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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Those Who Inspire Us -- NYRR Team For Kids

THE STORY

                I’m the oldest of four siblings, spread over 10 years. Those of you who are parents know that for my parents that meant a lot of work and not much free time. Thankless jobs like doing the laundry, making dinner, and shuttling children from one event to the next all become priorities. As a result, a parent’s personal exercise may fall by the wayside.

                That is where my mom found herself in 2008 – children leaving the house and a body that she wasn’t satisfied with. She wanted to change, but she didn’t know where to start. The gym was intimidating for a shy and introverted person like herself, but she needed support to start taking her first steps. So when I heard her lament these things I stepped up to the plate (for the mostly selfish reason of wanting to have a healthy and happy mom that will be around when I have children of my own).

                “Mom, you need to start running. I will write you workouts and when you are ready you can select a race that will help keep you motivated”.

                And so began a yearlong endeavor. It started with walking, 15-20 minutes at a time. I called her every day from Minneapolis, to make sure she got in her exercise. At first the answer was usually something like “No, it was raining” – which I knew translated as “No, this is really hard”. So I kept pushing her and calling…eventually the answers because “Yes, and I made it further today!” 11 months later she was running three hour long runs, training for her first marathon – The Knoxville Marathon. 

                On March 29, 2009 she lined up on the starting line for her first marathon, just a few months shy of her 50th birthday. Anxiety was written all over her face, but her posture showed how much determination she had for the task ahead. It was a cold and blustery fall day in the foothills of the Appalachians. Not the perfect conditions one hopes for when trying to tackle the 26.2.

                “Mom, I’ll meet you at the 1 mile mark. You’re going to do great!” I told her as I left 
her standing in her starting corral, which was buzzing with excitement. We ended up running 
together for nearly 18 miles of that first marathon; at times I was running backwards trying to block the wind while at the same time cheering her on. But the last 3 miles I left for her alone. She had to tackle her inner demon on her own.

                I dashed ahead to get inside the UT football stadium where the finish line loomed.
Waiting….
                Waiting…..
                                Waiting….

Finally she rounded the corner of the stadium, plodding along the grassy bend towards the finish line. She held her hands up high, a beaming smile on display despite her clearly exhausted body. Victory looked sweet. Finisher medal hanging around her neck and space blanket draping from her shoulders she emerged from the finish coral. She saw me and said “I did it! Look at my medal. I earned every part of this medal.” I couldn’t have been happier for her. 

The Saga

                Back in the Minni-apple, I called my mom a few days later. “How are you feeling?” I asked. She told me that she was a little sore, but not too bad. We had a good laugh about the way in which she had waddled away from the finish line to get back to the car.  And then she told me something that left me breathless –

                “My new goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states!”

I beamed inwardly with admiration. Here is the woman who helped to give me a life better than her own and she wants to, at the age of 50, start down that path. Amazing! I was inspired.

                As of December, 8th 2013 she has completed 9 marathons in 9 states. Once she reaches 10, she gets to join the 50 States Marathon Club – her second milestone after finishing her first marathon 5 years ago.

                So this year as I contemplated a Christmas gift for her my mind went straight to ways to continue to help her pursue this dream. I automatically thought of the New York City Marathon, one of the most prestigious running events in the world. How amazing would it be to run this race for her 10th marathon? Because of its prestige it is one of the most difficult races to procure a racing bib for as well. For some time now the NYRR has had a lottery to get into their race – meaning it can take up to three years to get into the NYC Marathon. That is, unless you run for a charity…

NYRR TEAM FOR KIDS

                My Christmas gift to my mom, to help her reach her goal of running 50 marathons is 50 states, is the gift of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. I selected the Team For Kids charity because it works to give less fortunate children the same childhood opportunities that my parents worked so hard to give me. The program helps kids across the country and around the world to build self-esteem, learn goal-setting, perseverance, determination, teamwork and healthy exercise habits, through the sport of running, just as my mom has.

AND THIS, RUNNING COMMUNITY, IS WHERE I NEED YOUR HELP!

