Charging Up The Support


I have been thinking a lot about batteries since July 12. July 12 is when I got matched with “G” through “I Run 4,” an organization that matches children who have conditions that make running difficult with runners (and other athletes) who run in honor of those children.

Here’s a little about “G” from his mom, Kim:

G is 10 yrs old and looks like any typical 10 yr old.  However, he lives with a rare, life-threatening disorder called MCAD (Medium Chain Acyl Co-A Dehydrogenase).  Basically his body cannot take stored fat and turn it into energy.  He is at risk for low blood sugar, muscle weakness, and organ failure when in crisis.  We have been blessed that G has been relatively “healthy” or symptom free but the reality is that any illness or fasting episode could put him in a life-threatening situation.  He must eat every 5 hrs so that his body does not create poisons that affect his organs.

MCAD falls under the umbrella of Mitochondrial Disorders.  The Mitochondria are the “batteries” of the body.  Anytime there is a dysfunction with the mitochondria, the energy level of the person is severely affected.

I suppose if you know me personally or are a regular visitor to any of my social media venues, it doesn’t surprise you that this idea appealed to me. But I just have to say, this one is unique! The Facebook page is constantly streaming with support, and not just support from runners to “their kids” but “kids to runners,” “runners to other runners,” “runners and kids to friends of the IR4 community who are stressed or grieving.” The exchange of support constantly flowing in every direction possible.

And it’s so easy! I’m going to be running anyway.  Why not use that time and energy to pass some support G’s way (using a basketball analogy here because it’s a sport he loves)? And it’s a two-way street. One of the first pictures his mom shared of G with the group was him doing additional laps walking in the pool because this group had motivated him so much!

I’m thinking we’re charging more than our physical batteries through “I Run 4”! If you feel like you can maintain a commitment to your child (they really do count on hearing about your miles/laps/steps/pushups/etc.), consider joining us! See number 8 in the list below.

IR 4 Gareth Cropped

I customize this image with the date and mileage each time I run, and post it to the IR4 Facebook page and Instagram!

Here are some additional details:

1) The website: I Run for Michael (the name is explained on the site!)

2) For the Facebook group, click here

3) For the Twitter group, visit @whodoUrun4

4) For Instagram images, use the hashtag #IR4

5) About G’s “Get Up and Go for Mito” Walk (this year’s will be the 2nd annual):

6) If you have any connections for sponsors for this year’s Get Up and Go for Mito Walk (9/15/13), please contact me for additional information!

7) I entered this video in a contest to try to win the sponsorship money for G’s walk. It didn’t win, but hopefully still conveys the message that this walk needs to happen, preferably without G having to dip into personal savings:

8) Last but not least, to get matched (either kids looking for runners or vice versa):


In A Jam

During my father in law’s illness, I have often been the family member to escort my mother in law, Barb, to church. When we were leaving today, she mentioned that she needed to stop by the fellowship hall to pick up Christmas jams and jellies she had ordered from the annual jam/jelly sale.

When she and I arrived at the jam/jelly sale, one of her friends said she had put Barb’s purchases aside, since Barb had prepaid. When I went to pick up the box of approximately 16 jars of jelly, the friend asked me if I needed help. A couple of conversations overlapped at that point. I was telling the friend that I was fine (I guess the question had to do with me carrying the box while Barb was holding my elbow in the usual position that a blind person does for mobility assistance). While I was saying I would be fine, the friend was recruiting her son, who looked to be around nine, to help me. Although I truly was fine, I also recognized that the mom was trying to encourage altruism in her child and I said something to her like, “well, are you looking for him to have a job to do?” Eventually it was agreed that her son Ryan would carry the box of jams.

Our little procession started out of the fellowship hall, with me guiding Barb in front and Ryan carrying the box a few steps behind us. We were stopped by quite a few people since everyone wants to know how my father in law is doing. We made it a few steps, and got stopped by another well wisher. At that point, a gentleman came up to Ryan and asked if he needed help. Although my eyes-in-the-back-of-the-head weren’t working, I think Ryan was actually doing fine but the adult made it clear that he wanted to take over.

