The Power of WE

 

The Power of WE

As I lay here cuddled up in my bed resting from this morning’s Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, I am feeling overwhelmed with emotions. This was my second half marathon and considering I ran my first one while really sick, I figured this one would be a piece of cake! Well, I wasn’t blessed with an easy run today but I was blessed. This morning’s race proved how amazing the bond is between female runners.  It is almost like we are connected in a collective conscience of sorts. We really know the power of WE!

Road Warrior Yoga

Sisters!

I have been very fortunate to run and train with some truly inspiring women. My first female inspiration was my sister, Cara. The day she finished her first marathon was the day I told myself that I would start running. She is the reason I started down this path and for that I owe her my life. She is there at most of the finish lines cheering me in and sometimes actually running in to the finish with me. She was the only reason I was able to finish my first half marathon. Thank you sister for giving me strength when I didn’t think I had any left!

Grand Rapids Half Marathon

I then had the pleasure to run with a dear old friend from college. Nicole helped me get across a few finish lines too. Most importantly she gave me the motivation to push myself harder, run faster and be stronger. She was there when I was trying to figure out how to keep hydrated and fueled without getting sick! Those were not the most enjoyable runs but they were very important to my growth as a runner. Thank you dear friend for your wisdom, encouragement and laughs!

NO Surrender at Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

The next inspirational ladies in my running journey are two that I have had the pleasure to get to know through our volunteer work with NO Surrender Running Club. Pam and Karen have helped to create an amazing organization where we are able to mentor at risk urban youth through running! They have facilitated an environment where running literally changes lives. They have changed mine in the process too. There is nothing better than running mile loops around Garfield Park with these two ladies and a handful of kids while we all tell each other about our lives. I am so proud to be running for NO Surrender on May 10th! Thank you Pam and Karen for being the change in this world, you have inspired me in the process!

Rose Colored Glasses?

As a Fifth Third River Bank Run Road Warrior I have been constantly amazed with the incredible women I have been training with, my fellow lady Road Warriors. You each come with your own stories, struggles and strengths. I have never met a group of women as dedicated to the sport and to each other as this group of ladies. You have taught me how to run faster than I thought was possible and harder than I thought my body could handle. You have supported me more than I ever would have expected from a group of women that until a few months ago, were strangers! Today you ladies helped me get to the finish line. You each embodied what it meant to be a Gazelle Girl, a Road Warrior and a friend. Thank you for helping break through my mental and physical blocks today. Thank you lady Road Warriors for touching my life in many different ways and helping me become a better runner, a better me.

This is the female runner bond. Thank you Elizabeth!

If any of you find yourselves in a time of need I will be there by your side, because that’s what women runners do. We know and live the power of WE!!! <3

Fellow Flower

 

 

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Runners – we get each other!

In 36 days I will run my fifth Fifth Third River Bank Run. It’s hard to believe, given the fact that I was never someone in to sports or physical activity. In fact, in high school I failed the running section of gym class because I couldn’t run a 15 minute mile. I look back now and can’t believe I’m that same person.

Running transformed my life.Yes, there was a physical transformation.

However, it’s more so much than that. Running transformed the way I look at the world. It has made me a better friend, a better employee, a better member of my community. And, most importantly to me, it brought a group of amazing people in to my life.

I started out by training for the Fifth Third River Bank Run 5k in May 2010. Those were the 3.1 longest and most exciting miles of my life!

The next day I went out and ran four miles with the goal of completing the 25k in 2011. After completing the 25k in 2011 I decided I was up for the challenge of a full marathon. Training for a 25k alone was tough, so I decided to join a local running group. There I met a group of first time marathoners. We all came from different backgrounds, different generations, different parts of town but were united in our desire to successfully train for and finish a marathon. These are people who have become some of my dearest friends – thanks to our shared love of running. Here we are having some fun out on a training run in 2013:

Yes, that’s me rocking the Running Man shirt!

As I look forward to this year’s race, I think about my first 5k and 25k and what a different experience each subsequent year has been thanks to my running buddies. In the short two years we’ve known each other, we’ve traveled together for marathons and half marathons – everywhere from northern Michigan to Las Vegas.

We even celebrated the holidays together this year. In true runner fashion, we had to go for a run before the actual “party!”

And of course, every year we participate in the Fifth Third River Bank Run.

