Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Run Strong

This week's blog is a special Christmas edition in video format.  Please share if you feel inclined.  Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year to all...and thanks for running with me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So, About the Training....

So, when we left off 2 blogs ago, I had confessed that I was relatively hostile to running as a kid…and then I skipped ahead about 20 years to the finish lines of two half marathons.  I realize that might give the impression that running and I have been in a steadily upward and progressive relationship since the 7th grade, but that’s not really true.  In fact, running and I are...oh, I don't know...a bit more like Will and Grace…we’ve definitely had a long-term relationship, but it’s kind of hard to define at any given moment.

There are 2 things I know for sure about running:
  1.  I like it.  Truly.  For me, the hardest part about running is getting my shoes on and getting out the door.  Once I’m out there, I actually enjoy it.
  2. Running has become incredibly therapeutic for me.  I’ll write more on my thoughts around the psychology of being a runner in another blog, but I just want to say that at some of my most challenging and difficult times, running has been a great release.  Sometimes I run as much to be alone and think as I do for the exercise.
I guess I really committed to running as an integral part of my adult life in 1997.  The summer of 1997 was unequivocally one of the best summers of my life.  I had been accepted into the MBA program at York University which would start in September, so to celebrate my summer of freedom before returning to school, I moved back in with my parents, got a “job” which gave me just enough money to pay for my nights at the pub and late night fast food runs with my brother, and logged more hours playing video games (again with my brother) than I had in the previous 24 years of my life combined.  I attribute most of my laugh lines to those 3 months spent with my brother at my parents’ house.  But, you can imagine that a summer of pubs, fast food, and Playstation takes a pretty good toll on one’s body mass index.
When I moved to Toronto and started my MBA in September of 1997, I was paying dearly for the pints and DQ blizzards that I shared with my (did I mention very, very funny) brother.  Wanting to get back in shape and fit into my clothes again (and unable to pay for a gym membership because my summer income had paid for the opening of at least one new Dairy Queen location), I rediscovered running…and vegetables.  At first, it was literally for 8 minutes around the block.  I nearly quit within the first few days when I was running a few streets over from my apartment and a car full of teenagers drove by me and yelled out the window, “Run, Forrest, Run!”.  But, I am nothing if not stubborn and by the summer of 1998 I was doing hour and a half runs at least 5 times a week.
Marriage, work, kids, and the ebbs and flows of life have meant that over the years there have been weeks where I’ve run twice for 20 minutes and others where I’ve run 6 times for 75 minutes.  Until recently, my standard run that I was doing about 4 times a week was 7.5 kilometres which is exactly the length of the country road we live on to one of the major crossroads and back.  I’ve just mapped out a 10 km run to increase that distance, so that is where I currently stand.  Over the upcoming months, my training regimen will follow the “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer”, a book based on the marathon class offered by the University of Northern Iowa.  It is a 16-week, four-day-a-week workout plan.  It lays out a clear schedule for progressively increasing your distance to prepare for the big run and I chose it because, well, the title really spoke to me.  As I start formally following the guide, I’ll report in on how well I’m sticking to it.
Before closing off this week’s blog with another video post, I want to say a few more quick thank yous.
To Melinda F. and Jas. C for becoming new blog followers.  I really appreciate your support…thank you!!
To my long-time friend, Jen C. for sharing this initiative with her networks.  The more people that can be engaged, the greater impact Run Strong can have.  Thank you!
To Heather L. for your message of support.  The impact of someone writing me out of the blue to offer encouragement and support is great.  Thank you!
So, to close off this week, here’s one of the all-time greatest movie running scenes (a caution, there is one occurrence of strong language)…and as I’ve said, one that has personal meaning to my running career.  I’m posting it in honour of everyone that, for no particular reason, has just felt like running.  Thanks for running with me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This is Why

Total kilometres run this week: 28.5

Biggest challenge: The cold.  The horrible, horrible cold. ;0)
So, it’s been a week since I announced the Run Strong initiative.  I hope you’ll read to the end of this post because – to end on a high note – I really want to take a minute to acknowledge everyone who gave me some stop-in-my-tracks-because-people-are-amazing! moments this week.
But, I have to be honest, have you ever put something out there and then thought, “Sweet Georgia, what did I just do”?  Once I had emailed family and friends, and sent the Run Strong link out into the social network universe, I started to toss and turn at night contemplating how this was all going to go down.  42 km is a really long way to go on nothing but a pair of legs.  And, let’s face it, I get tired after a morning of housework.
I also started to fret a bit about how this platform would be used to REALLY engage people in the issue of violence against women.  It’s still very much a closed door issue...happening in places often unseen, involving realities commonly unspoken.  How would this forum contribute to that dialogue being opened up and shared?
After a whole lot of middle-of-the-night ceiling staring, I decided the simplest answer was that I was just going to have to go on faith…both that, with the right training, my rookie legs would hold out for the long haul and that the messaging would come.  And, of course, that’s when it happened. 
By complete chance (serendipity?), I came across this video.  Please watch it because this is why…this is why I want to run…these are some of the reasons why the staff and volunteers at Interim Place and other agencies addressing violence against women do the work.  This is why I’m asking you to donate.  It’s a 13 minute video, so you’ll need to get comfortable for a few minutes to watch it, but please pay particular attention to what he says at approximately 8 minutes and 55 seconds, “We had nowhere to go when I was a child…no one to turn to.  Not even the neighbours who knew about it – they heard it – and they kept silent”.  This is why Interim Place is so critical: it provides women and children with a place to go…a place to be safe, and a place to heal.
I do want to also say before you watch that I struggled a bit with having my first video post feature a man telling his story about violence against women.  I think it is so important that women use their own voices to tell their stories and share their experiences, but there is also no doubt that men have a pivotal role to play in addressing the issues and he very much (and so eloquently) tells his story from the perspective of a child, which is a critical message to hear.  For me personally, the most powerful moment comes at 9:45 when he says, “Violence is a choice and it’s a choice that a man makes.  And we can choose to stop it.”

