Let’s Begin! – Shea’s 5K

Racing season has officially begun!

Runners tend to disagree on when the season officially starts. Some say as soon as the weather gets nice out. May-ish for those in 4 season states. Others say September is the official start because that is when the PR’s happen. Personally, I thrive in the fall. The weather is cooler, the scenery is more vibrant, and it is easier to get your run in without worrying about the thermometer.

Sunday I tackled my first race since May. My training was a little rocky until July but since then I have been putting in some steady miles. I figured a nice, easy, 5K was a great start to the fall.

Then I remembered. I am a distance runner. I hate 5Ks.
(No offense to the Shea’s 5K, which was awesome. Great food, great course, and awesome price. No complaints at all!)

278f01c099332858d5c19bdcc620d5a5I found myself hating life only about three-quarters of a mile in. Then a lovely woman ran up to me and said, “You can tell you know what you’re doing, your stride is perfect!” I laughed and said she was the sweetest thing. But you know….it got me through that mile. Some time later I took a walk break (I try to listen to my intervals but it is tough during a race when you don’t want to look slow).

Towards the end of my break, I felt someone loop their arm through mine. “Come on girl lets go!” She yelled as I ran to keep up with my arm. I heard her friend laughing so I said, “You got it” and decide to keep up with them. Two perfect strangers who just dropped into my race with a friendly smile and a “you go girl” attitude. Exactly what I needed. We spent the next mile or so chatting and trying to forget that we were running.

That is why I love racing. The course turns strangers into friends. Average people become cheerleaders. We cease to be runners on the lonely road and become a community. A living, breathing unit spanning multiple miles, ages, skill levels, and walks of life. Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts about racing.

They finished the race a little ahead of me but waited so they could give me a high five. I couldn’t stick around much so I made sure to hand out my SunRype bars before I hit the road. It was great to finally race in the SunRype gear and represent my team! I can’t wait until Saturday…..the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon awaits!

 

SunRype Summer

I have some exciting news that I shared with my twitter peeps earlier this month. Once again, this nobody runner from the second most populated city in New York was selected for sponsorship. The super fabulous Sun Rype company said “we want you” and I said “SIGN ME UP!” Who said lightning doesn’t strike twice?

If you remember, May 19th, 2011 I became a sponsored athlete for the first time.  I eagerly joined Team Marathon Bars, not realizing it would literally change my life. That sponsorship encouraged me to sign up for tons of races including the fateful Rock and Roll Philadelphia. That race obviously changed my life in a major way and it wouldn’t have happened at all if the team hadn’t taken a chance on me.

Cut to 5 years later, one year of garbage running and an extra bit of weight wasn’t doing me any favors. I mean, I had a baby! She’s awesome and perfect but the process really does a number on your body and your sport. Getting back on track has been tough but I jumped back in with both feet in February at the Phoenix Half Marathon. Still working towards my goal of running 100 half marathons and a half marathon in every 50 states I started signing up for races. And then I updated my active profile. I figured it was late in the season, but some teams might still be looking.

Imagine my surprise to get an email to apply for Team SunRype, the very team that many of my former Team Marathon Bars teammates were on! I jumped at the chance. I had listened to them talk about SunRype for the past two years and it definitely sounded like a company I could represent. Delicious fruity snacks without all the processed extra junk? Who wouldn’t love that?!?!

Long story short, they loved me, I loved them and we are off to the races! Me and 99 of my new teammates will be hitting the streets with packages of fruity deliciousness all across the US (and Canada). Look for us in our fancy gear and ask us for a little bit of happiness.

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As for me? I’ll see you in Morristown NJ, Buffalo NY, Niagara Falls NY, and a bunch of other places I haven’t decided on. I’ll be the slowpoke in the SunRype jersey singing along to my headphones. Feel free to say hi!😉

 

Waterproof? Ha!

The hot days of summer are here! I have some exciting news for everyone, but that will have to wait until the next post. What I really want to discuss is all these “waterproof” products floating around. When you are running you are sweating. When you are sweating you are soaked. Especially if it is 90 degrees with 100% humidity. HELLO WESTERN NY IN SUMMER!

