Best Laid Plans


Remember that one time, when I was going to run a half marathon before I turned 50?

Yeah, me too.

A funny thing happened on the way to that half, we all wound up embroiled in a global pandemic. Needless to say, it put a little hitch in my giddy-up and the half marathon of my goals was pushed back to the fall.

I mean, I’m far from the only person impacted by this; thousands of people show up to this race every year, and this year is special because it’s the 20th anniversary of the race that memorializes the Oklahoma City bombing and highlights the resiliency of a community. Of our country.

So kind of fitting? Our resiliency is being tested again.

I’ve spent the last year-ish running and trying to run farther and faster. I’ve binged movies and books and podcasts and websites and magazines in an effort to glean knowledge and inspiration to help me meet my goal. I’ve created playlists and researched gear and bought running fuel and a strap on water bottle and a fanny pack and a visor. I signed up for a bunch of races to keep me accountable along the way, starting with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5K last year.

I kicked off 2020 with a fire in my belly and regulated breathing exercises and callouses on my feet. I ran a virtual 10K on January 1 and came to peace with the fact that I.AM. NOT.A.FAST.RUNNER. and that sometimes I walk because that’s what works for me. I picked up a running buddy (my husband) along the way and he helped motivate me to slay the hills that hold me back, to see that my limits are well beyond where I assume them to be.

And after we both signed up for that half marathon, we signed up for a 5K and a 10K leading up to it because we discovered that running together is something we love doing and we were excited about the buildup to the half marathon. And then they all got cancelled.

After we picked up our packets for the 5K, we donned our shirts and ran a virtual race at the gym on a rainy Saturday, capping it off by taking a selfie with our medals, just like any other race. The 10K packets will be available for pickup and we can run that one virtually as well. The half has been postponed until the fall, and I hope that it will be held (though some of the ‘rona rumblings make me question whether the fall will bring with it more quarantines).

I’ll be running that half when I’m a half a hundred, and that’s okay.

We mapped out a 13.7 mile course locally where, if we so desire, we can make that half marathon happen. I’ve had friends reach out to offer to help make this happen while also practicing our safe social distancing.

But, we’ve learned from this that even the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition; right now, it all just remains to be seen. My running buddy hurt his knee, so he’s out of the races (pun intended) for the time being. I want to keep running and hit that 10K and half as we planned because I’ve come so far … but it’s been an intense allergy season and that’s been bad for my get up and go. Not to mention the sheltering in place which makes me want to do all the bingeing (food and TV). And I had just gotten used to intermittent treadmill training when the gym closed down and the rains came.

So now I’ll just have to suck it up and hit my ever-so-hilly neighborhood streets in crappy weather and be happy that I can at least do that. I will take motivation from my silver lining storm cloud necklace and my KEEP FUCKING GOING bracelet and running podcasts and the progress that I’ve made already and knowing that people believe in my ability to do this and I’m not just a crazy person for trying…

… and music.

I’ve got an epic playlist on my phone with 125 songs on it that I only listen to when I’m running (and it’s some of my favorite songs, so that motivates me). I put it a curated 66 song version on Spotify for your listening pleasure (do I have to tell you that it contains explicit lyrics? Because it does), should you care to check it out.

Mari’s modified spotify playlist

Long Runs and Deep Thoughts

Sunday is my long run day, and this past Sunday I reached 2 milestones: my longest long run to date (5.75 miles) and the midway point of 2019, so I’m 6 months into this life overhaul I began way back in January. I’m eating better, moving more, and trying not to implode when shit gets overwhelming. I’m setting boundaries and trying to evict negative thoughts that live in my head—whether they’re my own words or those of others.

I’ve hurt my knee, pulled a few muscles, got the flu and dealt with hot flashes and teenage drama. So much teenage drama. Life is so sloppy and imperfect, sometimes I wonder how so many people are able to get up and out and be functional all day long without collapsing under the pressure of it all. For me, running helps. Writing helps. Meditation helps. Floating in a sensory deprivation tank filled with epsom-salted water helps. Going all in on self care helps.

I’ve celebrated my successes with new workout clothes, wine, and junk food. I’ve drowned my sorrows and failures with new books, wine, and junk food.

After all it’s not an overnight change, it’s a process.

I’ve gone from being able to run .05 miles to 5.0 miles and I’ve completed 2 5K races with more planned. Along with running, I’ve done yoga, walked stairs, sprinkled in enough strength-training workouts to know that I need to start hitting the weights if I want to see other results. I refuse to obsess over my slow running times. I’ve run in chilly weather and hot weather, overcast and sunny, humid and dry. I’m working hard to embrace the progress of my process.

I’ve lost 19 pounds and a few inches, slow progress made from changes that I can do for the rest of my life. I’m trying real hard to run my own race and not focus on anyone else’s. Some days are easier than others. My “after” weight is probably higher than most people’s “before” weight but I’m coming to terms with it. After all, it’s not about them.

I found the perfect workout shorts to run in, and I wear a fitbit to count my steps and measure my heart rate. I bought a running belt (fine; a fanny pack) and a tiny squeezable water bottle that clips onto that belt for when the long run days get really hot and really long. I discovered quite by accident that I run better with a hat on because it’s like wearing blinders. I travel with workout gear and plot out running courses but then usually end up sweating out a few miles on the treadmill in the inevitably hot and humid hotel gym.

