Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us

Deena Kastor

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Put it on the List

Well the back-to-back long runs have begun. I am a fairly slow runner so my weekends now consist mostly of eating, showering, and running. By the end of December or early January I will have completed a weekend of two 20-milers. There are runners who do this all the time and to them it would be the equivalent of me running two 5-milers. But we all have challenges that are often unique to only our own self. Is that true for most of you?

Lately I've been thinking of creating a "bucket list". For those of you who might not know what this is-it comes from the movie "The Bucket List". Or at least I think that's where it comes from. It is a list of things you want to do or see before you "kick the bucket". The  movie is great to watch-Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman together-an interesting combination.

I thought of this idea while out on a run. In fact, most of what I write in this blog comes to me during a run. So what would you put on your bucket list? I have to admit so far several of the items on my list are physical challenges-except for meeting Tom Hanks....and writing a book. Does a blog count? I can't believe I am going to put rock climbing on it but I know in my heart there is something inside me that says to. I will never, ever, in life-or in death-put touching a snake on my bucket list!

As a runner, I am inspired to try new things and challenge my body to do more. I often think to myself, "well if I can do this then.....". As a person, I am inspired by others to be the best person I can possibly be. There might be some overlap but you can't have one without the other right? Could I or would I run four marathons in four days without the help of other people or without being inspired by someone other than myself? Probably not.

How cool would it be to give this ability to children and teens who are abused-to have goals and achieve them? I know many of them struggle with this for a number of reasons and then often suffer the consequences. We can do this-we all know that a better life is possible-we just have to somehow convince others.

When I ran the Seattle Marathon a few weeks ago I actually felt some of the emotions that I did at the finish line of my first marathon. I think it was because at that moment, in the last minutes before crossing the finish line, I realized that I was probably running with some "first timers". And I also realized that for many people that day, it was the day for them to accomplish a life long dream. Somewhere at some point in their life they decided that someday they were going to run a marathon. And I was there when it happened. What if this was on their "bucket list"?

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it" Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe



Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bring on the Snickerdoodles

Last week I ran the Seattle Marathon. I happen to love Seattle very much and enjoy running in the city. The course is beautiful and I encourage anyone who is interested in running a marathon to consider it. My body felt surprisingly good throughout most of the run and I have recovered much faster than I have in the past. That is a good sign for April's event. I was worried that I would run Seattle and at the finish feel like I had made a big mistake by thinking I could run four in four days. Luckily, that was not the case.

So Christmas is here again and it is time to decorate and bake cookies. My favorite are snickerdoodles and I love to come home after a long-or a short run- and have a "few" with hot cider or coffee. For the past couple of years I have had a "baking day" with one of my teachers from high school. She became more than a teacher to me in my junior year of high school when I lived with her family for almost the entire year. A lot of people don't know this about me but I was headed down the wrong path as a teen and might have led a completely different life if it weren't for a number of people who stepped in and helped to change course. This particular family became a major part of my foundation for who I am today. I might not be a runner if it weren't for them.

I would spend the week at their house and go home on the weekends. At first it was like another world and felt as if I was part of a t.v. family. You know the type of family where violence and drugs don't exist and the homes don't have holes in the walls from someone using them as punching bags. They still have problems but they tend to be solved in 30 minutes or less and everyone says "I'm sorry" and "I love you" and blah blah blah. I mean, give me a break, that is so not real. I kept thinking that at any moment everything was just going to blow up and the true family was going to come out. But it never happened. They genuinely loved and respected each other. And it was a home of compassion and laughter. There were rules too which I actually liked. I felt important and wanted-the way all kids should feel.

I can't say that my life has been perfect since that year-I have definitely taken some wrong turns. But if I compare my life to a big stack of cookies, where the crumbly ones sometimes get placed in the middle or fall off the top and cause the stack of cookies to topple over-they are the big cookie-the one that is always there one the bottom-the sturdy cookie that you can always rebuild on.

Hopefully I will write again before Christmas but I wish everyone well in the coming weeks as we are all putting up our trees, decorating and baking- spending time with those that are important to us. In other words, BRING ON THE SNICKERDOODLES!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mind over Matter

So far I have truly enjoyed sharing my thoughts with my nine followers and others who read my posts. Ok, one of the followers is myself, so eight followers. I hope to attract more as we involve our friends, family members, and the community in our effort to support child abuse prevention education.

The training is going well and is increasing steadily each week. I find myself getting hungrier throughout the day. I am sure my body will adjust to the changes though. The Seattle Marathon is next weekend after Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to it. I ran last year and had a horrible race so I am hoping to have a better experience this time. It is a beautiful city with so much to do and see I don't think anyone would blame me if I decided to skip the race and go holiday shopping instead.

