Five Magical Motivations to RUN

So many conversations I have had about running over the past few months as I have made modifications to deal with my tachycardia issues have ended (on my part) with some variation of “but I am still grateful.”

My goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes is almost certainly not attainable at this point. Maybe if I checked in to a fitness retreat, ate 100% clean for an extended period of time, trained intensively, put my life on hold and went without the medication that slows my heart rate down and makes it feel like I’m running through mud long enough to pull it off it would happen. It’s not realistic, though, time-wise or budget-wise to put my life on hold. I’m doubtful it would be a good choice for my overall health, and the mere fact that cupcakes exist in this world is some type of evidence that it is possible to deny yourself too much!

Motivations For Running

Enjoying Baked by Melissa “Snowstorm” cupcakes after a run!

Jane Mahoney, a runner in the Kerri On: I Run for Remembrance group, a companion group to I Run for Michael in which members run in memory of people’s loved ones, said this today, after describing a run she and some friends had done in memory of a fellow runner and friend who had died of cancer:

Running is a magical thing, giving solitude, peace, friendship, honor and joy to life. ~ Jane Mahoney

In that one sentence, Jane captured the assets of running which have enabled me, one by one, to put a knot in the rope and hang on when I was almost at the end of my rope with running the last few months.

The Solitude of Running

I won’t lie. Despite the social benefits (discussed below), I still love running by myself. Especially since I am a primary caregiver for my father-in-law and almost never have the house to myself, I love being alone. The repetitive footsteps are like meditation for me; my thoughts have a chance to unfurl and wander, and the fresh air is rejuvenating. I also have the pleasure of listening to various Rock My Run mixes (read here for how you can benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by downloading this free app!).


We have a number of scenic running trails here in Tallahassee. A few weeks ago, I went out by myself and ran the Swamp Forest trail in preparation for last weekend’s Swamp Forest Quarter Marathon. It was just me, the trees, gorgeous views of streams, streaming sunlight; and a few animals skittering and fro. No screens to be stared at, no one who needed anything, just peace.

Motivations For Running

The Swamp Forest Trail. Photo courtesy of Robin Bennett.


Everyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for working toward a measurable goal. Even though I had heard about groups running from a local running store every Monday and Thursday night, I had declined to join for several reasons. Once a member told me the group was trying to get to 2016 miles in 2016, though, I was in! I joined them this past Thursday night, and Chris (the leader) said “I’ll stay with you.” Now, I have been told “I’ll stay with you” before and many times that commitment, which was sincerely meant at the time, goes out the window when the individual realizes how slow I am relative to them. Not this time. Chris stayed with me every step of the way, and the miles flew by. Three miles later I had a friend and a reminder of why the running community is second to none.

Motivations For Running

The Capital City Runners 2016 or Bust Group.


I didn’t attend the Gulf Winds Track Club awards ceremony last night, but as the names of the awardees (which are kept a secret until the ceremony) started rolling in on social media, I was thrilled for so many runners I respect who were recognized for their achievements. Although I am happy for everyone, I am exceedingly happy for my friend Maria Matheu, 2015 Female Runner of the Year. Maria worked so hard this year as she ran every race in the Gulf Winds Track Club Extreme Challenge series. Six of the hard miles were the ones she ran for me smack in the middle of a scorchingly hot Tallahassee summer when we ran from Madison Social to Capital City Runners and back, all for a free beer (okay, it was for more than a free beer but still….). She’s another one who said, “I’ll stay with you” and actually did stay with me. She had already run 8 miles that day, and only someone with a bit of a crazy streak would have headed out in the 100 degree heat index day, much less with someone who is going to take FOREVER to get it done. Maria proved (to me) who she was that day. She was (is) a friend. She honored her commitment. No one in our club deserves this award more than she does.

Motivations For Running

2015 Gulf Winds Track Club Female Runner of the Year, Maria Matheu


So much of 2015  has been spent staring at the screen of my Garmin, trying to figure out if my heart rate was going to behave or not. Over the past two months, it was reading exceptionally high. Skipping past the frantic calls I made to the pharmacist (is this batch of beta blockers bad?) and my electrophysiologist (WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!), it turns out my Garmin sensor needed to be replaced. Everything is still not perfect, but the malfunctioning electronics had me in a misguided  mental (and emotional) spiral of “this is never going to get resolved.” I have a new strap/sensor which seems to be recording correctly. When I ran with Chris Thursday night, I didn’t look at my Garmin for the whole run. Not fixating on my HR allowed me to be more open to the whole reason we do this: JOY.

