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!
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.
With Halloween around the corner and Frankenstorm (a.k.a., Hurricane Sandy) looming, I can’t help but think how scared I am that the ING NYC Marathon is just 7 days away. SEVEN DAYS!
As scared as I am right now – I am clinging to the strong believe that I have got this marathon under my belt already. I got it!
How could I not? I have so much support. My friend from High School will be in town, staying with me, to do the marathon as well for Team McGraw. Liz has done 5 marathons and many triathlons, so she’s practically an expert and staying with me – at MY house. She’s really had faith in me all along, so having her here with me will be such a bonus for my moral as well! My brother is also coming in town to support me. This is the first time he’s come to visit me in NYC! He’s also a runner who has had incredible faith in me. So, this is also good!
And speaking of support, I have 82 donors who believe in me, 82 donors who have also helped me raise almost $4,000 for the American Cancer Society! I have incredible purpose for my run. No matter how hard my run is, this is going to be much easier than battling cancer.
Even more, I also have incredible coaches and teammates that believe in me. I have many volunteers who will be there cheering me on during the race. Most importantly, I believe in myself. So this superstitious feeling I have about “7 days” is all for nothing. In just 7 days, I will be able to say that I’ve completed a marathon. I will be part of the 5% of the US Population and 2% of the world’s population to ever complete a marathon.
For anyone in the NYC area, I hope you will come cheer me on. Expected times / locations are below (thanks to the JackRabbit spectator guide). Also, it’s not too late to donate to the American Cancer Society. I am less than $100 from raising $4,000. To make a donation, please visit: http://bit.ly/xahndra.
Image Credit: The Ring. Digital image. IMDb. DreamWorks Pictures, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. .
Last night I tossed and turned all night. I had such trouble sleeping knowing I would be forcing myself to hit at least 16 – 18 miles (with a secret desire to hit 20). When it was finally time to wake up, I sprung up from my bed. The quicker I could get started, the sooner I would be done.
I met with my fellow teammates at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It was cold, so I wore my long sleeved running shirt for the first time. Everyone had plans to run 18 – 20 miles. All of my teammates did 20-21 miles, but I only managed to do 18.
It’s okay though; I spent 4 hours and 14 minutes running on my feet. Who does that??? I do!
So big news! I did my largest mileage and stayed on my feet the longest I have all season… wait, not just all season – but all my life! If that’s not news enough, here’s more. I also beat my Staten Island Half Marathon time! I ran 13.1 of my miles today in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 18 seconds. I guess I have 2 personal records today! 🙂
The only downside for me is that I still need to do one more long run before I am allowed to taper. Basically, the rest of my teammates haven’t had any problem hitting their 20 miler today, so they can taper. Since I did not hit 20, I will be hitting the streets again next Saturday on a quest for my 20. I am glad for the practice though, I know it will make me stronger for marathon day!
With all the progress on running, I am at a stand-still on fundraising. I haven’t had a single donation since the end of September. I am really hoping that I can just edge a little closer to the $5,000 that I would like to raise for the American Cancer Society. If you are a reader who wouldn’t mind making a small contribution, please feel free to visit my fundraising page: http://bit.ly/xahndra.
Now that I got all of that off my chest, I have to admit – I am exhausted. It’s time for me to relax with my puppy, Athena. Since it’s so chilly outside and I refuse to turn on my heat yet – I will be spending the afternoon snuggled up in my down blanket until it’s acceptable for me to go to bed. Athena (pictured) is demonstrating.
In just 27 days, I will be standing in Staten Island, waiting for the 2012 ING NYC Marathon start.YIKES! What will it be like? How will I feel?
I tasted 50% worth of what that might feel like when I stood in Staten Island this weekend for the Staten Island Half-Marathon. With racers all around me, I was anxious for the race to start. After the sound of the ferry-boat horn, we were off… and then there would be no turning back. Once I start a race, I know I will do everything I can so that I finish.
Believe it or not, getting to that race starting point was really half the battle. The night before, I left my keys at work – irretrievably. By the time I got into my home, it was well after midnight and past my bedtime for the night before a race. AND, the anxiety then began. I woke up the next morning at 4 a.m. so that I could eat a hearty breakfast and make it to the 6:30 a.m. Ferry from Whitehall Street in Manhattan to Staten Island. I was tired, groggy and I’ll admit, a grumpy monkey.
I love and hate watching the mass exodus of runners heading to the start of a race. I can’t explain, but I relish in the excitement of joining all the runners while anticipate the start of the race at the same time with apprehension. Also, seeing all the runners, I feel like I’m a spectator among Olympians. Basically, I am always fighting the feeling that I am out of my league.
