Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Coach

As the year comes to a close, I feel compelled to come back to my blog. I took a break to focus on other things. Don't get me wrong, blog entries swim around in my head on a daily bias but the time it takes to sit down and write it all has been too much for me lately.
I have spent the last few days reflecting back on 2013. Many things come to mind but as I think long and hard, I keep coming back to the same thing.
I have never been the strongest or the fastest. I have never been the best at much of anything. I never had the drive or ambition. I was never a star. In high school I managed the tennis team. I longed to play the lead in Carousel or Brigadoon but settled for the supporting cast as I knew there were other better suited for the lead.
I chose a small all women's Catholic college rather than a Big 10 school because I thought The big 10 was for others not me.
I gave up men I. My life not because I didn't love them but I knew I was not the best for them. I knew someone could love them better than me.
I have always taken my place on the sidelines. I have been the cheerleader. I have been the support staff.
What I realized this year is that is my best position. It is why I love being a teacher. It is why I love being a coach for Girls on the Run. It is why I love being a pace leader for new runners.  I love helping other to see the best in themselves. I love helping others to realize their potential. I love being a cheerleader, coach and teacher.
People sometimes laugh or roll their eyes at my motto, Forward is a Pace. To me is sums up all that I am and hope to teach others. If we are moving forward ... No matter how fast or slow... We are still moving in the right direction. We must continue to move forward. We can't look back. We can't relive the past. We must move forward at whatever pace suits is at that moment. Sometimes we move at the speed of sound and sometimes we are lucky to shuffle a half step. But as long as we move forward....we are moving on the right direction. Let us all continue to support one another and move forward in the new year. Forward is a pace.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Family

Each year I write up a full report of my marathon adventure.  I write it all down mostly for myself so that I can remember all that took place on a whirlwind day but also to inspire others to create their own “marathon memories” either by running a 5K, marathon or just doing something they never thought possible.

My mantra is “Forward is a pace” both in running and in life. It gets me through my toughest of times and roughest of runs. I preached it to my pace group all summer in order to get them though and learn to have faith in themselves. I must have really needed to hear it this year because I heard and saw it in many forms during the marathon.

Sunday morning dawned cool and crisp. A perfect fall morning. My husband got out of the warm bed to drive my friend and me downtown. He drove as we nervously chatted all the way to Michigan Ave.

We arrived at the hotel to find things already buzzing with runners and activity. We found our group and prepared for the race. More and more runners from our group showed up as I donned my modified tutu (due to new security measures) and we took pictures before heading to the start line.

This year was a bit different with the heightened security so we entered at the wrong spot and had to walk a distance before being able to enter our corrals.  Once we were settled, we readied for the start. There was a pace leader from another charity near us that was so funny. I mean everything the guy said had me laughing out loud. He told his runners “When someone asks how is it going, you say FORWARD” I thought…hmmm…where have I heard that before?

My arm with a reminder
of each dedicated mile.
The gun sounded and we were off and running. This year I had asked friends and family if they would like me to run a mile for them. The response was overwhelming and motivating for me. Each mile was a different reason to keep moving forward.

Mile 1 Niles NRG! I started the marathon with 3 ladies from my pace group.  We had spent the summer running and training together. We always run our first 3 miles a little fast then settle in to our ‘happy pace’ and today was no different.  Off we went! The CARA Niles training group and its leader, Keith, have changed my life.  The friendships created through this group are deep and true. I was so proud to start this journey with these ladies.

Mile 2 Annette S. for the 2 years we worked together.  As I ran along State Street (that great street) I thought of the friendships I have gained through teaching. I have taught in many places with many people that I remain friends with to this day. What a gift from my chosen profession. It was towards the end of this mile that I was getting hot and had tied my jacket around my waist. I was fate that I saw Keith and another member of my running group cheering as I rounded the corner onto Jackson. I gave him my jacket and kept going, thinking that I had lost my ladies. I rounded the corner onto LaSalle and as is my practice, I thank every Chicago Police Officer I see. As I yelled, “CPD, Thank you!” the officer turned around. It was none other than a friend and mother of one of my students, Officer O’Brien!  She wished me well and sent me on my way!

Mile 3 Dedicated to 3 YO son of a friend with terminal cancer. This mile was filled with crowds and more little kids than I have ever seen. Perhaps it was because I was looking for them. I high fived each one as I thought of the little boy and his family on such a difficult journey.  Counting high fives kept me pretty busy for the mile and I lost count by the time I hit mile 4.

Mile 4 My cousin, Melissa, and all parents of children with special gifts. My cousin, Missy, and I have not seen each other for some time but I still feel so very close to her and her family. This mile is part of a long stretch though the city. I thought of the long stretch she and other parents of children with special gifts have each day and kept going.

Mile 5 My 5 children and the ‘kids’ in my life. Mile 5 leads me towards the zoo. I was immediately flooded with memories of visits and picnics with my children in this place.  As I ran, I saw a sign that said, “Keep moving forward, Mom!  We are proud of you!” What struck me was that there are so many ‘kids’ in my life. I am honored to be called Momma by many friends and ‘my other mother’ by others.

Mile 6 Lucy D. and Maddie M.   The girls’ moms are part of my running group and these little girls were born to run. They will lead the 6 minute pace group for NRG one day! At the aide station towards the end of this mile I saw another of my Niles friends, Russ, my co pace leader for the season. He handed me water, gave me a hug and sent me on my way yelling, “Go get ‘em, Momma!”

Mile 7 Michelle F.  one of my dear Moms on the Run friends. Last year this was the last mile that we ran together in the marathon. We have run many miles together  but this part of the city always reminds me of her and my running mom friends.

Mile 8 Andy R. and my high school friends.  I Love this part of the course as it take me close to the lake and then into Lakeview. The crowds are always awesome in this area and this year was no different. I danced and sang with spectators as I ran….all things I never thought of doing in high school. I was always part of the supporting cast or a spectator, never a standout. My how things change!
I adore this picture for so many reasons.
 It really captures me and my running.
 I also love that my arm with the miles is in this photo.
Thank you to my gifted friend, Tim B.,
for catching me in action!

Mile 9 Amy I. and her running dreams. This mile was for a former student who dreams of running a marathon one day. She is well on her way and I am proud of how far she has come. During this mile I saw people with signs for two of my group members, both running their first marathon. I assured the cheerleaders that they were on the way….

Mile 10 This mile was unspoken for until the morning of the marathon. I met some young ladies while waiting in line for the bathroom who were part of the Navy running team. They were visiting from Annapolis to run Chicago. We talked while we waited about many things. They asked about my arm (with the miles written on it) and I explained. I told them mile 10 was now theirs as well as all other military, past present and future.