As I said, I want to sign off by thanking some amazing people for simply bowling me over with their support this week:

My husband – for being the first person to respond when I sent out the email announcing Run Strong, and putting in print what I already knew: that he would do whatever he could to support the journey.
My mom and dad – just for being them.  And for jumping in with both feet every time one of their kids comes up with a crazy idea. :0)
My brother Scott and the team at CCI – for developing the Run Strong website (which I love!).  In addition, for being such hard-core supporters…Scott and Kevin are going to run with me!
My sister Marlo – for writing within minutes of receiving the email announcing the launch of Run Strong to tell me she would run with me.  Sisterhood is an amazing gift.
My brother Joe – for being the very first donor to Run Strong!
Sharon F. – for, in the middle of all of her other responsibilities at Interim Place, taking the time to be another set of eyes on my messaging about violence against women.

My truly amazing cousin Stephen - who wrote me a wonderful note of encouragement, offered his expertise leading up to the run and, all things working out, put the offer out to run with me.

My friends Jo-Anne L. and Mike H. - for so kindly asking "what can we do?". 
My mom, Jo-Anne L., Mike H., Marlo T., Kevin S., CCI Studios, and Mir Movement – for so enthusiastically sharing the initiative with their networks.
My fabulous cousin, Sue P., as well as my dear friends Jo-Anne L., and Daryl T. – for sending messages of support that absolutely made my day!
The 9 amazing people that became blog followers within the first week: Scott P., Joseph P., Heather L., Nicole J., Shenelle B., David B., Jo-Anne L., Mike H., and Chris M.  Thank you!!
The 11 amazing people that commented on my first blog – Jo-Anne L., Marlo T., Scott P., Sue P., Shenelle B., David B., Rachel R., Chris M., Jo-Ann F., Michelle M., and Rhonda K..  You have no idea how much it meant that you took a minute to share your thoughts.  It was especially a real thrill to hear from some amazing old friends and neighbours!  Thank you!!
To everyone who was a wonderful part of the launch of Run Strong: thanks for running with me!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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

You bet.
I really hope people read and follow my blog, but I think I would shed tears if the news of my marathon quest made it to Mr. Brown, my grade 7 teacher.  Mr. Brown was a hard-core runner and would get our class out running the 4-street square of Aberdeen Ave., Oak Ave., Lansdowne Ave., and Lorne Cres. that encompassed St. Benedict’s, my elementary school in Sarnia.  I was actually more of a run-walker, hanging out with other anti-exercise protesters at the tail-end of the pack until Mr. Brown would lap us and tell us to take our speed up a notch or we’d be run-walking right through recess.
Mr. Brown made it his personal mission to get me to run 1 mile non-stop.  I had not a lick of running ability in me.  But, I hated (and still do to this day) to let anyone down, so on Mr. Brown’s urging, I entered a 1-mile race at St. Clair Highschool in Sarnia.  I nearly collapsed in agony and I finished dead last, but I did it.  And it is one of my greatest memories…I still remember my friend Rodney Munro coming onto the track (he had finished the race about 12 minutes earlier) to run the last 500 metres with me.  And I still have the 8th place ribbon I received because they had bought ribbons for the 1st 10 female finishers in my division….but only 8 entered.
The euphoria of my last-place finish as a result of Mr. Brown’s encouragement was where my love of running began.  Since then, I have run 2 half-marathons (finished not-last in both of them!!) and now am ready to check a big one off my bucket list…running 42.2 km to complete a full marathon.  I still don’t have a lick of athletic ability, but I do have an iron will (2 parts Palko stubbornness; 1 part don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-do-something).  And now I have a reason that is bigger than me: Interim Place.
I’ve been sitting on the Board of Interim Place for a year and a half now and have come to really love this organization.  Sometimes when I think about Interim Place, imagery of the Statue of Liberty comes into my head: that beautiful, amazing woman (who is also on my bucket list to visit some day) that represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom and calls out, “Bring me your tired…yearning to be free….I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Interim Place offers those doors to safety for women and their children to be safe from abuse and seek the freedom that comes from living a life without violence.
In the year ahead, I’m going to share my story of how I’m going to find a way to take on the monolith of a run ahead of me and at the same time remind those of you that stick with me that my journey pales in comparison to the strength, resilience, and courage that is shown by women in your neighbourhood and the world over as they face violence and work to overcome it.
I hope you’ll follow my blog: I can definitely use all the support, feedback, and encouragement I can get.  I also hope you’ll use it to take a few minutes to think about the issue of violence against women and what we can do to bring about change.  Thanks for running with me today.