Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon

My seventh half marathon is now in the books. Lucky number seven.... not so much.

While planning a Thanksgiving reunion with some girlfriends to Atlanta, I stumbled upon searched for a  fun turkey trot event. Only I really didn't want to get my butt out of head at 6am on a holiday to run a 5K. When I saw a half marathon option too, I immediately signed up. I thought it would be a great way to explore the city and definitely earn my turkey.

I've become a bit tired of the a$$-crack of dawn wake up times, endless Porto potty lines and constantly getting in the way of someones group photo. All the race materials suggested getting to the starting area an hour before the 7:30am start. Child's play, I thought. Plus our apartment was all of 3 miles away, there is no way we'd have to worry about being late.

Wrong. As we pulled onto the entrance ramp for 1-75 South, we were met with a parking lot. Traffic in the right two lanes was simply not moving and was backed up for miles. I was shocked. Shocked. And uncaffeinated thanks to a closed Starbucks and surprising lack of convience stores in downtown Atlanta, there was no coffee/breakfast stop. Kylie deserves a humanitarian award for dealing with my Jackal/Hyde reactions to this. I went from,
"It's ok, I have an electronic timer on my D-Tag. I don't need to start with everyone," to
"This is crap! This is absolute unprofessional bull!" 

We see other runners getting out of cars on the highway and heading towards the race area. To add insult to injury, we could see the course up ahead. At 7:30, I saw the half marathon runners go. At 7:45, I see the 5K start. And at 7:55, we were finally close enough that I jumped out of the car and headed opposite of where the runners were coming from.

I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of other runners stuck in traffic. I  caught up with two others who had ditched their rides and went by foot. The race started right outside of Turner's Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves. I forgot where I was for a minute and joked, "No wonder no one goes to Braves games." The one guy was no amused. Ooops. Go Phils! 

I made it to the half marathon starting line just as they were about to turn off the sensors and pull up the mats. I stomped my foot on the sensor mat and took off like a bat out of hell. I was furious too. Angry running is good running. Running to catch up to the rest of the race is good running. At first.

The first two miles were a steady incline and I was maintaining a miraculous 8:50 pace. I had to make a conscientious effort to slow down. Because I was in the back, I wasted a lot of energy passing people. At first it felt great but after a while I got really annoyed and developed a deep appreciation of the corral system. Running Guru John Bigham often jokes that if you want to have fun in race, stay to the back. I guess that is true but my good mood was a bit soured by the rough start.

The people in Atlanta are super friendly. The walkers were thanking the volunteers. You'd never see that north of the Mason Dixon Line.

This course was HILLY! It could be described as rolling hills which means a series of never ending up and downs. I was feeling really strong on well-rested legs and what I thought was a well-fueled tummy. I powered up those hills,refusing to walk or look at my watch on them. Atlanta has down hills too! It it a very beautiful city and course.  I would have stopped to take some photos but I was in race mode. Sorry, reader(s). (So instead, I used cropped race photos of me looking like I'm about to cry and further evidence that I don't lift my lefts when I run.) We went through midtown Atlanta to Piedmont Park to fancy residential areas through some college campus and ended back in front of Turner's Field.

Miles 1-8 flew by! A new PR was in sight. I crossed the 10K at 55 minutes which is really good for a non-treadmill run for me. I was perking up and despite a play list dispute with my iPod, was starting to enjoy myself. I overheard two women say how they were worried about the second part of the race which had the big hills. Huh? What? Big hills? What were these?

I began to tire at mile 10 and was absolutely miserable for the last 3 miles. I figured I had dominated the first nine miles of hills and surrendered to the final three. I tend to get sick to my stomach during the last 3 mile which is a direct result from not eating enough before or during the race. This time around I actually felt lightheaded too.It always slows me down and will be something I'll work on for my next. I walked up the hills and would do 20-30 second walk breaks. Hey, it happens.

I survived and finished my seventh half marathon! Lucky number seven it was not as I almost missed the race and then died at the end. But, I'm still proud of myself for having maintained a good pace until the end and for not yelling at anyone throughout.

