Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's a RUN-derful life!

So, the other day, I went to get my hair cut.

I wanted a change, but I had very specific requirements.  You see, I told my hairdresser, it has to still be long enough to wear in a pony tail. And, I want layers but they have to be long enough to be held back in a Sweaty band.  Oh, yeah, and my bangs either have to be so short they are out of my eyes or long enough to tuck back under the headband.

Ah, I remember the days when I didn't have all these considerations.  And, part of me longs to go back to those days, but I also realize my life changed when I became a runner.

Yes, it took a while for me to wear that label, but--because of my many lifestyle changes, I can no longer deny I are one.  I dress like one. And, talk like one. And, arrange my life like one.

I'm fortunate enough to work from home.  So, you know what that means?  I am almost always in running clothing.  Why?  Because chances are I am on my way out for a run or have just come back from one. And, since running clothes are the things I'm now most excited about buying, that's what I'm also most excited to wear.

As a "What Not to Wear" fan (still mourning the loss of the show), I often wonder what Stacie and Clinton would have had to say to me as I duck into Target in running gear.  (And, what area of Target do I always manage to take a peek at?  Yup.  The athletic wear section.)

But, outside changes aren't the only ones I've made.

Once I learned that what I eat affects my stomach on long runs, I now skip stromboli and pizza on Friday nights.  Often, it's "I'd love to have a glass of wine, but I'm doing a long run tomorrow."  

As my husband sometimes laments, most of our vacations are now planned around marathons or half marathons.  My reasoning?  We love to travel and often we end up going to places we wouldn't otherwise see if I hadn't scheduled a run there.

Most of my reading materials center on running.  I have watched movies about running, read books about running (novels and nonfiction.)  I have read and shared all kinds of articles about runners and running with my like-minded friends.

Speaking of friends, I also have made some wonderful friendships through running.  There are awesome people I might not otherwise know (or hang out with at 6 am) if it weren't for running.

And, what am I planning to do to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday?  Yep, I'm running a marathon.

The non-runners among you might not understand much about this malady called running.  But, I know those of you who run alongside (and, most likely ahead) of me "get it."  What changes have you made to your life to be a runner?

Catch you again at the back of the pack!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Different Kind of Runner's High (Spectating is not a Sissy Sport--part 2)

"Tissues and Vaseline!  What more could you ask for from a random stranger?"

That's what I yelled around the mile 20 mark of the Harrisburg Marathon yesterday.  And, if you run marathons, you know those things come in handy as you log mile after mile--especially on a windy day.

The water caravan.  
I have taken this spectating thing to a whole new level.  Because of it being a local race yesterday, I went armed with signs, a cowbell, tissues and Vaseline along with supplies for runner friends.

Actually, my day started early because I volunteered to help with the water station delivery.  Yes, I know the water doesn't deliver itself, but I never really thought through HOW much work goes into just that aspect of a race.

As the lone female (most of my counterparts said they just didn't want to get up that early!), I helped load water, powdered Gatorade, tables, cups, emergency supplies, Gu and various other things to deliver to eight aid stations.  It was a great upper body workout--at least that's what we told ourselves!

Admittedly, I wandered off after the third station (with prior permission!) to join some of my running buds at the start line and go into full spectating mode.

From there, I ventured to several spots to hand out tissues and as much support as I could!

This wasn't me, but I looked just like it!

This experience differed significantly from my first spectating one at the Marine Corps Marathon a few weeks ago.  First, a much smaller field meant I didn't have to elbow my way around other spectators. And, I could drive from one spot to another, parking on the same street where I was cheering.  (Try THAT in DC.)

Plus, I knew so many runners.  It was great to see the faces of so many running friends as they passed by. I could actually call them by name rather than bib number!

So, I became (by virtue of self-naming), "the tissue lady."

I tried to make people smile and not think about a few steps by calling them "Special PR tissues" or telling the runners they were "clean and unused!"  Then, a friend stopped by and said, "I don't know if I'd take tissues and Vaseline from a random stranger," to which I replied, "The ONLY place I'd take tissues and Vaseline from a perfect stranger would be a marathon!"  And, my earlier line was born.

Finally, I ran out of tissues, so I switched sneakers, removed a few layers and trotted back a mile or so to join my running partner for her final six miles.

Of course, I had spent the previous hours cheering on hundreds of runners, so I was pumped!  I did my best not to totally annoy my friend and two others who paced with us.  It was tough not to be perky and annoy them, but I told them I was the only one with brain cells left so they had to listen to me when I told them to "jog nice and relaxed for 30 seconds."  They joked about pushing me into the river, but I was able to see them all finish.

Just like the last time I watched, I was exhausted although I tried not to say that out loud to those who had just run 26.2 miles. After leaving the race, I went home to take a two hour nap!

Yesterday taught me again that running is a community sport.  Whether running or spectating, a race can be a magical matter where your feet find themselves on the day of a race.

Catch you later at the back of the pack (or handing out tissues and Vaseline!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let the groveling and the training commence


Runners will know that saying as a frequently posted sentiment when trying to get into a coveted race or even just to report in for a training run.

