Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race Report

True to form, this will be my rookie version of a race report.  Mainly, it is an opportunity to share some memories of one of the best days of my life and to say thank you to the people that got me through one of the most grueling challenges I've ever faced.

On Friday, October 12th at 9:00 a.m., I had my final pre-race correspondence with Coach Mike.  We hopped on Skype and within about 30 seconds of getting online with Mike, I was in tears.  My nervous energy was running high, I was overcome with the thought of all Mike had done to get me to this point, and I had just received a beautiful email from my dad and mom telling me how proud they were and encouraging me to Run Strong!  Mike – as always – gave me amazing advice that I used over and over again throughout the race.  He was facing his own epic journey the next day of participating in a 100 km run to raise money for children’s cancers.  I left the conversation both empowered and inspired.  Mike will forever hold a special place in my heart for his incredible contribution to Run Strong and to my growth as a runner and person.

On Saturday night (night before run day), Eric made me an amazing pasta dinner to ensure I had my carbs. After re-reading texts of encouragement from my brother, Joe, I tried to get to bed early, but tossed and turned for a while before falling into a peaceful sleep, waking up only briefly at 1 a.m. to the sound of our dog throwing up.  Realizing that this would likely be the only night ever that I would clearly have a free pass on doing dog clean-up, I poked Eric and gently explained that I couldn't clean up the dog mess because I had to run a really long distance in the morning. :0)  Eric is a good man.

I had set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, but my internal clock woke me up at 4:06.  I showered, did a last minute check of all my gear/nutrition and by 5:45, we were heading into Toronto.  One of the great moments of the day happened right before we left. I hopped online for a quick second to find a note from my mom and dad saying, “See you at the finish line”.  Both of my parents had been quite sick in the week leading up to the race and right up until that moment, I wasn't sure if they would be able to make it.  I was overcome with excitement and gratitude that they would be there.  My parents are amazing people.

Driving into the city, it absolutely poured rain.  Part of me was happy for the rain because some of my best training runs had been in the rain, but I was worried about how wet feet hold up over 42 km.  When we got to Toronto, traffic had already backed up at the Spadina exit off the QEW.  We parked just off the Lakeshore and walked up to the corral area.  Another incredible moment happened when we were waiting to enter the corral area and we saw my brother, Scott, and his girlfriend Taryn.  Taryn was also running her first marathon and Scott was running the half marathon: both of them had said in the early days of the Run Strong campaign that they would run in solidarity with me and the Run Strong cause.  Scott and Taryn are just such amazing souls that their presence instantly brought a sense of calm.  When I saw Taryn, I didn’t want to stop hugging her because I knew that she was the only person at that moment that I could hold on to that was feeling the same sense of foreboding about what was ahead of us.  I was just so happy to see them.

Taryn, Me, and Scott waiting to enter the race corral.

When the corral opened up, I said goodbye to Eric - and Scott, Taryn, and I parted ways, each of us going to find the space to run our own races.  I put my headphones in as I waited for the starting waves (ours was the last corral to go to the start line).  Even writing this, my heart is starting to beat faster thinking about that moment.  I had thought about this for a lifetime and now here I was.

It was such a thrill to start out on those first 5 km.  It had stopped raining and I felt strong.  After only 1 km, there was the most amazing cheering section a girl could ask for: Eric; my mom and dad; my sister, Marlo; my brother-in-law, Dean; my niece and nephew, Keelan and Charlie; and my amazing daughter Hannah.  I ran over to the side and high-fived everyone as I ran past.  At about 3 kms, I saw David Berger, one of my favourite people in the world, and ran over to high five him.  I had no idea the amazing comfort and joy I would feel by seeing friends and family along the route.  I can’t thank everyone enough for being out there.

At 4 km, I had another incredible race highlight.  Chris McGrath, a friend that I have known since kindergarten but probably have not seen in 20 years, was on the route cheering.  Chris was an amazing supporter of Run Strong and seeing him was an absolute thrill.  I couldn't resist running over to give him a huge hug!