I’m thankful for everything running has done – and continues to do – for me. I’m thankful for my improved health, that stronger tie I feel to my community and my group of incredible running friends. The running community is amazing. And to think, it all started with the Fifth Third River Bank Run!

How has running transformed your life? With whom will celebrate your accomplishment when you cross the finish line on May 10?

Happy running!

-Jen

 

 

 

 

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Hi, my name is

Hi my name is Patrick, I’m an alcoholic and an addict. There are many words that I hoped would describe my life, but alcoholic and addict was never in the running. These labels brought fear and anxiety to me every time I heard them until November 11, 2011.
It all started when I was 13 with a couple of buddies in the back pasture of the farm and a bottle of whiskey. There are many stories describing a child’s first drink that begin similar to this but my ending was very rare. The night was full of the usual stumbling around, acting stupid, and loving the first drink. The next morning I woke up in a puddle of vomit and a headache that should go down in the record books. My childhood friends swore off the bottle, never to drink again. I on the other hand, knew I needed to get better at it because I loved it.
From that day on my life was consumed with addiction. Alcohol dictated my life. Where I would go, how long I would stay, and my mood while I was there was determined by the amount of booze I was able to consume. After many years of drowning in alcohol and destroying every relationship one drink at a time, I decided to take it up a notch. I started taking pain pills to deal with the massive hang over’s from the previous nights debauchery which led to a deeper bottom. No one could smell the pills and I was able to continue the deception.
After many years of lying, cheating, and stealing a fifth of vodka and 20 pills a day pushed me to the bottom. I became so sick I felt my wife and children would be better off if I was dead. I was at a very dark place and had no more fight left in me. I had given up. In a blackout I called a friend and asked for help and began down the road to recovery.
You may be wondering what this has to do with being a Fifth Third River Bank Road Warrior or running in general. I wasn’t sure what running had to do with recovery when I started either. I was told in rehab that exercise would help me in recovery and was hoping it would give me another weapon in my arsenal to fight my addiction. Running has become much more to me than just another tool.
I often feel the darkness of my past sneaking up on me and I run. I sense the emotions that kept me bound in addiction rising and I run. The stress of life starts to cause me to want to lean on old coping mechanisms and I run. Running seems to give me the confidence to fight another day. The training has taught me that you can work through the pain, rest and heal during injury, and push just a little more when you want to quit. Running has given me knowledge that will continue to help in the battle against addiction.
Although alcoholism and addict were something that scared me in the past, they are now badges of honor. It says, I once was bound but now I’m free, broken but now restored, useless but now I have worth because it hasn’t beaten me. I now proudly say, “Hi my name is Patrick , I’m an alcoholic and addict. I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink or drug since November 11, 2011 with the help of a rigorous program, good support, and continuous exercise.

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The Running Contract

9 years ago, I signed my life over to running. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but it turns out I neglected to read a lot of the fine print in the contract.

First of all, running would demand some crazy hours from me. It wouldn’t be long before my wake-ups went from 7 am (Pre-kids of course! These were the blissful days before I had children that I used to think 7 am was actually early, but I digress) They went from 7am to 6 am to 5 am, and thankfully stopping at the earliest of 4:30 am all in an effort to beat the sweltering summer heat, fit 14 training miles in before work, or squeeze a run in on an overpacked day. To accommodate all this ridiculous early morning stuff, I would now need to go to bed early, much earlier than everybody else my age or in a general 15 year span give or take. Forcing myself into bed not long after my kids went to bed made me feel very old and very lame, but there is no use lamenting a wasted youth. I’ve got 2 car seats, a purse as big as a diaper bag, and randomly find myself singing Veggietales songs because let’s face it – my youth and cool factor have been gone for awhile now. I begrudgingly subscribed to these new sleeping habits in order to better myself and better my running.

Then, there were the bananas. I hate bananas. Absolutely hate them. Always have. The taste, the texture, the slimy peel… how very unlucky for me that they are running’s super fruit. Need energy? Grab a banana. Muscle cramps? A banana will fix that. Getting tired during your run? Have another banana. For a runner, the banana is practically the cure for whatever ails you. And so I learned to tolerate bananas. I hid them in smoothies, mixed them up with big spoonfuls of peanut butter, and every so often, managed to eat one with my stale quartered bagel after a hard race. Running made me care more about what I put into my body, not just with bananas but other foods as well. Turns out pizza and ice cream are not a good pre-run meal, but post-run…well, that’s another story.