I know this is the time of year to think about the things or people we are thankful for having in our lives.  I have a very, very long list. Where would you be without certain people in your life? Or, where would you be if certain events didn't take place at a certain time in your life? Wouldn't your life be different? Probably not as good right?

I really like the part in the movie Forest Gump when he is at Jenny's grave and he is saying that he doesn't know whether "momma" or "lieutenant Dan" was right-do we each have a destiny or are we floating around gentle-like on a breeze? He says "maybe its both-maybe both is happening at the same time". I know I am thankful for that movie :)

I don't know for sure, but I do think about it alot-usually while I'm running. I think about the people in my life and how they have all in some way helped me to be who I am. And I am a pretty neat person so I owe a big thanks to a whole bunch of people. Whether it was part of a destiny or not-I'll just say I am grateful.

At mile 21 of my first marathon there was a man shouting from the side of the course, "Its mind over matter from here, its mind over matter from here" I have told this story a couple of times already and I will probably keep telling it. When you run a marathon, mile 21 is when it really starts to get difficult and it becomes the time when you start questioning your decision to start the race and doubting yourself that you will finish. It really is "mind over matter". I finished and have been thankful for him-and I think of his words every time I reach mile 21.

That's the way it is for the difficulties and challenges we face in life. Our beliefs, faith, perseverance, and connection with others is what drives us to finish. So, I wish you well this Thanksgiving and I hope that we all take the time to be thankful for life-the people in it and our ability to live it with grace and compassion. And don't forget to thank yourself as well, because you never know who's sitting at the table before a roasted turkey being so thankful for having known you.



Sunday, November 7, 2010

You are Not a Cat

I will never forget the day during a not so good time in my life when I was given a very important piece of information. It wasn't advice-just words to live by. It was a time when I had just about given up on life and had taken many chances, nearly coming close to the end. But sitting across from me one morning was a woman who seemed to have much more faith in me than I had in myself. Our conversation was coming to an end and there was that last pause that sometimes happens before one or both people get up to leave. She looked at me and I was looking out the window to the right and she said to me, "You are not a cat". I turned and looked at her and then the floor and said, "ok".

Honestly, I didn't think about what she said to me until years later. But it's true, we are not cats, we don't have nine lives-only one.  And I try to remember that and recite it to myself every time I feel afraid to try something new, or hesitant to say something that I know is important or would make another person feel better. Or, when I run.

There are many brave people in the world who do great things and make the one life they have count. Just think of all the moms and dads in the world who take on the challenge of raising human beings. Now, that's what I call being brave, especially when they are trying to work and get straight A's in parenting at the same time. A  good parent knows that he/she is not a cat and that their children are not cats either.

I know that this blog has not been about the specifics of my training for April. But it has been about running. Running for me, is a reflection of my life. It's slow and uncomfortable sometimes. It involves triumph over adversity and an unbelievable amount of patience. I've learned to love myself and my body and it's ability to do amazing things.  And like many people I have developed an deep appreciation for the human heart-the way it keeps us alive and helps us to feel compassion.

I imagine though, as my training becomes more challenging I will be telling you all of my new found aches and pains that are uncommon for those who run just one marathon (you know-the NORMAL people!) And I will be sorry for boring you all to death, but hey, maybe I am already:) The thing is runners like to talk about running and in my experience the only people who like to hear about running are other runners. Just ask my husband. I'm sure by April he would pay a million dollars to anyone who could convince me to try another sport.

So, eat a little bacon, go sky diving, write the letter you've been meaning to write, send your sister the  eyeshadow she let you borrow for your wedding, start going to the gym (ASAP), tell that one person you love them. What are you waiting for? are not a cat.



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gettin' jiggly wit' it

While on vacation I was standing in front of a mirror in a motel room, naked, performing an inspection. Ladies, you know what kind of inspection I'm talking about. The one where we face the mirror to see what jiggles from the front, then we turn to the side to see how far our tummies are bulging out, despite how much we suck it in and try to imagine how easy it would be to take a hatchet to our butt and trim off the excess. What's a little blood right? Then very quickly we turn with our back facing the mirror and crane our neck around to see what we look like from behind. In our minds we think "is this what my husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner sees in the morning?" During my inspections you might often hear things like, "oh my god!" or "where did that come from?" or "how is that possible?" On this particular evening (after dinner of course-the worst time to perform an inspection) I looked at my husband and asked him if he ever looks at himself in the mirror. "Never" he says. What??? How can that possibly be??? Ugh, its so unfair.