So I have been through a bunch of products that claim to be waterproof. As I sorted through my 4 waterproof mascaras this morning I figured someone else could benefit from my trail and error. I AM HAVE NOT BEEN PAID NOR RECEIVED SAMPLES FROM ANY OF THESE COMPANIES. All opinions are my own based on products I have PURCHASED without discount.

First: SUNSCREEN. Most important. Unless you want those sexy sports bra tan lines on your back, you need to lather up. Here is my sunscreen run down of what I have been testing out this year.

  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer (Dry Touch) Lotion
  • Banana Boat Sport Spray
  • Banana Boat Sport Faces Lotion
  • Banana Boat Sport Stick
  • Coppertone Sport Spray
  • Banana Boat Kids Lotion
  • Coppertone WaterBabies Lotion
  • Coppertone Waterbabies Foam
  • Babyganics Sunscreen Spray

Now, as you can see, I have a serious amount of sunscreen in my house. With a one year old, a husband with a bald head, and a serious fear of getting cancer (my sister had a mole removed when she was 18 from tanning beds) we are a serious sunscreen household. I have sticks in purses, beach bags, and containers in every bathroom/bin/towel location. All of these options are “waterproof” and at least SPF 40. Most are 50+.

Sunscreen Winners:

For the Face:

71CcjGZh6jL._SY606_My #1 pick is Banana Boat Sport for Faces. Has a good amount of zinc in it and goes on in a way that I can see the coverage. This lasts through a long run of 2 hours without having to stop and reapply. My face gets pink pretty quickly and this is my choice for keeping that from happening.

Runner Up: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer. Not a bad choice for a short run (less than an hour). Anything longer than that and it is gone.

Don’t recommend: Banana Boat Sport Stick – it is hard to tell how much you are actually putting on with a stick. Keep this for touch ups but don’t trust that enough is rolling on your skin for protection.

Everywhere else (including bald heads):

My go-to #1 for everywhere else is the Coppertone Waterbabies Foam. You can see the coverage like a lotion, but it is quick drying and not sticky like a spray. After a few tests I am completely comfortable covering myself in this stuff and going swimming and not reapplying for a whole hour. Lather up for your long run, let it soak in, and hit the road. The bonus for kids is that it is “fun” to apply because it is foamy.

Coppertone Sport Spray or Banana Boat Sport Spray are my runner ups for a quick way to get out the door. It is pretty good if you are careful to spray EVERYWHERE. The coverage is usually good up to an hour/ hour and a half. So you may want to consider packing something in your run belt to reapply partially through your run. Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen packets are a good bet to stash on the go. I’ve tried SunX Sunscreen Towelettes before too, which are sunscreen wipes, but it is hard to feel that they are giving you good coverage. Kinda like a stick, you just don’t know.

Not recommending: Banana Boat Kids Lotion and Coppertone Waterbabies Lotion. I don’t know off the top of my head what the difference in formula is, but for running these guys just don’t cut it. I went out for a little over an hour in both of these and came back burned. Also, Babyganics Sunscreen Spray turned me into a lobster in about half an hour. I could actually feel the burn happening on my shoulders and nearly sprinted back home to get a different sunscreen.

Second Product: Mascara

You are running across the finish line in a hazy glow just as the photographer takes your model photo that will grace the front of Runner’s World……Or not. Ok, so sometimes us ladies just don’t want to LOOK like we just ran a half marathon, even if we did. Nothing wrong with a little glamour for those race photos or *ahem* sponsorship shots.

organic-wearThe Good:
Physicians Formula Organic Wear – Holds up to some serious sweat. Just be careful when applying as it is seriously clumpy. (P.S. Get it locally at Target, some drugstores don’t carry this)
Maybelline Last Discover Waterproof – There is not much volume with this but it will give you waterproof LONG looking lashes. Sometimes that is all you need, especially by the pool.

The Bad:
Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof – It will hold up. If you are running in winter and the sweating is minimal.
Maybelline Rocket Volum Express Waterproof – It won’t run down your face, but it won’t look like you are wearing makeup either.
Benefit’s They’re Real! – My hands down favorite mascara of all time. Not for running. It runs if you are having a heavy sweat day but holds up okay for strength training and light workouts. But technically it isn’t waterproof so there is that.