I didn’t have time to explain the whole “his mother wants him to have a job” deal. And frankly by this point the afternoon’s obligations were stacking up in my mental calendar and I just. wanted. to. get. out. of. there. So we all got to the car, the jams were loaded, and Barb and I went off on our way.

The situation with Ryan reminded me of the time when Wayne Kevin was quite young (six or seven) and had run an entire 5K. He was faster than me at the time so I was behind him. When we crossed paths I knew he was farther ahead than he should be, and he told me one of the traffic control personnel told him to cut it short, I guess because he was “little” and “cute.” I was so annoyed!! And I was annoyed because Wayne had been doing fine on his own. Although he really didn’t care about his time in the race, the official time wouldn’t be accurate because he had not run the whole course and he wouldn’t have the pride of having done something he was perfectly capable of doing had an adult not intervened.

It seems a bit mean-spirited to snark about the adult who helped Ryan today. He was tremendously gracious and, like almost everyone we have encountered as we navigate the additional needs for transportation, food, and moral support as Wayne’s dad deals with his current medical situation, he just wanted to help.

But the situation sparked off a question in my mind so I thought I would share it with you readers and get some thoughts. (And it is World Kindness Week so feel free to remind me that the kindest thing I could have done would have been to delete about 627 words of this post and make it, “Thank you Ryan and you, Mr. Nice Guy who wanted to help.”

What a jam.

The Smiling Runner (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number one: Have you decorated your Christmas tree? Share a favorite Christmas ornament.

Have I decorated my Christmas tree? That would involve having laundry mountain cleared from the Christmas tree’s spot, and having the tree down from the attic. Not yet. I wish.

Share a favorite Christmas ornament. Did I mention that the box of ornaments is in the attic along with the tree?

I do have a new candidate that will factor among my favorites, however. It just arrived in the mail from my friend Audrey.

As luck would have it, Audrey and I were on Facebook simultaneously about a week ago when she messaged me and asked if I had received my birthday present. I said no, because no packages had been in the mail that my son had retrieved on his way in from school. It then occurred to me that a larger (than the mailbox) package would have been left at the front door. I checked the front door, discovered a package there (!) and Audrey and I had a mini virtual gift opening right there on Facebook. Not the same as being together physically, but still fun in a 21st century kind of way.

Here’s the ornament that she had made for me:

The ornament is even personalized:
And ask me how much I love that happy look on the face! A friend recently mentioned how common it is to see runners’ faces all scrunched up and tense looking, portraying a tension that transmits itself through their entire bodies. I thought about the ornament and my friend’s comment all last night at Interval Training, which of all the running events in a typical week  makes me want to grimace the most.
Audrey told me that she chose this gift for me to represent my commitment to running and making it a priority in my life, helping her feel more inclined to commit herself to exercising more.
Even without an ornament, Audrey’s comments would have been gift enough.
They (and the ornament) really put a smile on my face!


Do Stretching and Yoga Help Runners? It’s a “Stretch” to Assume They Don’t

I enjoy Jeff Galloway’s e-newsletters about running. I have a lot of respect for Jeff, and I know that his route to success went through Tallahassee, which leads me to feel a commonality with him.

But I have been unsettled about something Jeff wrote in his April 2011 newsletter. Even though I have not been an Olympic runner (never will be), haven’t written a single running book (doubt I ever will), and couldn’t run even a half marathon in the time it took him to win a full marathon (2:23:02), here’s my non-Olympian, non-published, non-speedy-runner thought.

The passage that I haven’t been able to shake mentally was this:

Q&A on Stretching and Cross Training

What stretches should I do?

Surprisingly, I’ve found that stretching causes many injuries. I don’t believe that most runners or walkers benefit from stretching. So I’m going to take away the guilt for not stretching. If you have some stretches that help you and don’t produce aches and pains, then do them—but be careful.

What about yoga or pilates?

I hear from many runners every year who are injured in yoga or pilates classes. I don’t see any benefit for most runners in these activities. But if you do them (and are not experiencing problems), be careful.