I've been in many times, but never so IN as when I got my official news yesterday.

I WILL BE RUNNING THE 2014 BOSTON MARATHON as a charity runner for Team Dougie as part of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism.

Regular readers of the blog will remember the trials and tribulations of this journey from earlier this year. You can find it here along with another article on the pros and cons of charity runners.

So, as I've said before...yes, I must be crazy because I campaigned to get this spot so I could do winter training and raise $7500+ all for the opportunity to run 26.2 miles in April.

Crazy or not, I'm anxious to get this party started!

So, for any of you so inclined, please see the link to my fundraiser page (on the logo below) along with frequently asked questions about charity runners and the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation.

What is a charity runner and how is it different from another runner?   
A charity runner agrees to raise money for a particular charity.  Many marathons have them and use them to support worthwhile organizations. Often, someone who didn't otherwise qualify or get into a certain race can gain entry through getting a charity bib. 

So did you qualify to run Boston?
Here is where I'm tempted to say, "Have you read the name of my blog?"  Seriously, I run as back of the packer trying to work my way up to being a midpacker but don't see it my future that I could "BQ."  I knew the only reasonable way for me to run Boston was to become a charity runner and so I began to pursue that quest several years ago. 

Why do you want to be a charity runner at Boston?  
First of all, I have a heart for charities and have played various roles in many community and church affiliated projects since becoming an adult.  I set my sights on running Boston 2014 when I first started running three years ago because it's "the race" to get into and I will turn 50 six days later.  What a better way to prove my physical and mental capacities than to willingly take on this challenge?  (I know...go back to the part about being crazy earlier in the blog.)

What was the application process like?
Long, nerve wracking and interesting.  As I said, I contacted Team Hoyt three years ago to check in about
the possibility of running for them.  Having very little knowledge about charity teams at that point, I thought all I pretty much had to do was ask and they'd say yes!  That's when I found out about bib distribution and the competition to get onto a charity team.  At that point, Kathy--the office manager and Dick Hoyt's wife--told me they weren't even sure Dick and Rick would be running Boston 2014 but to keep in touch. So I did.

On April 14 of this year, I started to send them an email inquiring about the status of next year's race and figured I'd let them get through this year first.  We all know what happened the next day on Boylston Street at the finish line of Boston 2013.

In future discussions with Kathy and by watching news media reports, I knew the 2014 race had unprecedented interest.  And, Kathy told me they first invite any former runners to run again with them and she doubted there would be a bib for me.  She did give me some advice about other charities to look at. 

So, how did you get to the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism?
After my conversations with Kathy, I decided to branch out and do some more investigation.  Through that process, I found many worthwhile organizations--many of which interested me. However, I  narrowed my selection down to two top choices, with the Flutie Foundation as my first choice team. The other team was for the Women's Lunch Place; they have a wonderful mission of serving homeless women in Boston and I loved my conversation with their marketing director.  Yes, I had to interview throughout this whole thing!   

To be "safe," I applied to several other teams which required an application and application fee. 

However, I opted for Team Dougie as my first choice because my 13-year old son has an autism spectrum disorder.  I knew my chances of gaining the support would be greater because of that connection.  

At some point, I plan to make an appeal for physical items the Women's Lunch Place could use, so stay tuned for that!

How much money do you need to raise?
As my previous blog indicated, as the number of interested runners increased, so did the expected dollar amounts.  Whereas there had been a $4,000 minimum in the past, it now increased to $7500.  Deep breath here.  I really had to assess whether or not I had confidence in my abilities to raise those funds before I totally signed on.  But, I did and I'm here. 

What happens if you don't raise the money?
There is this thing called a credit card they have on file and signed permission to charge me varying amounts along the way. Deep breath again.  I have certain dollar figures I have to raise by certain points or CHA-CHING!  (My husband was totally thrilled to hear that....not!)

What are you doing to raise the money?
My little brain with the big ideas has kicked in and I have all kinds of thoughts.  First, I am doing social media outreach (that's what the blog is part of) and I'm also reaching out to other friends, acquaintances, etc. for ideas about other fund raising ideas.  I'm only one person here, but trying to do my best to figure out which fundraisers might bring in the most funds for Dougie's Team.

Two ideas have really taken hold.  First, is the option for any donors who give $100 to have me wear a puzzle-pieced ribbon with their name (or the name of a loved one) on my back during the race. After the race, the donor will receive that ribbon and a bumper sticker that says, "I ran the 2014 Boston Marathon (on Linda Beck's back!)"  

Also, I am currently soliciting items for an online auction so stay tuned for more information on that!

Do you get your way paid for through these donations?
Short answer.  Nope.  I still have to pay my entry fee to the marathon, travel and lodging expenses. All the money I raise goes directly to the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism.  Every penny.  