Lastly, in addition to those five reasons, my son has started joining me at running events again. This may be pushing me even farther away from a sub-30 finish than my medical issues have, but it has me speeding toward something much more important: miles, memories, and, like Jane, a magical thing.

Motivations For Running

Billy Bowlegs 5K. Photo courtesy of Fred Deckert.


Light the Night FSU 2015!

If you’ve spent any time with me online (or in person!), you know that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLSUSA) is one of my main causes.

Many of my Charity Miles have been for LLSUSA.

Swamp Forest 2015

I participated in the United NYC Half Marathon in March 2015 as part of Team in Training for LLSUSA. Whereas I originally thought my March half marathon was going to be a “one and done” effort for LLSUSA, I felt differently after completing the race.

I feel differently because I know our fundraising efforts ARE making a difference, as seen in the recent approval of Darzalex for patients with previously treated Multiple Myeloma.

I feel differently because every step I take as part of Team in Training takes me into the orbit of someone else I grow to care about, from whom I simply can’t walk away, like Justin Karpf.

I met Justin, who is the honored hero at the upcoming FSU Light the Night walk, when I went to the Tequila and Tapas fundraiser at Madison Social in October. When I arrived, I noticed a young man in an LLS shirt. We talked about many things, including his law studies, his involvement in children’s health issues (yay!), and his girlfriend in New York. It wasn’t until he turned around and I saw that his shirt said “survivor,” that I realized he wasn’t just another patron there for the tequila and tapas.

Justin agreed to share his story:

Justin is seated to my right in this picture.

My name is Justin Karpf. When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I was about to start my senior year at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in May 2012.  I did not feel particularly ill before being diagnosed, but I felt some soreness under my left arm. During a routine check-up that month, I told my doctor about it, which quickly led to scans, a diagnosis, and biopsies.  Luckily, my doctors caught the cancer early and I was able to start treatment shortly after the diagnosis.  I was involved with several student organizations and planned to spend the summer at UCF, but I ended up taking the summer and fall semesters off for chemotherapy and radiation.

After I was diagnosed, treatment started almost immediately.  I started with 6 rounds of chemotherapy, which started the week after my 21st birthday.  During chemo, I lost my hair and a lot of my strength.  Though I responded well to the treatment, I had to stay home most of the time because of how low my white blood cell count was, which also led to dietary restrictions. After chemo, I had a month of radiation treatment.  By the time I finished radiation, some of my hair had started to come back and I was able to eat and exercise normally again.  My cancer was in remission when I finished treatment, and has been for over 2 years now.

I still need to get scans twice a year and see my oncologists, but I have been able to get my life back on track. I graduated UCF in May 2013 and am now in my second year of law school at Florida State University (FSU).  My strength and hair have returned, but my life will never be the same; there is always the risk of relapse or a secondary cancer looming over me, but I am determined to continue working towards my goals and not living in fear.  I am fortunate that I was able to overcome this disease thanks to the amazing medical professionals that oversaw my treatment, as well as the support from my family, friends, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Last year, I was a Team Captain and Honored Hero for LLS in Tallahassee and am privileged to do the same this year.  Light the Night is a great way to raise money for a great cause; the money we raise at events like Light the Night truly helps to save lives. Thank you to everybody who has walked with us before and welcome to those who are just joining us!


Ways You Can Help:

Make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society here (so Justin gets the credit!).

Join us Thursday, November 19, 2015, at Langford Green at 5:30 at FSU for the Light the Night festivities and walk.

Download the Rock My Run app on iPhone or Android, redeem the code PAULAK, and $1 will go to LLSUSA. Download it and then delete it next week if you really don’t care about the app, but I would appreciate the dollar for LLSUSA. (AND, the app is incredible; I use it almost exclusively for my fitness music needs!).


Note: Justin’s story also appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.

There are many great causes out there, and I enjoy supporting lots of different efforts. This one is at the top of my list and will be for the foreseeable future, for Mary Jane, Justin, and all the others for whom leukemia and lymphoma are part of their stories…..

Run LLS Pin

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV

Once I became a Power Rocker for Rock My Run, I decided to listen to as many of the Rock My Run mixes as possible. My romp through the mixes landed me at Phenomenal by DJ Rolemodel yesterday.

“I like rap and hip-hop” is one of those things that always ends up on those “things people would be surprised to know about me” lists. Not the misogynistic or profane which, admittedly, rules out many selections. But the beat, the musicality, the dynamic of the music. This was a great mix which left me with a serious earworm of Choices by E-40.