The Ugly:

Maybelline Falsies Volum’ Express – One of my go-to everyday mascaras. HORRIBLE when you are running. Raccoon eyes that makes the raccoons scared. It is just waterproof enough to not wipe off when it is caked under your eyes. YUCK!

Third Product: Eyeliner
For when you really REALLY want to impress that hot guy at mile 6, or at least pick up a date to the after party.

Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner – Waterproof. Brilliant. Gel Eyeliner. Doesn’t smudge or run. And doesn’t make you look like you belong in the zombie run. This is the only eyeliner worth mentioning. I have about 10 types of eyeliner and this is the only one that I would trust to put on before a workout.

That’s my waterproof product wrap up! Some other pretty awesome waterproof products that work: KT Tape/RockTape, RunGuard, and NipGuards!

The 10 Lessons of Racing

https://www.buzzfeed.com/h2/fbir/brooksrunning/heres-everything-you-need-to-know-when-you-sign-up-for-a-rac?utm_term=.avn65D38bX#.rwXmQwvB6D

Just read this hilarious and long article about everything you need to know about racing. Since I have done a few races *cough cough 80-something* I thought I might weigh in on the topic.

Lesson One: Make sure you train.
Boy if I had a dime for every time I heard “I didn’t train for this” or “I just figured I’d wing it” Yeah ok. See you in the med tent. Depending on your physical background you might survive. Heck you might even do ok. But I can guarantee you when you try to get out of bed the next day you will be in a world of hurt, if you haven’t managed to hurt yourself already. Even experienced runners blow things when they train. It is way worse when they don’t. No one says you have to go crazy and make spreadsheets and sticker calendars but at least pretend like you know what your doing and lay down some training. Especially if it is for any thing over a half marathon. For the love of Oreos don’t try to wing a 30K or Marathon. It just won’t end well.

Lesson Two: Be Flexible
We don’t mean do yoga (although it might not be a bad idea). This is more about your expectations and schedule. If you miss 3 weeks of training due to the flu and your dog being sick and, you know, LIFE. Then rearrange your schedule and adjust your expectations. Let it go and move on. Drop to the 10K or the half. Do a few more 5 milers instead of the 12 you were planning. Realized that magic probably won’t get you the PR you were hoping for, but there is always next time. There are always more races.

Lesson Three: Hotel Room, get one.
I’m at odds on this one. If you have a hard time getting up for something you paid $40-$150 for, then get a hotel room. One less step to take to the race start. However if you can count on the adrenaline spike and hole in your wallet to get you up, then stay home and drive. That way you have complete control over coffee, food, and hopefully, your morning pit stop. Plus you save money for even MORE races *insert insane laugh here*.

Lesson Four: Flat Runner
Lay out your gear. Just do it. It will take you 10 minutes and you won’t have to obsess about forgetting anything. Until it is time to go to sleep…
One neat trick for a race you have to travel for: Make your flat runner at home then just fold it up and put it in a bag. I do this the week before so I have time to add anything I forgot and then I don’t have to remake it in my hotel. It is already done. I can just pin the number on and pretend to sleep instead.

Lesson Five: RTFM (read the frickin’ manual)
New city? Your city? Doesn’t matter. Read the race manual or instructions. Nothing screws you up more than a 4 mile traffic jam because nobody looked at the race route and discovered you can’t make it to the spot you were hoping to park in. Plus you get the info on the water stops, fuel stops, porta-potties, and what fabulous things await you at the finish (free massages anyone?)

Lesson Six: Weather Check
I will admit. I am terrible at this one. I regularly show up to races without checking the weather. Apart from stealing a pair of cast-off gloves at my first marathon I have been pretty lucky. Don’t be like me. Look at the weather. Bring an extra layer in the car. Especially if it is raining. Or at least keep garbage bags in the trunk. They work as a handy Maid-of-the-Mist style poncho to keep you dry and warm in a pinch.

Lesson Seven: You aren’t the banana.
Run your own race. Don’t measure your success by passing people-looks can be deceiving.