My watch time is 2:12 and chip time is 2:15. Not a PR or a best race by any means, but I'll take it!

Below is a diagram of the official course map and elevation chart and my thoughts along the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Disclaimer: Again, I'm a little behind on this post. It was originally supposed to go up on Saturday night and then on Sunday night. Creative juices and time management didn't start until Monday.

This is my friend, Lauren. She's pretty cool. Lauren loves history, her cats, the Philadelphia Phillies and running.


Lauren has been a huge guide on my running journey. She was the first person I ever met who had run more than, like, five miles. During the Fall of 2008, our friendship solidified over a mutal love of the Phillies, Lost and her lack of airplane making skills. Also, she ran a lot. I was still doing 4 and 5 miles in the local park after work with no training plan or knowledge. She was always there with advice and encouragement. Lauren's tales of 'races' and longs runs were a major factor in my New Years Resolution to conquer a Philadelphia Broad Street 10 Miler.

To be honest, I didn't even know that event existed until I met Lauren. I didn't know what a half marathon was or that running 1 mile burns one hundred calories.

She was running 10, 15, 20 miles on the weekends with Team in Training in preparation for the 2009 Disney Marathon.

A month before what was supposed to be the best weekend of her life, that she had trained and fundraised for, she woke up one morning with an unbearable pain in her hips. That pain was stress fracture in both hips. It was devastating. I remember getting an email from her and just feeling my stomach hit the floor. No marathon. No running. She could barely walk.

While Lauren was suffereing a major heartbreak, I was falling in love with running. I had begun my training for Broad Street and was constantly peppering her with "I RAN 6 MILES!" emails and questions like "Why do I not want junk food any more?" And even though she was in pain and upset, she answered and encouraged. It wasn't until she said I was ready to run it that I believed it I was. She rarely, rarely complained. You never knew how much agony, emotional and physical she was in. We still went to baseball games, watched Lost Season 5 and gossiped about coworkers.

With determination and patience, Lauren's hips eventually healed. And she was runnin' again.

Here she is at the 2009 Philadelphia Distance Run. This was my first half marathon and her second.

Lauren and I frequently have text message conversations consisting of nothing but a distance, time and lots of !!!!!!!!! or distance, time and some weather-related profanity. She is my favorite runny buddy. Her determination and tenacity about our sport is unmatched. Lauren has her running schedules prepared months in advance and will stick to them, come hell or high water. And, from the time we have started to run together, she has improved so much. Girl is speedy now. I remember telling her about speedwork and fartleks once. Fast forward three months and I could barely keep up with her and I silently cursed sharing that information. ;-)

We've run together a lot over the past year or so. Though neither of us will admit it, we compete against each other. She wins, everytime.  We've stood next to each other at the starting lines of three half marathons, two 5-milers, one 5K and one 10 miler. 



And on Sunday, November 21, 2010, Lauren Curran ran the Philadelphia Marathon. And she killed it. And I've never been more proud and inspired by a single person ever. I almost cried when she asked me to run miles 20 through 25 with her. I made sure, absolutely sure to be at the mile 20 point that day and kept an obsessive watch on the runner tracker to anticipate when she'd be approaching. When I finally saw that purple shirt and white hat making the way down Main Street of Manayunk, I got butterflies in my stomach.

As we ran--yes, she was still running at mile 20-- I chatted mindlessly about everything and anything I could. The only complaint from that girl was tight hamstrings. We took little walk breaks at each mile. She was incredible. I reminded her of the horrific hills she had to deal while training in Princeton all summer. The hills were gone, but her strength remained. I kept looking at her and saying, "Hey, Lauren. You're running your marathon."  I got a little choked up when the mile 25 marker came up and it was time for Lauren to conquer that final mile.