Choices contains plenty of misogyny and profanity but even so – it is catchy and immediately captured my imagination and made that few minutes of my run go by fast. The song goes back and forth between “nopes” and “yups” such as:

You still sell dope? (nope)
Now you cleaner than a bar of Dove soap? (yup)

Anyway, that’s the one relatively clean example I could give on my family-friendly blog! Watch the video if you want to get the full effect.

NOW … what I really want to talk about in this post is Tuesday, which is A Day With HIV. I had an opportunity to do some social media shares via a blogger campaign, but this cause is so personally important to me that I want to use my blog space to highlight the day beyond what the campaign required.

A Day With HIV is an anti-stigma photo campaign from Positively Aware. This year’s event will be on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. Here’s what Positively Aware says:

On 9/22/2015 people across the world, whether HIV-positive or negative, will visually capture and share a moment of their day – A Day with HIV – to focus attention on what it means to live in a world with HIV.


My involvement with this issue started back in the late 80s, when I was a counselor/supervisor on the first Florida AIDS Hotline. At the time, I answered the hotline and supervised the counselors because it was my job. Now, almost three decades of life experience later, my allegiance with this cause is a part of who I am, not just something I do (or did …) as a job.

In order to participate in Mama Kat’s writing prompt linkup this week, I decided to try to do a few E-40 style lines related to Tuesday’s Day With HIV. (One of the prompts is “write a blog post in exactly eight lines“.)

Don’t worry — I am not going to try to sing my eight lines!!. They may make you scratch your head, they may make you laugh … I don’t know. My goal is, though, that you’ll say “yup” to posting a selfie on Tuesday!

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV

For More Information:

Visit this website:

Visit the Facebook Page here.

Visit the Twitter Page here.

Visit the Instagram Page here.

Note the project hashtags: #ADayWithHIV and #StopHIVTogether

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV


Great Tunes for a Great Cause!

If you are a runner or walker, have you tried Rock My Run yet?

Rock My Run is a free app for iPhone and Android offering unlimited listening to workout mixes that adapt in real time to your body and are proven to help you enjoy every workout more.

Imagine a workout where your power songs play at just the right time, seamlessly blend together and adapt based on your cadence and heart rate. RockMyRun for iPhone and Android pairs workout mixes from the world’s best DJ’s with awesome technology that personalizes music to your body. The app is proven to increase exercise enjoyment and motivation, so leave your playlist behind and get rocking.

Download Rock My Run Now!

Rock My Run deserves some big huge props for giving back to charity. I am fortunate to be one of 11 #PowerRockers! This means that for every download of the app using my special code (PAULAK), $1.00 will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Why Leukemia and Lymphoma Society?

LLSUSA has been a “near and dear” cause to me for several years now, especially since my friend Mary Jane was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. She and I did the NYC Half Marathon together as part of Team in Training, and I hope we have another opportunity in 2016.

Support comes with a price, and these $1.00 earnings will add up, but only if LOTS of people download!!!

How to Do It

This is SO easy. SO VERY EASY!

Go to your App Store or Google Play and follow the prompts!

And please remember the code PAULAK because that generates a DOLLAR to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America!



As a special treat for people who use my code and help LLSUSA, you get my three favorite mixes, which are usually reserved for premium members, FREE!

You get:

Born to Run

born to run

Born to Run is a running mix that not only motivates you to get out for a run but also drags you down the street without effort. DJ eL Reynolds has brilliantly assembled an hour’s worth of songs with titles that all relate to running in some way. Plus, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in one particular genre of music. You CAN like Rock, House, and 80s music at the same time.

In the first quarter of the mix alone, you get The Soup Dragons, Slapshock, Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Jessie Ware, Amanda Lear, and Flo Rida. It is that type of variety that will have you “Running Wild” from the start as you’re let loose to your own devices. Some of the more popular tracks include Bon Jovi’s “Runaway,” Rush’s “Marathon,” Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” and of course Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Subliminal messages are no more obvious than with Buchanan’s “Run Faster” at the 45 minute mark. Disturb’s frantic version of “Run” will propel you right to the 60 minute mark.



Fuego will have you saying “Esta mezcla está caliente!” That’s spanish for “this mix is hot!” You’ll feel the fire coming off these tracks during your run. DJ Remise serves up a running mix with a kick! He’s refried (yes like the beans) an hour of the hottest latin running music on this side of the border.

