I know that I still have a long way to go in achieving what I want to achieve in the running world. To many Elite Marathoners in the world and to a few in our country A 2:32 is not really that great and is certainly not jaw dropping. But for me, knowing where I have come from, and what my body is capable of, it was all I could have asked for in my first one. It is the culmination of many events that have much more to do with life, than running itself.
When I said "knowing where I have come from", I meant it to be a loaded statement. We all come from families, situations, and events that make up who we are today. We all have reasons of why we've done what we've done with our lives and chose certain paths. We all have reasons of why we have succeeded in certain areas or failed at times too. And that's what I want this more personal blog to be about. My reasons for making sports and competition a big part of my life were much different years ago compared to why I do it now. I'm not sure of why now, at age 30 that I have felt more freedom than I have my whole life to be able to say this stuff...but sometimes you just gotta go with it!
Although sports for me, has always been a great outlet, I've sure had a list of reasons why not to keep competing over the years. In fact, I've had a list of reasons of why I couldn't do much. I almost didn't try out for competitive sports as a kid, I almost didn't play Division 1 College Soccer, I almost didn't graduate from Penn State, I almost didn't try running for PSU my senior year, I almost didn't move to Charlotte to play for Lady Eagles, I almost didn't take an invitation from Zap Elite Running Club to go to some random race out in the middle of nowhere, and I almost didn't open up to a handful of friends that have changed my life for the better. But for the sake of time, I just wanted to stick to one thing, that I almost didn't do.:) And that is run in an Elite Marathon.
Like many other athletes who have gone far, I chose sports because that's how I could escape and forget. Home was tough.....really tough. You've heard the scenarios before; kids with tough family lives that will do anything for their coaches approval. They go into excess for one thing because there missing so much in another. .....blah blah blah..
Unfortunately, it's an all to common situation of how many athletes have made it pretty far. And it was no different for me. When other players couldn't wait to end practice and skip fitness or go home, I relished every minute and extra time on the field or court. I would have stayed with my teammates and coaches till midnight if I could. I was figuratively and literally running, playing, jumping, shooting for my life to go in a different path. Without getting in to too many details, home was such a hidden valley of instability that I literally would do anything to escape. I learned quickly to keep the tough stuff to myself and to use my emotions on the field or court.
Fast forward 12 years since High School and College, and life is different now. Thanks Goodness that I have opened up to the specific people that God has put in my life. I feel freedom to compete and run because I know that God has made me an athlete. I can run for Him and myself not for anyone else's approval. As I said in my last blog, I feel the most physically and mentally healthy that I have ever been this last year or so. But with all that said,... and big BUT.....
I still have plenty of times that I am negative, insecure and doubtful. It doesn't matter what I've accomplished or what I've seen God do in the past, I'm human and I doubt. We all do. So, my first thoughts when Coach Mark and others approached me about doing the Marathon was "How the heck could a worn out old soccer hag like myself who collapses after 5ks and steeplechases, keep up with Elite Marathon runners??" The list of reasons to not do it, sometimes seemed a lot longer than the the reasons why I should. Here were just a few of the negatives......
Looking back, my life habits have never really been all that consistent. Most people would describe me as an "all over the place" kinda person:) And for one reason or another, wherever I am, I tend to "live out of my car" always rushing to the next thing, while changing, eating and doing my makeup all in one pass. In most cases, living like a disorganized nomad, is exactly how Elite Marathoners do not live. Most of them have routines, schedules and consistencies in their training times, while for me, this has always been a work in progress.
As a kid, days for me had always been about survival and just trying to make it through the day. I seemed to remember living out of bags and sleeping at a different house at least twice a week for my whole childhood because of the way things were. It is obvious to anyone that knows me well that while playing organized sports for my brother and I was helpful, we did not live a very organized life!!