                In order to support the children of Team For Kids in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and to support my mom in achieving her dream of running in the New York City Marathon, I need to raise $2,800. These funds will also guarantee her entry in to the 2014 NYC Marathon – her milestone 10th marathon on this long road.

                If you are a runner, walker, parent or fan please consider making a tax deductible donation to support this great cause and help a fellow runner achieve her dreams. Donate today! You will have the eternal thankfulness of a fellow running community member, aspiring 50 stater, and thousands of children around the globe.

(Click on this link to be taken to the Team For Kids secure site)

Merry Christmas, Mom. I love you!

And Merry Christmas to you and your family, dear reader! Cheers to many healthy New Years to come! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Trickle Down Economics of Running

I’ll come right out and say that the following text is primarily comprised of my opinion. However, I consider these opinions to be based on reality due of my extensive personal knowledge in the world of running.

This week I was scrolling through Facebook, neglecting my research paper that is due in a few days, when I happened upon an article written by the Jeré Longman of the New York Times. The article was titled Sub-Elite Runners Chase Improvement. My interested was piqued, I read on. As my eyes meandered left to right absorbing the contents of the article, I decided that I had more to say with regards to this article. So here I am, writing to you.

The article describes a young man (I hope I can call him young, when he is two year older than me), Greg Cass, who in the world of running is considered sub-elite. Meaning that his 2:30.44 marathon PR, while certainly a superb time and one that far superior to the average New York City Marathon finishing time of 4:28:20 for men and 4:44:35 for women, it will not confer a spot for him at the next Olympic Trials Marathon. So he instead uses his discipline and commitment, traits he has in common with even the most elite runners, and sets his sights on improvement. Running faster for the sake of running faster is the name of his game.

The article goes on to address how Cass achieves his success despite holding a full time job as an investment banker, which I agree is no small feat. However, the article goes on to insinuate that professional runners only eat, sleep and train. Which I think is far from the truth for most runners who call themselves professional, but I will not dwell on this fact because it is detour from what I really would like to address. But I will say that I personally chose to join Team USA Minnesota because of the team’s balanced approach to running – they encourage development outside of running in order to be a whole person. With this encouragement I am pursing my running dreams, while at the same time developing strong roots for my future by getting experience as an assistant college coach, earning my masters degree in Leadership, and working a few hours a week at a pet hospital. I live a purpose-driven life, I selected avenues that will help me be successful, rather than just letting life happen to me. End soapbox….stepping down.

Now to get to the real point of what I wanted to address, the intersection between Cass’ world and mine.  Towards the end of the article he is quoted as saying that “’Living in New York, I could appreciate just how huge the event as. It’s an event where you can run with the elites. Even if you finish one hour or two or three behind them, it’s a fun thing to do. Actually witnessing it in New York made me realize how inspiring it could be”. A short paragraph later, Cass is quoted as saying “Seeing Geoffrey Mutai [the 2013 ING New York City Marathon winner] in line at the Porta Potty is your one brush with greatness. Some people would prefer a more glamorous place, but I’ll take what I can get”. Reading these lines brought about a recollection of a question that was asked of me at a press conference prior to the USA Marathon Championships hosted by the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. The question was this “In light of the recent announcement by Competitor Group to pull their elite athlete funding, what do you think of Twin Cities in Motion’s (TCM) pledge to not only continue to support elite athletes but actually to increase that support?” In the moment I replied that I thought that it represented forward thinking on the behalf of TCM, that I believe in the trickledown effect of that support, and that I am extremely thankful for it.

What do I mean by trickledown effect? I mean that by supporting the very top athletes, enabling them to pursue running in a more single minded fashion than would otherwise be possible, they will in turn inspire and give back to those at the sub-elite level, all the way down the chain to the tots who can be found scurrying along in the diaper dash. In the world of money, I know this thinking represents a logic that is highly debated, but in the world of sports I see clear indications of this being truth.
I look at it like this:

The running world can fit into your standard Bell curve, where the extremes are represented by elite runners on the left side of the curve and walkers are on the right. In the middle of the curve, at its peak is your average runner (represented by those running in the mid 4 hour marathon range), and along the curve up to the peak is where you find the sub-elites.