We all have obstacles and bumps in the road. I'm sure there were other runners with injuries and comeback stories on that course. But, I don't know them. I do know Lauren. And I know that Lauren has helped, encouraged,infuriated, motivated and amazed me for two years now.
So, thank you Lauren! And to show my gratitude and love, I leave you this delightfully embarrassing post. :-) You're awesome. I'm proud of you. And I hope you're going to help me get to marathon ready someday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cheating on Running

I cheated.
I’m a cheater.I am in a long term relationship with running. We’ve been together for two years. Two years of dedication, heartache and fun.

A few months ago, however, my eyes started to wander. Every relationship goes through ups and downs and you have to spice it up a little. In runner world, it’s called cross-training. Enter karate. I started casually seeing karate a once or twice a week and running seemed to be ok with it. It was. My legs, core and arms got a lot stronger and being stronger is always a good thing. My relationship with running became one of those hard-to-explain open relationships where running had my heart and emotional self but karate was the fun, exciting element.

That lasted for a couple of months. I earned a yellow belt and made some friends in karate. But, I suck at relationships and have major commitment issues. Or a short attention span. Things weren’t so great with running and even karate was feeling routine. Once again, my eyes started to wander.

I heard about kickboxing classes at the gym. I was angry at gym but wanted to give it a chance for redemption. I’ve watched women and a few brave men run around like crazy people to techno remixes of pop tunes and have seen the survivors walk towards the locker rooms with dazed looks on their faces. I was curious. I’ve avoided classes such as those because I lack coordination and have a self-righteous “I’m a runner. I don’t need no stinkin’ classes” approach to such things.

A friend asked me to join her at one of these mysterious kickboxing classes the other night. My frantic desire for something new led me to say yes. My nerves at trying something new also led me to text her twenty times with such pressing questions as “are they going to laugh at me?” and the always important “what do I wear?” I felt a little pang of guilt as she told me to bring my boxing gloves. Can I use my karate boxing gloves in kickboxing class? It felt like taking your mistress to your wife’s favorite restaurant. What’s a Catholic girl with commitment issues to do?

I’ll skip the foreplay parts because this is a family-read blog, but I had fun. I was uncoordinated and awkward, but I never felt overwhelmed or tired. I actually had energy to burn at the end and if I had time, would have banged out a few miles on the treadmill. It was a good sweat. Now, I was intrigued and I had that “I’m doing something bad and getting away with it” rush going. My friend asked if I wanted to try cardio kickboxing the next night. “Wait, that wasn’t cardio?,” I exclaimed! Oh, yes, I was in. Because if that 45-minute session wasn’t cardio, I needed to see what was!

I should have stopped while I was ahead.

We laced up our sneakers and squeezed into sports bras the following night for round two. And, hooo boy! Did I get my butt kicked! Remember those comments I made about not being coordinated and awkward? Those are one hundred percent factual statements. Now, factor lack of coordination in with an ability to maintain counts and being the only newbie in class and you get the limp-flailing, ten-step-behind-low-kicking-wrong-way-facing sweaty mess that was me in that class. The incredibly fast and energetic instructor kept yelling out combos at a pace which led me to believe she was stuck on fast forward and everyone else seemed to jump, kick hook jabcrosshookhookelbowdoggekickhookcrosskneekickhookscissor and SWITCH in perfect unison. My only thought was, “I’d rather be running.” I longed for the slower pace and cute sensei from karate. Yes, we did similar combos but at a much slower pace because they’re more focused on technique and strength than caloric burn and full body workouts.

I silently apologized to running and karate and promised to never cheat again. I worried that I’d be unable to move for the rest of week, thus ruining my monthly evaluation at karate and threatening my training for (another) half marathon next week. Did I ruin everything, both relationships, by trying the other class?
I'm happy to report that my penance of  guilt and glutimine powder (and Advil, water and Epson salt) seemed to have worked and my muscles are a normal amount of sore.

I can't promise I won't cheat on running again. We think that it we start training for a marathon one day, I'll stop stepping out on running. I mean, that works in other relationships right?