Once I made it off the ferry, nerves took me right to the restroom. I wasn’t sure if it was because I drank enough water to get me through a few days in the desert or because of the nerves. Perhaps a combination of both! I suspected mainly because I drank too much water. I am not running in the summer heat anymore; so my hydrated body doesn’t need to drink that much water before a race. (Noted)
A few more things hit me once I reached the bag check. It looked like rain. Bag check had no cover, which meant that all the contents of my bag were going to be soaked in a heartbeat if the rain started to come down. I also noticed that I was incredibly cold in my running outfit. I hadn’t packed a change of dry (warm) clothes. I was not prepared for a cold run. (Noted)
FINALLY, I ran into a few of my American Cancer Society DetermiNation teammates. I hate a great time conversing with Charlie and Stephanie (brother and sister). They made me laugh, smile and feel at ease. Charlie told me a story from our coach from the first time he did a marathon. Coach Ramon told Charlie to quit standing around and doing nothing before a race. He said that if there was nothing better to do, go stand in line to use the restroom. He said, after you use the restroom, go to the back of the line and wait to use the rest room again. We laughed and laughed as Charlie told the story (trust me, it was funnier coming from him). Even though I was chuckling, I immediately got into the bathroom line at the end of his story. Guess what – twice! Who knew how relevant this story would be for me on this race day!
After the second wait to use the restroom, it was literally minutes before the start of the race. I had to fight through thousands and thousands of people to get to the back of the line with everyone else wearing a bib in the 9,000’s. Finally, I made it! … and finally the ferry blow horn! … and finally the crowd slowly moving toward the start! …and finally, the race begins! Half of the battle was over for the Staten Island Half.
So, everything was going smoothly now and I knew I would complete the race. I felt at ease, happy even. Until I hit the second mile and realized that I needed to use the restroom – AGAIN!
Inner monologue: Clearly I am drinking too much water. I am not used to the cool runs where you aren’t sweating so much. I need to adjust my plan… but it’s too late to think about that now, I need a restroom!
So at mile 3, I stopped. There were 4 people in line. I thought how that wasn’t too many people and it would be a wise decision to stop now. I figured as the race went on, the lines would be worse. I thought for sure I would zip in and out. I could not have been more
wrong. It took me nearly 8 minutes to use the restroom. By that time, everyone had passed me and I was literally the absolute last person in the run! Even worse, after mile 3 – there was no such thing as a line to use the restroom. #FAIL! Who knew I would need a “potty plan?” Well, now I am all the wiser!
The New York Road Runners indicated on the race information that they would only be timing for 3 hours. By the time I got to the 10K point of the race (and thankfully passed it), they had begun taking down the timing mat. I resolved that I would not make it in the 3 hours and that I would be okay with that. My goal was simply to complete this race. I didn’t need the “finisher” title. (This is what I told myself, and I believed it.)
But, I’ll be raw with you. I was talking myself out of sadness because I knew I would have no idea what my time would be for this race. I plan to run and run and run and run for the rest of my life. I would really like to know what my official time is for my very first half-marathon ever. Is that too sentimental? Is it too much to ask? I spent almost $100 on a Timex GPS watch, that did not record properly. MapMyRun is so off, now by 3 – 4 miles ahead. And to boot, when I passed the start – the clock was all jumbled – I couldn’t see what number to subtract from the official clock to see what my time was – – but who knew if that clock would even be there by the time I got to the finish.
As I ran, I started passing people. 1, then 2, then a group of 4… I felt strong. I wasn’t too tired. My feet were hurting, but I didn’t care. I kept going. I didn’t want to stop. It started to rain. I started to sing the version of “Singing in the Rain” that my mentor, Dawn, and I sang the last time we ran (and sung) together while in the rain. I was happy. I was thanking the police officers along the way to the finish for guarding the course, thanking the people cheering me on, smiling, happy – euphoric! I really didn’t care about finishing with a time anymore. I was loving my moment in the rain, in Staten Island and on the course. In the very last moments of the race, I had at least half a dozen American Cancer Society DetermiNation teammates and coaches waiting for me and two more of my teammates who hadn’t finished the race yet. The were cheering so passionately for me! The excitement and happiness forced my eyes to well-up in tears! Don’t make me cry! At that point, I turned around a corner down a small hill to the finish – and there was my mentor, Dawn, with a few more teammates cheering me on. Dawn ran with me for a few seconds to encourage me and let me know how proud of me she was and then she encouraged me to press hard to that finish and let me finish that on my own. I was so happy, so overwhelmed.