Knowing your body well is an important part of being a good runner. Not a faster runner necessarily, or someone who runs more than everyone else and wins races- just a good runner. You must be able to recognize when you need time off or when you need to eat more or differently. A good runner just has to have passion and a true love for the sport-not the best shoes or a popular sportswear sponsorship. I think you have to know why you run or else you might not make it very far. That's probably the same for almost anything you do in life. Why do you do what you do? Say that ten times fast :) Seriously, why do work where you work? why do you wake up in the morning? why do you eat vegetables? why do you wear a seat belt? why do call a friend or family member just for the heck of it on some idle Thursday afternoon?

I ask myself why I run quite often. The truth is I have many reasons. What might be surprising to some people is that I do not run in order to obtain a "runner's" body. I have been running for fifteen years and I still don't have one so there's no sense in trying to get one now. By the way, if you have ever been to a local race or even a big city marathon, you will notice that there are  many different body shapes and sizes crossing the finish line all at once. Maybe the "runner's" body is a myth. I know that when I tell people I'm a runner the first thing they do is "check me out". As if there is some standard of body weight, height, or shape you must have before anyone will believe you are a runner.

So I have some body fat. I jiggle in several places. I don't have bulging, veiny (if that's a word), calves or six-pack abs of steel. SOME people would argue with me about this but my calves actually look more like Fred Flinstone's than someone who runs marathons. I definitely don't run to win which is totally confusing for some people. But I am a runner. And you are whatever you are, regardless of how much you jiggle.

For all you women and men who inspect your bodies- weighing, measuring, and pinching every inch of skin, bone, or fat you have-embrace it. Don't let anything  you see in the mirror stop you from doing what you want to do-whatever it is. If it's running you want to do, join me.  Put on your shoes, and get jiggly wit' it.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fast Car

I will be gone for about ten days without a computer so I thought I would write something before we left. We are going on a road trip to a number of places, the Grand Canyon being one of them. I have never been there and I am very excited. I like to see proof that the unimaginable does exist and I forsee that happening when we are there. Soon we will have the car packed and our dog Max settled and be on our way. Hopefully, I will get some running in during the trip :)

Last week I was listening to some older cd's that I haven't heard in a while. One of them I will admit was straight from the 80's by Whitney Housten. I am not embarrassed at all to say that I still know the words to most of the songs on that cd. It wasn't event originally sold as a cd-it was a cassette tape.  The other was a Tracy Chapman which had the song "Fast Car" on it. Does anyone remember that song? Of course you do.....that song is unforgettable. Of all the music I listen to that song is my favorite-hands down-no exceptions.

The reason I am bringing it up is because I believe it speaks so much to what I believe to be the most important gift that anyone can be given: Hope. If you listen to the lyrics you will notice that the woman in the song continues to struggle in life but she never gives up-she has hope that life will get better.  And it does. If I hear it correctly she ends up telling her boyfriend or husband to "take your fast car and keep and driving". Well, however you interpret the song, and I am sure there are many interpretations, I think it is about continuing to have hope despite the difficulties you face in life.

I had a professor in college who once spent an entire class  session on the importance of having hope in one's life. The class was actually about how drug addiction often causes people to give up hope and therefore continue to do drugs because they feel that life is, well, hopeless. People often don't believe that they are capable of having a different life or that life is even worth living if there's nothing to hope for. Abused children and teens feel this way sometimes.  Maybe more than sometimes.

We as adults are responsible for giving hope to children and teens who have been abused.  They have to know that there is hope, that there is a way to have another life other than drugs or suicide, or even prostitution.  Maybe everyone needs a fast car to "have a feeling that I belonged", to "have a feeling I could be someone".  Ah, the 80's, they were great times weren't they?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Rough Start

Tomorrow is officially the first day of training for April.  My body feels great after the marathon last week and is ready to go. The only problem is that I have been sick with a cold for the last few days and yesterday I got tired just doing the laundry.  So I am having a bit of a rough start.  The weather is perfect for running though-the air is crisp and cool, and the sky is clear-a perfect day to get pumpkins. I might try for a few miles and see how it goes.  The odd thing about running when you are sick is that it either makes you feel better or it makes you feel worse. You just have to decide whether or not to take the risk.