Until the end, then all bets are off. I am perhaps most known for my punishing finishing sprints (seriously, one time I heard a friend tell another friend, “aw here it comes” as I entered the final stretch). I was told once that if I don’t finish feeling like I want to puke I didn’t sprint hard enough. Now I have never actually puked, but I do make it my mission to pick off and pass as many people as possible in the final half mile. If you have enough juice to dust people at the finish then go for it. Just don’t be rude or knock people over. It makes you feel strong and fast. I also heard it flushes the lactic acid, but I don’t have science to back that up.

Lesson Eight: Distraction tactics
Nothing crazy here. Not the day to try spicy Thai food for breakfast or new gels or new clothes/shoes. But maybe take your headphones out and talk to some other people. It eats up the miles pretty quickly. Play games with yourself. Recite poetry. Count the number of funny signs you see. Most people don’t need a boost on race day but if you do then try these tricks to make the miles go quicker. When all else fails….you can always sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Loudly.

Lesson Nine: The race will end.
Probably the most important lesson. It will end. You will finish. Think of how quickly time flies when you are watching a Netflix marathon. I constantly tell myself when I am knee deep in “this sucks” that it will be over before I know it. In x amount of hours I can say “I did it”. For x more minutes of pain I get a lifetime of living with this accomplishment. There is always an end. And bananas. Lots of bananas.

Lesson Ten: You will definitely do this again.
Racing is kinda like childbirth in that way. You forget the pain in a wash of exhilarated triumph. You see a cool new medal. Your friend tells you about this awesome new course. You look slowly at your feet and say, “I bet we can go a little bit faster next time”.

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Why do you run?

It is Global Running Day and everyone wants to know: Why do you run?

Simple question for most people. Lose weight. Get fit. Be strong. Train for a race. Train for the military. Honor a loved one. Raise money for a charity.

Then there are those of us that run for reasons we cannot really explain. Why we first laced up those sneakers and headed out the door is no longer the reason why. Instead it is something completely different. That weird mixture of pleasure and pain that you experience 5 miles from home in the hushed world before the sun rises. The slow measured breathing that you are using to power yourself up a steep hill and the exhilaration you feel when you crest the top. The elation of crossing that finish line in a dead sprint after struggling through 26 miles of never-ending road.

These feelings cannot be duplicated, bottled up, or sold. We live in a crazy world of consumerism and hyperactive brains constantly stimulated. We are driven by technology and we crave that little bit of time where everything else just falls away. Where we can lose ourselves in a simple and primitive task that demands nothing of us except the will to try.

Why do we run? Because our souls long to soar and be more, and a runner’s high is the closest we can come.

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I came. I ran. I fell down.

If you want to get a workout, go for a run.
If you want to feel accomplished, run a marathon.
If you want to question your existence, run an ultra marathon.

Technically a 30K isn’t really an ultra marathon. An ultra marathon is anything over marathon distance (26.2 miles or 42.2k). So my race on Saturday wasn’t an ultra marathon, even though they had ultra distances. You could have fooled me. It was, hands down, the hardest race I ever ran. With more than 80 races under my belt including obstacle runs and actual ultra marathons, that is quite a statement.

Let’s start at the beginning. Wednesday of last week I boarded the plane and jetted off to Poland. 8.5 hours later we landed in Warsaw hopped into a cab and drove around seeing the city. Then back on a plane for a short ride to Krakow. We spent the night and explored a bit of the city the next day. Nothing crazy, just about 5 miles of exploring.

Friday we took off on a train to Rzeszów to meet with our contact and get all set for the race. He was an awesome guy, named Wojtekand explained to us that we were meeting with 4 Ukrainians who were also participating in the race. Apparently there is another sister city in the Ukraine. Together we walked about 2 miles to the sports complex for our numbers and final instructions. After listening to the race coordinator speak in Polish for half an hour I still had no idea what to expect from this race. Wojtek assured me that no matter what, I wouldn’t get lost and it would be fine. It would be roads and hilly meadows and I would be fine. Just in case, I stuck an extra map in my bag. It would be fine. FINE! My mother in law promised to get a car or taxi and meet me at some places on the course to check in. I should have guessed from how hard they tried to assure me that it would be fine, that it definitely wouldn’t.

Fast forward to race morning.