For my response, let me start with yoga. I had never done yoga before I started in the fall of 2010, after a foot injury caused me to take a lengthy break from running (more about my fitness plan during the non-running period here). I bounced around a few types of classes until I determined that core yoga was the best for me at that time. I was doing a lot of reading about how the core drives the rest of the body and creates a strong foundation for the work that the arms and legs have to do. Improving my flexibility, I am convinced, made me less likely to be injured, not more. And one benefit of yoga as it relates to running has nothing to do with physicality and everything to do with focus. My mind can wander (isn’t that true for all of us?) and learning to concentrate during a two-minute plank or a one-minute balance pose, keeping my gaze on a specific point, is a discipline that ties into my running when I try to remain on a specific cadence without the benefit of any kind of “beats per minute” audio support in my ear.

As for stretching, there is lots of stretching, it is true, that can be counterproductive (or at least not as helpful to the runner as the runner may hope). Where static stretching can be ineffective, active isolated stretching (AIS) can prevent injury and improve athletic performance when applied correctly. Kim Ortloff explains AIS well on her website here.

To be honest, it isn’t Jeff’s contention that yoga and stretching don’t benefit runners that bothers me. It is the wide reach that he has with beginners and elite alike and my fear that beginners will decide not to learn more about effective stretching or the possibility of incorporating a yoga practice into their fitness plan just because of Jeff’s opinion. I know both have been irreplaceable to me in overcoming an injury, being better equipped to fend off injury in the future, and achieving better mental focus.

Poet Antonio Porchia wrote:  “I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.” I doubt Porchia was writing about running, yoga, or stretching, but it’s the perfect quote to sum up my post. Jeff knows what he has given us in his writing, and I have no doubt that stance has worked great for him personally and for countless others. But I fear that what many of his readers and students have received is the closing of their minds and hearts to something that can be an important part of their fitness lives, one that prevents injury and opens their minds.

Have stretching and/or yoga been a factor in your running life? Tell me more…….

Breakfast on the Track – Solo

Every year, Gulf Winds Track Club has a “Breakfast on the Track” (BOT) mile run in mid-August. On the plus side for my experience yesterday (8/20/11), my best time in the past six years that I have been running the event (10:49:95). On the minus side, the fact that my “favorite young runner” (my 12 year old son) was not with me because I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to come. Here is a picture from last year.
Breakfast on the Track 2010

There was one other BOT when I was alone, but that was because Wayne Kevin was participating in a kids’ triathlon, not asleep at home on the couch.

At a Kids’ Triathlon

As I have watched his exercise activity decline over the past year and a half, I have grown increasingly sad. As I told my friend Leisa,

“I am a little heartbroken about this but Wayne has hit that intersection where any natural ability to hang with sports has been outweighed (pun sort of intended!) by his weight gain and lack of training. For so many years he participated in everything, including kids tris, and although he was never really a “contender,” he enjoyed himself. Now he gets so short of breath he really can hardly complete a mile and had to drop out of the kids’ tri in May in the middle of the swimming portion. We thought it was exercise induced asthma but it’s really mainly being out of shape and not training. I haven’t been a drill sergeant about it b/c a) I am so slammed working as much freelance as I can due to economic issues and b) I am concentrating on my own running goals — he has to want to do this himself – I won’t handle him with kid gloves anymore. Although he did do RealRyde [spinning] with me some this summer and that was good.”
An Easier Year (2005 maybe?)
Photo Credit: Tallahassee Democrat
Wayne Kevin is the barefoot runner
I still recall the embarrassment of the President’s Physical Fitness assessments of my elementary school years — lumbering through the “dash,” attempting (and completely failing to do) chin-ups, and some other athletic “tests” that I didn’t remotely succeed at. That is why it was such a relief when my daughter, Tenley, succeeded at many of the the active endeavors (gymnastics, cheerleading, dance) she tried and when Wayne enthusiastically embraced so many athletic activities — tennis, running, kids’ triathlons, one season of Pop Warner football, two seasons of  flag football, and recreational gymnastics. During summer of 2010, the “shortness of breath” episodes started kicking in, and the pediatrician prescribed an inhaler. That same pediatrician, when Wayne Kevin had his physical this year and listened to my description of the strenuously difficult time Wayne had with his most recent mile, and the DNF during the swimming portion of the kids’ triathlon, introduced the idea that this was not asthma, it was …… out-of-shapeness (thorough diagnostic representation on my part, right?). In a kid who did not train between events, how could I argue?
Springtime Tallahassee Mile 2009
I can’t make him train. I am responsible to a degree for a summer spent primarily in front of a video screen while I was freelancing at night instead of making him walk a mile or even a yard … of course he does have two parents but between his dad and me, neither of us succeeded (much) in reinforcing any type of physical activity.
And although I am ecstatic to be moving closer to my goal of running a 5K in under 30 minutes, I am bereft at seeing the road to physical fitness growing longer and rougher for my son.
When Leisa responded to my message, she said this:
“At some point we can’t push and have to focus on ourselves. You keep getting to your goal and hopefully he will come around. The more active he sees you hopefully it will make him turn another corner sooner rather than later!”
Have you dealt with a child (or, heck, with yourself) losing motivation and sliding backwards? Any tips?