Friday, November 12, 2010

LA ForgetU-ness

I used to love my gym. I felt like a part of something as I handed my swipe card to the cheerful receptionist and beelined to the women's locker room. Yes, we areall making choices to be here to be better, healthier, happier I secretly chanted as I got changed and headed towards the treadmills. Back then, I could feel the adrenaline pumping and thrived off the sweaty energy. I would wave as I drove past it and proudly exclaim, "That's my gym!" Back when I thought that missing one run was going to undo every other run, I was there a lot. During the suffocating hot summer days, I'd be there. During the freezing cold and knee-deep snowy nights, I'd be there. I'd be there after work. I'd be there on weekends. Nothing says "loser" like being at the gym past 8 o'clock on a Friday night. Nothing.

I had a personal trainer for about a year which guaranteed a weekly visit. We ventured into that other area--the one with the mirrors and meatheads. I even did that terrifying chinup/dip machine and didn't die. Although, I would question her every time. She'd walk me over and adjust the weights and tell me to start with 15. I'd politely ask why she was trying to kill me and what I ever did to her. I was also doing a lot of speedwork training in a delusional attempt at a sub-two hour half marathon. It's a lot easier to do speedwork on a treadmill than a track.

 Fast forward:

Then my trainer moved away and I canceled the personal training package. I started taking karate classes a few times a week and running outside more and having more time and before I knew it, I hadn't been to the gym in two or three months.

I've been enjoying my casual status with running for the past few weeks. I started to feel gross and stuffy after the zero miles weeks and decided it was time. It was time to return to the gym.

I hate that place. Hate is maybe too strong a word. But it has significantly dropped in it's standings of places I like to be. First place--bed; Last place-- grocery story; Second to last place-- gym.

What I used to think was the stench of calories burning and muscle eating fat is now just plain stench.
Riddle me this, readers. I've been watching the same group of men play racquetball for about ninety minutes, three nights a week for two years. And not a single one of them have lost a single pound. They.all.look.exactly.the.same. (I haven't lost a single stinkin' pound in this adventure either, but my body has changed.) AND they have yet to figure out that the plastic doors are see through. Sometimes I just want to open the door and yell, "WE CAN SEE YOU!"

You're often on the same schedule as others and see the same faces every time. I swear there is a Shane Victorino lookalike who comes in around 8pm every night. I call him Shane Victorin-i. (Although, I don't think we'd be best buddies like the real deal and I would.) There is one overweight woman who works out in the pool and I've seen her slowly loosing weight over time. I want to say something but have absolutely no idea what or when. I'm proud of her though.
And there are the cute Asian ladies who come in every night. They're adorable and scary. I have no idea what they do there but they always seem to be getting out of the shower.

For a few months, I was on the same schedule as a lady who looks exactly like our high school drama teacher, crazy blond hair and all. She would attack the ellipticals with fury and seemed to change her shirt every twenty minutes. You know how I noticed that? Because I have seen that woman topless more times than I think necessary. There is acceptable amount of exposure while getting changed in an locker room and then there is this lady. She would seriously take her shirt off to go the bathrooms. And since we were on the same schedule, I'd see them coming and going! I've been going to the gym later in the evenings because a quieter, less crowded gym is a much more bearable, less rage inducing gym. I also thought this would spare me from the locker room flasher.  Nope. The first evening of my return, I turn the corner and bam!

Another mystery of the gym is the sitting on machines. This phenomena occurs mostly in the men and mostly on the ab machines. Maybe I'm only noticing this because I want to use the ab machines and there is always, always, some dude just sitting on them staring off into space. I understand you need to give your muscles recovery time in between sets. However, is it really necessary to listen to the entire song? Do your three sets of 25 or 50 or whatever other macho number you're doing and move on. I've never observed a woman hovering on an ab or any other machine for too long. I assume this is because  women a) naturally uncomfortable on that side of the gym and b) have darn much too to do  to sit on a machine for five minutes without actually doing anything. More and more, I find that men seem to have this constant luxury of time whereas women are always rushed and always frazzled.

*Side note: I know that working out in public and even entering a gym in intimidating and hard for many people out there. By no means am I attempting to mock or discredit the efforts and dedication of those whom are there. I don't know the stories behind these faces.These are just the thoughts that bumble through my head as I pound away on the treadmill. We're all beautiful people.)