Now that we have looked at this simple curve, answer this one question for me. Why does the average person run in races?

At first the array of possible answers seems rather simple – 1) to see how fast they can cover a distance, 2) to support a cause, 3) for health. (This is not an exhaustive list, but you see the trend). These reasons are rather superficial. You can accomplish any of these three things without running in a race. Yet, people flock by the thousands to run in the ING New York City Marathon. Why?

Well thanks to that research paper that I am currently neglecting to write up my literature review on, I can answer that. Researchers have found that people participate in sports for the following reasons: escape, economic, eustress (aka good stress), self-esteem, group affiliation, entertainment, family and aesthetic reasons.

Greg Cass touches on these reasons in the article when he says he was “drawn to the New York City Marathon, as much for the spectacle as the distance. He was a sports fan, and he lived in a city with one of the world’s great races”.

Now imagine this same race without any of the elites. Gone is some of the spectacle, gone are the competitors whom Greg Cass is pacing out his race next to in the streets of New York, gone is his inspiration. Furthermore, gone too are possibly other sub-elite runners who have children that may compete in the children’s events. Also, gone is Cass’ wife’s inspiration to complete her first half-marathon. As you can see, this one missing link, the lack of elite runners has the potential for wide spread and disturbing consequences.

I have brought forward this discussion to point out what I see as misguided action by Competitor Group to cut elite athlete funding from its Rock ‘n Roll series races. I believe that this will lead to the slow erosion of their races into unconsciousness. Which perhaps to them is fine, but I also see it as a misguided action in this very moment. I understand that Competitor Group is a for-profit company. They are in the business of making money and in our capitalist society I am sure they are applauded for the amount of money they have made off of their races. But by cutting elite athletes from their races, they are not only hurting the running community by not “giving back to the community” as nearly every major corporation does, but they are also missing out on potential profits. The sub-elite runner that normally would have traveled around the country, their tourism dollars in hand, and paid for race entry may now consider a different race. A race where they will not be the lone wolf at the front of the race, alone with only his/her shadow for company. And sub-elite’s partner will not travel with him/her to compete in the same race or to be a spectator either. In short the small percent that Competitor has to spend to bring in professional athletes for their events is far outweighed by the benefits.

My argument is that professional athletes are important to the sport. They provide an outlet for every runner who is a fan of the sport to escape from daily reality, boost their self-esteem, be affiliated with a group, for entertainment, family activities and aesthetics. All of these reasons have been associated with why people watch professional sports.

Now I am not arguing that it is a one way street, the athletes themselves certainly have to help in the process, and there are a number of ways that this can be done. I think Meb Kefleighi is a great example of someone who gives a lot back to the community. Joan Benoit Samuelson is another fantastic example.  They raise our sport to even higher levels, and I for one hope to emulate their greatness.

So finally, my challenge to you is this: If you are a leader in your community that features one of Competitors races, ask yourself if Competitor really has the running community and your neighborhood in its best interest. If you are an athlete, ask yourself the same thing. If you say yes, than I hope you have a Rock ‘n’ Roll’n good time.  If you say no, than show it by choosing another race which supports the community you love.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon #RunMSP

  1        2        3        4       5        6         7       8         9       10     11     12      13  
5:48,    5:48,  5:38 , 5:35,  5:41, 5:38,    5:44,  5:45,    5:55,  5:46,  5:53,  5:56,  6:00,

    14   15    16      17    18     19    20     21    22     23    24    25      26    26.2
 6:06, 5:57, 6:08, 6:08, 6:11, 6:14, 6:16, 6:29, 6:46, 6:46, 6:28, 6:32, 6:21, 1:20   Time = 2:38.57

Have you ever walked into a play that you thought was going to be a comedy and been surprised to find out that it is actually a tragedy? Well, that is what I discovered when I got to about 16 miles into the Twin Cities Marathon. I made the rookie mistake of letting someone else dictate my race – I was reading lines from a tragedy in the middle of my own comedy.