That Finish Line Look (And a Request for Advice)

I knew this weekend was going to be full. It started Friday night with Relay for Life (I am our team’s captain). This is my the luminary in honor of my mom, a cancer survivor:

On the Saturday morning when Relay was still technically underway, I needed to get my son to the Friends of Wakulla Springs 1 Mile Run, which  was a “Grand Prix” run for him. After he spent the night with me on the oh-so-comfortable Leon County Fairgrounds soil, we headed out at 6:30 a.m. for Wakulla. Having figured out that I would be at Wakulla also, I signed up for the 5K. That 5K is what got me thinking about tonight’s post ……..

Prior to giving in to the siren call of the prospect of running a race I really like for a cause I really care about, I was seriously contemplating not running 5K’s at all until I felt like I was closer to my goal of running a 5K in less than thirty minutes. I have been running 12 400’s at a local track once a week, and have had a bit of success with getting closer to 30:00 (this week was under 33:00), so I had started thinking that I would work on getting closer to my goal in that controlled environment before doing a race again.

But, as I wrote on my DailyMile post after the race, who was I kidding? I may not be happy with my time but I love races. I love seeing the people who share the joy of running; I love seeing all the different levels of athletes do their best; I love watching race volunteers pitching in; I love helping a good cause.

Fred Deckert, one of our club photographers “extraordinaire,” stationed himself at the finish line so he got some real doozies of people’s expressions. (When I was at my son’s kids’ triathlon today, I overheard a parent tell their kid, “don’t smile, just breathe and run.” Really??) But finish line pictures capture so much (more grimaces than smiles!)

I know racing is just supposed to be “against ourselves” and for me it’s a specific time goal but I really do hate to be passed and I use the runners around me to challenge myself to pick up the pace. There were several of us women finishing around the same time, and several of them were friends (or sisters or something). A friend of theirs was coaching them on how to make a better finish and running in with them and I said, “help me finish strong too.” This awesome guy didn’t say, “you’re kidding, right? I want to help my friend finish faster.” By his response, he personified the spirit of running – he was supportive and pushed me to sprint to the end.

That’s how I “2240” and I ended up neck and neck at the finish.

After last year’s St. George Island Sizzler, when my whinefest about how people ought to be polite at the finish line resulted in an almost unanimous chorus of “no, you just have to go for it” sentiments from commenters, I have determined to make the strongest finish I can, whether I am by myself or shoulder-to-shoulder with five other people.

After the finish (we both finished at 41:08), it took me a moment to figure out if I was going to barf or pass out. That “barf of pass out” moment is hard to achieve without the adrenaline of a race. As someone proposed in an article I read recently, “If you’re trying to get faster, you need to race.”

Racing or not, I still want to break 30:00. That’s where the advice part comes in. I know some of the elements are: 1) losing weight so there’s less to move around, 2) getting stronger so the body that is there functions more efficiently, and 3) challenging and varied workouts, including intervals. With our household employment situation right now, I can’t pay someone for personal training, so if you have advice that has worked for you in getting faster, share away!!

I’ll “run” into you next week, readers. I’ll be the one with that “outta my way it’s a finish line” look!

Will Run for Pancakes!

Gulf Winds Track Club holds a mile track race each August, accompanied by pancakes, and punctuated with the “Hamstring 100” race.  I was fortunate enough to participate in all three this year:  the mile, the pancakes, the 100 (not in that order!).  As a souvenir, each of us got this sticker, which reminded me of this recent blog, which questioned whether a “3.1” car sticker had been sufficiently “earned.”  I can only imagine how the writer would feel about a “1.0” but I love mine!