Whether my crazy life pattern relates to performance or not, I don't know for sure. I do know that my workouts never have gone hand in hand of what I could do in races or games since I started in the world of sports. I know everyone has ups and downs in their sport of choice, but for me it seemed to be pretty drastic at times. Some days I could knock workouts and practices out of the park, while other days, I would just about pass out for one reason or another. I always gave, and still do give 100% effort at practice and work as hard as I can. But sometimes in the sport of running, that really isn't what it's about, nor is it good enough. As can be expected, the way that you live off the field, court, track etc., can largely affect your performance in any sport.
BELIEVE me, I have gotten a lot better since my college days where I typically would get 5 hours of sleep a night and forget my cleats for practice on a daily basis. My diet also has improved some since living on Pop tarts and Panera cinnamon Crunch bagels 3 meals a day! But even though I did end up getting good grades and have a successful soccer career, .....it just was really hard and drastically different than the girls on my team. (just ask the girls!)
Being a professional runner has definitely challenged me to take care of the details more. I knew if I chose to do the Marathon, sleeping well, resting my body, and saying "NO" to a lot of well meaning people and events, would have to be even more of a priority.
The other reasons that my mind was saying that I might not be able to do a marathon, was that physically, I was not born to be an Elite Marathon runner. An athlete, sure. I know I'm a talented athlete and good at many sports, but to be completely honest, I don't have the normal physique of Elite Marathon runners. I played soccer up until the age of 23 and have developed quad muscles that are literally bigger than most elite marathon runners 2 legs put together!!! I am 130lbs and 5'6'" and know I am not fat,....far from it, but my frame is flat out bigger than most any other Elite Marathoner out there. In fact, in Chicago, I nearly weighed the most of any elite runner in the race including 95% of the men runners. There was one Man and Woman that weighed in the 130's, but you guessed it, they were 6ft and 5'11!! Check it out if you don't believe me!( chicago Elite Athlete media guide )
In addition to all that, my parents which we won't get into too much,.... are far from athletic or cardiovascular blessed. Sports, fitness and competition was always foreign to them. Enough Said:)
Again, these are not things that have ever stopped me from pursuing professional distance running, but still, ...it's stuff:)
Reasons #3- My ankle injury. I knew in the back of my mind that I have an ankle without a real bone in it because of my steeple accident back in 2008, so the doubts of my ankle not making it through hefty marathon training was a real concern. Because of Dr. Evec and Indian Trail Chiropractic, a great facility that has been there from the beginning of my surgery days, we had gotten my ankle to a point wear it could function as normal as possible. Changing my form and wearing Newton shoes has helped tremendously in my comeback since the surgery as well, but it will never be the same as if I had my own bone back. I don't talk or complain about it much, but on certain days, the ankle can really flare up and still seems to be permanently swollen. Some mornings, I wake up and my first five steps on the left side are so excruciating that I have to crawl to the bathroom. Knowing this, I wasn't sure that it could continue to handle the mileage that it takes to be prepared for a marathon. All in all, it is something that I've learned to live with, and once I get going, I don't even think of it. But like I said, ...still was a concern for a Marathon training and one of the reasons to doubt.
Reason #4- Money. It is scarce in the world of professional running. Not all, but many Elite Runners face this hard truth. We are always taking chances in trying to earn dollars through sponsorship and road races. In my scenario, I only get paid if I race often, and if I race well. Period. So, when thinking about devoting a few months to focus solely on a marathon and not run other races, the doubts crept in. I have always at times, had thoughts of quitting and putting my degree to use in a full time job again, but was tempted the most during some of my days leading up to the marathon!
After contemplating all these inadequacies, shall we say, it seemed like the odds were against me a bit. But that's when I took heart and eventually I thought....... WOW!! this is the perfect place for a woman of Faith to be:) Insecure, doubtful and unsure. I was once again in a state of humility to let God work. I eventually came to the conclusion that just like in all the other situations, I was right in that I could not do it alone. It's only through faith and amazing supportive people that I've ever been able to do anything.
By having my "kerith ravine" experience (mentioned in my last blog) every morning and spending that extra time alone, I started clinging to all the good things in my life and reasons why I COULD be capable of doing the 26. The last 8 years of more or less living in Charlotte, I was learning a new way of life.