Shortly after I saw Chris, I had my first encounter with the incomparable Jo-Anne Liburd along the route.  Jo-Anne is simply one-of-a-kind.  I spotted her in the crowd with a sign that said, “You are still faster than the King St. streetcar”.  It was the first time (but not the last) I laughed out loud on the route.  Throughout the entire race, Jo-Anne found a way to get to the most remote race points, where the crowds and cheering were sparse and would show up with the most amazing signs that kept me inspired, encouraged, and laughing.  I think my favourite had to be her sign that said, “Corrie, I think you are winning this!”.   If I could have gotten enough air into my lungs, I’m sure I would have laughed for a good 10 minutes at that one.

I was thrilled to see my family again at 5 kms and my dear friend David Berger again shortly after.  I was feeling great and trying to resist the urge to run faster than my training pace, as I knew that I was going to need energy reserves in the last 10 – 12 kms.

Feeling good in the first 10 km.

The Waterfront Marathon has a number of places where you run out to a point and then you loop and run back the other way.  This gave me an awesome chance as I was running out to see people who were faster than me and running back the other way.  At about 12 kms, I was running one way of a loop and coming at me in the other direction, I saw hands flying in the air and heard, “CORRIE!!!!!”.  It was my AMAZING cousin, Steve, who had come all the way from Michigan to run in support of Run Strong, along with his wife, Tara (also a marathoner), their girls, and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed.  Seeing Steve at that moment, I wanted to cry I was so happy!!!  We high fived and kept going our respective ways, but his incredible smile fuelled me over the next part of the race.  Shortly after I saw Steve, I saw my brother, Scott, running the other way and again was so excited and inspired to keep going.

At 18 kms, there were Eric, my parents, and my sister again.  I was still feeling good but needed more hydration, so Eric quickly got me a bottle of Gatorade/water and I was off again.  I think one of the most difficult moments of the race came at 19 kilometres, where the course split and runners that were doing the half marathon went one way towards the finish line and the full marathon course veered off to go east, with another 23 km left to run.  I missed the bigger running crowd and 23 kms seemed like an endless distance to still have in front of me.

The next 10 kilometres were quiet and I had too much time in my own head.  Instead of focusing on the kilometres I had conquered, I was overcome with what was still in front of me.  I thought of everything Coach Mike had instilled in me; I thought about the life journeys of women living with violence; and I thought about the commitment I had made to all of the incredible Run Strong donors and supporters.  I was not going to stop running.  In addition, it was truly the amazing volunteers, the cheering crowds, and seeing Jo-Anne’s white hat and neon signs that kept me going over that stretch.  The good news was that the blisters that had plagued me all through my training were somehow not an issue for the first 28 kms.  The bad news was that my shoulders and legs were starting to ache badly.

People told me that a marathon really begins at 30 km.  Mine began at 28 km.  In my whole life, I will never forget the moment of running down the road and seeing my mom and dad and my sister in the distance.  They had a massive sign that said, “Run Strong Corrie-Annie-Banannie-Fannie” (my childhood nickname).  When I got up to them, all I could get out was, “I hurt”.  Their love and concern will stay with me forever.  And then, my sister, because she is the most amazing sister a girl could have, threw off her backpack and said, “Would you mind if I ran with you?”.  I am overcome all over again thinking about it.  My beautiful sister came out and ran with me from just before 28 km to 33 km.  She made me laugh, cheered me on, sang to me...anything to try and get me to stop thinking about the pain.  That, my friends, is an incredible sister.  She told me that Eric was going to run the last part of the race with me and that she would stay with me until he joined me.  I wasn’t going to run any more of the race alone.

My mom, dad and sister at around 27 kms.  I was hurting and was so happy to see my family.

My unbelievable sister running with me...5 kms down the road my equally unbelievable husband would join me.

And, just as Marlo said, at 33 km, there was my awesome husband ready to bring me home.  Marlo and I parted ways and Eric became the energy that got me through the grueling final 9 kms.  At 38 kms,  I looked at Eric and said, “I don’t think I have 4 more kms in me.”  He said, “Yes you do!!  You are so close now.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”  People along the route would cheer him on and he would say to them, “Don’t cheer for me.  Cheer for my wife.”  A wonderful man, indeed.

