Enjoy Yourself!

It’s the end of the year – a time when people reflect on what they did in the last 12 months and look ahead to what they have planned for the new year.   Many of us have a “bucket list”, a list of things we dream of doing someday.  Someday is that magical time when we retire and have an abundance of time to do all the things on our wish list.  The sad thing is some people don’t make it to that day.  They work and work but never take time to enjoy the moment.  I know.  I use to be one of those people.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-8-10-03-pmI remember the finale of the television series “House” back in 2012.  At the end of the final episode, as House and his friend head off on their motorcycles, they played the song “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think”.  That song resonated with me for many reasons.  It made me think about myself and what the future may hold for me health-wise.  I didn’t want to be left thinking about what I COULD have done.  I want to have lots of memories about things I DID do, like running Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon, and the marathons and half marathons I have run all over the world.  The memories I have from all those experiences are wonderful souvenirs, reminding me of the sense of accomplishment I felt when I completed each one.

Another reason the song hit me so hard was because of a horrible tragedy that struck the dog agility community at the time.  One of our fellow agility enthusiasts was killed in a head-on collision while on her way to an agility trial.  This tragedy claimed her life (she was just 49 years old) as well as that of one of her dogs.  I still think about her and what a fun, lively person she was – always smiling, loving her dogs despite their crazy antics in the ring, a kind word and genuine interest in everyone she met.  She enjoyed herself.

I read an article once about several men who pursued their dreams.  There was the 80-year old man who had run since high school and continues to enter races (often the oldest participant), with the goal of running a race in all 50 states and a 72-year old golfer who had played golf in all 50 states.  Finally there was a 65-year old motorcyclist who watched his mother sock away money for her dream – a cruise to Europe.  She died just when she had enough money to take the cruise.  That motorcyclist decided to take a trip in his mother’s honor.  Since he wasn’t the cruise type, he decided to ride his Harley Davidson through the Lower 48 states.  Four and a half months and 22,381 miles later, he completed his ride and became a member of the Iron Butt Association.  He said the highlight of the trip was meeting people.  People gravitate to a guy with a load of gear on a motorcycle.  Each of these men had a dream to do something that had meaning for them.  Their goals may be silly to us but they were things that gave them joy.  Instead of thinking about doing it, they went out and DID it!

img_7179I realized after reading that article things don’t happen unless you make them happen. I bought a small journal – my Dream book – and wrote down things I want to do and places I want to visit.  Things like visiting a dude ranch, going to see an opera, or seeing a concert at Red Rocks in Colorado.   Each year I look at my Dream book and pick a few things to do.  I am lucky – my husband and I share many of the same interests.  We have started crossing things off the list and, more importantly, we have started having fun.

img_69822017 is going to be a busy year for me.  I hope to finish my 50 State Endurance Challenge (13 states to go) and the 6 Major Marathons (only 3 left).  It is a pretty ambitious goal.  I am working with a running coach and focusing on getting myself prepared for my races.  As long as I can stay healthy – no more broken bones please – I should be able to reach my goals by the end of the year.  Plus there are a couple of fun things from my Dream book my husband and I plan to do.

img_5045What do you want to do in life?  Is there a place you want to visit?  A race you want to run?  Do you want to do your first triathlon or century bike ride?  What are you waiting for?  If you don’t do it now, when will you?   If there is something that you really want to do, you can find a way to make it happen.  Remember, enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think.



A Year of Running Adventures


Saw a lot of this view

When I am out on a training run, I have time to let my mind wander.  This week I found myself thinking about this year and all the adventures I had.  Looking back on 2016, I can say I had some very memorable running experiences and plenty of adventures.  All in all, it was a funatical runner kind of year.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 6.57.46 PMOriginally, I had planned to run half marathons in 14 states as well as the London and Chicago Marathons.  It was a pretty ambitious goal.  I was doing pretty well until July when I broke my toe.  My race schedule was thrown out the window while I spent 8 weeks recuperating. I thought at the time my world had ended.  But my toe healed and I got back to running – probably a bit too quickly.  I struggled through a race in Seattle less than 2 weeks after I was cleared to start exercising again.  It was the first time I stood at the start line of a race in pain.  Despite my pain, it was one of my favorite races.  I can’t say that I would recommend that strategy to anyone.  I was lucky.  I could have derailed my running for a much longer time because I started running too soon.  In the end I only missed 3 races – half marathons in Nebraska and Maine and the Chicago Marathon.  They will be there next year and I will be too.

For me this whole 50 State thing is about more than checking states off a list.  It is about the adventures, the things I see and experiences I have along the way.  This year has been full of those.  This year I ran through Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I ran over a covered bridge in Vermont and the Tower Bridge in London.  Race courses took me to places with gorgeous natural beauty like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along the coast in New England, and outside Zion National Park in Utah.  And after my races, I enjoyed some of the best food too – barbecue in Birmingham, lobster rolls in New England, and birthday cake in Seattle.  It is a toss-up for me as to what is better – good bling (i.e., the race medal) or good post-race food.

img_2698I had a lot of interesting company during my races this year.  I ran with Meb Keflizghi in Indianapolis.  I ran with an astronaut on the International Space Station and Guinness World Record breakers in the London Marathon.  I ran with people in unbelievable costumes including a woman dressed as a can of Spam and a guy dressed as Jesus.  In London I was #oneinamillion.

I am in this photo - honest!

I am in this photo – honest!

Many people who are working on their own 50 State goals run as many races as they can in a year.  Often they run back-to-back races – Saturday in one state then driving to another race on Sunday in a different state.   While that strategy would have helped me knock my challenge out sooner, I wouldn’t get to fully enjoy the places I visit.  Wherever I go, I try to take time to explore.