If you’ve never toured the spanish speaking areas of the world now is the time. These tracks will take you on an international party cruise through Mexico, Spain, Miami, Puerto Rico and more! This mix gets you started with the hard hitting latin beat of  “A Mover la Colita” by Artie The One Man Party. Then, Carlos Santana smoothes out the beat, to keep you moving with his hit song “Smooth”.  Now that you’re in the groove, the party anthem “Suavemente” plays and you forget you’re running instead you’re at a fiesta! And you might even pause to do a little salsa or cha cha while you’re out on your run. Right after you finish your dance “El Mariachi” reminds you of the movie, “Desparado” and you find yourself running through the desert with a hot man/woman by your side. It doesn’t get much better than this right? As you travel through the rest of your party cruise you’ll hear tracks from, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and even Shakira and Lil’ Wayne with the hit “Give It Up To Me”. Then, the Mighty Dub Katz help you finish up your run with a mix of dub step and latin flare.

Get Your Twerk On


“Get Your Twerk On” is a ferociously motivating 60 minute mix of twerked-out remixes at a brisk 210 BPM. Song highlights include “L.A. Love (Deville Twerk Edit)” by Fergie, “Problem (DJ Valid Remix)” by Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azale, and “Show Me (DJ Coco Bootleg)”  by Kid Ink Chris Brown.

I may be 50 years old but I love love love running to a good #TwerkMix!

nyc finish with mj

Y’all, I want my friend to survive long into her elder years. I want other people I have met who deal with blood cancers to live long, healthy lives. Take five minutes to download this app and help me make a difference for these people, their children, and all of those who love them.

Are you in with me? If so, tweet this to encourage others to rock it out with us!

I am helping @LLSUSA by downloading @ROCKMYRUN and using code PAULAK! Rock it out with me and @biggreenpen?

RMR logo

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?


When I was running recently, the lyrics to one of the songs on my Playlist were “How Soon is Now?”

Since I became a Shot at Life Champion in 2013, and a Champion Leader in late 2014, I have learned a lot about vaccine-preventable diseases and the potentially fatal barriers children face in many countries. I have met incredible people, and seen I have seen government “at work.”

If it were up to me, I would take a plane across the world and personally administer a child in Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, the three countries where polio still exists, a life-saving vaccine. I would put together the $20 worth of vaccines that will give lifetime immunity from measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea to the children who are currently dying every 20 seconds from those diseases and just do it.

The problem: simply vaccinating children is not simple.

Simply vaccinating children takes the intricately coordinated efforts of people in the affected countries, manufacturers who make the vaccines, vehicles who transport the vaccines, copious amounts of funding, and an alphabet soup of accounts and programs including UNICEF, GAVI, CDC, and USAID. “Simply” vaccinating children a world away takes the involvement of us here in the United States. Although there are many reasons, three of the main ones are:

  • the existence of these diseases anywhere is a threat to children everywhere (as we have seen with recent US-based measles outbreaks)
  • prevention is infinitely more cost effective than treatment
  • it is the right thing to do.

As a Champion and Champion Leader, I have had many great experiences in two short years:

Two Shot at Life Summits in Washington DC

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

With fellow champions Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in March 2014

Meetings in the Washington, DC, offices of my Senators and Representatives

Meetings in the Tallahasssee, FL offices of my Senators and Representatives

In-Depth training on vaccine-preventable diseases, advocacy methods, and communication strategy

Meeting Jo Frost of Supernanny fame

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Meeting other Shot at Life Champions who are hands down among the most committed, intelligent, creative, funny people on the planet

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Publication of two Op-Eds, including this one, and a Letter to the Editor in the Tallahassee Democrat

An appearance on WTXL to discuss World Immunization Week 2014 (tune in again on Monday, April 27, between 6 am and 7 am for this year’s appearance!)

In the midst of all these opportunities, I can grow frustrated though. It is easy for doubt to seep in:

  • How will this lovely hotel luncheon/fancy hors d’ouerves event/[insert very first-world goodie or experience here] make a difference?
  • How will that e-mail, letter, phone call, or tweet I sent to my legislator matter?
  • How can I, “just a mom,” do anything for that child in Pakistan?

I recently read A Simple Idea With Huge Potential by Mark Miller, and his post helped me channel those worries in a different, more productive way. Mark described a plan to accelerate his team’s performance by “assigning a champion to each large body of work.” Among the attributes expected of his “champions” was this:

Ensure the work gets done. 

I may not be able to travel to Pakistan to vaccinate a child personally, but I can develop the expertise to make sure our government supports the President’s budget fully so that funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs is sustained.

I can inform, advocate, and fundraise for the cause of global vaccination.

I can recruit fellow committed, intelligent, creative, funny people to join me. Heck, you don’t even have to be funny!