In the last 10 kms, there was one more hill to climb.  My legs were like lead and I couldn't fathom how I was going to manage an incline.  And there it was.  The white hat.  Jo-Anne had positioned herself at the top of the hill with a sign that said, “Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever.”  I just love her for getting me up that hill.

With 1 km left in the race, you turn the corner to go north on Bay St.  As I got closer, Eric retreated to the sidewalk to let me do the final kilometre on my own.  Ahead I heard my name being called and there were my cousins Stephen and Tara, their girls (Sophie, Ava, and Ella), and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed cheering like crazy.  I turned the corner hoping to see the finish line right there, but instead found a sign that said “600 metres to go”.  I wanted to laugh and cry all in the same moment.  For that whole 600 m, I could hear my relatives cheering at the top of their lungs to get me to the end.  I put my arms up and gave the thumbs up and the victory sign.

And, then, one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen: to my right, my amazing mom and dad, my daughter Hannah, and my husband cheering at the top of their lungs, (with my dad in tears), and straight ahead, the finish line.  I crossed the finish line in a state of sheer agony and elation as the announcer announced, “Congratulations Corrie Schneider, you have completed your marathon!”.

Coming into the finish line

Post-race with (part of) my awesome family

My fellow marathoner and all-around great girl, Taryn.

Enjoying the after party with my superstar cousin, Steve (who, by the way, is running the Detroit Marathon next weekend...he's amazing!)

All there is left to say is, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to each of you that were a part of this amazing experience.  It was a day of love and achievement...and a glorious day of peace. Today I say this in a way I've never said it before: thank you for running with me!!

With heartfelt gratitude and love,

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Signing Off

Over the past week or so, Eric and I have put out calls for donations in a final push to reach Run Strong's fundraising goal.  I want to say an incredibly special thank you to Stephen and Tara N.; Taryn W.; Chris M.; Roseanne P.; Court C.; Renee M.; the Randalls; Jen C.; Jennifer D.; Rachel M.and my wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law (Ed and Anne) for so graciously and generously supporting the run.  I want to thank my husband for giving again after he and the girls have given so much to this initiative over the past year.  Finally, I want to say a very special and love-filled thank you to my amazing parents who have encouraged me at every step and made the generous donation that got me to my fundraising goal.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you that have given over the past year.  (Just to be sure if you''re still considering donating, I'm all for raising more than the target amount!!) :0)


So, this is it.  My next few days are going to be focused on staying calm and getting into the right headspace for Sunday’s race. (And I can imagine that you'll all welcome the break from hearing from me almost weekly.) :0)  Over this past year, my hope has really just been that people will think about the violence that happens both locally and globally because of power imbalances, and that people will engage in actions – either personally or more broadly – that promote justice and peace.  I just read a story yesterday about Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old girl in Pakistan, who was shot by a Taliban member for speaking out on girls’ rights.  Two men stopped the school bus she was on, got on and asked who Malala was, and when the other kids identified her, shot her in the head and neck.  All because she spoke publicly about a girl’s right to get an education.

But the truth is that we don’t have to look as far as Asia, Europe, or any other continent to hear these stories. They happen here, in Canada.  Across all cultures, income levels, races, and ages.  But, here's the thing that I really want to say: violence does not have to be an inherent part of our social structure...because violence is a choice.  So, I guess if I could leave a final message it would be to ask people to think about your power and privilege and what you choose to do with it.  I personally believe our great hope lies in making purposeful peaceful, equitable, and just individual choices.  Our hope lies in our individual daily choice for peace over violence.

With that, I leave you with the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

So, this is me signing off.  I’ll see you on the flip side.  And, one final time, thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Monday, October 8, 2012


So, this will be my second last blog before the marathon.

Of all the things I've learned over this past year: fueling, blister remedies, running gait, pacing, hydration, the most important thing I've learned is how powerful gratitude is.

I feel so grateful.