But then came the scariest part of it all – the running clothes. The synthetic spandex and polyester type fabrics, the curve-hugging wicking base layers and tights – all of that stuff would weasel its way into my closet. And I’d wear it, out in public even! Up until that point, I had spent my entire adult life avoiding those kinds of clothes. Standing at 6 feet, with shoulders wider than most men my size, calves that will always be too big to be zipped up into a pair of tall boots, and 2 kids via c-section – as far as I was concerned, spandex had no business in my life or in my closet. Spandex with its unflattering, clingy judgmental statements, highlighting every extra cookie, every failed sit up, and putting me awkwardly on display like that one time I went to the beach right after I had a baby. Why would I do that to myself? Why would I wear these things? Because now I was a runner. I learned to let it go, to love myself, and see with clearer eyes what I am capable of. I learned to be proud of who I am and embrace the gear even when I was afraid and very self-conscious in it until one day, I was no longer afraid to show up in tight shiny pants in public. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But can I still run an incredible amount of miles? Absolutely I can!

And so here I am – exhausted at 5 am, unceremoniously stuffing myself into a pair of spandex capris, eating a banana out of sheer obligation, and heading outside to where it all makes sense. Any why? Because it only takes a few minutes to remember why I am doing this. It only takes a few minutes to realize that it is all worth it. Every run, every mile, and every race has the power to transform. I have transformed my life mile by mile, many different times over the years. Running has kept me from drowning, healed my broken heart, been an outlet for grief and loss, and saw me through fear beyond words. So I will keep heading out down that long road because that is where I belong. If you love what you are doing, then that is all that matters, contract or no contract.

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The power of one

You hear it a lot. What’s the point? I’m only one person. What could I possibly do to change anything? The answer: absolutely anything! Does that surprise you?

One of the most powerful interactions of my life happened a little over a year ago, at the hands of one random stranger. I had escaped to Target for a few minutes to clear my head while my youngest son Emmett was in the hospital with my husband to keep him company. I was wandering aimlessly when I ran into a couple of old coworkers. As I filled them in on the newest details of my life and how my son was doing, a sob escaped against my will. I was embarrassed: basking in the fluorescent lighting and surrounded by party supplies, this was NOT the place to have a breakdown. I tried to hold it together but before I knew it, I was crying steadily, awkwardly, with barely comprehendible words coming out in between sobs. And then she appeared out of nowhere: a woman I had never seen before in my life and she was tightly hugging me and whispering calming words in my ear. She was telling me about her son, about his life, offering prayer, comfort, hope, and matching my own tears with her own. A complete stranger, just one woman, crying with me in the middle of Target for my son, a child she had never even met. The compassion and love poured out of her with such ferocity that I may have not believed it if I hadn’t been there myself. I think about her from time and time and she continues to inspire me to want to live my life the same way I imagine she must.

Last Saturday, I was running and chatting with a random woman at RunGR. In our ramblings about training, I mentioned the fact that I am a Road Warrior for the Fifth Third River Bank Run. My new running partner gasped and said “I know exactly what that is!” It turns out she was passed by an (unknown) Road Warrior at the Resolution Run this year. She didn’t even know exactly what a “Road Warrior” was but saw it boldly printed on the flashy yellow jacket. She couldn’t believe the ease in which she was passed and it made her want to kick up her training. She went home and looked up the Road Warriors, saw that we trained with RunGR, and went and signed up for RunGR herself! She’s been going ever since, loving it, training hard, and going in a completely new direction. All because she was inspired to do something more.

What do these two stories have to do with each other? Everything. No, it’s not the same woman. It’s the power of one. Just one person. Whether it is a deliberate act of compassion like the woman in Target or you never even know it happened, like the woman from RunGR, one person can have a tremendous impact on the world around them with simple, small acts. When I filled out my Road Warrior application, I actually wrote that I wanted to change the world. It seems lofty and maybe a little arrogant, but that doesn’t make it any less true. One person at a time, slowly but surely, I have to do something. You better believe people are watching you and your behavior as well, whether you realize it or not. Are you leading by example to your friends, family, coworkers? Do you want to do something more? You have a choice. That person that just dropped their entire bag of groceries in the parking lot, that person in line in front of you digging desperately for just one more dollar to buy their food, that runner walking alongside of the course crying, that kid that everyone else is making fun of – you have the chance to not just witness it but intervene. The power of one is strong because together we are a lot of ones and that absolutely has the potential to change lives.

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