the run. She said, “You got this. The first 10 is with your legs, the next 10 with your head and the last 6.2 is with your heart.”
Philadelphia did a great job welcoming the NYC Marathoners! Just as I was running through the start, the end of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” was playing; sending me off on the final leg of my “quit smoking” journey. Thank you Liz, Thank you Philly!
I loved the crowd cheering, I loved the signs, and I loved the fact that at mile 5, I got to see my Coach Jen there cheering me on! She hopped on the course with me and gave me a quick pep talk. We chatted about the “middle” portion of the race and my fears, and she gave me a few more final words of encouragement before promising to meet me at the finish. Thank you Jen!
The first 13.1 miles were easy for me. In fact, I felt great until about mile 15. That’s when I began to doubt myself. I knew my longest run of 18 was approaching. I knew I was 4 weeks from my longest run, not 2 weeks as a perfect training calendar would have had it. The mental game really started there at mile 15. Fortunately, right at the split where the half-marathoners were finishing and the marathoners continued – I met a fellow New Yorker, Craig. The two of us really ran well together – sometimes in silence and other times helping talk each other out of rough patches. We did split up just before mile 17 for about a mile. It was at that time that I had hit the porta-potties and Craig needed to keep going. My muscles and body locked up from stopping and when I began to run again, I thought I would have to quit. I took my phone out, turned it on – and gave Liz a call. (Before the run, she told me to call her if I hit the wall.) I called Liz, practically sobbing. She calmed me down and got me through that rough patch and told me to put the pain out of my mind. I was reminded that the second 10 miles would be run from my mind; not my body. So, I kept going. Craig and I finally met up together just before mile 18 and then we began our countdown to 26. Every mile, I felt stronger and stronger… When I got to mile 20; I knew I would finish, I felt it in my heart. (Thank you Liz, Thank you Craig!)
By the time I got to mile 25, I felt as though I was already finished. My eyes welled up with happy tears. I called my mom to share them with her. Just after hanging up, I spotted my friend Autumn in a polar bear costume with Swedish Fish & her dog, Hilti. They ran with me until just about mile 26 when I ran into 2 of my coaches (Kate & Jen) who were ready to run me to the finish. I had an entourage! Just before the finish, they all broke away and I crossed on my own, with happy tears streaming down my face.
Crossing the finish…
I recall seeing a sign when I visited the ING NYC Marathon Expo at the Jacob K. Javits convention center. The sign said, “26.2 Miles is just the start.” I remember thinking to myself, Nu-uh! I’ve been grossly misinformed! I was joking, but I also kind of knew what the sign was talking about. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish that I understood completely and felt it.
I felt vainglorious! I felt invincible! Crossing the finish line meant I did an amazing job helping fight cancer; but it also meant I have been victorious in fighting for my own life. I am no longer a smoker. I enjoy fitness. I have been transformed, like a butterfly.
At the Philly Marathon Expo, I met the co-chair for the Philly DetermiNation team, Roy Kardon. When he learned that this marathon would be my first, he urged me to look at myself in the mirror the morning of the race then again after the race. He said I would be looking at a new person. He was right, I am new.
I am already trying to figure out how to incorporate fitness into my life. I recently trekked all the way to Reno to visit my running buddy, Liz. We snowshoed and hiked in the mountains together. 2 years ago, I would have never dreamed of such a vacation where activity would be the focal point. I am grateful to all of my supporters, donors, friends, family members and coaches who have been a part of this change.
Well, I am writing as a would-be marathoner for the 2nd time. While I understand the decision made to cancel the NYC Marathon; it didn’t change how heartbreaking it was for me after all the months of training and fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Knowing that I had a spot in the 2013 NYC Marathon was exciting, but at the same time I knew it meant another 6 months of heavy lifting in order to train properly. To be honest, a part of me was scared I wouldn’t do it, that something between now and then would prevent me from completing my marathon. I was also feeling so low. The most heartbreaking part of the NYC Marathon was how the runners were treated before the race was cancelled and even after the race was cancelled. Runners who raised millions for charity had already been out helping and volunteering – yet the negative attention hit the runners hard. I, being one of them, was wounded by the bum rap.
It’s important to realize, that owning how I feel doesn’t mean I don’t respect the efforts as NYC recovers from Hurricane Sandy. Frankly, I hope the experience awakens NYC residents and that the same vigor for protecting and helping the homeless or suffering in New York continues.
Fortunately, I was overwhelmed and healed by the kind words from my supporters. Many reminded me that it is about the journey and that in their hearts, I was already a marathoner. When I ran on Sunday, November 4th, with my team in Prospect Park (having raised over $10,000 for the Red Cross as a part of the activity) – tears sprung to my eyes as supporters in the park said “Looking good, marathoner!” Even though everyone was encouraging me to “build my own marathon,” I didn’t feel it in my heart.
Shattered dreams were quickly reassembled thanks to the generosity of the Philly Marathon & the support of my American Cancer Society team, DetermiNation. Thanks to both, I have been offered the chance to officiate my training and fundraising efforts this Sunday, November 18th as a part of the Philly Marathon. I didn’t expect to be in Philly, but a warm welcome expects me anyway!
So it’s important to know why I chose the American Cancer Society as my charity. During my childhood, one of the brightest spots in my life – hands down – was the time I spent with my grandparents, John and Ursula Grogan. My grandfather was a heavy smoker, like I was just 6 months ago, and died from lung cancer when I was just a pre-teen. After battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for 12 years, my grandmother died just 6 weeks after my grandfather passed. Losing them at such a young age impacted me beyond words can describe. It’s why this charity hits so close to home for me too, as a former smoker – I run the same risk my grandfather did of suffering lung cancer. Through my involvement with the American Cancer Society, I learned that so many of my friends and their families have been impacted by cancer as well. I want to make a difference in these lives. As a result, here is my final #FF Fundraising Friday plea: I would really love to hit my goal of $5,000 for the American Cancer Society. If you have a few dollars and wouldn’t mind tossing a little coin my way to help me celebrate this exciting weekend ahead – I would greatly appreciate it. Please visit my fundraising page here: http://bit.ly/xahndra. If you are interested in tracking me on race day, Philly Marathon has indicated they will have a tracker program that can be sent to your phone. The directions say to check the website on race day (click here). My bib number is #14794, and my corral assignment is 4-Gray.
Thanks again everyone for your support and encouragement over these last 6 months and especially these last 2 weeks.