We are holding a Champion Training this Wednesday night, April 29, from 8-9:30 p.m.. Please join us, even if you aren’t sure you want to commit to being a champion. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more! Click this link to sign up and get on the distribution list for the April 29 call.

I may not be able to completely fix the problem now, but I can commit to being a champion for ensuring the work gets done.


Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

I am joining my fellow Shot at Life Champions in Advocate 2 Vaccinate, a coast-to-coast challenge for global vaccination that coincides with World Immunization Week (April 24-30). I am pleased to be joining several of them in a blog relay. Here’s the lineup:

Friday, April 24: Jennifer DeFranco with Let the Relay Begin…S@L, A2V, and Me! 

Friday, April 24: Nicole Morgan with Want to be a Super Hero?

Saturday, April 25: Nicolette Springer with Advocate to Vaccinate: You Can Be a Champion! 

April 26 – Pam Brown Margolis with It’s World Immunization Week! Let’s Keep My Little Readers Healthy #vaccineswork #WIW15 and ME!

April 27 – Cindy Levin with Many Actions Save Many Lives

April 29 – Ilina Ewen with Advocate2Vaccinate During World Immunization Week

April 30 – Andrea Bates with Advocate2Vaccinate: World Immunization Week

Felisa Hilbert also wrote about her champion experience in The Power of One.

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Currently (Running For Meg and Never Looking Back)

Our Front Yard

Our Front Yard

I read an interesting blog recently that uses the “currently” template (thank you, Jenna, for the inspiration). I’m giving it a whirl this weekend for my weekly post.  (The bold headings are the “currently” template).

Currently Thinking about:

I am currently thinking about how fleetingly time passes. Although I feel that I always take “the long view” and appreciate every moment, and don’t view my November 50th birthday as a bad thing, I am itching to be able to say “and I never looked back” like Joel Robison, a guy who got a job with Coke on their FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour because he did what he loved, for the love of it, and eventually it turned into a job. My “30 Days of Camp Gordon Johnston” project is underway … it’s a start of telling a story I so want to tell.

Currently Reading:

On paper, I am reading “Love ‘Em or Lose “Em: Getting Good People to Stay” by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. (I will be blogging about it next week.) I have not gotten very far into the book yet, but I already see many concepts with which I agree, such as the idea that compensation is not the top reason people stay with organizations (number 1 in this book is listed as “exciting, challenging, or meaningful work” whereas “fair pay” is number 6). This correlates with what we learned in our Certified Public Manager program — that the things that keep people in a particular workplace a) differ from person to person and b) are not predominantly compensation issues.

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

On audio, I am listening to The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman. I am not a Fox News watcher but I am drawn to a well-reported story about someone (Roger Ailes) who has done so many things (yes, I DO remember the Mike Douglas show; I didn’t know Ailes was a hemophiliac or that he was a Broadway producer). I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the audiobook I finished right before this one: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. Beyond the obvious ethical questions (patient euthanasia during a hurricane-induced system-wide crisis), so many things about this book made me think and think hard.

Currently Listening to: 

I downloaded two great Rock My Run mixes this week (Born to Run and The Comeback); I give them two HUGE thumbs up. I am also listening to Chris Russell’s RunRunLive interview with Dave McGillivray, Director of the Boston Marathon.

Currently Watching:

I don’t watch much, but my husband and I just finished watching 30 for 30: The Price of Gold, the ESPN feature about the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident of 1993.  I am a huge figure skating fan, and I was in Detroit at the National Championships when the attack occurred. Indicative of the times, we learned more about what was going on from CNN than from anything local. I wonder how social media would have changed our access to information.

Currently Thankful For:

I am thankful for my fellow runners. After the death earlier this week of runner (and wife/mom) Meg Menzies, who was killed by a drunk driver while she was out running, thousands of runners, walkers, and supporters banded together to run, walk, and move yesterday in her memory and to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. The hashtag for the event was “#megsmiles.” Although I frequently run alone, especially on Saturdays, it felt every kind of wrong (for me) to run solo yesterday. I felt my fellow “Badass Army” friends and started off my run with them. That felt every kind of right. Thank you, friends. Scott and Meg’s children: you are all in my prayers and will remain there — having lost a family member at the age of 30 who left behind young children, I know the road ahead is hard. But you have thousands of supporters behind you. I hope that makes a difference.


In closing, a quote I saw this week that captures so much of what I am feeling right now:


Have a great week, everyone!

(And if you want to do your own “currently,” use the template then

link up via the button below!)