I’m sitting here watching the most spectacular fall day in all its colour and breeziness thinking that it was a day like this a year ago when the idea of mixing my marathon bucket list item with my love for Interim Place breathed life and was morphed into the Run Strong campaign.  Thinking back on the year of training, writing, praying, hoping, asking, receiving, I am so aware of the many ways that our cups overflow daily.  And I am so grateful.

I hold dear the kindness of every single one of you that has supported, written, donated, guest blogged, ran with me, asked about the training, cheered, commented on a post, shared this initiative with your networks, commiserated with me through the fails, provided advice, or just listened to me.  Interim Place does such amazing work and the coming together of all of your energies for their programs and services has been incredible.  Thank you.

In the spirit of giving thanks today, I would like to share a few particular words of gratitude:

First to the staff and management of Interim Place.  The work you do is so critical: I said in a previous post that a marathon doesn’t seem far enough to run in support of that work and I meant it.  Being on the front lines of the work with women and children requires both commitment and resilience and you embody these qualities daily.  As an Interim Place board member, I am grateful for the many ways that you support the work of the agency; as a woman I am so grateful that you are there ready to open the door whenever it is needed.

To the board of directors and Interim Place’s Executive Director, Sharon Floyd.  You have all been one of the great lessons of my lifetime in commitment.  You show up daily to do challenging work because you so clearly understand the need and the opportunities to champion change.  My life has been changed by watching you in action.  Thank you.

To the Run Strong donors (Listed by name in the "Donations" section of the Run Strong Giving Page: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=15046 ).  Of all the emails I’ve opened this year, my very favourite have been the ones with the subject: “A Donation Has Been Made Through Your CanadaHelps Giving Page”.  Long after the run is over, I will smile as I think of the incredible generosity you showed in answering the call with your hard-earned dollars.  Thank you.

To my friends who showed support in countless other ways (running, writing, commenting, sharing).  Believe me, my heart remembers each of you individually.  What may have seemed like a simple kind word or random moment of kindness has been thought about and relived throughout my training over and over again.  Thank you for taking the time to take action.

To my cousins, Steve and Tara, thank you for travelling to be a part of the marathon.  You are just simply amazing and I am so grateful for your support.

To my mentor/coach, Mike Herzog.  In one of the most brilliant acts of grace in recent memory, you came forward of your own accord to assist me with my training.  You changed my entire perspective on running
and everything I believed about my perceived limits.  You are one of a kind and I don’t know how to adequately thank you for the impact you've had.

To my amazing family (by blood and love).  Taking on this kind of training (or any other challenge) can’t happen unless a million other foundational pieces are in place.  You are my rocks and sharing the finish line with you (in person or in spirit) will be what brings me home.

To my husband, Eric.  Thank you for standing with me in all of this.  And thank you for always being out there on the long runs.  When you cheer for me, all doubt falls away.

Finally, to all women of courage.  Next Sunday, your journeys will be my strength.

For all of you and your incredible impact, I thank God.

Thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Girl Like ME is Going to Run a Race Like THAT?! Part II

This week, I would like to send out a very special thank you to Daryl Tuttle, a friend, committed follower of this journey, and an extremely generous supporter, all of which he's done from the other side of the globe. Thank you, Daryl: I'm so grateful!

So, as I’m posting this, I am just over 2 weeks away from my marathon.  This is really it: there’s no going back now.

I’m going to be honest: I’m pretty scared.  The pragmatic, cerebral part of me is telling me that I’ve put in the hours of training and that if I stick to what I’ve learned, I’m going to finish and finish strong (perhaps a bit slow, but strong).  But, my nervous system is on overload and I’ve already got the heart flutters, the stomach turns, and the restless legs.  As the day gets closer, I’m less and less capable of sitting still.

In the moments of highest anxiety, I go back to the beginning of what this run is about.  On July 29th, I attended Interim Place’s “Steps to End Violence Against Women” walk.  Before the walk began, we honoured the 18 women that had lost their lives to violence in Peel Region over the past 5 years: their names were screened on the back of all of the walkers’ shirts.  After the walk, Interim Place’s Executive Director, Sharon Floyd, said to me, “Our goal will be to walk one day with no writing on the back of our t-shirts.”  I loved that idea...what a worthwhile focus to have.  A few weeks ago I went to Interim Place to meet with Sharon and she began our meeting with the heartbreaking news that there was already a woman’s life to honour at the 2013 walk...a name to be written on the back of our shirts.