I did have the opportunity to watch old re-runs of  the popular 80's show"Family Ties". Does anyone remember that one? It was one of my favorite shows growing up.  I remember waiting each week for the show to come on and loving each episode. I still do. I remember wanting to be part of their family. There was alot of laughter and noone yelled at each other or punched holes in the walls.  Some people might say that a family like that is not real-a made-for t.v. family-as if its not possible for people to get along and treat one another with respect. The Keatons definitely had their problems, some of them very serious, but there was always a strong bond, or a core sense of responsibility that held the family together. As a child I felt it wasn't possible, my family was not anything like the Keatons, but I always hoped for it.  I hoped for it to be true somewhere, for someone. I want this for kids, I want them to know that it is possible, or at least to feel that they deserve to be a Keaton.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Wet, Soggy, Gummy Bears-A runner's Delight

This weekend I ran the Portland Marathon. It was not my favorite  and also my slowest, but there were some highlights that made it worthwhile. In the past it never rains on marathon day in Portland but that was not the case yesterday. It rained and rained and rained. You would think I would have the proper clothes to run in this kind of weather by now but I don't.  But I also don't mind the rain too much, the hard part is waiting at the starting line for thirty minutes until the race begins.  It was like taking a shower in the dark with 14,999 people standing next to you.

As morbid as it sounds, something that made us all laugh was the stretcher that the EMT's were trying to move through the crowd. There was no body on it but they had a bunch of gear strapped to it with some kind of draping over it that "looked" like a body.  Not what you want to see right before you are about to run 26.2 miles. Can you  imagine what a first-timer must have thought? 

So as you know, a runner needs some kind of fuel during an event such as a marathon. Our bodies are very much like cars and can only run so far on a tank of gas before having to fill it up again.  That's what GU  and other product like it is for. Another treat that is commonly handed out at races are gummy bears. There are several reasons for this. They are easily digested, they taste good, and they are small. I always eat them. This year, because of the rain, the gummy bears were soaked with rain and just kind of slid down my throat.  No chewing necessary.  And it didn't alter the taste at all-they were delicious!

You have to have a sense of humor during a marathon  and take in the experience for what it is. Because it is not always going to go as planned and you will have moments when you are struggling and wondering why you decided to do this in the first place. I do ask myself this question sometimes. Usually around mile 14 or 15. Why do I run marathons? They aren't particulary fun, especially in the last miles when your body is telling you to stop but your mind has to override every thought of stopping and giving up. I've seen video footage of people literally crawling to the finish line because they felt that the pain of giving up was worse than the physical pain they were feeling.

It was during this time for me when I thought about the many volunteers who were standing in the rain for hours with their arms stretched out, holding these tiny cups filled with wet, soggy gummy bears.  How many people do you know who would do that for a bunch of runners? And most of these volunteers were young teens.  They gave up their sunday, which as you know is a big deal for a teen, to stand in the rain yelling, "gummy bears!, gummy bears!" Maybe we inspire them to become runners someday- but more importantly, they inspire us to reach out to others and make things possible.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why not do a can drive instead?

I realize now that I did not give much in the way of background information on myself in the first post. I guess I assumed that the only people reading this blog would be those who know me pretty well already.  Any runner reading this can conclude many things about my personality  because we all share an abundance of commonalities-many of which of unique to runners- just as cyclists do, or perhaps anyone who shares the same passion as another.  I think it would be impossible to not reveal who I am thoughout this journey, that's what journeys are about anyway right?

One thing I do think is very important to explain is the reason I chose to run marathons for our fundraiser. Why did I choose running over something like, oh I don't know....a can drinve?  Well, I was on a long run one sunday afternoon and started thinking about two things: The movie Forrest Gump-my favorite-and then I started thinking about what my running does for other people. At this point I'm not sure it does much for others.  So I thought, how do I make this happen? How can my running help others? And that is when I decided to run for child abuse prevention and education.  It is possible to inspire others through running and if we can inspire anyone to help a child, whether its through financial means or donating a book, then I will run for as long as I possibly can.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

How many GU's does it take?

I took the advice of a wonderful co-worker of mine and started a blog.  This will be my first post.  Some of you may be wondering about the title of this post and ask, "What in the world is GU?"  GU is an energy gel, made up of glucose polymers (or something like that), some salt, potassium, and other stuff.  I use it for my long runs to keep me going and to avoid having to eat food while running.  Some people find it absolutely revolting, but I could not run without it. of the primary reasons for this blog is to share with others my journey through training and ultimately accomplishing my Run 4 for Children. I plan to run four marathons in four days in order to raise money and more importantly raise awareness of child abuse in Oregon. 

Why did I decide on four marathons ? Well, to be honest it started as eight but when I told my husband he looked at me as though it had "finally happened"-his wife had truly lost it now. So, I decided on four to represent the average of four children who die each day to abuse.  The planning has begun, including a training plan for myself.  I have a long road ahead, the event will take place at the end of April 2011 and I hope to have a few readers along the way to share this adventure with. I know at times it will be physically painful and mentally draining but I know it will not compare to the agony a child must go through when they are abused by someone who is supposed to love them.  It just has to stop.