Mile 11 The Decker family and all officers in the 11th district. My friend, Beth, has taught me everything I need to know about running 26.2 and being a good group leader. She and her husband, Mike, and daughter, Lucy, have become more than friends… they have become family.  I hugged the first police officer I saw and told him thank you.

12 Sarah B. and all my Sole Sisters! Sarah was part of my pace group but has gone on to lead her own faster group now. I am so proud of her and my other ‘girls’. It was not lost on me that this was her mile and for the first time ever in a marathon, I had to stop and use the bathroom!

Mile 13 Claudia O. training for her 1st ½. I was beginning to feel lonely at this point and I thought about the many lonely miles we run to train for events. It was then I saw the ladies from my group again! We ran together for a bit and soon were separated again. I came up on Old St. Patrick’s Church and saw the priest amongst the crowd. He gave me a high fived and a “God Bless you” and then 500 feet later there was Mr. Finnegan, a dad from school. He is a Shannon Rover and had just played for Mass. I got a quick hug and kept going.

Mile 14 Sarah D. and her GOTR. This is one of my favorite parts of the course. It is the charity cheer section. I spotted the Girls on the Run tent and headed towards it in desperate need of some body glide and familiar faces. It was just boost I needed to keep going.

Mile 15 Lucy & Gabi S. and their mociute (grandmom). This is always one of the toughest miles of the marathon for me. It is sunny and wide open with not many spectators. I needed the help of my God daughters and the woman who was like another mother to help me get through this difficult portion. I could feel them with me as a pressed on back towards the city.

Mile 16 Mike S. and his running goals. My old friend told me that he had not cracked the 16 mile mark in his running so I cracked it for him hoping that now he can do it on his own!  I headed back to the city and Greektown.  Running under the CPD banner brought me to tears but kept me going as well.

Mile 17 Robby & Lizzy L. Greektown!  Over halfway done!  The smells and sounds of the crowd propelled me forward. I had never seen so many spectators on the part of the course. I spotted a man wearing Girls on the Run Cheer team shirt and thought of Lizzy. Right next to him was a woman holding a sign the read, “Run fast!  There is bacon at the finish!” Perfect for Robby and Lizzie!

Mile 18 Mother Theodore,  SMWC and Providence. I was feeling very lonely and alone at this point just like when I left for college. It had been a long time since I had seen someone I knew and was starting to doubt myself. I was getting tired. I started to pray to Momma Teddy. As always, she knew just what I needed…a friend!  At the corner of Halsted and Taylor there was my buddy, Dan, yelling my name!  He grabbed me and hugged me tight. I took off with the biggest infusion of energy through Little Italy. Shortly thereafter I saw another friendly face, my buddy, Chris. He works at our local running store and has helped me out many times. He smiled, linked my arm and dragged me forward for a bit telling me I was doing great and to keep at it. “Go Momma! You got this!” he yelled as he pushed me forward. I ran a bit alone and soon I felt a tap on the shoulder. It was my Niles friend, Steve. I have known Steve for several years but we had never run together until this day. We were both tired but as we ran and talked  my soul filled up and I got another burst of energy.

Mile 19 My husband & the officers in the 19th district. Pompeii Bakery, one of my husband’s favorites, was where this mile began. I thought of our first dates and lunches he would deliver to my school for me from Pompeii.  It was the start of a 19 year marriage that still revolves heavily around food!  It smelled heavenly but I knew I had to keep going. As I turned the corner onto Ashland I saw my fearless leader, Keith, again. He was smiling standing there with his wife and other group member, Diane. We took a few photos and off I went with Steve still by my side. We passed a lady handing out grapes and orange slices in front of a church where a man sat legless in a wheelchair. I took the baggie, thanked her and she said, “God Bless you”. This was a good mile…with some great grapes!

Mile 20 Cheri P. and her whole family. This mile winds through Pilsen with a great deal of noise and activity. I came up on another one of my Niles friends, Julie. She had been inspired to create a tutu for her run and was running for her mom who had recently passed away. We ran together for a bit but soon separated. I was on my own again…and getting really tired.

Mile 21 Girls on the Run – past present and future. I headed up Halsted Street, passing my old apartment. I thought of how much my life had changed since I lived there. I usually dreaded marathon weekend because of the traffic and noise never realizing that running and Girls on the Run would bring me back to this place a different person.  I was hot and really tired and in need a energy when I saw some cops. I yelled my usual, “CPD thank you” when the officer turned and it was the dad of one of my daughter’s best friends. He saw me, smiled wide and said, “Well look at you, Momma!” I hugged him, thanked him for his service and took off, newly energized.

Mile 22 Steve D. and other first responders. Steve is a cancer survivor and first responder. He lives every day filled with his faith trying to help others. As I began this mile there was a lady running in front of me. Thank goodness she was a few steps ahead when she stopped right in the middle of the course. I ran up behind her and asked if she was ok. She turned to me with tear filled eyes and said, “It is just a cramp. I know it…” I told her to put her weight on me as I helped her to the medical tent that was conveniently only 500 feet away. As I put my arm around her, she passed out. Two medical personnel swooped in and grabbed both of us before we hit the ground.   They took hold of her and assured me that they would take good care of her…that I should keep going. So I went praying for her as I entered Chinatown.

Mile 23 Dan M. and his girls. Dan is a great dad and running buddy. I admire his positive attitude and ability to push through obstacles. I ran through Chinatown taking in the dancing, the music and crowds. I needed this shot of energy. I soon saw a young girl walking and limping a little. I asked if she was ok. She said it hurt…her foot hurt. We walked a bit together and talked. We ran a bit together and kept talking. She told me I reminded her of her mom. I promised her that she would finish…it might be slow but she would finish. She slowed to have something to drink and I pushed on.
Once again, Tim B., with the perfect shot!
I love the sign over my head!

Mile 24 Past, present and future students of mine. I have been a teacher for 24 years and have learned so much from my students in these years.  I had to laugh that during this mile I was offered a beer more than once by students at IIT. The second time I took it as a sign and for the first year ever during a marathon I chugged a beer!

Mile 25 My Heroes – Gillian and Kelly Weaver. I saw some of my Niles group cheering. I told them I was hot and more tired now more than ever and they assured me the end was close.It was good to see someone I knew.   I rounded the corner onto Michigan Avenue and felt my friend, Kelly’s presence, right there in the cool breeze.  I walked a bit to soak it in and got the chills as a young man wearing an “Autism Speaks” shirt tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Come on Momma!  You can finish this thing” as he ran past. I started running again.