This past year’s journey has been an exercise in some of the greatest learning and growth I’ve ever done in my life.  I know exponentially more about running effectively and training for an endurance event.  Every day I am learning something new about the causes and impact of violence...I am hearing the stories of women that are in the most gut-wrenching circumstances, and stories themed around children’s experiences with violence: stories that you really and truly hope to never hear.  I’ve also learned, beyond a doubt, that engaging in the area of violence against women will be a lifelong commitment for me.

Despite what may come through in my blogs of the last year, my hope and optimism in this area well understand that violence against women is not a comfortable – and often not a welcome – subject.  I know there is the perspective that asks why we focus exclusively on violence against women.  I am also aware standing against violence against women is often perceived as taking a stand against men.  I want to go on the record as saying that I absolutely believe that we have to address violence against women through a gendered lens and approach it specifically and uniquely: the socio-economic and political barriers faced by women are simply not the same as those faced by men.  Women are differentially affected by power and control and we need to understand and address these pieces to reduce violence.  I also want to go on the record as saying that I have been blessed throughout my life with men that have been my best friends, closest confidantes, brothers, colleagues – and over this past year, some of my best allies in my marathon journey.   I have been blessed with a husband, dad, father-in-law, and brothers that stand with me in my own personal empowerment and in wanting to see a day when abuse against women is no more.  I believe the journey to eliminating violence is one we must collaboratively take together and I love both the women and men in my life that are willing to walk even parts of the path that will take us there.

So, the answer is yes.  Yes, a girl like me is going to run a race like that.  I still have not a lick of athletic ability, but I still have that iron will (and that Palko stubbornness).   I’ll run the race and finish strong because I’ll be powered by hope, faith, and the inspiration of those who are braver, stronger, and more on the front lines of this quest than I am.  I’ll run the race and finish strong because t-shirts shouldn’t have names on them.

As I head into the last weeks of the Run Strong campaign, I’m kindly asking you to please support Interim Place’s programs and services for women and children experiencing violence through a donation.

As always, a million thanks...thanks for sticking with me over the past year and thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Always remembering.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Save the Shoes

I just want to start by saying a huge and sincere thank you to 2 people that I have known since I was in the single digits – the awesome Chris McGrath and Lisa Lisle – for their unbelievable kindness and generosity in supporting Run Strong.    I was blown away by your kindness and am so grateful to still be connected to you both 30 (something) years later.  Thank you, thank you!!!!  (Sherwood Village represent!)

I’m going to keep this week’s blog short.  A while ago I was asked to give a presentation on peace-building and I themed it around the idea that peace-building starts with each of us as individuals: feeling compelled and inspired to use our unique skills and talents as catalysts for positive change.  I’ve pulled out of the archives 2 videos I've used around this theme: the first a short TED Talk (“Save the Shoes”) given by a volunteer firefighter and the second a video I created for the peace presentation.  When I originally put this blog together, I did not consciously connect this theme with today’s marking of the 11th anniversary of the events of September 11th, but am glad to be posting this particular blog today. Wishing all a week of peace...enjoy the videos and thanks for running with me!!

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Play it Again, Sam

OK, so we’re now just over 5 weeks to the starting line.  This week, Coach Mike gave me very specific instructions to do back-to-back runs of 8 km the first day and 21 km (a ½ marathon) the second day.  The goal is to continue to build my endurance without taking on runs that are much more than 2.5 hours, so we split the full distance of 29 kms out.  I felt really strong on both runs, although it absolutely poured rain through the full 21 kms and I was soaked, with my clothes sticking to me and rain dripping off my baseball cap.  Eric met me a few times with towels, a dry shirt, and to see if I was holding up in the rain.  Then, at about kilometre 12, my friend Rosa drove by on her way home from work and starting cheering like crazy for me from her car...how can you not feel motivated with that kind of support?  I’m even getting to the point where after a half marathon, I’ve stopped curling up in a moaning ball of wimpy and am smiling at the end of my runs.  Here’s the proof (me after 21 k in the rain yesterday):

