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!
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.
There has been a lot of heated chatter the last few days regarding the 2012 ING NYC Marathon. Now that it’s cancelled, I am hoping you don’t feel as though your donation was wasted this year! Your funds and moral support are still contributing to a worthy cause that I believe in. The American Cancer Society helps fund research for a cure and provides direct care to those fighting cancer.
Through my fundraising and training this season, I’ve met many survivors and fighters who are grateful to all of us for what we’ve accomplished. For example, just a few weeks ago when I was on my way to do a long run in Prospect Park wearing my American Cancer Society “DetermiNation” shirt, a woman named Sheila stopped me to thank me for running for the American Cancer Society and that she fought and beat lung cancer 20 years ago – and then, she hugged me.
The American Cancer Society has helped me do something great for people and I am proud to be a part of the team and so grateful to all of you for making that possible. Not only that, you have all helped me fight for my own health too… It’s something to be very proud of.
So, now what? The American Cancer Society has deferred my entry to the 2013 ING NYC Marathon with no fundraising minimum required. I WILL do this race and wear all the ribbons in honor of all of those I’ve promised. I also am currently shopping for an official marathon to join in the next month or two. The most important take away is that I am committed to sticking with my exercise and lifestyle change. You are all a part of that excitement! You have all given me (and others) the gift of life!
But, there’s more to share. In the wake of the hurt, pain and recovery efforts here in the NYC area – my team and I have decided to run 26.2 miles this Sunday – because we’ve trained for it and we can! We are trying to use this effort on Sunday to spread awareness and raise funds for the American Red Cross. Already, my team has raised over $2,500. If you are able, I would love for you to be a part of our run this Sunday in Prospect Park. My family will be relaying the marathon with me, one loop at a time.
To check out our fundraising progress, visit the page here. If you are in the area – consider coming out to Prospect Park with some cow-bell cheer! All waves begin at 8am at the loop by Grand Army Plaza.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your support during this difficult time. It has truly been a wildly enjoyable and humbling experience.
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. .
With the start of the Fall 2012 semester this week, those of us who took the summer off are quickly reminded of the juggling we will need to do in order to maintain our family responsibilities and jobs. Schedules need to be re-arranged, social outings declined or cancelled, and sometimes we have to ask others for help. I’ve already had to ask my brother to spend time with Athena, my daughter’s Chihuahua, because we are both keeping long days with work and school, and in my case, training for the marathon too.
Asking for help has become a new talent of mine. It is how I have been able to raise over $2,500 for the American Cancer Society and how reaching the goal of $3,500 is attainable. Since the CUNY School of Professional Studies has an opportunity to fundraise for Komen’s Race for the Cure, I thought it would…
In early June, on my very first group run with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team, I ran for 10 minutes and wanted to cry. Not even 3 months later, through practice and DetermiNation, 10 minutes turned into 10 miles.
Last Sunday, I ran for 10 straight miles for the first time through my participation in the Jack Rabbit Battle of Brooklyn race in Prospect Park. The course consisted of three laps around Prospect Park. Each loop was just a little over 3 miles making the total course 10 miles. It was generally a nice course, mostly in the shade with only one doozy of a hill.
While the change “on paper” seems miraculous, there is no miracle about this great accomplishment. Getting here took practice, persistence and preparation.*
*Please note: This is a personal account of my experience and would like to recommend that…
Remember the book “The Monster at the End of This Book” where Grover implores the reader to please please stop reading and to stop turning the pages because he doesn’t want to see the monster at the end of the book?
That’s me right now. Please stop reading this blog. If you keep reading, another post will appear after I’ve completed Jack Rabbit’s “The Battle of Brooklyn” 10-miler -and I am really scared, just like Grover in this book! Please stop reading, immediately 🙂 You are forcing me to the Battle of Brooklyn…, which will truly be a battle!
Okay, in all sincerity, I do want you to read. I do want to do this race; but I would be lying if I didn’t let you know – I am scared! Please support me with comments! Also, please note, I am selling my 10 miles for $25.00 each. So far, I’ve already sold miles 1 and 2. 8 more are left. Can you support me by buying a mile or leaving a positive “go-get-em” comment? I appreciate you!!!!
PS – follow me live during race day (8/19 @ 8am) by adding me as a friend on the MapMyRun app, @xahndra
I am an ex-smoker It’s hard to believe that just over 3 months ago, I was a heavy smoker. I used to love smoking. I smoked on and off from the time I was 17. I really didn’t want to quit. I believed that there was no hope for me to ever find the desire to quit.
That changed in January of this year. A colleague of mine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It jarred me that this active and healthy young woman was facing such a scary illness and was now forced to fight for her life with every ounce of energy in her body. At the time that she was diagnosed, quite a few of my colleagues immediately joined Team in Training to run the NYC Half Marathon and raise funds in her honor. I contributed to the team, but completely shied away from participation. I was a smoker…