I had hoped to make a quantitative amount of progress between last year’s BOT and this year’s BOT.  Here’s last year’s time:  11:20.61.  Here’s this year’s time:  11:14.91.  An entire year’s worth of intervals, training runs, and cross training for a measly 5.7 seconds of improvement.


This summer, which started off with me vowing to work so hard I would look spent, has ended up with me limping in to the figurative finish line.  Right around the time I started doing turnover drills in early July, my plantar fasciitis started to act up.  Weeks later, a chiropractor who eventually said “go get different inserts at the running shoe store” after sucking up several copays for ultrasound treatments, and many ice packs/heating pads later, finds me without any drastic improvement to brag about. 

But I do have this great memory of yesterday’s mile:  finishing neck and neck with my son (he was so psyched to have found used racing flats at Play It Again Sports):

photo credit: Fred Deckert

and this great memory of being invited to participate in the club’s annual “Hamstring 100 Invitational” (I still don’t grasp the math/logarithm that got me invited but it was a thrill to participate, to come in 4th (yes #’s 5 and 6 are in their 70’s but let’s not split hairs here!)), and a lovely bouquet of roses (the male competitors in the Hamstring 100 get hams). 

photo credit:  Fred Deckert
Lastly, people who don’t know her story won’t know what a big deal this was, but my friend “K,” who was brutally attacked in her front yard, in daylight, several months ago, made her re-entry to running at BOT yesterday.  In the pictures taken yesterday, you can see joy on her face — what a testament to the restorative powers of running (and friendship). 
Another takeaway from this last half of summer, dealing with heel pain, is that I have branched out in my cross training, which used to be walking.  I have pulled the bike out of mothballs and gotten some swim coaching from the fabulous Revolutions Triathlon Coaching.
Is my goal still a sub 30:00 5K?  You bet.  Am I bummed that I made so little progress toward that goal this summer?  Yes.  But I’ll get there — I have told too many people that is my goal and they’re all helping me remain accountable to myself. 
Once I do, I may just have to get myself a “3.1” sticker.  I’ll know why it matters. 
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers!

Wordless Wednesday

July 5, 2010 – The Freedom Springs Kids Triathlon
To modify a Danskin quote about triathlon: 
“The child who starts the race is not the same child who finishes the race.”

Sleep in Peace, Benjamin

This holiday weekend, I am awash in a sea of red, white and blue images, along with all kinds of patriotic verbiage. 

When I arrived at Greensboro, FL, yesterday morning to run the Firecracker 5000 Race, I was greeted by crosses lining the streets memorializing citizens lost in the line of duty.

This morning, Facebook bloomed with quotes celebrating freedom, and AOL offered a red, white, and blue “theme of the day.”  One of my favorite Facebook statuses was Jess’s, which featured a lyric from the Toby Keith song “American Soldier”: 
 “I’m out here on the front lines, so sleep in peace tonight.”
Tomorrow, Wayne Kevin will compete in the “Freedom Springs Kids Triathlon.”  Here’s a picture from last year:

I loved the “Americana” feel of my morning in Greensboro yesterday.  I loved the thoughts and sentiments shared among all of us in the Facebook community today.  I loved the family get-together in Thomasville and the minor yet fun backyard fireworks ceremony we shared.  I love the anticipation of sharing another gorgeous North Florida morning with my son tomorrow enjoying the kids’ triathlon and closing out Independence Day weekend.

Most of all, though, the one moment that moved me most this weekend happened this morning.  I had just turned on CNN, and the reporter was interviewing some soldiers in Afghanistan (at Bagram Air Force Base).  Had the soldiers not all been in fatigues, and the video feed not been so erratic, the scene could have easily been mistaken for some coworkers having a care-free get-together on American soil and daring each other to soak their boss in the dunk tank.  When the reporter gave a few soldiers the opportunity to say something to the folks back home, a female soldier sent all her love and wishes to “my five year old son Benjamin, in Wisconsin.” 