So, for this week’s blog, I wanted to share the Run Strong soundtrack with you.  I was raised in a home where music was (and is) a fundamental part of our daily living, so it makes sense that I draw incredible comfort and motivation from having music with me while out taking on the kilometres.  My playlist is ever-evolving, but there are a few constants that every time I hear them, make me run a bit faster, feel a bit stronger and sometimes even move me to let it all out and sing out loud.  I wanted to share with you little snippits of each of them (and then need your help to find new material), so here they are:

1. Who I Am (Rosemary’s Granddaughter) (Jessica Andrews) – This song has come to have special meaning on this particular training journey because, beyond figuring out how to endure the long distances, I’ve figured out a lot about what I stand for, who I am, and who I aspire to be...and I’ve found complete peace with my imperfections.  If you change the name of the grandma in this song, it describes how I feel every time I’m out training.

2. The Rising (Bruce Springsteen) – Who doesn’t get jazzed about listening to The Boss?!  I see so much of anti-violence work as a rising and emergence, and Bruce reminds me of it on every run. :0)

3. Fire it Up (Johnny Reid) – OK, truth is I could listen to anything Johnny Reid sings and run faster.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I start every run with his song, “Today I’m Going to Try and Change the World”.  This one has a bit more fire in it and every time he says “Fire it Up”, I have a compulsion to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Sing it Johnny!”.

4. Invincible (Hedley) – If I could pick a word to describe how I feel every time I conquer a distance that I didn’t think I could do, “invincible” would be it.  If I could describe how I would love for the courageous women working towards violence free lives to feel, “invincible” would be it.

5. Good Life (One Republic) - Because it is a good, good life.

Burning Heart (Survivor) – This one is a no-brainer.  Really, how can anyone hear this song and not picture Rocky pulling a horse cart through the mountains of Russia or doing chin-ups in his electricity-less cabin.  And how can anyone who pictures that not want to go for a run?

So, these are a few of my top picks, but my runs are getting longer and I need help filling the time with some inspiring new music.  Would love for you to comment below with some recommendations that will keep my heart pumping and feet moving.  Thanks for your suggestions and, as always, thanks for running with me!!!

(I’m going to end with a tune that I still listen to on my runs (even though it’s not Christmas) and include once again the video I made when I started this journey last year in the hopes that it will be a reminder of why I am running.  My favourite lyrics: ."Go now, go now and shine on.  We'll remember you, remember when you're gone.  I know you'll find peace in that silent night.  You ran the good race.  You fought the good fight."  Please consider a donation in support of Interim Place.  Thank you!!)

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My 23 KM Journey

I just want to take a moment to start this week’s blog with HUGE congratulations to my marathon coach, Mike Herzog, who since I last wrote, completed an Ironman competition which involves swimming 2.4 miles; biking 112 miles; and then running a full marathon (26.2 miles).  Not only did he complete it, but he did it in the amazing time of 10 hours and 27 minutes, which to me is the very definition of endurance and iron will and is incredible inspiration leading into my final 6 weeks of training.  Congratulations Mike!!!!

I read this great quote yesterday: “A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence”.

A great segue into the step-forward/step-back journey I’ve been on the past few weeks.  When I last blogged about my training progress, I told you about how my 8-year old told me to get a grip and run the 19 kms that I was supposed to be doing on my long runs (but couldn’t seem to conquer).  I pulled out my best bravado in that post and said I would rise to Mini-Me’s challenge...but here’s the honest truth of the matter: I didn’t.  That Tuesday (Tuesdays are now my long-run days) came, I put my shoes on, headed out the door, and about 9 kms into the run decided it was too crazy hot to run 19 kms.  I didn’t even try to apply the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; I didn’t try to conjure up any inspiring Oprahisms or recite a Maya Angelou poem in my head; I didn’t attempt to go to my happy place or call for ‘Serenity Now!’.  I just gave up.

