Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Marathon Memories

I’ve spent the past two weeks in a post-marathon haze. The first 24 hours were euphoric, then the exhaustion set in. This exhaustion was both physical and emotional. I’m slowly coming out of it and can now think clearly and function at a reasonably normal level again.

The Marathon was by far one of the most amazing and incredible experiences of my life. I finished in 5:08, running the entire way. The average marathon time for a woman in my age range (50-54) is 5:06. I finished in the bottom quarter of my age group for this Marathon. This group (50-54 year old women) represented only 2 % of the 11,000+ marathon runners that day. I ran for my own reasons but I hope I represented them well.

While I was running, I tried to keep my mind clear and focused on only one thing…the next stride. Because of this, I initially thought that I didn’t have a lot of memories of the race. I was wrong. Now that some time has passed, the memories are coming to me in multitudes. I organized the Top Ten and want to share them with you.

     Menopausal Marathoner’s Top Ten Marathon Memories

10. Looking forward in the starting corral and seeing nothing but a sea of runners slowly approach the starting line and then take off.  The sheer magnitude of runners is hard to describe. The start was massive and orderly at the same time. Everyone was friendly but for the most part subdued. The task ahead had its effect on the collective mood.

9. Deciding within a mile of the start that I had absolutely no interest or desire to look at or garner information from my new $179 GPS Runners Watch.  I hid it under my sleeve for the entire race and also told coach that I didn’t want to know ANYTHING. This included miles, pace, and/or time. This is the old “ostrich with its head in the sand” way of coping with stress. Now, obviously I was aware of our position from time to time since there were clocks and mile markers at regular intervals.  Still this allowed me to run most of the way unencumbered with thoughts of my progress or lack thereof.

8. Discarded hats and headbands along the route for the first 8 miles or so. This may sound like a strange thing to remember and even focus on, but it really struck me, possibly because I was running with my head down as usual. I assume that as the runners got warmer, they didn’t need their hats, headbands, etc. so they just tossed them. Now I can see tossing a cheap headband but there were some very high end brands lying on the road. I saw Northface and Nike gear to name a few. I had to fight the urge to pick some of it up even though I knew that any clothing or gear discarded at the race was later collected and sent to charities. That and the fact that the hundreds of runners surrounding me would have most likely tripped over me had I stopped, kept me going.

7. Random strangers calling out my name and cheering me on. It wasn’t just me they were cheering for, it was everyone that went by, but it did help. I now know the purpose of having your first name on your racing bib. It’s not so you can make friends during the race, it’s so the supporters can call you out by name. It was strange at first to hear my name called out like that, but I got used to it very quickly and even tried to give the random stranger a quick thumbs up and a thank you as I ran by. It was also funny how many times I heard ”Go Shannon!!”. For my next Marathon, I’m going to make sure that my bib is on front and center with no wrinkles.

6. Coach managing EVERYTHING! Let’s not kid ourselves, I was under a bit of stress and I wasn’t always as mature and kind as I would have liked to have been. Early on, I deferred to Coach for all things race related. He handed me his bottles of Gatorade so I wouldn’t have to reach around in my fuel pack for mine. He stopped on a regular basis and refilled these bottles at the aid stations so I could just run on and let him catch up with me. He reminded me to take my Gu every 5 miles. He understood that I needed him to run in front of me, not beside me, effectively pulling me along. He even managed to monitor and support the progress and my daughter and his sons as they made their way into the city, parked, and positioned themselves along the finish line. He did this through numerous texts and calls while he was still running, pacing me.

5. The Half Marathoners forking off to their finish line at 13.1 miles. This produced mixed feelings…envy and pride.

4. Runners of both sexes and all ages beginning to go down all around us. This intensified at around the 15-17th mile and continued to the finish line. A few were driven off with oxygen and IV’s. Most were just bent over by the side of the road in obvious pain, most likely cramping. I felt for them and had to wonder at some point if it would be my fate too.

3. Mistakenly believing that we were at Mile 23 when we were actually only at Mile 22. This was the low point of the race for me.  We had been running close to the official pacer for the 5:00hr finish since about mile 18. She was running with a group, while holding a pole with balloons and 5:00 written on it. This young lady could not only run but she had a huge set of lungs on her. She talked loudly while she ran, telling stories to distract her followers while encouraging them at the same time. At one point, I thought I heard her say we were at the 23rd mile.  I thought, “Yippee! Only 3 to go”! And then, “Wait a minute, that flag up there doesn’t say 23, it says 22! Nooooooooooooooo.” That’s when I hit the wall. The balloons passed me and slowly faded in the distance. I kept running, but I could feel how slow I had gotten. I just couldn’t go any faster, for anything.

2. Finding my daughter, her friend, and Coaches sons in the crowd a few hundred feet from the finish line. I had already been fighting back tears for over a mile. That was the point that I realized for sure that I was going to make it! We passed the 26 mile flag and started searching for our loved ones. I remembered, “Smelly has blond hair,” look for that. And sure enough, there she was, waving and taking pictures. I waved back, so happy to see her. Coach ran over to them for high fives. I couldn’t. Even 20 feet over to the side of the road seemed like too much right then.

1. Crossing the finish line with Coach, our hands clasped and our arms raised high! It felt as good as you can imagine it did. I was overwhelmed. Not just with the joy of finishing, but with the realization of the enormity of the gift that Coach had given me. This man had run 26.2 miles for me, not for him, for me. He was nothing but selfless, kind, and encouraging. This includes not only all the tough training runs, but for 5 long grueling hours during the race. I will never forget what Coach did for me.