Mile 26 Cathy T.,  her family and new beginnings. I ran/walked this mile with renewed strength and energy. There were more police and fire personnel than I had ever seen before on every side of the street.  I came across some paramedics who rode along side of me and asked if I knew a young man, a former student. I smiled wide and said yes. I explained how I knew the guy as they laughed. They took my picture to send him and I was on my way again. Teachers never forget a student…and certain ones stick forever.

Mile .2 ME! At the last turn, just before Mount Roosevelt, I was thanking the CPD what seemed like the millionth time, when one cop looked right at me and said, “NADER! Where is your husband?” It was his partner, Wilson.  I told him he was still in bed!  He yelled, “Go make him proud!” and I ran up that hill without stopping!  I came around the corner and could not only see but feel and taste that finish line! There was no stopping this tutulady as I ran full steam ahead to the finish.

I crossed that finish line with my tired arms over my head and a smile on my face. I had done it!  I finished my 5th marathon!  As I walked through the shoot, a woman I had met on Friday at the Expo remembered me,  wrapping me in a heat sheet and congratulating me. She was awesome! I continued walking. An older gentleman gently placed a medal around my neck and kissed my cheek, saying “I am so proud of you.” I began to cry as I walked away. A spotter asked if I was ok and I said yes as I continued towards the food….I was starving! I got a box of treats and then a beer. That beer was sooo cold and it was soo good…and then called my family.

This was neither my fastest nor my slowest marathon. It was right in the middle. It was neither my easiest nor my most difficult. It was right in the middle. It was neither my best season of training nor my worst. It was right in the middle. This year, this marathon, was like a middle child. Independent, full of hand me downs, more relaxed, and diplomatic.

This year and this marathon I realized that family is not just where you are born. Family is what you make it. We surround ourselves with people who see the best in us and want the best for us. We long for someone to feel our pain and celebrate our victories, for someone to believe in us and love us. Sometimes we are born into that family, sometimes we have to create it for ourselves and sometimes we are lucky enough to have both, like me!

Bling and my tutu!
This year the real and powerful force that is tutu spirit carried me through many difficult times.  This year I learned that everyone needs inspiration. Some days you inspire and some days you need to be inspired. This year putting one foot in front of the other…I was able to move forward. Forward IS a Pace. Family, Forward and Tutu Spirit can move mountains.  I realized that I did something that many people can’t do or won’t ever start....I completed a marathon...not once, not twice, not three, not four but FIVE times!!
Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, faith and abundant prayers. I am forever changed.....…..

A Momma
A Teacher
A 5 TIME marathon FINISHER!
Forward is a Pace
Peace.







Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WHY

Some of you have asked about when and WHY I am running the Chicago Marathon. God has created all of us in his image. Some people are given very special gifts. It is up to us to learn more about these gifts to gain a deeper understanding, as well as appreciation, for these gifts. It is my goal to teach students about their own special gifts and the gifts of others. It has been a wonderful journey and I hope sharing my journey will motivate and inspire students, as well as others.

 On October 13, 2013, I will lace up my shoes and run the Chicago Marathon. My training has been a long, difficult road but nothing compared to the road a parent of a child with special gifts walks each and every day. I am running this Marathon for many reasons. I am running to raise awareness of autism. I am running for every girl’s positive self image. I am running to honor my hero, Kelly Weaver, her daughter, Gillian Weaver, and all other children with special gifts, as well as all girls everywhere.  I am running for the Alexander Leigh Center for Autism and Girls On The Run.

I am running to raise awareness of autism. Did you know that one out of every 150 children born this year will be diagnosed with autism? Did you know more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined? Autism costs the nation 90 billion dollars per year and the cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. There is no medical detection or cure for autism.

I am running for every girl’s positive self image. Girls on the Run is a life-changing, experiential learning program for girls age eight to thirteen years old. The program combines training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goal of the program is to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development. Girls on the Run promotes  physical as well as emotional, mental and character development. The girls complete the program with a stronger sense of identity, a greater acceptance of themselves, a healthier body image and an understanding of what it means to be part of a team. As a coach for four seasons, I have seen the positive outcomes of this program. These girls inspire me! To learn more about Girls On The Run go to www.gotrchicago.org    Make a donation to Girls on the Run

I am running to honor my hero, Kelly Weaver, her daughter, Gillian Weaver, and all other children with special gifts. Thirteen year old Gillian Weaver is autistic. Gillian’s father, Kevin Weaver, passed away from an undiagnosed brain tumor when Gilly was very young.  Kelly, now a single mom, has opened a school for Gillian and other autistic children. The Alexander Leigh Center for Autism was founded by Dorie Hoevel and Kelly Weaver, who are both parents of children with autism. These two dedicated mothers have created a place where children can reach their full individual potential, in a caring and safe environment, a place where each child's differences are what make them special. To learn more about the school, please visit their website  www.alexanderleighcenterforautism.com   Make a donation to ALCA
                                                                                                                               
I run for each of my own children, the children I teach, the children that face frustration of autism, the children who doubt themselves, all children who daily face challenges no matter how big or small. As some of you know, music is a large part of my life. Therefore, I have asked the students for their help as well. I have compiled a playlist of musical inspiration to keep me moving during my long runs and workouts. I want to be reminded of each and every reason I run. I have asked the students to each think of a favorite song to add to the playlist. The list is fabulous and diverse! If you have a song you think would be a good addition, email it to me!  

Last but not least, I would ask for your prayers.  I would ask that you pray the children of St. Paul of the Cross, as well as all other children, that they may grow in wisdom and understanding.  I would ask that you pray for The Alexander Leigh Center for Autism, that this school will continue to be a place where each child can reach their full potential. I ask that you pray for the young women who participate in Girls On The Run that they gain a strong sense of identity. I would ask that you pray for my children as well as the children I teach, that they may grow in wisdom and understanding.  I would ask that you pray for all runners and me on race day so that we finish safely. Finally, I would ask that you pray not only for children with special gifts, but their parents as well.  They all face challenges each and every day that many of us will never know nor understand.
Forward is a Pace. Peace

Friday, July 26, 2013

Providence


Webster's defines Providence as:
1 a) often capitalized : divine guidance or care 
b) capitalized : God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny
2 : the quality or state of being provident

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as:
1. the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power:
they found their trust in divine providence to be a source of comfort
(Providence) God or nature as providing protective care:
I live out my life as Providence decrees 
2. timely preparation for future eventualities:
it was considered a duty to encourage providence

Who would think that Providence would guide my life. I went for a run today and got lost in thought. My thoughts turned to Providence and I am not sure why…
I am only beginning to realize the role that providence has played in my life. I like the definition of "divine guidance or care" as well as the "protective care of God." It is my belief that God has a plan for me. I may not always like it, accept it, or understand it but I know that there is a divine purpose behind the events of my life. I look for the lessons in relationships and events but don't always 'get the message' and often times misunderstand the message.
 People tell me all the time I should do more and be more. I believe I am right where I belong,  doing right what I should be doing. I believe in Providence.  It never really made sense until this year.