I’ve made playlists (so many playlists) and listened to podcasts and my perfect running song changes by the day (currently “Ashes in the Fall,” Rage Against the Machine). I’ve read running-focused magazines and books, and my Pinterest board is filled with running and healthy eating tips and tricks.

My bullet journal is filed with pages tracking my workouts and goals, pages of word vomit detailing my various struggles and pains. I made a “To Don’t” list to remind me of the bad habits that I should stop doing. My Instagram is filled with posts tracking my progress, in an effort to motivate myself and keep me accountable. It’s had the added benefit of inspiring a few people to set off on their own journeys of reaching their personal goals, which is just even more inspiring for me.

Every month, I pick a word or phrase to be my mantra; I’ve focused on ACCOUNTABILITY, TRUST in the process, PERSISTENCE to keep working, REGROUP after getting sick, ADAPTABILITY when life was busy and I couldn’t stick to a strict routine, DIG DEEP when I needed to find that extra reserve to propel me forward.

Today is a recovery day. I’ll do some research on weight training and probably a light workout. July’s focus is STRONGER because I am smart and strong and I can do hard things. And so can you.

This one time, when I was a runner

So, once upon a way long time ago, I dabbled in running. Through a series of unfortunate events, I stopped for a while… but during that time, I made a big, fat commitment to myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned half a hundred. I was looking through my old blog posts and came across the one where I made the big declaration, including this prophetic tidbit:

… a few months to hit it hard, then about double that to recuperate from the inevitable injury because I tend to overdo it at first. Then, some time for deep contemplation and consideration. Some time to forget about it completely. Some time to half-ass the training and look for an easy way out and then 6 months to properly train for the OKC National Memorial half-marathon in 2020.

And that’s pretty much exactly how it went. I had lost a bunch of weight, worked out hardcore and hurt my knee. Spent a few years regaining that weight like it was my job which landed me where I am. Tried to stuff the commitment down into a tiny box in my brain so I didn’t have to do it. Then, when I joined my husband on a radical change of eating and exercise, I started running again.

Now, I will let you in on a secret–I’m an all or nothing person. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, do it fast, get it over with. That has been my attitude about everything. If I’m going to run, I’m going to run, do it fast, and crush it… but that way just ended up crushing me, over and over again. I finally learned from that to take it slowly.

So, when I started running again this time? I took it slow. So. very. slowly. I gave myself the gift of not pressuring myself into pushing too hard, too fast, running someone else’s race when I really just needed to focus on my own damn race. And then, with the OKC Memorial Marathon date approaching, I decided it would be a good idea to get my feet wet with a 5K. At the time, I was averaging about 2.5 miles per outing, so it seemed like a good (read: crazy) challenge for me. My husband even joined me with a plan to walk it.

So come race day, we attended with our neighbors, who were also running, and we all finished with great times that made us happy. I didn’t set any land speed records, but I finished in under 40 minutes and that was my goal. Mission accomplished.

To stay motivated, I decided to sign up for 5Ks this summer. Find a 10K or two in the fall/winter and continue training, taking it slow and steady to reach that half marathon goal.

Will I make it? I sure as hell plan to.

Will I continue to run after I hit that milestone? Time will tell.

Why am I telling you this? Because I found a secret method to crush my goals.

A secret!? Nope, not a magic pill. Not a product or a special outfit or anything. The secret is commitment. That’s all. I committed to listening to my body, to understanding my limits (the ones I could push and the ones I had to respect). To baby steps of momentum. So far, so good.

I’m planning to share my progress here and on Instagram, should you be looking for some inspiration from a middle aged woman as she tries to run down some goals and crush them like a boss.


Big Jumps and Baby Steps

Recently, I went on a business trip and met up with colleagues from around the country. It was a lot of work with a little fun thrown in because it was Austin. We spent a lot of time in traffic, which always leads to existential type conversations when four GenXers are in the car (not in an Alanis Morrissette “Ironic” sort of way, which is where my brain jumps to when I think of 4 GenXers in a car).

I digress; it’s pretty much what I do.

So during these long drives, listening to awesome tunes, during one of these conversations, I said that I didn’t like change. But I like big jumps.

I tend to jump in with both feet, act first & think later. Yes, small scale changes scare the shite out of me but big scary things? I’m in. As evidenced by the complete and utter lack of hesitation I displayed when I threw myself down the slide into the dark when we were going through the Escape Room (sorry about not grabbing that bucket, yo).

I’m working on those baby steps.

This one time, when I was a blogger…

And then took a hiatus.

A really long hiatus.

And I thought maybe I was done because my circumstances had changed a lot, and I just kind of ran out of things to say. I had spent my words, frittered them away on blog posts and random projects, always looking for … I’m not sure what, exactly. Fulfillment? Close but that answer is a bit simplistic. I took a job with two spaces after every sentence and so many Oxford commas.

Now it’s a year and some change later and I realize that I miss the writing. The community. The place where I could spend my words, pull my spinning thoughts out, like so much cotton candy wrapped around a paper cone.

So I’m thinking I might give it a go again. I’m a bit older, which means a bit wiser, right? (That’s the story I’m sticking to. ) And I’ve still got all of these words to spend.

You can’t take them with you.

But this time, I’m writing for me. I’m defying all that advice I handed out so blithely at writing conferences (… if you don’t want to be responsible to an audience, keep a damn journal instead …) and I’m writing about what I want, when I want. Metrics and uniques be damned!

Intrigued? Me too. Stick around and let’s see what happens.