We walked the two miles back to the sports complex to get the bus to the start line. I am now alone with a bus full of strangers who don’t speak English. No problem. I’ll just run through my game plan. Start slow, walk hills, conserve water, pay close attention to trail markers. Pretty solid plan. We got off the bus, took care of the essentials (ahem porta potty), and toed the start line….at the back of the pack. I’m no dummy. Speed is not my thing. That is why I run long distances.

My watch decided as the gun went off that it was not going to track today. It just didn’t feel like it. Off to great start!

We started off going up and down 3 pretty severe hills through a little city. Then we took a turn to some cute little farm lands. Just like I expected the climb was up, Up, UP. It wasn’t so bad. Just some back fields and deep ruts from 4-wheelers. It was tough to get footing so I ended up walking quite a bit. Nothing worse then hurting yourself early in a race. All the other racers disappeared. I was sure I could catch up on the downhill later. It was quite pretty. Breathtaking even – but that could have been the hills.

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Beautiful view from the top (not my pic, my attempt at this photo sucked)
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Go into the creepy tunnel. Perfectly safe I swear.

I ran/walked along the rough trail and noticed we were skirting around some woods. Until the trail abruptly turned into something that looked like the beginning of every “Into the Woods” horror movie. Pay no attention to instinct and follow these little yellow banners into the deep dark woods.

Well it didn’t take long for me to get lost. The markers on the trees were pretty spread out and when the path forked into two directions with a marked tree in the middle I picked the wrong way. I made it about 2K before I realized I had to be on the wrong path. I got myself straightened out and spent the next 10K struggling up and down mud slicked, steep ledges covered in black beetles that made me think of the Mummy movies.

After stumbling through some weird chapel gathering in the woods (no blood stains anywhere, so I don’t think it was a horror movie set) I began a pretty steep climb to the top of a ledge. Reminded me of hiking trails, expect without ropes to help you up. And then a very dramatic fall down to the bottom. I can still feel these awesome bruises on my legs. I fell once more in the woods but less dramatically. There were only a few curse words uttered.

Eventually I left the woods to see a taxi hanging out on the side of the road. An angel in the form of my mother-in-law refilled my water bottle and told me I wasn’t far from the first checkpoint. Of course I had spilled most of my water during one of my falls. I checked in some time later and luckily one of the volunteers spoke English. I refueled and headed back out. It was downhill from here right? RIGHT?!

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Moo to you too.

Not so much. I ran down into a nice little valley and into some cool farm lands. I even saw this cute cow chillin’ on the side of the pasture near the road. I snapped a quick picture and yelled out “Hey cow!” as I trotted past. Because I talk to animals. Because I love animals. Because I am an idiot. Big mistake.

The cow got up and started walking over to me. I slowed down because I noticed it had horns. I REALLY didn’t want to be charged by a steer. Not on my to-do list. So I panicked and started walking super slow. This fella followed me for about half a kilometer, giving me mini heart attacks the whole way. Then it turned into a pasture on the right and left me be. It was nice to breathe again.

There was not much happening after that until I reached the river. Just more terrible terrain. For some reason every time we got on road and I felt comfortable picking up the pace, we managed to veer off into the woods again. At this point I started using swear words to make entire sentences. I could have given the Wolf of Wall Street a run for its money on swear words per minute. Especially as I scrambled through an ACTIVE QUARRY with construction workers and over these “bridges”. Needless to say my shoes got soaked and I didn’t have extra socks.

After crossing the last huge bridge that looked like the rope bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I was checked in by medical staff that said something like 5KM. I was so excited! 5km and I was done!!! AWESOME!

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You did this on purpose. Jerks.

Just kidding. It was 5km to the real aid station. I still had 12km to go. So back onto my single track trail behind farms and around the river. I swore to myself that next time I would bring a horse. Then I ran smack into this 6 ft bull dozed wall. I was extremely unhappy to have to climb this monster because there was no way around it. The little yellow marker waved over it, mocking me.