In May, I decided to go to my college reunion for the first time in 25 years. When I was in high school making the decision to go to college was a huge one.  I went to visit the Woods just so they would stop calling me.  It was not even on my top 10 list but we went to visit anyway.    The moment we drove onto the campus I knew that I was in the right place.  I could feel it deep in my bones. At the time, I did not realize how that moment would impact my life forever.
The four years that I spent at St. Mary of the Woods changed me and marked me forever. Going back 25 years later and walking the campus took me back to a place and a peace I haven't felt in a long time. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of spirit. As I walked the campus and visited places I had long forgotten, I was flooded with memories and feelings that I have not had a long time.  I did not realize how the women of the Woods would change and shape me into the woman I am today. It is truly Providence.
People and family questioned my decision to attend the Woods… “Why don't you go to a Big Ten school?” they asked.  “Don't you want a bigger school?” they asked.  But I was confident in my decision. I made mistakes while I was at the Woods.  I had success while I was at the Woods.   Most importantly,  I grew. I grew as a woman and as a person. I found the most important thing ....which was me. Providence drove me there. Walking the campus after 25 years and looking in the review mirror of life, I realized it was not only Providence but Mother Theodore Guerin’s hand guiding me all along. She had waited for me to come and follow her lead. She longed for me to trust her and to trust God. 

People have questioned decisions I've made my whole life. Why did you choose that college?  Why do you want to be a teacher? Why don't you become an administrator? Don't you want more? Why don't you work where you can earn more money? Are you sure it's right for you? Are you sure you want another child? Are you sure that's the right house for your family. Questions and doubts. But I never doubted.  I have I've always had faith that Providence put me where I belong for a reason. The most important lessons I learned at the Woods were faith and trust… even though I didn't know it at the time. Faith and trust were cornerstone of my time at the Woods.   The teachers there taught me to be the woman I am today. They never once pushed or forced but they guided. They saw in me something that I didn’t, couldn't and wouldn't see in myself. They did all they could to just guide me to find myself all on my own.  Those educators never pushed too hard. They always walked step by step with me. We were on a journey together. Their job was just to inspire me and guide me in the right direction to find that hidden treasure which was myself. They needed to show me that I could trust myself and that I needed to have faith in myself. They were sharing  Providence.  They were sharing the message of Mother Theodore. 
What I have realized over the years is that this is the foundation of who I am as a wife, parent, friend, teacher, coach and human being. I want each person I come in contact with to have faith and trust in
themselves. I want them to see what I see…all the potential,  possibilities and the greatness they have inside. Mother Theodore, Momma Teddy, as she is affectionately known to Woodsies,  always saw the potential inside others. She had faith and she trusted in Providence.  I strive to follow her example as well as the example of the Woods Women.  I strive to help others to trust in themselves, in their faith and in Providence. Forward is a pace. Peace.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saved

Miriam Webster defines saved as:

: to rescue or deliver from danger or harm

: to preserve or guard from injury, destruction, or loss

: maintain, preserve

I am not sure who saved who but I do know that my dogs have changed my life. I had dogs as a kid but they were never really MY dogs. They were family dogs. Dogs that were chosen for the family by others.

My first dog was Buddy. He was adopted from the Anti-Cruelty society of Chicago. I still remember walking past cages and cages of pups and older dogs never feeling that any one of them was the right dog until I walked into a small, rarely visited corner of the shelter only to lock eyes with a pup that would soon become my best fur-ever friend. Buddy came home with me later that week as our first child. We moved in, my soon to be husband, Buddy and me, to our first apartment 5 months before our wedding. I spent my time planning a wedding and training a dog. Buddy accompanied Dad to work and was trained by law enforcement as well. He was a great dog full of vim and vigor. He saved me from loneliness. He loved me and protected me. He kept me company, taught me things about myself, and helped me become a better mom. He really was (and I do call him this still) our first child. When our first daughter was born, he took to her as if it was his own, protective and gentle to a fault. We moved and had move kids but Buddy was always a constant. He loved each new home and each new child even more. We moved one last time and the stairs were too much for him. He was getting old and I would not admit that my pal was failing. After 11 years, the last moved proved too much for him. Within months, he deteriorated and soon could no longer walk. His last night, our oldest slept beside him as he whimpered and she cried. Making the decision to put him down was the most difficult, yet humane thing I have ever done. I took him alone and stayed with him until he took his last breath. I cried for weeks at the loss and still cry thinking about that day. I know he is healthy and eating as much meat as his belly can hold, watching over us.

Living without a dog was lonely and sad. I didn't feel completely safe at home at night with just the kids while my husband was at work. It began with a donation of Buddy's favorite bed back to his shelter. What a mistake! The kids saw the dogs and began to beg for a new pal. So we began the search for a new fur-ever friend right then and there. We looked at all the dogs and in the last cage was a dog that looked like a smaller version of Buddy. I could feel His paw in this chance meeting. This dog's name was Precious. I told the kids we had to wait. We had to talk to Dad and perhaps look at other shelters. I told them if she was there the following week and we had not found another dog, we would bring her home. Well, after looking at many shelters/websites/meeting dogs, the following week, she came home with us. Her name didn't fit her nor our family so the kids changed it to Wrigley. She was a high energy pup that needed constant exercise. I walked her and walked her hoping to lose a little baby weight. It didn't work. She wanted to run so we started running 1/2 a lap around our local park. That lead to a whole lap and then a challenge from a friend to train for and run a 5k. Wrigley soon became my favorite running buddy and we ran, albeit slowly, as I trained. I finished that first race and we ran many more miles together as I trained for many more races over the years. She was really the one that began my running addiction. She saved me from myself and a sedentary life. This winter was a sad one for my running buddy and I as at the age of 8, The vet told us Wrigley had arthritis and could no longer run with me....it was just too painful for her. I see it and understand it but the sadness in her eyes each time I head out the door for a run is often too much to bear. She is still such a vital member of the family and now has a new job...big sister/mother figure to our newest fur-ever friend, Tank.