When I set off from the starting line I had one goal in mind, the win. The start went out fast which surprised me and instead of sticking to my own pace I began to rationalize. My mind turned over as quickly as my legs – “I’m as fit as these girls, if I want to win I have to run with them.” “I know this pace is faster than I wanted to average, but they are probably trying to gain some cushion time right now where the course is a little easier”. “I feel good, this pace doesn’t feel crazy, I’m going to do fine”.

I was in the top three, stalking the leaders. As the leaders continued to push the pace, I eventually decided that I could let them go a little bit, keep them in sight but allow them to play themselves out and I would pick them up later. But that didn’t happen, the early damage was done and the rest of the race was a lonely fight to the finish line.

People have asked “When did you feel it?” And my response is, there was never one moment where I said to myself “oh crap”, just a slow deterioration of my pace and with it the accumulation of a few more women in front of me. I was able to hold on to finish in the top 10 and get an Olympic Trials A qualifying time, but that was about it. Mostly I felt foolish….I said to myself over and over again before the race, “I’m going to run my own race” and yet I didn’t execute that plan. I didn’t trust in myself enough.

Lance Elliot (who did trust his own abilities and ran a brilliant race), who I spent a lot of time training with in the past months ended up passing me just before mile 24, just in time for the “smile cam” to snap a picture of us in the mere seconds that we were on the course side by side that day. And instead of smiling as the huge sign next to the camera suggested, I just wanted to give that sign a swift kick. If only I could have picked my legs up more than the few inches needed to clear the pavement for my next step forward.

Oh, and the cherry on top of the cake. I was the only lucky woman that weekend to get drug tested on both Saturday and Sunday! I got to spend a lot of quality time exposing myself to the nice people from USADA. I say this in half jest, because it’s great to have USADA there helping to ensure that the sport that I love is clean. But at the same time, no matter how many times you do it, it is never a comfortable thing to have to drop your shorts with a pair of foreign eyes watching on.

Well now it is over and it’s back to the grindstone for 6 weeks, until the US Championships on Nov 17th in Alexandria, VA. This will be a 12K race which will serve as the “culminating event of USATF’s USA Running Circuit and USATF’s flagship road race, featuring $100,000 in prize money, the race offers an opportunity for everyone to test their limits and enjoy a scenic run through historic Alexandria” (USATF.org).  I am currently in 6th place on the leader board, with the 12k counting as triple points towards the road racing circuit. Can I catch the women in front of me and jump into one of the top three spots? Stay tuned. Make sure to watch the race on Sunday Nov. 17th, or even better yet come out and run!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Meghan Peyton Preps for Twin Cities" -- Running Times Interview

Meghan Peyton Preps for Twin Cities

After winning the U.S. 20K championships in September, the hometown favorite makes her second attempt at the marathon distance.

