Tag Archives: inspiration

Race Recap: John Thompson Memorial 5K

20 May

On Saturday, May 18th 2013 I finished my second 5K.

And y’all, it was h-a-r-d hard.

Let me start at the beginning, though, as it is a very good place to start.

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, Christina woke up to bottle feed the little fading puppy.  He was not doing well at all and he unfortunately passed away in her hands around 4:30 a.m.  We were both feeling devastated, but I forced myself back to sleep because I knew I needed to rest up.  I had intended to get up around 6 a.m. but instead we snoozed the alarms until around 7 a.m.  We were out the door by 7:15 a.m. and on the road.  The race took place an hour and 15 minutes away at my high school, Neshannock Jr/Sr High School.

It was weird pulling into that parking lot for the first time in 11 years.  We arrived about 20 minuteStartingLine2.JT5Ks prior to start time, so I hurriedly put my race bib and chip on and hit the bathroom.  Then, I found my people near the concession stand:  Christina, my mom, my sister, my brother, and my sister’s boyfriend were all huddled around talking.  I scanned the crowd, relieved that I didn’t recognize a single person.  I stretched out as we examined the race map.  The cross country trail is not something that I even knew existed when I attended school at NHS.  With the passing of one of our beloved biology teachers and cross-country coaches, Mr. Thompson (who we all lovingly called Mr. T), the school district breathed new life into the old trail.  They now host this annual 5K race in his honor.

As we lined up at the starting line, I hung near the back of the crowd with my sister and her group of friends.  My brother was lost in the crowd, hanging close to the cross country kids.

I was glad to be out of ear shot of the current cross country coach, who gave a speech to all the runners.  My mom and Christina told me afterwards that he was explaining how difficult the course was, with plenty of hills and winding, newly mulched trails.  He even said something like: “This is a difficult race, don’t expect to beat your 5K PR today.”   I’m glad I missed that reality check because I probably would’ve used it as an excuse not to push myself.

The horn blew and people st1stLoop.JT5Karted moving!  We started near the entrance to the football stadium and ran towards the high school.  Then, we made a loop around this big grassy field where the sports teams sometimes practice.  It was really surreal for me, running on the outside of windows which I used to stare out of. We looped back around to the starting line (below) and then ran past it, behind the field and entered the trail.

As soon as my feet hit the grass, I got a little worried.  Pretty different than the concrete which I’m used to.  I was relieved that the trail was entirely in the shade as it wound through the woods.  There was more winding than I thought was even possible.  I had no idea the woods were that deep!

As we entered the trail head,  I could’ve sworn that I was in the middle of a pack.  But then, as I started running I realized that I was completely alone in the woods.  I had a few minutes where I freaked out, worried that I had fallen behind significantly and hadn’t noticed.  Was I in last place?!  Calm down, you’re fine.  

During mile 1, I just decided to relax and enjoy my solo run through the woods.  There were a decent amount of hills during the first mile.  I ran up the hills in short quick steps and cheered myself on down every hill, catching short glimpses of runners brightly colored shirts in the distance.  I was thankful that no one caught up to me!

When I got to the aid station, I was worried.  It felt like I had been running a heck of a lot longer than I actually was.  I actually tried to run through the aid station, which was a first for me.  I think a few tablespoons made it into my mouth, but the rest was down the front of my shirt.  It cooled me down, so no complaints!

After the first aid station, the course sort of flattened out.  While I was thankful for the flatness, this was about the time I started feeling really strained from the newly mulched trail I was running on.  At one point right before the mile 2 marker, I started walking.  It felt like I was sinking into the ground, not quite as much as walking on sand.  I decided I would exert less energy if I just kept jogging because my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as much.  So that’s what I did.

Right after I passed the mile 2 trail marker, I passed up a slow moving cross country boy.  That made me feel awesome!  Then, around mile 2.5 I passed up 2 more!  Booyahhhhh.  The course looped back around and then you hit the same water station, but from the opposite side.  This time, I slowed down and drank all the water.  Exactly what I needed!

When I emerged from the trail, I could see Christina and my mom waiting for a glimpse of me.  I knew I was almost to the finish line.  Now, I had to run parallel to the football field, around the end zone and into the fence.  To get to the finish line, you had to run 3/4 lap around the track.

Of course, my little race buddy was waiting for me!



At one point he said to me: “Let’s sprint it out!” and I thought “Um, little dude, I am going as fast as my legs can carry me!”  I finished in 39:13, about 3 minutes shy of my current PR.  I remember glancing up at the race clock as I neared it and feeling disappointed.  I ran more than I had in the Ole 5K and damn it if I hadn’t pushed myself harder.  I mean, I felt exhausted.

Then, Christina and my mom came up and gave me a hug and told me how good I did.  I didn’t beat my previous time, I told them.  Then, Christina told me what the coach said at the starting line.  The difficulty level of this course was much higher than the one I had run in May!  When I heard that, I felt really great about my time.  I may not have set a new PR, but I was pretty darn close to at least matching it!