Tank was not a pup I was interested in adopting but one that the kids and my husband wanted. He was a gift from the kids to Dad for his 50th birthday. But in all honesty he was a gift to me. I knew that the work of the pup would be mine which is why I was not interested. I was done with potty training and chewing and midnight walks. I had come to terms with running alone. I was not in the mood for the expense of another dog. But the family over ruled me. So this summer has been dedicated to training and exhausting a playful pup. He saved Wrigley and me from boredom this summer. Wrigley keeps him in line and teaches him the ways of the pack. I marvel at the bond that has formed between them and worry what will happen down the line as Wrigley continues to age. Tank challenges me more than is necessary most days but I feel Buddy's paw and presence again. I know he is up there watching with those loving, playful eyes protecting me. As Tank grows by leaps and bounds every day, I am reminded of all that Buddy and Wrigley have taught me. I am reminded of the unconditional love that my fur-ever friends provide me. I am reminded that it is not us that saves or rescues our fur balls, but it is the fur balls the choose us...that love us.....that change us.....that rescue us....that save us.

Peace. Forward is a pace.

 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Miles

Sunday was the Chicago Women's Half Marathon. I registered to run this a long time ago but now I
was no where near prepared. I needed something to motivate me to the finish so I asked my friends,  family and Facebook who would like a mile dedicated to them. The response was overwhelming!  Each mile was accounted for within minutes!

I wrote the miles and initials on my arm on race morning as a reminder of who and what and why I was running. It looked crazy but hey...I wear a tutu!  Crazy is who I am! We drove to the race site, prepped at the car and then walked to the start.

A bathroom stop then a large sign provided a place to meet other friends and take photos prior to race start. We soon lined up, listened to some speeches (some better/less frightening than others) and the National Anthem. Then the gun went off and we were on our way. I was excited to start and was running with a new friend. I wanted to have a good run but  knew right away I had started to fast. Now it was all about covering the miles and finishing.

Mile 1 - Newtown
One of the last things a women in our group did was kiss her son. This was her first half and she was unsure if she would see him before the start. I was reminded of all the parents who would never have this opportunity again....or ever. I ran the mile feeling blessed with sassy, smart, independent kids who never fail to drive me crazy yet make me burst with pride every day.
Mile 2 - LS/GS
Two of my favorite little girls. I love my god daughters.  They light up the any room they enter and the lives of many. This part of the course took me past the Lakefront. I thought about how much those 2 girls love the water. Some of the best times with them happen on a beach!
Mile 3 - ZK
My former student who still makes me proud every day. He was a handful back in 6th grade but has become a responsible young man who makes a difference. This part of the course took me past the Chicago Police Memorial which is fitting as Z's dad was CPD.
Mile 4 - LME
A running mom pal of mine. She has just started training for a half marathon and espouses my mantra, Forward is a Pace. I wanted to prove that forward really is a pace and I could finish.
Mile 5 - C/K/E/S/J
My kids. Through is all...good and bad...I love them with all my heart. They are one of the main reasons I run. I want to live a long time to enjoy them and make them as crazy as they make me.
Mile 6 - GL
Another former student. She was one tough cookie...and so was this mile. I knew it was going to take all I had to get through it just like I got through to her.  With a little tough love and a lot of just plain love...she turned around and now makes my so very proud every day. She gives back and helps others every single day.
Mile 7 - ALA
Oh my...I was ready to throw in the towel at this point. I wanted to quit. I wanted to raise the white flag and get a ride back....I was done. Then I heard a voice. It was loud and Italian and was yelling at me. I yelled back and for a whole mile we argued  and she yelled in Italian .... hand gestures and all!  I knew then there was no fighting her...she won. There was no quitting. I had to keep going.
Mile 8  - CA
My cousin. She and I have recently reconnected and I love it. Her mom, my aunt, was always one of my favorites. Funny, as I ran, the Journey song, "Be Good to Yourself" came on. C's mom took me to my first concert...JOURNEY. She got me my first concert tshirt and I thought I was so cool!  Memories flooded back and kept me moving....and smiling.
Mile 9 - SD
A running pal, firefighter, and cancer survivor. He is an amazing guy and great dad. Prayer is a large part of his life and so I prayed....for many things, mostly to finish.
Mile 10 - DM
Another running buddy and truly amazing man. He is a rockstar role model for runners and for dads everywhere. He can make the best of the worst situations....with a joke and a smile. He is a great cheerleader for everyone...especially our running group members.
Mile 11 - CW/BD
This mile was for 2 people. One is the son of an old friend. He is another great dad and first responder. He goes towards trouble when others run away. Funny that it was during his mile that I passed the firefighter statue and there was a woman receiving medical assistance as well.
The other person I was running this mile for was an unborn baby. A baby that is already blessed by the  love of many. This is one lucky little child whose extended family will never let those little baby feet touch the ground! I finished the mile running past the Police Memorial. Baby D's daddy is a cop and, like my own husband, knows too many names on that wall.
Mile 12 - DL
This mile was for an old teacher pal of mine. A man who loves his job, loves teaching and loves music. He is a reminder of the passion of teaching and learning. He is always so supportive and a plethora of information, as well as prayers. I was honored to run this mile for his intentions.
Mile 13 - My husband
Lucky 13. I ran this mile for my husband...the gambler. He took a bet to buy me a drink many years ago and has been betting on our future ever since. He is the backbone of the family and a true workhorse. This mile was really one of the toughest. I was so done. I kept thinking that our marriage is not easy. There are days I am done and there are days he is done... but we persevere. We keep going. We find the good and forget the bad. We need reminders, sometimes, as to why we keep going...and it was then that I pulled out my phone to check the time...and saw a text from my son, "I love you momma" . A reminder....
Mile 13.1 - GOTR
This short part of the run was for my Girls on the Run and all Girls on the Run past present and future. I ran as fast as I could to finish...just like they do. I ran with all my heart...just like they do. I rejoiced at the finish....just like they do.
The Finish Line - KW
I crossed the line and heaved a deep sigh. This was for my dear friend and hero, K. She is one of the most dedicated, determined, hard working, faith filled, fabulous women I know. Life is never easy for her but she makes it look easy and handles everything with such grace that I wanted to channel all that as I ... finally...crossed the finish line. I didn't want anyone to know that I had struggled or doubted ...I wanted to be strong...just like her.

This race was really NOT a race but more of an endurance event. It was so cathartic for me. I feel as though I sweat out all my doubts, worries and other bad 'stuff'. I had to push through and deal with many emotions but I just kept moving forward...pushing through it all...to get to the other side. Forward was my pace and  I finished. Not fast. Not first. Not easy. But I finished....for all of you. Thank you for running the miles with me. Forward is a Pace. Peace.





