New Attitude

A few years ago, I thought my edge had all but disappeared when it came to running, but after some moderate successes in community races, I started dreaming of developing as a competitive runner. After high school, my running had been either for fun or fitness, but I became hooked on being fast again. I started trying to win, but would become agitated by being passed by faster runners- the nerve of them! The manner in which this perceived competition manifested with my running became toxic to my growth as an athlete. I’m genetically blessed with faster than average leg turnover, it’s as simple as that, but I introduced only as much work as I felt like each race.

I had a complete change of heart last year during the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in Pasadena, California. I knew the course well, but the first five miles were hell- I felt shaky and unsure. I was running within a group of five or so women, probably mid-pack for that race, and we all took turns in the lead. I became irritated that they weren’t “letting” me keep the lead, when it occurred to me that if I wanted to get ahead, I might have to push harder, not wait for them to falter.

That day, I decided to push my preconceived limits. I set a goal of 20 seconds per mile faster, and to hold that for at least one mile. Soon the awkward feeling I had in the first five miles dissipated and I was flying- I could hold the pace, and go even faster. I glided past each new person within sight, seeing them as goals, not obstacles. I finished the race 4th in my age group, and I had dropped my half marathon down past 1:50, which was 7 minutes faster than my previous best. My race had nothing to do with the other runners, and everything to do with false beliefs I held about my ability and grit.

Less than a mile from the finish at the 2015 Rose Bowl Half Marathon. Happy lady, running at ease.
Less than a mile from the finish at the 2015 Rose Bowl Half Marathon. Happy lady, running at ease.

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to challenge myself against some strong women in races. I was honored when a young lady asked to take a picture with me at a mile race. She placed second and myself third, and I began to sense that team spirit that I had loved so much about my high school cross-country team. I feel that the women I run against are friends, not foes- especially the fast ones! They pull me and I push them.

I was floored when this young lady asked for a picture together after our neck and neck race.
I was floored when this young lady asked for a picture together after our neck and neck race.

I’m going to keep with the tribe now as best I can. I know sometimes I will try to run harder or faster and fail, but I’ll learn more about myself in the process. I recently went running with a two friends, and they kept a pace that was faster than I could do that day. Instead of being annoyed that they were going faster, I was excited to be running behind them, because their hard work pulled me to be better.

Finding a familiar face in the crowd at the Nike Women's 2014 Half Marathon.
Finding a familiar face in the crowd at the Nike Women’s 2014 Half Marathon starting line!

Harvesting Wind

Yesterday I told myself, “I am going to run today.” I didn’t. I was going out to Palm Springs to have a joint birthday weekend with a friend, and thought I would go out for a jog in the morning before the drive. I put it off, with the excuse that I did not have time. I also thought it would be nice to take my run in the desert once I got out there. I postponed the run, because of the excitement of seeing my friends, coupled with some tenacious snacking that got in my way.

This morning I woke up and uttered an expletive to myself. I felt terrible. I had low energy, even for the morning. That’s the thing with running, your body will tell you when you are slacking. Mentally I still didn’t feel like pushing myself out the door. I did another yoga flow and a couple asanas with a friend, which worked like a charm. With blood flowing, I swigged some coffee and set out in my Forester for a dirt road that ran amongst the windmills of Palm Springs.

I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.
I can come up with any excuse not to get a workout in, but those are the times that exercise turns out to be the most rewarding.

The first mile sucked. The ground was rocky and I wasn’t wearing trail shoes. The road climbed up in elevation, while large rocks gave way to wet sand. To top it all off I was running against the wind that the turbines were farming. After that first mile I snapped a picture and turned back towards my car. I had proven to myself that I would get out there even in the middle of a procrastination attack. The second mile reminded me of why I do this. I had the opposite experience of that trudging jog out. I ran swiftly down a road that was more like a dried river bank, with the wind at my back. Taylor Swift belted out “Shake it Off” from my smartphone, and I did.

Taking Shape

When I was sixteen my parents gave me a membership to a gym called “Taking Shape” run by an talented trainer named Moses. It was a small gym in an office building, but I found a new world inside. I learned how strong I could be, and also how well I could relate to a different crowd, as I was usually the youngest person working out there. I would go there almost every week night and most Saturdays during the off season to hang out and workout.

Moses was a great man and a world class trainer. Before he opened up Taking Shape, he traveled the world working with elite athletes. He would come up with fun drills based on what events I was running or position I was playing in basketball. Sometimes he would take me on outings to get a running workout in, but since I was a sprinter, he would have me do drills up and down the hallway once the workday was over. The workouts were always varied and challenging, and I was ripped by the time I was seventeen.

All the people at the gym would get together once it closed at night and go to a nearby restaurant to eat. I liked the crowd. The people were in their thirties to forties, so at least twice my age, with experience to pass on, and I learned so much during that time. We had shirts that read “Created by God, Improved by Moses”. I met my running mentor, Steve, at that gym, the man who pushed me to try the 400 meter race after I had spent a season running just the 100 and 200 meters.

Moses got sick when I was going away to college. It was hard news to hear. I had written one of my college entry essays about him as a mentor. Here was a man who ate right, lived right, but still got stricken with disease. He would still show up to the gym, though not as often, and on my breaks from college I would go in for an hour a day to run on the treadmill, while he rested, so I still got to spend time with him.

A few semesters into college, Moses passed away. The gym members went to the service. Pat spoke. It chokes me up to think about it. Pat told me recently that Moses would be proud of me, how active I am and how persistently I pursue my fitness goals. We don’t get to keep everyone for as long as we like, but we get to carry on their legacy the best we can, and hope the message does not get weakened. Go- get fit, be strong, be the best you can be which is always good enough.