Published
October 1, 2013
Meghan Peyton, 27, is in the crazy-making taper before Sunday’s Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. The kind of crazy-making in which she does five miles a day. In two workouts. Adding to the stress level, Peyton finds herself on a short list of favorites in a hometown event, the U.S. marathon championships, over a distance she has never completed.
When she was still Meghan Armstrong, she won three consecutive Oregon state high school titles at 1500m and 3,000m, molding her self-image as a mid-distance runner. Once set, the mid-d persona is very durable. But after the NCAA 1500m final eluded her several times, she was more receptive when, in her senior track season at University of Iowa, coach Layne Anderson suggested the 10,000. Her first go at the distance was at Stanford, which turned out much better than she expected and she ran 33:28. She did the 5K-10K double at the 2008 Big Ten championships, winning the 10K, and finished out her college career with sixth place at the 10,000 meters at nationals.
Upon graduation in 2008, she and soon-to-be husband, Cole Peyton, hit the road, checking out training groups and seeing the country, eventually parking the car in Minneapolis with Team USA Minnesota. With the group, she plays the role of the level-headed, quiet, jack-of-all-trades, running roads, track and cross country. Peyton has a 1500m PB of 4:17.4, a half-marathon best of 1:13:43 and a posting at every distance in between. In September, she won the U.S. 20K championships in New Haven, Conn., in 1:09:57. The only event missing from her resume is the marathon, which she will fill in shortly.
When not running alongside Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, she is the Cross Country Fellow at Augsburg College (which is like assistant coach), a client services coordinator at Banfield Pet Hospital and proud Saucony athlete ambassador. She spoke to Running Times before her marathon debut.
Running Times: Your first attempt at the marathon was January 2012, the Olympic trials. Why the big jump in distance?
Meghan Peyton: Dennis (Barker, coach of Team USA Minnesota) kept asking me when I was going to get over my obsession with the mile, and I kept saying, “Every race begins with a mile.” Which is to say, never. But he was persistent in mentioning the marathon, working it into conversations. It was intimidating but I’d done a number of halfs and they had gone OK.
RT: How did the Olympic trials marathon go?
MP: I felt really good for the first 15 miles. I had a blister, but that was in the back of my mind. The pack I was in kept surging and slowing down, from 5:30s to 5:50s, and since this was the trials, I was focused on racing rather than hitting splits. So every time they surged, I went with them. At the 19-mile aid station, I took a Roctane gel, which I had not experimented with before and almost immediately my head felt like a balloon floating up above my body. What does that have, three times the caffeine of one cup of coffee? Plus my blood sugar was low at that point. At 22, the Roctane wore off and I started to crash. Just before 24 miles, you had to do a 180-degree turn around a pylon, my blister hurt and my hip flexors—I thought I’d trip over the chip mat. I could not lift my legs. People started to pass me. My spirit was broken. I looked over and saw the aid station at 24 miles. I know, 24 miles! But at that point, two more miles was an eternity. Even having slowed down, I was on pace for a 2:36, top-twenty finish. I stepped off the course and burst into tears. Lot of excuses but it came down to me giving up on myself. It’s the only race I’ve ever dropped out of, and I swore it would never happen again. Cole, everyone had gone on to the finish line. He said later, if he’d been there, he wouldn’t have let me quit.
RT: Then what?
MP: I was so disappointed in myself, I took four days off and started training again. Hard. I did five or six 10Ks in the spring, focusing on the 10K at the trials. I took some time off at the end of the summer, then ran the 5K championships in Providence, 30 seconds slower than the previous year. Then the 20K championships, three minutes slower than 2011. People tried to convince me it was in my head but after that, I knew it wasn’t in my head. I couldn’t move. I went to the doctor and as I was telling her what I’d been doing, she just shook her head. “Have you heard of overtraining?” she asked me. I had low iron and B12, which was a first for me. I eat meat, leafy greens. I’m not a picky eater. Anyway, she gave me a B12 shot and told me to double my iron supplement, and I felt better, not 100%, but better the rest of 2012.
RT: How did the Twin Cities Marathon come about?
MP: I was looking for redemption at the marathon. It’s a U.S. championship, it’s where I live. It was an obvious choice.
RT: What’s different about your training?
MP: Higher mileage and races every weekend as workouts. The low iron thing is behind me, so higher mileage hasn’t been a problem. No one else in the group is running the marathon, so instead of doing these long hard workouts by myself, we planned a lot of races, all 15K or longer. I can practice eating and drinking protocol, run harder than I would by myself and get used to surging. Or not when other people do. I lined up U.S. championships and then filled in with other races so I was racing every weekend.
RT: Tell me about your peak training.
MP: The week leading up to Bobby Crim (Aug. 24), I hit 132 miles. My previous highest mileage week was 107. I frontloaded the week so my legs wouldn’t betoo trashed, so Sunday was 21 miles, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were 18 in the morning and seven in the afternoon. Thursday was 15. My teammate, Heather Kampf, came to Flint with me because there was a road mile on Friday night. The race director said I should enter the mile, too, because the field was weak and prize money went five deep. I ran the mile, got fifth and $250, and the six miles total I’d planned for Friday. Saturday I ran the 10 mile (in 56:41) with a 3-mile warmup and cool down.
RT: During the week, just mileage?
MP: Yes, two-a-days. On Wednesdays, I usually did something fast, like 6 x 800 or 12 x 400.
RT: Some were surprised by your win at the 20K Championship. Were you?
MP: I was, not because I didn’t think I had the talent, but because I didn’t expect it that day. I’d done around 95 miles that week, it was absolutely thick with humidity. My previous best finish at that race was seventh and last year I was 18th, so no, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. At first, I was elated to be in the lead pack and then, when I was by myself in the lead, I was confused but thought, “Just keep pushing. I think you can win this but you’d better get away from them now.” The last two or three miles is this long straight road and I didn’t want to turn around to see who was back there, but I thought, “They’re going to hunt you down.” I was running scared. I’d worked so hard and didn’t want to lose it at the end, so I ran as hard as I could. I was sort of stunned when I crossed the line.
RT: While Competitor Group has cancelled their elite athlete program, I understand other smaller organizations are stepping up. Tell me about that.
MP: (laughs) Well, yes, to the tune of $93. My first weekend race/workout back at the beginning of August was the Grand View Firehouse 15K in a small town in northern Wisconsin. As we were warming up, the announcer was challenging all the women, wondering if any of us had the guts to chase the 21-year-old course record. It looked attainable, but I was told the course was very hilly. After battling with last year’s (male) winner and hometown favorite, and running the last couple miles on a state highway that was open to traffic, I heard the announcer saying, “Meghan, you are my hero!” I won overall and broke the course record by almost six minutes. I cooled down running the course in reverse, cheering those still finishing, and nearly every woman asked, “Did you get it?” At the award ceremony, they presented me with a plaque and $93 they had collected from spectators in a Bud Light pitcher. Of all the awards I’ve earned, this was one of the very best. I felt like I had inspired someone, the announcer anyway, and elite athletes do have value to the running community. I was really touched by the gesture.
RT: What’s the plan for Twin Cities Marathon?
MP: I’ll focus on hitting splits for the first 15 or so. I’m aiming for low 2:30s. I’d like to place high in the (U.S.) championship. Going for the W would be awesome