Quit

Some days running gets the best of me. Last weekend I ran a very HOT half marathon. It was miserable. It was hot. I was unhappy. I was angry. It was my slowest time ever but I finished. I pushed through it all and finished. I didn't think I wanted to run after that so I put it off every day...until yesterday. I ran 5.5 miles and it was again...miserable. I was hot and I was ready to quit. I wanted to quit running forever and burn my running shoes as well as clothing. I decided to give it one more shot and try today. If it was bad...I was done forever.

Well today I got the best of running. I took off and was unsure of myself but as I kept putting one foot in fron of the other I was moving faster and feeling better. I wanted to keep going but knew I had to stop as this was a training run and I have further to go tomorrow...I also didn't want to tempt fate.

Its funny, just when you are ready to throw in the towel, you change your mind and use it to wipe the sweat off your face. Never quit...forward is a pace.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kenny

So today I took off for a short run just to get in the miles. It was warm and I was not in the mood. I needed to get in my weekly miles now that training season has begun so I filled up a water bottle, laced up my shoes and headed out the door.

I started slow and my pace was way off. I knew I had to pick it up or head home. So I chose to pick it up. Heck... It was only 3 miles! I ran my usual route and before I knew it, I was into my happy pace.

At mile 2 I was heading down the street and saw I man I see often. I have written about him before. He was heading west and I was heading south. I called out, "hey..there's my hero!"

He turned, looked at me and smiled wide, "Hey, young lady!"

"I am so sorry. I see you all the time and have even talked to you at Happy Foods before but I don't know your name."

"Kenny" he answered.

"Kenny, I see you all the time and think that if you are out doing your thing here I can do what I have to do too."

"Listen, you snooze...you lose. And I am no loser. I am not losing my ability to walk or my life."

"Hey, forward is a pace is my motto."

"You got dat right, young lady. What is your name?" he responded his best Chicago accent.

"Kristine," I responded.

"Nice to meet you, Kristine but I may still call you young lady!!."

We chatted a bit more before we were off in our different directions. What you have to understand is that Kenny is a '50 something' that had a stroke a few years ago and was told he would not walk again. He is paralyzed no one side of his body and walks with a limp and a cane. I see him walking all over the neighborhood. He told me he tries to walk for at least an hour a day just so he retains the ability to move. He is my hero and inspiration.

I am honored and blessed with angels in my life. Angels that are constant reminders of the good things, the many blessings, in my life. Kenny is one of those Angels. Forward is a pace. Peace.

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bullies

Bullies…they are everywhere. I have been the victim for much of my life and perhaps this is why I am who I am today. There are bullies I never confronted from my past and issues I have never dealt with that are all coming to the forefront now. Why now? Who knows. Everyone thinks of bullies as something kids deal with but there are plenty of adult bullies. I deal with those folks on a regular basis. Perhaps it is the bullies who made me into the person I am today. Perhaps I am who I am in spite of them. I am not sure but I think about it often like on a recent run.

Sunday I took off for what I thought was going to be an easy 5 mile run. I had not run in a week and was anxious to get out and hit the pavement. I had planned out my route in my head and took off. I felt as though I was at the starting line of a long awaited race …. this was the first real run of summer! I was soon lost in my thoughts and the music. Strangely enough when I got a little over a mile in, I found myself heading off my planned route and towards a trail I normally run with my group. I had not been to the trail in months. I realized my feet were in charge, not my head. But then I heard a voice in the distance….taunting me…teasing me. Every bully and every mean comment every directed at me started to flood into my head. I started to wonder where the voice was coming from. Was I crazy? Was it a person in a passing car?

I soon saw the trailhead and wondered if I should turn and head back home. But then I heard that voice again…the teasing and taunting…. So I headed onto the trail. I am not sure what possessed me but I started to get angry. As my feet pounded out the miles, the voice grew louder and my anger grew like a fire fed with gasoline.

I realized I was going faster than my normal pace and was struggling but the voice in my head was so loud now, I could not drowned it out. That is when I passed a sign on the trail that said, “Run through them like a Tank”. I smiled and kept going. The fire of anger continued to grow as I recognized the voice taunting me….it was Wanda! That brutal bridge on the path was the one that was causing me to doubt myself and my ability.

As I got closer, her voice grew louder. I paused at the base and took one last look….it was decision time…fight or flight. I took a deep breath and ran….head first, full steam ahead into Wanda as she teased me. “You can’t take me!” “You’ll give up!” “the top? You can’t get there without walking!” “You are fat and slow!” “You are not good enough to get to the top”….and on and on…. Until I realized that I was at the top. Without a word, I ran to the top and then caught my breath. As I stood there keeled over, hands on my knees huffing and puffing, I realized something. I realized that I have rarely confronted the bullies in my life. I just walk away and let things go. I turn and just ignore them and it just doesn’t ever end. The bully may go away but the words have stayed with me for a lifetime.

I caught my breath and continued on for a few miles before turning and heading back home. This was not a fast nor effortless run that turned out to be 8 miles but I needed it. I had to take on Wanda again on the return trip but this time she didn’t say too much, and what she did say was not all that loud. I know that there will be days where she rears her ugly Bully head again but I am more confident that I will be able handle her. I am more confident that I will be able to battle back the demons each time. Dealing with the bullies of the past and present will never be easy but I feel like I can stand a bit taller and remember the messages I teach my Girls on the Run. Be Strong. Be Confident. Be YOU. No matter what others think or say. Forward is a Pace. Peace.

 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Marriage


Happily ever after? Does it really exist? I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately.  What makes us fall in love with someone? What makes us yearn to get married? What makes a marriage last? 


I love my husband, don't get me wrong, but there are days I don't like him much....and I am sure the feeling is mutual. I like having a partner to raise my children with but sometimes it is more hassle that it is worth. I often feel like I have 5 children living in the house and not 4. It is a constant challenge to be the adult. Some days my eyes see the romance and the man I married....but not every day!  So what makes us want to get married? When I was dating him, what made me think we could be together for the rest of our lives?

I have friends who have lost their spouse or gotten a divorce. Some are ready to move forward and find another mate and others say never again. What makes someone fall 'out of love' with another? Sure I know that there is abuse and infidelity and other things that cause a marriage to dissolve.  In cases such as those, there really is no other choice but others say they just 'fell out of love'. Why? Did the marriage become 'work'? No one knows what happens behind closed doors in any relationship. Only the 2 people involved really know what is happening in any relationship...all outsiders can do is speculate. Who are we to judge a marriage? Do we know all the facts? Hardly. I know my marriage is work every day. It is not constant sunshine and roses. I do not live in a romance novel. The day to day grind is tough.