Feeling guilty about my weakness, I started to sweat (pun intended) about how I was going to find the endurance to run 42 kms when I couldn’t even get to 19.  Then I did some gardening, cleaned the house, emailed some people, Facebooked a bit, sent some LinkedIn invites, took the dog out, folded some laundry, called my mom and dad...(Do you see where I’m going with this?  Feeling bad + Avoidance +Doing Everything But Training = More Feeling Bad).  It’s not pretty, but I’m telling it like it is.

Fast forward a week and 2 things happen that change everything.  First, Coach Mike sends me one of his famous emails with “Checking In” in the subject line (i.e., Subject: You Can’t Hide...I WILL Find Out Whether or Not You are Sticking to the Plan!).   I joke, but in fact when I confessed that I still had not done the 19 kms, he responded with supportive and critical advice on fuelling and hydrating during my long runs.  For other rookie runners out there, I just want to tell you that this was THE most pivotal information I have received throughout this whole experience.  Being properly fueled and hydrated during my long runs has increased my energy and endurance exponentially.  Later that same week, at the Palko family reunion, my cousin Steve (who you will recall is the AWESOME soul that is coming from Michigan to run the marathon); his wife Tara (also an avid runner and great supporter) and my brother’s girlfriend, Taryn (another amazing runner/person), talked shop with me for over an hour sharing their advice on how they fuel during long runs and inspiring me to get out there and give the 19 kms another try.

So, inspired by the amazing support of family and friends, that Tuesday, I did it.  I ran 19 kms non-stop.  My proudest training moment yet!!!

The next long run distance to conquer was 23 kms.  This time, I was determined to do it on my first try.   The big challenge was that we were going on vacation for a week and I didn`t want to lose the momentum I had built up. Truth time again: I wouldn’t exactly say that I stuck to a healthy protein and veggie diet while away; I, um, probably wouldn’t say that I chose exercising over napping; and I would say that relaxing on the beach was usually code for enjoying a glass (or two) of my favourite white wine...so, not exactly a prescription for advancing my training goals.

While I was away, my favourite coach “Checked In” with a stark reminder that I was 7 weeks away from the marathon.  Reality set in, the wine bottle was re-corked, and I made the commitment to myself that the next 7 weeks would, above all else (save for the health and well-being of my family), be about the running.  With a strategy in place for how the next 7 weeks will play out, a re-commitment to not wavering from the program, and with more determination than I’ve ever had, on Tuesday I laced up the old shoes and ran 23 kms non-stop.  No question, the highlight of my run was when my husband biked out to meet me at 12 kms with a fresh, cold bottle of Gatorade and a new pack of “Chomps” (my fuel).  With my route taking me back past my house at kilometre 20, Eric left me another fresh-from-the-fridge bottle of Gatorade at the end of the driveway...so awesome!!

I guess my point is that this is truly a story of comedy and tragedy...defeat and victory: cutting through stone with nothing but persistence.  That’s what makes it so exciting.  What makes it even more exciting is sharing these moments with all of you...the incredible Run Strong supporters!  Knowing that people are engaging in this journey right along with me keeps my legs moving, so thanks, thanks for running with me!

(P.S.  To end today’s blog, I thought I would share with you my “must-haves” on every run.  These pieces, which may look commonplace and perhaps un-noteworthy, are my comfort and have been by my side through now at least 100 training runs):

My well-worn Notre Dame hat.  I wear this on every run because it represents "Our Lady"; in honour of all mothers; 
and to keep my whole family close in thought while running: my brother who is also running this marathon and has 
been one of my biggest supporters is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

My peace necklace.  I almost never take this off.  It was a gift from my husband, Eric, so 
I wear it both as a symbol of what I am striving for and to always keep my family close to me. 

My bracelets.  One says 'Faith.  Hope. Love.'
The other says, 'Laugh.  Love.  Live'
When I look down, they are my reminders of what is important 
and to take on even difficult challenges joyfully.

You can't see it in this picture (purposely), but at the base of my thumb, I have written the initials of 
someone we have been very close to that has been deeply affected by violence and abuse.  I 
write their initials on my hand before each of my long runs to remind me what this is really all about.

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