Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bigger Picture - Destin Beach 50K

Destin Beach 50K
February 15, 2015

Running can be a selfish sport.  Training for a marathon takes several hours away from your family each week.  Long runs typically take place on a weekend when you could be doing something else fun with your loved ones.  Sometimes it requires your spouse to watch your children (or in my case border collie puppies) while you run for hours on end.  Then you get home and all you want to do is kick your feet up in your recliner and relax.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy running.  The time I spend on the trail or road is my church, time to reflect on life.  I’ve always ran for my own benefit, until this year.
       I decided to sign up for the Destin Beach 50K Ultra Run.  It takes place in Florida in February.  My original plan was just to sign up and run on the beach in Florida and get away from the cold and snow of Michigan.
        I knew that the race benefitted a charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.  As an Army Reserve veteran, I felt this charity fundraiser was something I might want be a part of.  I looked into the organization and saw it rated very high on CharityNavigator.com, it scored higher than nearly 98% of all other charities in the United States.  That was important to me know know that almost all of the money raised whet to the cause.  In this case, the funds go to provide scholarships to the children of special operations personnel that have died in operation or training missions.  It also provides assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.  
There was no requirement to take part in the fundraising. You could raise as little or as much money as you wanted.  You could just sign up for the race and not fundraise, even most of your entry fee benefitted the charity.  
I have always been reluctant to fundraise because I didn’t want to ask all my family and friends for donations.  I had read about other running events and that you had to raise so much in donations to participate.  Some events require you to provide your own credit card and whatever you don’t raise will be charged to your card.  I was not comfortable with signing a contract and securing an amount upwards of  $4,000 on my credit card for a race such as the Boston Marathon.  Don’t get me wrong, they have great charities involved, but I just wasn’t in a position to pay that amount if I was only able to raise $1,000 or so.  
       A few months prior to the race I set up a fundraising page through the  charity and the race websites.  I made a post on my Facebook page and informed everyone that I was going to be doing a fundraiser for the next few months.  I gave a brief explanation of the charity and let my friends and family know that any donation was appreciated and no donation was too small.  The donations trickled in at first but closer to the event they came flooding in.
There were 152 finishers in this event.  Forty-five people in the group took part in the fundraising.  The previous year the event raised over $34,000.  This year the race director set a goal of $55,000.  I set a personal goal of $1,000.  There was no penalty if I didn’t reach my goal, so I set it higher than the amount I expected to raise.  As incentives, the race director said he would refund half of your race entry fee if you reached $1,000 and all of your entry fee if you reached $2,000.  If you were able to reach $5,000 he would refund 100% of your entry fee and give you a free entry to the event next year.    
The event was amazing.  The entire race took place on the beach.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was close to perfect.  The waves rushed in and splashed on my shoes.  I felt a part of something bigger, something better.  When I crossed the finish line, the race director handed me my medal and a lady approached me.  She said her husband was killed in the line of duty and she thanked me for my participation in the event.  She told me that her children had benefitted from the college scholarship provided by the charity.  The look on her face was enough for me to know that I made the right decision to fundraise for this charity.   She more than willingly accepted a hug from this sweaty runner.  
At the awards ceremony, the race director announced that as a group we raised  $55,000.  Due to the generosity of my family, friends, coworkers, employers and a few total strangers, I was able to raise $2,330 to help this amazing cause.  I cannot believe that I achieved more than double of my goal and at the time of the event I was the third highest fundraiser for this year.   
I was afraid to try something different.  I was alway running for myself.  It felt really good to raise money for fallen brothers and sisters.  That day we all ran together.  We were runners, military and civilian and part of the special operations family.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Born to Read - My Top Picks for Running Books

Born to Read

People have often asked me, “What do you think about when you run?”  Oddly, the answer is that I think about everything but running while I am doing it.  I think about what I am going to have for dinner, what I need to buy at the grocery store, and sometimes I think about nothing at all.  The opposite is true when I am not running.  If I’m driving to work and I see someone running, I wish that was me running.  If I hear a marathon is being held that I am not at, I am jealous that I’m not there.  So what do I do to pass the time when I cannot be running?  I read about it.  Here are my top picks I feel every runner should read.

Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports by Katherine Switzer
I’m amazed by Katherine’s courage and passion, she paved the way for women in the sport of running.  The journey through her training and racing at a time when women weren’t even allowed to participate in some running events is mind boggling.  She proved to the world that running will not make your uterus fall out.  

Flanagan’s Run by Tom McNab
This is the lost classic of running books. It is fictional, based on an actual footrace across america that took place in 1929.  The tale involves two thousand hopeful participants that will race through incredible terrain and weather to try to win a large cash prize.  They come from all around the world to accept this challenge, each one with a different dream and hopes for a brighter future if they win.  The author was an olympic coach and he did an amazing job capturing the mental and physical pain of the runners. 

Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison
I read this book while training for my first ultramarathon.  I’ll admit these stories scared the pants off me.  I could only read one chapter at a time as my butterflies would get the best of me and I’d break out in a sweat just thinking about my upcoming event.  If you want to learn more about why someone would run fifty or one hundred miles, run all day, night and then part of the next day, then this book is for you.  

Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dic Beardsley, and America’s Greatest
Marathon by John Brant
This story is running rivalry at it’s best.  Somehow I missed out on this book until a few years ago.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.  It chronicles the two men training and competing in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  They each have their own personal struggles prior to the event, but the aftermath of drug addiction, accidents, and depression was shocking.  The author did an amazing job describing the race, it almost felt as if I was there watching it unfold.

To the Edge: A Man, Death Valley and the Mystery of Endurance by Kirk Johnson
Badwater is commonly known as the World’s Toughest Footrace.  It is 135 miles across Death Valley.  The race takes place in July and the course starts at the Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level and ends at the Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet in elevation. It’s so hot that the participants have to run on the white painted line on the road to keep the soles of their shoes from melting.  The author’s brother, a runner, committed suicide.  Johnson then started running to try to cope with his brother’s death.  He had not even run a marathon prior to Badwater.  This is basically his couch to Badwater account.   

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes
This book is the single reason I got into running ultramarathons.  I absolutely devoured this book.  Who knew a mortal man could run these crazy distances?  Who thought you could have a pizza delivered to you while on your run and you could roll it up like a burrito and eat it while running?  Dean is an inspiration. His book helped push myself out of my comfort zone and complete distances that I had before thought would have been impossible.  

Each of these stories embrace the physical and mental toughness involved with running and completing challenges.  Through sheer determination and grit you can accomplish whatever you set your mind too.   There should be no limits on where your running can take you.  Create your own story.  

Convert to the Skirt - Why I Wear a Running Skirt


I’ll confess, I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of person.  Getting dressed up is not my thing.  Dress clothes make me feel uncomfortable and don’t event talk about high heels.  I am not a “girly” girl.  
So why do I wear a skirt when I run?  I don’t remember how or when I stumbled upon the Skirt Sports brand of clothing. I’d never even seen someone run in a skirt before.  But when I saw the “tattoo” print skirt, I knew I had to have it.  It was pink, had slits cut up the side, and the hem that was well above the knee.  It was nothing I would ordinarily pick to wear ever, let alone for running.  I was not even sure I had ever owned anything pink in my life.  
The package arrived and I tried it on.  I instantly felt like a different person.  Then I went for a run.  The sides swished up and gave a little flip at the end of my stride. It felt breezy and light.  It was fun, cute and a little sexy. Did I mention my husband loved it?
How can a piece of clothing change you? Well, I’m not rail thin and I don’t like the way typical running shorts put everything out there to be seen.  Every lump and bump visible to the world.  Running skirts made me feel different about myself, stronger and more confident.  I felt like the cool kid in high school, which I assure you I probably wasn’t.  I started wearing the skirt to races, and eventually to my first 50 mile trail race.  Sometimes when a girl passes a guy on the trail he will say he was “chicked.”  I heard one guy say when I passed him that he’d just been “skirted.”  
     My friends now can tell it is me from a great distance on the trail because of the skirt.  I’ve even been recognized from behind, I hope that is a compliment.
I know that I am a better person when I run.  It clears my mind and refreshes my soul.  My Skirt Sports running skirts have helped define me.  They created an even better version of myself because I feel great when I wear them.  
     To sum it up in the words of Nicole DeBoom, the Skirt Sports founder, “When you look good, you feel good.  And when you feel good, you perform better.” 

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.