Why do some choose to live together, having children and then get married? It seems backwards to me. Are they afraid of a potential divorce? Are they afraid to commit? What are they afraid of?

And why are so many against gay marriage? No, it is not for me but that does not mean that it is not for others. I am not God and it is not my job to decide what is right or wrong. We all have to face our Maker sometime. Why should others not be allowed to do the work of a lasting marriage? Why do those that can marry, choose not to and forbid others from that choice? If others are interested in joining me in the work of wedded bliss....why not? I know many gay couples that have more committed, longer relationships than most married people. So what's the problem?

So many questions and so few answers.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Soldiers

I have to admit that I have been a total slacker in the running/working out department. I just have not had the time nor energy to do either and it is not a good thing. I see not only the intake of food (BAD food) increasing and the scale moving in the wrong direction. Last Monday I decided to go for a run mostly for my mental health but that was disastrous. 4 miles in the heat was more than my body and mind could handle. There was walking, tears and even throwing of various items (which I picked up...guilt got the better of me!).  All week I worried about my upcoming race and wondered what would happen once I pinned on my number. I was not ready...and I knew it.

Saturday's race was the Soldier Field 10 miler. This is a race I have run before and really love. It is a great distance along a beautiful course and I finish on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field. What more could a girl ask for?!  Not much....or so I thought.

The TMI truck was full of my running girls as we took off early for Soldier Field. We parked in the garage, relaxed and waited in the warmth for a while. Eventually we all had to use the restroom and decided it was time to get ready to run. We headed out of the lot and into Soldier Field to take some pictures and go to the bathroom. I had some water and an AcelGel. I was trying something new this race...gel prior to running as opposed to just during the race. I was hoping and praying it would not lead to tummy issues! We waited inside and watched other runners until we could wait no more...it was time to find our corrals.

How it happened I am still not sure but as we walked we were herded into a faster corral than planned. Not to worry...we would be starting sooner thus...finishing sooner! We met some other runners we knew, chatted and waited for the gun to go off....and then we were off and running.

I am not a fan of the first part of the course. We run through the dark tunnel of McCormick Place. It is filled with bumps and holes and uneven pavement. I am always afraid I am going to fall thus I go more slowly in this area. It is scary to run in the dark! Once we exit the tunnel the course opens and we have a beautiful view of the lake and Lake Shore Drive.  About mile 4 I had some water and an orange AcelGel. I love that stuff!  We ran south until about mile 5 and then turned around and ran the Lake Front Path on the return. This is a much narrower part of the course but the the runners have thinned out and it is a tad bit easier to maneuver.  This is one of my favorite parts as I have the Lake on my right shoulder and the city in front of me. I was feeling good and running well at this point. I had lost my running buddies and, in hindsight, this was a good thing for all of us. We could each run our own race.

I was unsure what to expect as far as time goes for this race and was just hoping to finish. Meeting my PR seemed impossible with my lack of training so my goal was to have fun, run well and FINISH. Forward was my pace....I think I looked at my Garmin once but was so confused I gave up trying to figure it out.

At mile 7 there was water and a DJ. As I got closer I heard Francesca Batistelli's song, "It's Your Life". This is my ringback on my phone and a sort of anthem for me. It is not a common song that people listen to...so I was shocked to hear it. As I ran up to the DJ I asked if this was his choice of music and he said yes!  I hugged him and told him thanks. One of my Sole Sisters has said that she thinks I need to hug at least one person during each race and I think she is right. I get so much from those moments! That song was just what I needed to hear at that moment. I was starting to doubt myself and my ability to finish. I was walking more now than running and I was tired.

I figured I had come this far and only had 3 miles to go...I had to finish. I could finish. Running around the back of McCormick place the crowds start to increase and the momentum really picks up. I was going to leave it all on the course today. I was not going down without a fight today. Leaving the path and heading onto the street then into the parking tunnel was just the motivation I needed. I knew I was almost there. I ran out of the tunnel and was tempted to stop and take a picture but changed my mind. I wanted the finish. I kicked in to high gear and raced towards the finish line and crossed it with a little twirl,  a curtsy and a huge smile.  I looked down at the Garmin and saw my time. It was faster than I thought but then again, I am still learning how to use it so I was not sure if it was right.

I caught my breath, took a few pics and soon my running buddies were by my side. We got some water and headed towards the BLING!!

We were surprised to find that this year, the 10th anniversary year of the race, that things were a tad bit different. This year the people


giving us our medals were active duty service members. As the young man put the medal around my neck and said, "Congratulations! You are amazing!" I started to cry. I was not amazing...he was.  I was no hero...he was. I didn't deserve a medal...he did. It was a moment, and a young man,  I will not soon forget.

When we arrived home, I checked my time. I had PRed by 3 whole minutes!!  Not seconds...MINUTES!  WOW! What a shock and surprise. However, the PR paled in comparison to the moment that young man gave me my medal. I am forever grateful to him and others like him for their service to our country. I am forever grateful to those who have fought and died to protect all I hold dear. I am forever grateful to those who have more courage than I every day...they are the heroes  They deserve the medals.

Sacred

I did not write the essay below but only wish I had. When I read it, it was as if the author had read not only my mind but my heart. The Woods is a sacred, special place for my for many reasons. Someday I will be able to articulate those reasons as well as Dave Cox.

"They look like old-fashioned pot metal with appropriate signs of age: scrapes, dents and paint blemishes. Those gates at the entrance of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods are signs of protection, along with a sense of strength and security.

If you look around, there’s nothing unusually striking about the surroundings: aged brick walls at the gateway, granite signs identifying the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College as permanent dwellers. Age-old trees form a canopy along the main drive. A small bungalow stands as sentry off to one side.
But, just cross that threshold. Move through those gates. Something happens. Some explain it as a pinch of magic dust that flutters down to greet visitors, especially first-timers. Where does it come from? What is it? How does it change you?
That special feeling stays with you. You know you are in a special place: physically, emotionally and spiritually. You can sense the peace. You are in awe of the natural beauty. You embrace the spirituality. You feel like you are home.
“For those who have never visited Saint Mary’s, I say you need to drive through those gates and no words need to be spoken, for instantly you feel the presence of specialness that will always remain tucked away in your heart,” said Jeanne Stanbaugh, assistant executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, who has a significant role in promoting the Woods as a destination for visitors.
“Sixteen years ago, I first entered the gates at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. To this day, each time I return and re-enter the gates, I am totally at peace. It’s like coming home,” she said.
Maybe it’s not magic dust at all. Maybe it’s your first blessing as you step onto holy ground."