Not too shabby for my first trail RUN, let alone trail RACE.

After the race, I grabbed a banana and a blueberry Nutrigrain bar and collapsed in the grass.  Once I felt like I had recovered a little, I forced my family to take pictures with me because guess what:  it is also the day I graduated with my masters!  I skipped the commencement ceremony to run the race, so we had to get a few choice pics.



I promise, they actually do love me.

Then, we packed up and headed back to Pittsburgh.  About 15 minutes later, my mom called me.

“Guess what I just did?” she laughed.  “Um, just picked up your third place medal!”

I could tell by the tone in her voice that she wasn’t joking, but I didn’t understand.  She told me that I placed third in my age group!!


Not in a million years did I even expect that. To the point that I was all ready on the interstate by the time they announced my name!  That made not setting a new PR feel like no big.  I’ll take it!!  My very first medal ever. In my life.  In 29 years of living without a trophy or medal or athletic accomplishment.  Ironically in the place where I would’ve won a trophy had I been involved with anything.  Its funny how life works, huh?

Here are some of my final thoughts on the details of the John Thompson Memorial 5K:

PRICE:  $20 which benefitted the NHS cross country team.  In addition to a really nice shirt (as far as race shirts go), we got swag bags with random goodies.  I don’t know how I would’ve lived without the Giant Eagle jar opener or the Avon bubble bath or the sweet Noga Ambulance water bottle.  But, stuff is stuff and it was free!

PARKING:  Parking was in the stadium parking lot, obviously free and plentiful.

PRE-RACE/POST-RACE GRUB:  The concession stand at the football field was jam-packed with goodies:  Dunkin Donuts bagels and donut holes, bananas, apples, oranges, NutriGrain bars, and candy galore.  I grabbed another NutriGrain bar for the road. 🙂

TIMING:  The race was chip timed by SmileyMiles.com and the results were posted within a day or two.

WEATHER:  Gorgeous.  It was mild, in the late 70s.  Since the race was primarily in the shade, I wasn’t effected at all by the heat.  The blue skies sure didn’t hurt, though!

♥ God Bless Boston ♥

17 Apr

I wanted to take a few days to process the events that happened in Boston before I mentioned them on the blog.  I think that I’ve done that, and I feel that I need to get some things out of my system.

This is not a running blog, by any means.

I’m so new to this sport that sometimes I forget that I am a runner.

But, I run.  I am a runner.

Picture 018

But, I completed my first 5K two days before the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.  I trained for 9 weeks leading up that 5K.  Every single day I poured some degree of blood, sweat, and tears into training.  It consumed me.  In my entire life, I had never felt such a sense of accomplishment and pride and emotions and celebrations as when I crossed that finish line and hugged my loved ones, who had been patiently cheering for me.  I know that feeling is shared by anyone who has ever completed a race.

I can’t even imagine how much people train to make it the whole way to the Boston Marathon.  I will never know what its like to hit that last mile, to see that finish line; to lock eyes with the loved ones waiting and cheering you on; to have that ripped away in chaos, smoke, and shrapnel.  That is something I can’t even imagine.  Something I don’t want to imagine.

I started running because I wanted to feel a sense of personal accomplishment while I made healthy changes in my life.  I wasn’t sure I was even qualified to be discussing the BM tragedy  because I’m so new to the sport.  But, I run.  I am a runner.  While I don’t know anyone personally who was running that day (or spectating outside of the medic tent, really), I felt connected to those people.  I felt scared for them and their families and for all runners who now have something else to overcome to get to a finish line.  I felt anxiety about the upcoming Pittsburgh Marathon, where I will be cheering from the sidelines for my mother-in-law, friends, and other family.

Over the last few days, I never faltered in my commitment to this sport.  My commitment to continue training and continue signing up for races.  On Tuesday morning, I ran two very slow miles before work.  I know this sounds lame, but it was emotional.  I thought about the hundreds, probably thousands, of people who were at the race that day and who are forever effected by what they experienced and heard and saw.  I prayed for the people who had been hurt and for their families.  I prayed that they continue to find ways to enjoy the sport that they love, that they worked so hard for.

I was on the fence about my next move with running.  There are several 5Ks that I’ve mentally committed to in the upcoming months.  I had toyed with the idea of an upcoming 10K in June.  My ultimate goal is to run a half marathon.  Its weird that when a tragedy occurs, even when its not to you or anyone you know, it touches you on an emotional level.  Sometimes you find personal clarity in all the public confusion.

The last few days have been full of invaluable lessons for everyone.  I can only speak for myself.

On Saturday, I learned that I can do whatever I want to, if I train hard enough and push myself.  I challenged what I thought were my personal limits and I exceeded them.  The bar is higher now.  On Sunday, I learned to celebrate my accomplishments and look towards future goals with new eyes.  Its true that arriving at one goal can be the starting point to another.  On Monday, I learned that life can change in the blink of an eye.