Physically, I have had help from a few different places in Charlotte that are mentioned in my webpage. Chiropractic, massage and physical therapy treatments that have helped me to stay injury free and compete in many, many races over the past 3 years since my my ankle problems. I've had Coaches who have helped me to learn the sport, get through workouts and who are geniuses when it comes to prescribing workouts, adjusting paces and picking races.
Mentally, which is probably even more important than physical in a sport like running, things had progressed a lot as well. All the negativity's and doubts of my past have slowly been countered by all the messages, examples and truths that I have learned from the people in my life. With the help of these families and peers that for some reason have treated me like their own blood, I have tried my best to hold on to more sanity and self-worth, than ever could be expected given my background. The ability to share the the tough stuff started in small doses with my PSU soccer family, and the support grew larger as I moved on to Charlotte. Many of my scars and emotional battles from the past, have been fought with the help of older women (they know who they are:).. who have chosen to help me see truth. I was, and am blessed with a few select people in my life who really, really care. It seems at times, that in order to move forward, their mission is to get the hard truths out of me no matter how much I fight. They couldn't care less about me as an athlete compared to how I am living as a person. They are the type of people who when you hug, you really mean it. So, whether support from these women has come in the form of talking, helping me to get better sleep, going to necessary appointments or even helping me with simple life skills, (like being able to see the ground in my car!) there has been someone who has been able to fill a million and one different roles. And because of this, I have been able to run with a bit more freedom and clarity in my mind; Something that I have not always been accustomed to, but is what has made all the difference in making me whole.
This is why I told Mark to sign me up. This is why I've continued to plow on in this very unforgiving sport, sacrificing time, money and social events that I might otherwise have more of. Elite runners know that at this level of competing, pain becomes your best friend. It's what you continually must go through in training and races to get the most out of your body and it can take it's toll both mentally and physically. Of course it's not easy, but for me, is what I feel called to do for this season of life. My main goal is not to be the best runner; but to use whatever gifts I do have, and press on through the pain, the doubts, the setbacks, and failures. It's to show others that you can move forward no matter what you've been through. I don't run anymore because of fear, anxiety or because I have to prove myself. I run now because I just want to do what I was created to do, and be who God made me to be. And that is compete! (in whatever sport it may be:))
And so, I hope that more than just runners can relate to what I just talked about.....you know, we all have it; The negative, the lies, the doubts, the LIMITS that we place on ourselves. You can't help sometimes but to think of all the reasons why you shouldn't or are incapable of some things. We all do this whether it is in sports, business, art, wanting to be a parent etc. The list of negativity's sometimes begins with what we hear from childhood, but as time passes it gets bigger and bigger and biggest until all you see is HOPELESSNESS...What do you do with it??
I think you find what you can do, and do it with excellence. And of course, to a degree, it is good to be realistic and know your limits. After all, I would love to be top 10 on American Idol but singing is CERTAINLY not something I am gifted at. I have come to the conclusion though, that we can always use whatever gifts and talents we do have, and use them to the MAXIMUM, no matter how small we think they are. It does not matter "how good" or "not good" we are compared to others, but really is about making the most of what you got!
|The Pedemonte boys and I in 2011, all grown up!|
|My best childhood friend Brittany at the High School hall of Fame banquet, 2012|
|The Casey's latest addition, my God-Son Sammy, 2012. Newton running starts them young!!|
|Visiting one of my Penn State Assistant Soccer Coaches in 2011 on the way to Arizona. Melissa, her boys and I at LSU!|
|What a gang! Charlotte familes, friends and clients came to watch me run at the 2010 X-Country Club National Championships at Mcalpine.|
|My best friends the Casey's and I, Moab trip, 2008!|
|My friend Mandy and Good ol' Jim supporting me at one of my first races back from ankle, 2009|
|2006 Indoor National Track Championships(3k). One of My first prestigious Elite races with Zap Fitness. If I look scared, that's because I was!!|
|Domonique Barnes, (the running instigator!)...and some of my PSU soccer girls, senior year, 2005|