The art vending machine

The art vending machine

This year I have gone to museums like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; the Presbytere in New Orleans with fascinating exhibits on the Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina; and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis where I found the art vending machine.  I got stuck in Austin after the 3M Half due to blizzards on the East Coast.  I was delighted to have extra time to enjoy the 70 degree weather and visit the outdoor Umlauf Sculpture Garden.  And there were a few museums that I didn’t have time to see like the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.  Maybe next time.

I visited historical sites including Grafton, the ghost town in Utah;  the Chisholm Trail in Texas; and a cemetery from the 1600s in New Hampshire.  While window shopping, I admired the colonial homes in Newport, Rhode Island.  I strolled the streets of New Orleans French Quarter, admiring the architecture and enjoying a wide variety of musicians.  Every place I visited for a race had something unique to offer.

img_4939There were the quirky sights too.  In Green Bay, I found a small amusement park whose claim to fame was their roller coaster, the Zippin Pippin.  Elvis Presley rented the entire amusement park in 1977 and rode the Zippin Pippin for 2 hours straight.  (Eight days later he died.)  Outside Seattle I visited Jimi Hendrix’s grave.  Although I am not a Hendrix fan, it was one of the most unusual monuments I have ever seen.  In Utah I visited rock shops where they were selling a wide variety of rocks and fossils including 50 million year old turtle poop.  I don’t expect to see that again on a store shelf anytime soon.  I was fascinated by the kinetic wind sculptures an art gallery had on display in Utah.  And I can’t forget the Center of the Universe in Tulsa.img_4216

For many runners a race is all about the medal.  In fact I know people who pick the races they will run based on the race medal.  Little Rock, Arkansas has a race that is very popular because the medal is as big as a dinner plate.  No kidding.  While medals are nice, if you run a lot of races, you end up with so many medals that you have to get creative about how to display them.  I like the race medals but after I get them home, they aren’t very interesting.  I value the memories I tucked away in my mental suitcase more.

img_3818I only have to run races in 13 more states to complete my 50 State Endurance Challenge.  Part of me doesn’t want the challenge to be over.  I am enjoying exploring this diverse country we live in.  I plan to continue to seek out the historic and quirky points of interest as I continue my journey because that is what this adventure is all about!

In Utah I loved watching the wind sculptures by Lyman Whitaker.  The slightest breeze would start them spinning.  I found this video on YouTube of his wind sculptures in action.  Check out his web site – there may be an installation near you.  http://www.whitakerstudio.com/artwork.html


Extending a Hand

In my high school psychology class, we learned about the bystander effect, or “Genovese Syndrome”, named for Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her New York City apartment in the middle of the night in 1964.  In the newspaper account of her murder, it was reported no one came to her aid, even though 38 people had either witnessed portions of her 30-minute attack or heard her cries for help.  Psychologists used Kitty’s murder to analyze why people are reluctant to help someone.  The story was a provocative way to get students to discuss whether they would step in and help someone in a similar situation.  Over time it has been revealed many parts of the story were not true and people were not as indifferent as the news accounts led us to believe.  However, the discussion about the bystander effect still continues.

Kitty came to my mind when I saw a news report about a girls cross-country runner who stopped to help a runner from another team who had fallen during a state sectional meet.  Gracie Bucher, an 8th grader from Windom in Minnesota, collapsed not far from the finish line.  Despite several attempts, she could not get back on her feet to finish the race.  That was when Liana Blomgren, a senior from Mountain Lake High School, came by.  Seeing Gracie on the ground, Liana grabbed her by the arm and told her “I’ve got you. You’re with me.”  Liana helped Gracie finish the race.  That gesture of kindness resulted in both Liana and Gracie being disqualified.

I was sad to hear Liana ended her high school cross-country career with a DQ.  Gracie felt bad about it too.  In fact, she sent Liana flowers and gave her a Dairy Queen, DQ, gift card as a token of appreciation.  Liana said she doesn’t recall what place she was in at the sectionals for the prior two years but she will always remember this one.  Liana is a terrific young woman.

Over the years I have seen many instances of a runner helping another runner to the finish line.  This happens in all kinds of races, including marathons and half marathons.  There are a number of reasons why a runner might collapse – twisted ankles; falls from tripping; tendons that give out; dehydration; or, in Gracie’s case, an undiagnosed case of mononucleosis.  Who can forget the collision of Abbey D’Agostino (USA) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) half way through a qualifying heat for the women’s 5000 meter race in the 2016 Summer Olympics?  Abbey and Nikki helped each other to get back up and finish the race. They personified true sportsmanship.  It is comforting to know some runners are willing to put kindness and compassion above competition.

The National Federation of State High School Associations Board of Directors has changed the rules for high school track and field in 2017.  With the new rule, “a participant who assists an injured/ill competitor shall not be disqualified if an appropriate health-care professional is not available.”  As I interpret this new rule, I think Liana still would have been disqualified.  Gracie collapsed not too far from the finish line where conceivably there would have been appropriate health-care professionals.  They would have seen Gracie struggling and could have intervened.  Maybe I am wrong.

img_7114I question rules that penalize someone for helping another person in need. Instead we should foster an attitude that encourages people to help each other.  The lessons we enforce in sports competition carry over into day-to-day life.  I experienced this first hand in 2014 when I fell and broke my arm during a training run.  I will remember forever Rebecca, a stranger who helped me until a friend arrived to take me to the hospital.  Although she could have finished her own run, Rebecca stopped to help me.  Without her help I probably would have gone into shock.  Rebecca kept me calm while we waited for my friend.   As runners, we are frequently alone but we are also part of a larger community.  We should always have each other’s back and never be afraid to lend a hand – in a race or on a trail.