Once I was over it, I ran into a few more interesting bits of wildlife. A black dog that scared the crap out of me and some really annoyed birds. Nothing too serious. I exited the woods and must have looked like hell. A little old lady blew me kisses from a bus stop and made me smile again as I headed back towards the city. I ran into the check in spot and only stopped for water. I was running close to the wire on time now and didn’t want to miss the cut off. Luckily the trail emptied me on to the river path which was paved and blissfully flat. Too bad I was so shot at that point I could barely appreciate it. I had felt the pull in my leg on the last fall I took and knew there was something not good going on in there (later discovered the groin pull, nothing serious, just enough to slow you down). I struggled to hit my stride for the last 5k, but a nice medic on a bike kept me company. He was enjoying practicing his English on me and asking me tons of questions about the states. Medical staff and volunteers are truly amazing under-appreciated gifts to runners.

Triumphantly I ran up the hill by my hotel and headed into the city’s square. I hit the mats at 1 minutes and 29 seconds over the cut off time. Not that anyone cared. There were still other runners on the course from the other distances. Luckily it wasn’t a strict cut off race.

For the first time in a long time I cried. Yup. At a race finish. I was so glad to be done. I took off my favorite Tifosi sunglasses (which I left on a bench and cried about losing later) and used baby wipes to try and make myself look human. Luckily they let me shower before the award ceremony. They brought the Sister Cities participants on stage to present them with trophies.

Funny enough, I do appreciate the local Sister Cities rep inviting me back for the “normal marathon” in three weeks. I wish I had ran that one to begin with! In parting, I would love to visit Poland again, and possibly run another race. But I will be finding someone who ran it first and find out what kind of race it REALLY is before I sign up.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?

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Thanks for reading this small novel! 

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“Stay home slowpokes”

8 hours.

In 8 hours I am boarding that plane and taking off to a country I have never been to. To run a race I have no business running in. To prove to everyone and no one that you shouldn’t fear the unknown. Or something like that. Ok. I probably just lost my marbles and haven’t realized it yet. Don’t tell me until I get back ok?

2 Days, 17 hours, 47 minutes, and 51…50…49..48 seconds

In 2 days, 17 hours, and some change, I will line up with 510 other individuals to climb, stumble, and suffer up the Carpathian mountains for the 3rd Annual Subcarpathian Ultramarathon. Yeah. Definitely lost my marbles somewhere……. I bet they are some where on a race course.

I have been training….mostly. Getting my runs in. Doing a serious amount of squats and lunges every 30 minutes or so while at work (desk job). I have even gotten a smidgen faster. Although truthfully nowhere near my 2011 PR busting times. I have been feeling a little more confident about my upcoming race and being able to beat the clock and the 5.5 hour cut off for this 30k up the mountains.

And then I read this. Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?

Basically some woman (a coach, no less) is calling out marathoners who finish in over 6 hours or stop to walk. These “participants” are not “racers” and should basically not be competing in the events. They are lessening the sport. How dare they?!

Obviously I am a slow runner. And obviously this coach misses the main point of modern marathons. Every one of those individuals is racing. Not against each other, but against themselves. They are going for a personal best. They are racing against obesity. They are running for a charity that is near and dear to their hearts. They are setting an example for their children and every single person who lines up and cheers. They are telling people that they refuse to sit by and become another statistic of heart disease or any other disease that states lack of exercise as a risk factor. How dare they try to get healthy?! The nerve….

The only thing that coach should be mad about is the slow runners who line up in the front, because honestly that is just dangerous. Totally legit thing to be mad about, but don’t pick on us back of the packers who know our place. The front of the pack may be racing for a win, but the rest of us are just racing for ourselves. Our health, our pride, our families, and the joyful exhilaration of crossing a finish line exhausted. We crossed every inch of those 26.2 miles the same as you did and while it may have taken longer, it certainly didn’t mean less to us. Ask me. I finished last in a 50 mile race that was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The conversations I had with myself that day are practically legendary (at least I think they are….my brain was kinda hazy after the first 30 miles).

Just ask Patrick Downes. No one seems to have a problem with his 6 hour marathon. People are applauding him. Adrianne Haslet too. Despite spending nearly 10 hours “running” the Boston marathon she received a tweet from the president himself on how strong she was. These people are out there proving something to themselves. They don’t care who finished first.

The moral of the story? Don’t discount someone else’s journey just because it took longer than your own. Most of us will never be elite runners and we just want to enjoy the ride at our own pace. Even if it is a 16 minute mile one.

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