And guess what, the clock was STILL there! I have my official time. All that worry for nothing, right? So, for today only, I am celebrating my medal and finish for the Staten Island Half-Marathon at 3 hours, 4 minutes and 11 seconds. After today, I have to get back on track and start thinking about the big day – the ING NYC Marathon on November 4th in just 27 short days!
Please feel free to support me and my journey to the ING NYC Marathon by supporting the American Cancer Society through my campaign link here: http://bit.ly/xahndra.
Joining the American Cancer Society DetermiNation team has been such a wonderful game-changer for me. I am capable of so much more than “average.” Would you believe me if I told you I ran for 3 hours and 32 minutes yesterday? True story!
After last Tuesday’s practice with my team in Central Park, I learned that I blew through my running shoes faster than I could have ever imagined. So, I went to my wardrobe and pulled out the pair of shoes I had special ordered specifically for the ING NYC Marathon… My Ruby Red Running Slippers, the Saucony kind. I tried them on at the store in a different color and special ordered the red for race day. Since I wore out my shoes, it was time to switch. My coaches said now was a good time to switch too because I will have one month to break them in.
So, I laced them up and met my teammates & coaches at Prospect Park this Saturday for our usual long run. The weather was a little chilly – probably the coldest run I’ve had so far in my training. I went in with a positive attitude, owning the fact that my last run was so bad because my running shoes should have been retired. That is the reason that my feet and ankles hurt. I can do a marathon, and so today – I am going to hit a milestone. Yup, that’s right!!! I have magic slippers… and they will help my feet glide over the pavement, one step at a time!
I was aiming to at least beat a half-marathon. So far, the most I had done was a questionable 13 miles. I say questionable, because I have learned that the MapMyRun app is not 100% accurate. So this time, I ran a distance that I 100% knew how long it was so I could be sure. At Prospect Park, you have 2 choices. You can run the straight loops which are 3 miles, or you can run what my teammate (and mentor), Dawn, calls a “crazy 8.” The crazy 8’s add mileage so that the completed 8 is 4.6 miles. So, I did 3 crazy 8’s and thus put 13.9 miles under my belt!
I attribute this new milestone with a couple of things: I have been practicing, and I am getting stronger! I am part of a fabulous team with dedicated coaches and passionate teammates. I had incredibly good company (Thanks again, Dawn)! And last, but not least… I had magic ruby red slippers!!!! It was as though I clicked my heels three times and POOF, the run was done…
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite as magical as that. But I do feel as though this long run was magical! The magic is the transformation this run had on me. This run helped me have a little bit more faith in myself. Just like one of my favorite childhood stories, I am the little engine that could get up the hill (or complete a marathon), “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” I can’t wait to write my first blog after this race so that I can say, “I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could!”
Does anyone remember what the feeling is like when you are on your way to school and you realized that you forgot your homework assignment at home? I had that heavy pit in my stomach last night at practice. A fellow American Cancer Society DetermiNator reminded me that we have just 4 weeks left of training before the big day in just 39 days. Race day will be here before I know it. Am I prepared? Can I do this? I’ll just say it, I am scared!
I hurried to practice yesterday evening straight from work, meeting up with my daughter and my puppy along the way. Pix11 was waiting there to interview me, hear my story, and meet my daughter and dog. As the official media partner for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation athletes for the ING NYC Marathon, they wanted to learn more about me. Who is…
Last Sunday, I joined the CUNY School of Professional Studies “Race for the Cure” team comprised of students, faculty, and staff. Being with our team of over 20-strong was such an emotional high for me. All dressed in our CUNY SPS blue shirts, we (and our mascot, Lex the Lynx) made quite an impression! I was proud to be standing with our school and overwhelmed at the same time with the sea of pink supporters out to fight breast cancer with us.
So race day finally arrived and I was eager to attempt the personal (and fairly public) challenge I gave myself: to beat my best 5K time. Why did I go with the public part? Was I over-confident? Was it for accountability? Well, it’s accountability that forces me to report that not only did I #FAIL to beat my last…
Before a run, I wake up—excited… Usually it’s about 4 a.m. and I begin forcing myself to eat some oatmeal and a spoonful of peanut butter. I am anxious to leave the house, but I take my time filling up my water bottle, eating my breakfast and dressing for my big run. My mind wonders over every laborious bite of food. Is today the day that I will fall in love?
Okay, I am going to be honest. Please forget what I am about to say after you read it. I am so embarrassed to admit, I do not like running, not one bit! Even so, every time I tie up my laces and head out; I am hanging on to a glimmer of hope. Today will be the day that I magically turn into a real runner!
I see real runners every time I go out for my runs…