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

$93 and a Bud Light Pitcher

Yes, the first Sunday in August was a $93.00 and a bud light pitcher kind of weekend. You’re probably wondering what in the world I could mean by that. Let me explain…

But first let’s back up to Friday, August 1st.

That Friday I found myself bustling around my house in a tired trance, trying to get everything ready for a weekend out of town with friends -- Travis and Becky McCathie.  A trip to their cabin up in Hayward, Wisconsin –home of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame which contains a 200-foot fiberglass musky, the world's largest fiberglass structure. Pretty cool huh?  ;-)
I was looking forward to relaxing on the Namekagon River and letting my legs rest up from several weeks of very high mileage, before participating in the Grand View Firehouse 15K on Sunday. I would use the race as a training run in prep for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, which will also play host to the 2013 USA Women’s Marathon Championship.

After an atypical pre-race Saturday full of fun around town at the putt-putt golf course, boating and riding the hotdog (aka tubing) on one of the many lakes, 6:15am Sunday rolled around a little too quickly. I reluctantly pulled myself out of the warm bed, with the peaceful sounds of the river babbling outside the widow and began my prerace routine….practice make perfect when it comes time for the major championship races. So I first got up, made some coffee, prepped my fluid bottle, and had a light breakfast. And then I proudly pulled on my Saucony racing kit, packed up my Type A racing flats and started sipping on my water bottle before we left the cabin to go get registered for the race.