I’ll just say it plain and simple; I would find it almost unbearable to be a world away from my child, for months on end.  Agree or disagree with the politics of it all, my heart breaks for this mother and child who are separated.  That mom/soldier has my empathy and gratitude. 

Sleep in peace tonight, Benjamin. 

Where is Emily Post When I Need Her?

This blog is intended to elicit comments and opinion – please chime in!
A few years ago, I ran a one mile race with Wayne Kevin.  I wasn’t really training at all at the time, so it was a fairly dismal effort on my part.  Poorly trained or not, some primal brain cells deep in my brain kicked in at the end and I blew past one or two competitors within a few feet of the finish line.  Maybe it was my imagination, but one of the finish line volunteers, who has extensive running experience and my deep respect, seemed disapproving that I would pass the other runner(s) so close to the end.
One year, the Tallahassee Democrat published a picture of Wayne Kevin and his friend, Alex, appearing to be neck-and-neck at the finish of the Red Hills Kids Triathlon.  Wayne had been taking his sweet time on the mile run until Alex started gaining ground on him.  Then it was an all out sprint to the finish; the picture shows each boy struggling with all his might to reach the tape first.  Arms pumping, legs churning, as much machismo as a couple of boys could muster!  Of course, Wayne had started in an earlier wave than Alex, so regardless of all that finish line bravado, Wayne’s finish time was still minutes slower than Alex’s.  But for that moment when Wayne thought he had a race to win, he mustered up reserves that had been completely dormant until a competitor showed up!  In my mind, that had always been a “too little too late” situation; if Wayne had been running his own race, and focusing his own mind, he would not have wound up in such a nail biter of a finish (but it did make a great newspaper photo!). 
More recently, the topic of finish line etiquette came up in a conversation between a friend and me.  I commented that in a recent race, I had sprinted to the finish with another runner, that I felt justified because we had been competing somewhat evenly throughout the race, but still worried that I had broken some finish line etiquette “rule.”  My friend then said, “Well, maybe that explains what another runner said to me today when I passed her right before the finish.”  The other runner’s expression hadn’t exactly been “good job”!
When I got home that day, I sent an email to one of my running guru friends, asking if there is a “finish line etiquette” or some “no pass zone” once you are close to the line.  His response:

It’s more a matter of resentment and hurt feelings to be passed near the finish. I see it at every race. Actually there is some strategy involved. You don’t want to make your bid too early, if you do, the victim has a chance to recover and perhaps hold you off. That said, it’s kind of tacky to roar by within a few feet of the chute.

I thanked the guru, shared the information with my friend, and thought I had put the issue to bed. 

Until (drum roll please), I was the passee at last night’s St. George Island Summer Sizzler Race.  Compared to last year, I really felt better about my endurance in this race, and at the splits, I thought I was easily going to come in under 40:00 (and yes, the “big” goal is to come in under 30:00, but the oppressive heat put many of us into survival mode!).  When I was at 39:39 at the 3 mile mark, 40:00 was out of reach (darn it!).  I was trying to put my all into getting across the finish line when footsteps came pounding up behind me and a runner I don’t recall seeing all race came sprinting up beside me.  Crap!  By the time I mentally registered that runner’s presence, I did not apply enough “oomph” to cross the line first and heard one of the finish line volunteers point out the color of her shirt for the volunteers up the line to know who had come in ahead of who.  The humorous thing was that this runner kept up at full speed through the line, making the strippers’ job a challenge.  I was feeling all the things the guru discussed above (resentment, hurt feelings) in conjunction with solidarity with the finish line crew, whose job is fun but not easy. 

This runner deserves the place ahead of me because she fairly and squarely got to the line a nanosecond before me.  And although the results aren’t out, we probably finished in exactly the same time.  It still irked me, though, and led to me wanting to explore the “finish line etiquette question” in more depth.  Believe it or not, when you google the question there’s not a lot out there. 

The spouse of a twitter friend, who is a runner, had several observations:
1) It depends on the race and your level of competitiveness,
2) apply the golden rule,
3) gauge people you’re running near/with to see they’d welcome push for finish, and
4) many races are timed so the finish spot is not important

What do you think?

I’ll “run” into you next week readers, but I’m not sure if I’ll run “past” you, especially if we’re within five feet of the finish line!