I'll continue to drag myself there as it's cold and dark in the evenings now and the morning thing just ain't happening lately. And I'll continue to roll my eyes at the prissy receptionist and dose my hands in sanitizer when I leave.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NYC Marathon: A wonderful day of running watching

NYC Marathon: No, I didn’t run it.

Writers note: You have no idea what I went through to put this post together. I need to work on my photo adding abilities... or my laptop may pay the price. Is it better to write the post and then add photos or add photos and write around? 

One day. I ventured up to the bustling, busy, blissful concrete jungle that is New York City with a three-part mission: a) visit with high school bestie, Ayo; b) be not in Philadelphia, Bucks County, Princeton, or lost somewhere between them and c) watch the NYC Marathon with the hopes that it gets my running mojo flowing again and quells this fear I have of the full.

Missions accomplished! I’ll spare the details of the A and B aside from my first drag show, the Seinfeld restaurant and fancypants. When I originally mentioned to Ayo that the marathon was going on I’d like to get up early on Sunday to watch it, I was met with silence. I realized my error and corrected it to “I want to go to the Marathon by myself on Sunday morning while you sleep in and I’ll bring you back a Coke.”
I researched the marathon route and was happy to see that miles 22-26 where in Central Park and all I’d have to do is walk the half mile from Ayo’s Upper West Side apartment to the Upper East Side to watch some running magic. What I didn’t research, or consider, is that it takes a while to run a full marathon. It was like an algebra equation. If 40,000 runners start at 9 am and have to run 26.2miles and what time will the fastest ones be at mile 25? Ummmmm….. crap. Also, a factor to consider is the 30 minutes difference from the wheelchair start to the elites and the 20 minutes between elite women to elite men. And even if they’re super fast, it still takes a while. I ran through Central Park to arrive on 5th Ave and realize I was two hours early. The elite wheelchairs were just starting to zip through when I arrived.


Since no runners were on the course (yet) but everything was set up, I did a ‘test run’ and ran along the course from mile 23 through 25. I was just making sure it was safe! J I wasn’t the only over excited fan out there though.
The army of volunteers were ready and the water stations were stocked and I swear that even above the daily hum of the nation’s largest city, you could hear the pounding stampede of marathoners.
I took advantage of my mathematical mistake and got a good watching spot at mile 25. I figured this is where you have to truly gut it out and power through. The last mile is usually the best and the worst feelings in the world.

And so, we waited.
And waited. And waited. And finally….
RUNNERS! I cannot tell you how incredibly cool it was to see the elite women come zipping past. It was mile 25 and they still looked strong. I have video of the first and second finishers flying by, but I’m not that fancy yet.


These photos aren’t in order by finisher or anything. But they’re close. The group of elite women was much larger than I had expected. Second place went to an American, Shaylene Flanagan-- making her marathon debut. I overheard a group of people talking about a few of the elite American women as if they were all friends. So I was either standing next to American running royalty or really pretentious New Yorkers with subscriptions to Runner’s World and memberships to NYAC. They cheered loudly whenever anyone with NYAC shirts came by.
The men were close behind the women and also flew through mile 25 like it was a 5K.  Gebre Gebremariam, Ethiopia, the winner of the 2010 NYC Marathon had never run a marathon before.  He crossed the finish line at 2:08--which is my half marathon PR. Yeah. He average 4:53 minute pace for 26.2 miles.
Here is Meb Keflizighi, an American running hero. He won the 2009 NYC Marathon and was the first American male to win a marathon in 28 years. He came in sixth on Sunday.

I was expecting a great herd of runners led by the elites. But that wasn’t how it happened at all. The professional fasties went by one at a time. I guess that’s why it actually IS racing to them. One at a time soon became clusters of five or six and then a steady stream of speedsters. I called the first wave of non professional runners Bostoner’s because they were all qualifying for Boston Marathon in April. Slowly the steady stream turned into a flood I was expecting.


