Running is 80% mental, and comparison is the thief of joy

And sometimes, I feel 10 feet tall

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I haven’t felt much like posting about my meager runs. I’ve been letting the insecure kid in me sit in the driver’s seat. Thankfully, I took a little time to reflect on what’s been irking me, and it all makes sense now.

It’s grind time. Fall marathon season is on, and whether you’re training for Chicago, Hartford, or Wine and Dine, you’re running right now. A lot. And you know what, it’s not easy — for anyone. We all have our dragons to slay… PRs… my first race … my last race… sources of anxiety for races in the next few weeks abound.

The reward at the top of the hill

A lot of us turn to social media for support and inspriation – but what a double-edged sword that is. Everyone posts their runs and paces, which is great! I finish a long run and I want to shout it from the rooftops. But secretly, I’m looking at their distances and their paces and comparing myself to their performance. My inner critic whispers lots of questions in my ear… Are they worried about the balloon ladies? Are they feeling positive? Are they freaking out? If they’re freaking out, should I be freaking out?

Like many of you, I am registered for Dopey in January. I’ve done it before, but it’s nonetheless daunting. I love running, but my body was clearly not built for it. I’m short, my weight fluctuates from average to plus-sized in fairly regular cycles, and age is starting to be a competitor as well, as I have passed that mid-century mark. I have never been an elite runner. Hell, placing in a race never crossed my mind. To be 100% honest my goal is usually to be able to cross the finish line before it closes. Bonus if I’m not last.

Sunrise at Horsebarn Hill

So Dopey is still a few months away, but my “home” race is coming up in 2 weeks – the Hartford Half Marathon. The last time I did this was just before the pandemic. It was a crappy weather day, I was ill-prepared, overweight, and just barely scraped a finish. I was technically over time by a couple of minutes, but the finish line stays open for a while for full marathon finishers. I finished, got my medal, and should have been happy. But knowing I was a few minutes over the official course limit has been a thorn in my memory. Even a couple of years later.

I didn’t give up. I went on to complete Dopey (maybe not spectacularly) later that season. But I finished the damn thing, BEFORE the time limit expired. And with that, I found the courage to lace up my shoes again. And that’s what makes me a runner. Not my PRs. Not my Instagram photos. Not my public triumphs. It’s the small ones. The ones the world doesn’t see or appreciate. It’s the knowledge that despite all odds, despite my doubts, despite the fact that I will never ever earn anything more than a (beautiful) participation medal, I rise to the challenge. And that participation medal means the world to me.

Mirror Lake

My run last week kind of sucked, but this week I went out and did it again, on a much more challenging route. And my time wasn’t great, but I am proud of every step. There were so many beautiful things to look at that my mind didn’t wander to the dark side much. I hope you enjoy the pics from the beautiful New England morning as much as I enjoyed taking them.

An ode to the turtles

Sometimes I run “with” a tall male friend. I say “with” because he can literally run circles around me. I could no more speed up to stick with him than he could slow down to stick with me. But we work out our scenarios. He’ll run on ahead and then come back to find me, or he’ll walk his giant steps beside me while I trot along.

What I’ve come to realize, is that we slow runners actually have to work much harder than the fast runners. Our strides are shorter, and we’re on the course for much longer. I don’t want to take anything away from the “Corral A” runners – they’re amazing and deserve all the praise they get. But those of us in the back of the pack deserve just as much praise. In the course of a marathon, I might take tens of thousands more steps than the fast runners. And maybe I’m moving for 3 or 4 hours longer than the fast runners. And you know what? That’s totally badass.

When I realize the effort my pace represents, the fact that I finished my long run, as miserable as I was at the time I’m so proud of myself. Sometimes I wonder if an elite runner could actually put up with the extended period of anguish that we turtles endure every time we start our Garmins.

No longer will I be comparing my times to other runners and passing judgment on myself. Insead I celebrate each and every one of us who gets out there and tries. Some runs suck, but they are all victories.

Shining a light on personal safety: thoughts after finishing Liza’s run

Liza Fletcher, finishing the 2022 Princess Half Marathon

Liza Fletcher. She was one of us. She was a runDisney runner.  Last week she was out for a training run early in the morning last week, and never made it home.  The elite runner was abducted and murdered, and the running world has been shook.  Long distance running is often a solo sport, and for those of us with day jobs, training for marathons or half marathons usually requires us to find time to train in the impossibly early morning hours.  I generally opt for treadmill running in the dark, but it’s a dismal choice when training long distances.  There’s only so much that House of the Dragon can do to take my mind off the monotony. 