How reputable is the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation?
First, the John Hancock company receives the majority of charity bibs and they dole them out to other organizations.  Those organizations go through a rigorous selection process to be considered for bibs in the first place.  Additionally, the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation spends less than 10% of the funds raised on administrative costs and was recently recognized by Charity Navigator, America's larges and most-utlized independent evaluator of charities with their prestigious 4-star rating for good governance, sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.   Plus, it's got Doug Flutie at the helm (who will be a teammate by the way!)

What does the Foundation support?
From their mission statement:  The goal of the Flutie Foundation is to improve the quality of life for people and families living with autism. We are dedicated to increasing the awareness of autism and the unique challenges of families who are faced with it everyday. Our commitment is to support these families by helping them find the resources they need and by funding advocacy programs as well as educational, therapeutic and recreational opportunities. 

This extends to national levels including partnerships with many other notable autism organizations.  They also provide grants to organizations such as one in Arlington, VA that created a video based learning module for general and special educators to understand autism and use practical strategies in the classroom.  The learning module is available free on-line for all educators.

Anything else I need to know?
Wow--first of all, congrats for making it this far.  If there is anything I haven't covered that your inquiring mind would like to know, please ask in the comments section below.  If I don't know, I will find out!

How can I help?  
A donation is any amount would be outstanding, although I very much realize not everyone has money in their budgets to give.  If you would like to and CAN give, great! If not, but you'd still like to support my cause, please forward this blog and like my page on Facebook for updates.  You can also share those updates as well.  Or, let me know if you or your business has any fundraising ideas or grants.  Last, just say some prayers for this journey that I am able to meet my fundraising and training goals.  (And, if you can do all three--AWESOME!)

Catch you later at the back of the pack!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Young is Too Young?

Quick!  What did you do for fun when you were around ages 10-12?

For me, it was probably playing whiffleball on a back street and having sleepouts with the neighborhood kids.

Gym class?  

Did we even have gym class? 

Ah, yes, I remember the "red," "yellow" and "green" signs in the cafeteria that would let us know whether or not we could go out for recess and gym, if we had it, on that particular day. 

And, I also remember wearing gym uniforms when I got to middle school.  Nothing sleek or sexy about them, I can tell you.

That, and never having my sneakers.  Thank heavens for Monica B., who wore the same shoe size, had a locker close to mine and was willing to give me her combination so I could get the shoes out and make it to gym class on time. 

(True Confession:  I still have dreams about being late to gym class or--worse--showing up dressed half in street clothes and half in gym clothes.   We'll go into dream interpretation in another blog.)

My point?

When I was 10 or 12, organized sports weren't a huge deal.  Oh, yes, we had softball (for which I have more very bad memories of wearing a new purple polka dot bra under a white game shirt, but let's not go there...) but it was more or less for something to do--nothing to get serious about.  

Today's kids have more opportunities to get involved in sports at a young age.  Truly, if a child doesn't specialize early, they can often be left out even when they get to middle school. For my generation, middle school was pretty much where it all started and athletes didn't start to get serious about their sport until high school.

On one hand, that's great.  I wish I had been more of an athletic type when I was younger. (Maybe having my own sneakers to wear instead of Monica B's would have been a good start....)

But, on the other hand, are kids getting into sports--even "extreme" sports at too young of an age?

Take the Welch sisters....

 Erik Szylard Daenitz for The New York Times

Now, at ages 11 and 13, they have finished hundreds of races--sometimes back to back on weekends.  They have run all distances, but are particularly pulled to endurance races like challenging trail runs, triathlons and even full marathons. Kaytlinn, the older sister, finished the Houston Marathon with a time of 3:45:15, but was later disqualified because she didn't meet the entrance age requirements. Here's a video to learn more about them: 

In fact, most marathons have age requirements that start usually around age 14, but can go as high as 18 years old.
But, they are not the youngest marathoners out there.  Believe it or not, there was a young boy named Budhia Singh, who ran 28 marathons by the time he was four years old.  His prowess was spotted by a man who had purchased him from his parents in India; to punish him, the man told him to run.  When the man returned five hours later, young Singh was still running. 

But, Singh, now 10 years old is not running any longer, although he does his schooling at a sports hostel.  His benefactor was murdered and, unrelated to that, human rights activists called for an end to the "abuse" he was suffering. The officials at the school say he may run again, especially because he does show promise in endurance, but they want him to train and develop more--especially since he can't compete in international distance events for four more year.
Then, there's the 14 year old--Winter Vinecki--who, in April, became the youngest person to run a marathon in Antarctica, one of the toughest courses that exists, particularly due to the temps of -25 degrees.  She is also on track to become the youngest person to run a marathon on each continent.  That record is currently held by a 22 year old.  

As you can imagine, these young prodigies can't run from the controversy surrounding them.  Some doctors are concerned that this kind of activity can damage growth plates and delay puberty in girls.  They believe there isn't enough evidence that shows whether or not there is long-term damage.  

Others insist that--as long as the runners get good medical care, they should have no more issues than someone older who is running. 

So, I young is too young?  Should these younger athletes be encouraged or discouraged from a sport they reportedly love?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think. 

Catch you later at the Back of the Pack!