I watched and cheered and screamed my little runner’s heart out. I even flirted with a guy standing next to me. I yelled every cliché I knew! “You’re almost there!” “JUST ONE MORE MILE!” “LOOKING GOOD!”
If someone had their name on their shirt, I pointed and cheered specifically for them. If they were running for a cause, I yelled thank you. If they were walking, I said keep going! It was truly inspirational and amazing to see people reaching the end of a long journey and to have only a shred of understanding of what their going through. The journey to a marathon isn’t about the finish line. It’s the training runs, the dedication and the heart. I stood and cheered for about three or four hours.
I started to think that hey, everyone is looking so good and strong because they’re gutting it out and reaching deep down inside for mile 25. I needed to see some walls. I need to see a marathon be hard and see people hurting to know I can do it too. I don’t know if that makes sense but I don’t expect the smiles and pride at the end of the race to reflect the previous pain.
And…um…it got a little boring up there and people were getting pushy. I decided to see some deep marathon madness and walk back towards 96th street.
As I moseyed on back, I saw what I needed to see. I saw people walking. I saw tears. I saw limping. I saw that thing when a person puts their head down for a few seconds, takes a deep breath and then just powers forward. You know just from watching that they had said or thought or felt something deep down in order to move forward. It’s just there.

The wonderful thing about this sport is that everybody can do it, all shapes, all sizes, all nationalities, all economic levels, whatever. I saw a man with two prosthetic legs run through the 25 mile marker and I saw many a 70 year old zip past twentysomethings. A lot of the names I couldn’t yell because I couldn’t pronounce them. Signs in every language were being waved and I’m pretty sure I heard five different ways of saying “GO RUNNERS”!
It was along Fifth Ave, I realized I could do this and I can do this and very soon I will do this. Oh yes, I’m ready.

Because, if a Chilen miner who was trapped underground for 69 days with 32 other men can do this, I can do this. Yes, I saw him. Yes, here’s a photo.

I saw runners wrapped in blankets with their medals hanging from their necks as I made my way back to Ayo’s and on my way home. I had to hold myself back from giving them a hug or handshake. I wanted to ask everyone if it was their first marathon, how they did, and to thank them for the inspiration. I am motivated now simply out of out envy and awe. I want to limp my way down the 96th Street Subway stop, chilled to the bone, achy, anxious, hungry, and proud. I want to refuse to sit down because I won’t be sure I can get up.
It was an amazing day that really brought everything home for me. I remembered that crazy “I can’t believe I just did that!” pride and reveling in the tangible work you put in to get there. I know I can do half marathons, they’re almost easy at this point. I needed to see a marathon, not read about it or watch a documentary about it or have someone tell me about it. I had to see it to believe it. And now, I believe I can!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Because you're amazing/just the way you are

Girls on the Run Practice 5K

I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with the Girls of the Run Program for the past ten weeks. I first learned of the program when my niece participated in it a few years ago. I wasn't a runner then but that was one of my introductions to organized running and training.

GOTR was started the inspirational Molly Barker as a tool to empower and educate young girls about confidence, fitness and strength. It's essentially a empowerment program with a running problem. You can learn more about Girls on the Run http://www.girlsontherun.org/. and I'll write more about what the past twelve weeks have meant later.

The culminating event for GOTR is a community 5K. As part of the training, we conducted on "Practice 5K" this past Saturday. It was truly amazing.

Coach Anne is our fearless leader and the absolute epitome of what a girl on the run is. She's always energetic, positive and strong. She's coached this program for years and makes it seem effortless. She wanted the Practice 5K to be as authentic to a real 5K race as possible. She asked for parents to donate food and beverages and had individual 'finisher medals' made for the girls. She also found a giant blow up spider to use as the 'finish line' and got one of the parents to donate his time and equipment for real DJ music.