Warm-Up: After getting my bib, it was time to get warmed up.  A pretty standard routine, which I am sure many people do, of about 20 minutes of jogging, stretching, drills and strides. The one unusual occurrence being that the race announcer was goading all of the women in the race about how old the course record was – it being from 1992 – and pondering aloud if anyone in the field had the guts to chase the 21 year old mark. I had looked at the time the day before and knew that it was certainly attainable, but was also forewarned that the course was very hilly. So I wasn’t sure how much of a factor that would be.

Race: At just before 8am the field lined up along a single chalk line on a narrow road just past the fire station in the town of a population of 483. The top of the hour brought the race to a start. I was with the leader from the start and about a half mile in he was asking me “So what’s your goal?” I quickly replied. “53 minutes, but I don’t know how hilly this course is.” The next thing I knew, he was putting in a strong surge. And I found myself unromantically thinking “Dude, I am going to bury you!”  I guess my racing instincts kicked in a bit. My competitor was obviously the previous year’s winner and a local favorite, because even the course photographer was cheering for him by name.  Over the next mile and a half we climbed up a gradual hill, and I caught back up to him and took the lead. But he battled with me for the next several miles, staying right on my heels. Finally somewhere at about the 6 mile mark, I was able to shake him loose a bit. But I knew that I had to keep pressing, not only for my workout, but to win the race. Because this guy was a good downhill runner – and the last two miles were all just that – I was having daydreams of striding my way down the hills assured of victory and getting passed by this runner in the last minutes of the race. So I tried to continue to build on my lead before the last two mile segment. The middle miles of the race were a little technical because they were on gravel roads, so I was swerving on the road a bit more than usual looking for the best footing. At about the 6.5 mile mark I passed my fan club, getting a final burst of energy before the home stretch. At mile 7 I made a sharp left turn down a state highway that was still open to traffic! I resisted the temptation to look behind me and see where my competitor was. Meanwhile I began debating if I was still allowed to take the tangents going down this road, seeing that it was an active highway. I decided that yes, I had the right of way. I think at times I get a false sense of security from all those endorphins in my veins. Thankfully, it proved a non-issue.

The Finish and Awards: At 53 minutes and 40 seconds after the gun went off I crossed the finish line in first place. Much to the surprise of the community an announcer – I broke the previous course record by nearly 6 minutes. As I sprinted down the final straight away, spectators were cheering loudly and the announcer was telling me convincingly that “Meghan, you are my hero!” I ended up beating racer #2 by a narrow 19 seconds. I was very happy with the race effort and after catching my breath went off to do my cool down. I ran the course in reverse cheering for those that were still finishing. As I ran by them, nearly every woman asked “Did you get it?” and I was obliged to tell them that yes, I did.

Once I returned to the finish area, I really got a shock! I hear the announcer once again saying my name…as I listened to what he was prattling on about a huge smile came to my face. He was telling the crowed over the loud speaker that he had put out a bud light pitcher in order to collect a preem for my performance. He encouraged everyone to contribute and that it would be given to me at the awards ceremony! I was deeply touched by this gesture. Later at the awards ceremony I was presented with a beautiful wooden plaque and $93 in a bud light pitcher used as a collection plate. I can honestly say that of the many awards I have earned during my running career, this was one of the very best. It is so rare that I see true confirmation that I have inspired someone to take their own fitness into their hands, but on this day I had no doubt. And it felt great!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Inspiration Strayed


Inspiration is often found in the most unlikely of places. When I picked up Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail at the insistence of a dear friend, I thought it would be an intriguing tale of high adventure, and nothing more. A gutsy story of how she survived her solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), making her way from the Mojave Desert in California, up to the Bridge of the Gods on the border between Oregon and Washington – a journey of over 1,100miles, by foot.  But, I was wrong. I was inspired by her gut-wrenching story – equally moved to laughter, as I was to tears.