And just like that, my 10K training starts.  You never know when everything can be taken away from you.  I have to do this now, because the future doesn’t come with a guarantee.  My feet are pounding the same pavements, but I see them through different eyes.  And for now, my heart is with the people effected by the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

Halfway Point: Checking In

13 Mar


Yesterday, I ran longer than I ever ran in my WHOLE LIFE.

2.25 miles.

Its exhilarating to think that I get to say that every week.  I get to have that moment over and over again.  Its crazy to think that in a few short weeks, I will be hitting the 3 mile mark.  I know in the grand scheme of life, 3 miles is not a very long distance.  But, I honestly never thought I would get to that point or even the point I’m at, for that matter.  It hasn’t been easy.  It hasn’t been as hard as I thought, though, either.  It’s funny to think about what we as humans are able to accomplish if we simply put our minds to it.  Cliché, I know.  But so very true.  I’m re-learning the meaning of dedication, of commitment.  Re-assessing and challenging where I thought my limits were.

I am exactly 30 days out from my first 5K (the first 5K that I will be running, not walking), halfway through my training program.  I feel nervous.  I feel excited.  I feel tired.  I feel strong.  I feel prepared and unprepared.  I have so many feelings about it, I don’t even know what to feel!  I’m not setting my expectations high.  I’m not even expecting my time to make it on the results page, because yes, I run incredibly slow.  But, I will be crossing the same finish line as the fastest runner.  And that’s good enough for me.  The bar I’m setting for myself is located at the finish line, no matter how long it takes me to get there.

Training is tedious.  Its not what I would consider “fun,” by any stretch of the imagination (although running is).  I’ve learned that training is just challenging.  Me vs. myself.  Me vs. my own expectations.  Me vs. my body.  I’m addicted to it.  I think about it all day long.  I think about it every time I take a bite of food or a drink.  Halfway to race time and I am still a nervous wreck about pacing myself.  I am so used to the auto-pace of the treadmill that when I get outside, I’m a complete mess.  There’s a quote that I look at every day by Dr. George Sheehan, a cardiologist and running author.  He wrote:  “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”  I’m working on channeling that into my training, slowing down, and getting to know my little voice.

Deciding to train for a race is the best, hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  Even more than earning my Master’s degree.  I knew I could do that.  I knew it would be hard, but I knew I could do it.  Until I started training for this 5K, I never really believed I could do it.  I never believed in myself.  But, I did it and I still am doing it and I will continue to do it until I cross that finish line.  I don’t know who I’m kidding, I picture a lot of finish lines in my future.

Facebook Inspiration?

24 Apr

One of my childhood neighbors posted this on their refrigerator (among other inspirational quotes) and shared it on Facebook.  It really hit home for me.

This is your life.  Do what you love and do it often.  If you don’t like it, change it.  If you don’t like your job, quit.  If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.  And if you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Life is short, stop over-analyzing.  All emotions are beautiful.  When you eat, appreciate every last bite.  Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences.  Ask the person next to you what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them.  Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.  Some opportunities only come once, seize them.  Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them.  So go out and start creating.  Life is short.  Live your dream and wear your passion.


Since we are no longer neighbors and barely acquaintances at this point, I doubt she will ever know this, but she is a huge inspiration for me.  She is also talking about working out – and working out hard.  She is so goal-oriented and at one point in our lives, we had similar problems.  She excelled through hers and is doing phenomenal.  If you can see positive changes in someone that you identify with, then it makes you want to improve yourself.





Wasn’t there something about a turtle winning in some story…

20 Apr

If anyone is interested…

Here is how far along I am on Hal Higdon’s 5K Training:










Rest or run/walk

1.5 m run

Rest or run/walk

1.5 m run


1.5 m run

30-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

1.75 m run

Rest or run/walk

1.5 m run


1.75 m run

35-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

2 m run

Rest or run/walk

1.5 m run


2 m run

40-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

2.25 m run

Rest or run/walk

1.5 m run


2.25 m run

45-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

2.5 m run

Rest or run/walk

2 m run


2.5 m run

50-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

2.75 m run

Rest or run/walk

2 m run


2.75 m run

55-60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

3 m run

Rest or run/walk

2 m run


3 m run

60 min walk


Rest or run/walk

3 m run

Rest or run/walk

2 m run



5-K Race

I know its not far, but it took many months of inconsistent training to work up the endurance for 1.5 miles.  I will repeat the first week one time before I move on to week two.  🙂

I am pretty sure my persistence is due to my schmancy new running shoes…although they don’t look this clean anymore…

Getting ready for my 1st 5K!!

 ♥ Want to hear my recent inspiration?

Her♥ little brother, ♥O’Reilly (age 8), who was diagnosed with liver disease this year recently joined a track team.

His colitis doesn’t flare up, thanks to his medication, but I can tell in his energy levels that he’s had a rough year.

During a track meet the other day, ♥O’Reilly was passing one of the older boys

and the boy said to him: “Get out of my way, mot**fu**er.”

We asked ♥O’Reilly what he said back to the little lint-licker!

He said, “Nothing, I just beat him.”

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