Coaches and girls were encouraged, though no required, to wear running-friendly costumes. For some reason, the term "runaway bride" popped into my head for this event. For my running-friendly costume, I found a white sundress (I think it's the one I graduated high school in...ten years ago...), a cheap novelty veil, and a pair of sneakers. Get it? I even wore a blue sports bra for the something blue. :-) I thought it was funny but definitely felt out of place. I got many questionable stares as I was buying 2 boxes of Joe and 100 Munckins at Dunkin Donut's. What, doesn't everyone run in a white eyelet sundress overtop a UA turtleneck, black shorts and sneakers at 8:30 am on a Saturday? Coach Jenny found a pair of butterfly wings and a headband for a "Queen Butterfly Fairy" and Coach Anne simply added a headband, rose-colored glasses, and pigtails for a "Hippie". Much better and more appropriate.

The girls and parents arrived early and were ready to run. Everyone loved the giant spider and creative lap board. Our track is 1/3 of a mile and the girls would need to complete 9 laps. The music was pumping as the girls lined up at the "start line." With an enthusiastic pep talk from Coach Anne, they were off!

I was tasked with handing out lap counter bracelets, snapping photos, cheering, and sibling herding. A lot of the little sisters and brothers wanted to run too. I don't know if they were all so caught up in the moment, wanted to stay warm or just wanted a prize.

"Coach Lindsey! Can we run too?" asks two exact mini replicas of their older sisters
"YES! Absolutely. Go run, kids!! It's so great you want to run too."
"Can we have a bracelet if we run?"
"Of course!"
"Can we have a bracelet if we don't run?"

I think it was the prize. Speaking of the bracelets, why is the color so important? I couldn't just hand a pink one to Olivia, she wanted green. And Sophie already had three blue ones and wanted a purple. And Isabel had a purple and wanted a pink next. It was a like a logic puzzle.

The girls did so well! They ran under the spider with giant smiles on their faces. As the laps started to pile up, we had to prepare for the finish line excitement! Coach Anne wanted each girl to get the opportunity to break the tape and each parent to get a photo of it. I added 'tape holder' to my list of tasks and it was getting hectic! I was cheering and dancing and holding crete paper and snapping photos and handing out bracelets while Coach Bridgette was keeping count of each girls laps and updating us on the leaders. Allie's on 8! Sarah's on 9! Margaret is on 9! Here they come! It got crazy but was so fun! I don't know how many times I screamed "You're amazing!" "GREAT JOB!" "ONLY X MORE LAPS!" "KEEP GOING!" "GOOOOOO!"

Each girl got her break the tape photo even if it meant a few tries. Coach Jenny handed out the handmade finisher medals. Parents seemed to be having a good time and several dads were put to use 'holding down the spider' as it kept getting blown around.

As each of the 20 beautiful girls finish, they would gather by the spider and cheer for the others. Maiwah was our final finisher and had no interest in the photo or medal, she headed right for the snack table. I couldn't believe that 20 girls had just run 3 miles! We're usually trying to negotiate them to run just to that tree, now run to the next tree, and now the next tree and that morning they knocked out 9 laps!

The coaches gathered the girls in a circle to 'process the lesson.' I was already so proud and impressed by these girls that I had to hold myself back from hugging each and every one. As their parents looked on and Coach Anne started to tell them all how proud they should be, "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars started to play. I'm not sure if Coach Anne had that planned or not but there was no more perfect moment for it to play. The theme of GOTR is teaching confidence, self esteem and to respect ourselves just the way we are. Coach Anne said that song makes her think of all the GOTR every time she hears it. "And when you smile/the whole world stops and stares for a while/because you're amazing/just the way you are..."

And, I may have shed a tear on that. And I may be mildly obsessed with that song now. I may still get teary eyed when I hear it and it may be my ring tone right now.

The entire morning was incredible! I hope that the girls do understand that running 3 miles is something that not many people ever do and they did it at ages 8, 9 and 10. I hope they realize that they're all beautiful, intelligent, silly, adorable and kind girls and won't fall into those 'girl box' traps. I hope they felt good about themselves for doing something that was fun, positive and healthy. After the parents left, we lingered behind cleaning and dancing. It was IMPOSSIBLE to not be happy and feel lucky to be alive.