The world is a small place, and I am constantly reminded of this each time I meet a new person and find that we often have shared experiences. Cheryl Strayed, despite having never met her in my life, feels like someone with whom I share a common history. As she describes her early life in Minnesota, her trek along the PCT, and finding her eventual home in Portland, Oregon; I can’t help but mentally take off my bright green Saucony Mirage 3’s and don her rugged hiking boots. I have many memories of these places, having lived in both. I amalgamate these memories with hers into what feels like a shared experience. I find myself feeling cocky right along with her when she first starts out on her journey down the PCT – “What was hiking but walking, after all? I can walk! […]I walk all the time” (Strayed, p. 50) and, I run hundreds of miles a month; this journey along the trail would be easy! But then I feel myself fray right along with her, as she encounters both the physical elements of the PCT as well as the haunting memories from her past.

Although Cheryl and I also have a lot of experiences that we don’t have in common, like her use of heroin or growing up in a broken family, there are many things that we have shared.  I myself have climbed Broken Top Mountain, with a gaggle of my best high school friends (Thanks Colleen Godfrey, Lindsay Hallvik, and Mallory Freed for the still cherished memories), and explored the vibrant cities of Minneapolis and Portland. I have skied the mountain slopes of Mt. Bachelor (thank you Heidi Peyton and my lovely husband Cole), run along mountain trails in Southern California (Dennis Barker, or more adoringly D-Dawg, thank you), gazed at the magnificent beauty of Mt. Hood from the windows of Timberline Lodge and felt totally lost in a world that feels too big to comprehend.

 I used to think that as I grew older that life would slow down and I would be able to finally grasp this world that feels too big with my two bare hands. But, actually the opposite is true – each year goes by faster and the world has shrunk. Though creating relationships is not my strong suit due to my introverted harrier nature, I have learned to cherish the ones I have. In this world that continues to shrink, that is where I discover more – I continue to learn. When people meet me, I think I am often perceived as standoffish (Thanks DAD!) – but truly I am introspective. I am listening to what you have to say, because it is how I continue to learn. For example, whenever I am visiting my chiropractor Travis McCathie at Northwestern Health Sciences University, I ask him 101 questions because his mad scientist way of thinking is intriguing to me, and his teacher’s patience allows me to do so. I listen, absorb, and take my Saucony clad body out on a run to mull it over.

As my world continues to whiz by and shrink, each of my relationships new and well seasoned allow me to remember to keep learning and testing myself. It is easy to become complacent, settling for “good enough”, but that is not who I want to be. I want to continue to learn and be alive, strap a pair of Saucony Type A’s to my feet and step to the line to race without fear – testing the limits of my human spirit, forming relationships with people that will let me just sit and listen and ask the occasional question because that is where I find inspiration. Which charmingly, is also the beauty of running – it is a time where I can be introspective with the world around me, listen to what it and my body are telling me. Cheryl Strayed’s novel is one written without holding back and has filled me with inspiration anew. Keep pushing and learning because “It [is] my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me” (p. 311).
New Bucket List Item: Hike either the PCT or Appalachian Trail

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is "Green" a Mirage?



There are only a few things that I am truly passionate about. One of them is obvious, and typically the subject of this blog, running. The second is "green" technology. I personally try to live as "green" as I possibly can. A few examples being joining my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Featherstone Farms, my shampoo and conditioner (Garnier's Pure Clean - both over 94% biodegradable) and I recycle all of my used running shoes so that they can be made into things like rubber tracks and dog beds! These are just a few of the things I have changed in my life to play my part in helping to make our world better and more sustainable now and in the future. Sure. I would love to own a home that is green to the core, with an energy efficient exterior and solar panels to not only power the electrical components of the house, but also the hot water heater. Last summer I got to tour the home of some family friends in Sisters, Oregon and honestly I was green with envy (pun totally intended). It was not only a beautiful home, but the energy company was actually paying them for the surplus energy their home created! For now I will do the little things that I can until one day this dream too is a reality. But is this good enough? Is being "less bad" the best thing for our world?  

This YouTube video is an interview by Bill Moyers of PBS and Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book Emotional Interlligence (which I recommend you read if you have time). It is a brief 20 minute discussion of why currently being "green" is a mirage, but it also discuss small steps we can each take to make in impact on our world and -- to paraphrase Ghandi, bumper-sticker style, "Be the change you wish to see in the world".