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Coach


Ask me why I coach Girls on the Run and I will give you many reasons. I think it is selfish as I get more than I give most days but there are days that stun and amaze even me. There are days that bring me to my knees thanking God for bringing me to this program at this time in my life.

I have a really small group of third graders this season but it has been great in many ways. These girls  are really needy in so many ways and are not girls that normally ‘hang out’ together on a regular basis. Monday one of the girls came in looking so very sad. The other girls asked her what was wrong and she didn’t want to talk about it. So we started on the lesson(I feel….) and soon she raised her hand and asked us if she could give a situation. I said yes. Well …then she opened up like a flood. She was being teased and called really vile names. Some of the students had started to gang up on her and she was feeling so overwhelmed. She was terrified to tell her teacher for fear of making the situation worse. She did not want to talk to her parents as they would go to the teacher, again making it worse in her eyes. I sat in our circle just stunned that this little body was holding so much inside. Before  either coach had a chance to collect our thoughts and give her suggestions, the other girls started. First they started to hug her one by one as they told her they were there to help. The suggestions came one by one. The swell of protectiveness for her grew. The girls developed a signal for each other when they needed help whether it was on homework or from a bully. The girls composed a letter to the classroom teacher requesting a meeting to discuss the issue. The girls requested that I ‘take a walk’ into their classroom to check on things later in the day and if all was well I would get a ‘sparklefingers’ if not… a sad face.  If I got a sad face, then we would move to step 2 where the 2 coaches would help and get involved if nothing was getting better. Yes, we spent a longer time talking than planned but the mood was amazing. The feeling of empowerment…WOW!

Well, We all met yesterday for GOTR and things are looking up. I did ‘take a walk’ on Tuesday and got not only sparkle fingers but a glowing smile. I spoke with the teacher privately who thanked both coaches for our help with the situation which she will now monitor more closely. The girls all said they feel stronger than before. They all seem to really walk a bit taller and are so supportive of each other. I shudder to think of how things would be different if the girls did not have a place to share and learn life long lessons in self confidence. I am grateful I am allowed to provide such a place to these girls.  I am grateful for Girls on the Run.

 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Finish

Once upon a time there were 4 runner girls. They decided to run a Half Marathon on the other side of the Cheddar Curtain in Kenosha. 2 had trained and trained well for this adventure. The other 2 …not so much. Ok, not really at all…at least not in any serious ‘follow a training plan and run consistently” kind of way.

The adventure began at 5am as the TMI truck pulled out and headed north. As we drove, we were treated to the most beautiful, colorful sunrise. It was just magnificent. The drive was easy and plans for the day were discussed…as well as other topics…but what is talked about in the TMI truck, stays in the TMI truck.

We arrived, parked and prepped. All of us love this race as it is easy to get to, parking is close and free, the bathrooms plentiful, the scenery stunning, and there is Great beer at the end! After we had made the final choices as to what to wear and what to carry, we headed to the start only to find many of our friends from running group. We all started together but soon my pal, Shorty, (names have been changed to protect the innocent) and I were on our own. We had decided on doing a run/walk as the goal was just to finish. We started fast and strong. This was going to be a good day.

About Mile 2 one of our pals running the full marathon came up on us and we chatted a bit. I stopped to take a photo of the lake…it was too pretty.

It was about mile 3 and my playlist was on shuffle as Roma Downey’s , An Irish Blessing, began to play as we passed a beautiful old cemetery then the race took on new meaning. There was a group of spectators lining the course and one was holding a sign that said, “Run Strong”. It was the sign that got my attention but what struck me was the young woman holding it and cheering. She was bald. I ran over to her and hugged her tight. As I hugged her she said, “ you can do this ….because I can’t…” “YES! You can I replied as I took off running…tears streaming down my face. I caught up to Shorty and she was crying too. We both decided that there was going to be no bitchin’. No moaning. No whining. We would finish the race REGARDLESS!

We ran though the quaint downtown area of Kenosha to the cheers of the spectators and headed out towards the Lake and Carthage College. This is a tough part of the course as the spectators thin out to almost nothing, the pavement is pitted and uneven, and the breeze off the Lake pushes me back just enough to make moving forward a tad more challenging. Oh…did I mention that this is also the hillier part of the course? This is also the most gorgeous part of the course as far as scenery. The long stretches along the Lake remind me of one of the reasons I run. I mean, would I have seen the lighthouse and coastline otherwise? Probably not. As we came up on the turn around, we saw our friends, Speedy and Cheesy. They were running strong and looking to PR. It was good to see them, as well as other runners we knew.

About mile 8 I was starting to feel the burn. The wall was coming…I could see it and feel it. I was doing all that I could to push it off. Shorty had to use the bathroom after mile 9 so I told her I would just walk and she could catch up….well just the thought of the bathroom made me have to go and when I realized all the stalls were full, I went to the Men’s side. Minutes later we were on our way to the last leg…the last 3 miles.

As we headed back into the downtown area of Kenosha, the spectators were back, as was the polka band. We are in Wisconsin, after all and I mean really…where else are you going to find a canning and pie shop on the main street?! I rounded a corner and there it was…the Wall. I hit it hard and it was hard to breathe. I had slowed down and Shorty had started to speed up. I didn’t have to tell her to head on and run her own pace..she was doing that on her own leaving me to find a way past the Wall.

I mustered the energy to finish…I had come this far….quitting or giving up was not an option. I caught up to Shorty and we ran a bit together and then off she went. As I arrived at the turn around, a friend running the full marathon passed. We hugged for a minute and then I sent him on ahead for another 13.1 miles. I turned and headed towards the last mile. Now I was walking and running in equal parts and not very fast but I was still moving forward.

Shorty and I rounded the last corner and she took off. We were almost there…the finish. I ran strong the last .3 and was speeding up as I caught sight of the finish line. I crossed the finish line and got my medal from a wonderful young man who said, “Awesome job, tutu Lady!” and met Shorty for water and CHEESE!

We met up with Cheesy and Speedy only to find out that Cheesy did hit her PR! We had a yummy beer (I have to find out what they were serving because it was AWESOME!) and a brat and headed to the car…to head to the Brat Stop.

We devoured all things grilled and fried washing it all down with sudsy, delicious beer. You have not lived until you have eaten fried cheese curds at the Brat Stop! We bought some beer and cheese before starting the journey home. We laughed and told more stories and talked the whole way home. It was just what I needed today…what I needed all week.

I was surprised to arrive home to a clean house. My girls had spent the morning cleaning! YEA! A walk with the dogs and a hot shower made the morning complete. I still wonder about the woman at mile 3. I would love to thank her for empowering my run today. I would love to repay the favor and encourage her on her journey. She will be in my thoughts and prayers……What a good day….