Liza Fletcher, mother of young children and educator, made the same choice that many of us would make in order to meet her goals and commitments, but a deranged individual took her life and reminded us all that we live in a world where we can never take our safety for granted. I wish it weren’t so but this sad moment is an opportunity for us to think about what we can do to stay safe while running. 

There are plenty of social media sites touting that women should be able to run at any time of day and wearing whatever they want.  Of course they should, that was never in dispute.  But let’s be honest about this for a moment.  No matter how gentle and tolerant the world becomes, there are always going to predators in our midst.  As runners, it’s our own responsibility to take as many precautions as possible to protect our safety.  Any other position is dangerously naïve.

The hashtag #finishelizasrun has trended exponentially this week.  Runners around the country, in groups and solo, donned pink shirts to honor the late runner and create solidarity within the community.  Some runners ran her exact route, some ran her exact mileage or the mileage she had remaining when she was abducted, and some did what they could.  This sad moment brought us together out of care and love for a sister most of us never met.  Perhaps the movement can bring about some change that will save another runner’s life in the future.  For sure it has raised the collective awareness of safety while running.

I wore pink to #finishelizasrun

My heart was full as I embarked on my long early morning run yesterday.  I ran on my normal trail and passed countless other women in pink and purple.  It was comforting, but also sad.  The peace of mind I normally enjoy on the trail was diminished by more frequent checks over my shoulder, and my mind wandered to Liza and her final moments.  The world changed a bit for all of us last week.  RIP Liza.

There have been a lot of great pieces of advice surrounding safety that have been crowd sourced in the days since Liza’s abduction.  I’ve collected some of them here, if you have more ideas, please leave a comment and share them.

Personal Safety Guidelines

Don’t run alone at night:  I know this sounds very obvious, but it bears repeating

Make sure someone knows where you are: Always let someone know where you’re running and when you expect to return

Carry your phone with you: You can call for help, you can take a picture of anyone who is acting suspicious around you.  Yes, you will have to deal with stowing it somewhere accessible, but it might be your most valuable tool in terms of defense.

Smart watches: Some of the newer smart watches have built-in safety capabilities – incident detection, live tracking, and emergency contact notification.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but Garmin and Apple make the some of the most popular watches used by runners.

  • Garmin: Several of the newer models of smart watch come with incident detection.  While performing an outdoor activity, if watch sensors determined you might have been involved in an incident, messages will be sent to up to 3 pre-selected emergency contacts with your location information.  Read more about these safety features on the Garmin website.

  • Apple: Apple Watches come with an SOS feature and fall detection.  You can read about the SOS feature on the Apple support site.  The just-announced Apple Watch Ultra takes safety a step farther, with an 86-decibel siren, which might be enough to frighten a predator or help others locate you if you are lost.

Pepper spray: A small portable aerosol can of capsaicin oil can be sprayed in the eyes and nose of an attacker, temporarily disabling them.  Popular brands are Mace and Sabre and these types of products are widely available at sporting goods and running stores.

Personal Alarms: These are small keychain devices that pack a big sound at the click of the button.  Help alert others around you that you need help.

Of course, the foundation of safety is awareness of your surroundings. Stay alert, watch for suspicious activity, and don’t hesitate to act if you feel threatened. Stay safe, my friends.

It’s #MedalMonday! 2022 Virtual Series medals are here, and we preview the Marathon Weekend medals

It was a slow rollout nationwide, but the 2022 Virtual Series – Celebrating Frozen medals are finally around the necks of happy virtual racers. The three 5k medals are snow globes featuring our favorite heroes from Frozen, and the challenge medal features Olaf and has a fun spinning feature. There’s a bonus trading pin for the challenge completers which is a mini replica of the challenge medal, but no snow included.

When mine arrived, the medals looked like they had been stacked on their sides for a while – all the snow was lodged on the left side of the medals. It took about 30 minutes of gentle tapping to get the snow blowing freely, but it was possible.

Of course it’s all about Olaf – and he graces both sides of the challenge medal spinner:

Click “play” to see Olaf in action!

I love when my medals arrive, but I’m not the only one who looks forward to getting a box!

It’s been a busy week for medal news! runDisney has revealed the medal designs for the 90s-themed 30th Anniversary Marathon Weekend. They’re colorful and so much fun!

Challenge medals usually bring some sort of surprise. I’m guessing Goofy and Dopey spin, but it’s hard to speculate what’s hiding behind Goofy’s retro sunglasses. I’m putting my money on some sort of The Goofy Movie / Powerline tie-in, but I guess I’ll need to wait until January 8 to know for sure.

Which medals are your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!