This sums up my Marathon experience as best as I can:

Running this Marathon taught me to believe in life again.

 Thanks for sharing my journey! What's next???


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ready or Not, Here I Come

Here I am in my race day outfit, posing with my arms held high. This is how I picture myself crossing the finish line. This picture tells so much of my story. Starting at the bottom, take a look at my new running shoes, size 9 and a half. I also have new socks with special cushioning designed for running. I chose to wear long pants since it will be between 40 and 50 degrees for the duration of the run. Under those pants I have a soft knee brace on each knee, just in case. Around my waist is my fuel pack. It will carry 2 bottles filled with Gatorade, my Iphone, and 5 packs of Gu. My bib has my name on it. I thought it was funny that they put first names on them. I guess to make it easier for you to make friends while you’re running. My age and sex are also on the bib in case someone feels a need to know this about me as well. I have a new head band to keep my hair out of my eyes and to keep my ears warm. I also will be wearing new panties and a new bra. I don’t want to jinx myself, but if anything bad should happen, I don’t want to feel the need to apologize to some ER doctor for the sorry condition of my under garments.

The Philadelphia Marathon is tomorrow. I’m ready as I’ll ever be. I have done the training for 18 weeks. I have to trust that it is enough. This past week was essentially a rest week. After an 8 mile run on Sunday, I only ran 4 and then 3 miles during the week. I skipped a scheduled 2 mile run. This may well be the only run I have skipped for 18 weeks. I am hoping that it wasn’t that important.

I have run 470 miles in 18 weeks. This calculates to 78 runs in 126 days, or one run every 1.6 days. The overall average distance was 6.02 miles per run. My longest run was 20 miles. The shortest would have 2 miles if I had done it. I burned up over 45,000 calories running. This is approximately 13 pounds. It would be nice to say that I lost these 13 pounds but I didn’t. My starting weight was 141, I now weigh 137. If I want to make myself feel better about the lack of weight loss, I rewind back to last November when I took up running. At that time, I weighed 147. Also, I have to admit that one of the biggest perks of the training has been the ability to eat as much as I wanted without worrying about gaining weight. I haven’t had that luxury since I was 16 years old.  

The race starts at 7:00am but with the wave start, we will probably start our race at closer to 8:30am. My goal is to finish in 5 hours. This is an average of 11: 30 minutes per mile. It’s a goal. I honestly don’t know if I can do it. My biggest fear is that my knee won’t hold up for the 26.2 miles. I think that barring that, I can find some way to finish.

Well, wish me luck. I’m excited and scared. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Growing Runs and Growing Pains

As of this writing we are 3 weeks away from the Marathon. The past month has been the most intensive part of the training ie. I’ve run lots of miles. I ran 88 miles in July, 100 miles in August, 102 miles in September ( this is low due to my knee injury which forced me to cut back for 2 weeks), and so far 120 miles in October with 2 days of running left. The miles have had their effect on me, some good and some not so good.

The good news is that it appears I am on track to have a decent shot at finishing the Marathon. Since that has been my goal all along, I consider this huge. I’ve completed one 14, two 15's, and one 20 mile run. The times (miles per minute) for these longer runs are now almost identical to the times for the shorter runs (5-10 miles). I have chosen to consider this a good thing since I’ve never been able to significantly increase my pace at any distance. The fact that it isn’t falling off at such long distances gives me hope that at least I’m getting stronger and more conditioned if not faster.

Now for the not so good news, at the beginning of the intense training period my left knee was still very weak and sore and my right knee was starting to hurt too. I iced both knees multiple times a day, never leaving home without my cooler full of ice packs. I slept with a heating pad between my legs. I went through large amounts of Epsom salts. The pains would  slowly improve until the next long run then come back again.

One day, I wore my running shoes to work. All day, I was walking "crooked". Once I decided it wasn’t me, I started exploring other possible explanations. That led me to look at the bottom of my shoes. From the inside heel to the outside heel, there must have been at least a half inch difference of tread height. This difference continued through the entire length of the shoe to a smaller degree. Both shoes were in the exact same shape. This prompted a trip to the local running store. This store is devoted to meeting the needs of the running addicted. I explained to the young clerk that I thought I needed new shoes. I showed him my old ones and also told him that my knees were hurting. He examined them briefly, told me that the wear pattern was common, and determined that I needed a more stable base.  Ok, I could go with that. But then he asked me to walk barefoot across the room while he watched. Yes, he confirmed, I needed a more stable base. I checked his name tag to see whether he was a Sports Trainer, a Podiatrist, or maybe even an Orthopedist. Neither, he was just your average Joe “I need a job because I just got out of college with a worthless degree” Blow. Obviously, I was skeptical. Next he measured my feet. Joe decided I needed a size 9 and a half!!!

 “I wear an 8 and a half”, I sputtered indignantly.

“No,” he stated calmly,” you wear a 9 and a half.”

After trying on a few models, I swallowed my disgust and picked the least offensive pair. It was a strange feeling, I could actually wiggle my toes in them! Could this be right?

Running addict that I have become, I didn’t let my new big feet stop me from training. I had 2 months to break in my new shoes before the race. So, I kept running and running. The day of our 18 mile training run, coach and I once again went into Philly. We had run our 15 along the Schuykill River and it had gone very well.  It made sense to go there again. Only problem, I was sick. I was up all night with another case of the runs (I seem to get this same illness about once a quarter). By mile 5, I had already blown up 3 porta-potties and was fading fast. At mile 8, I tried to refuel with large amounts of Gatorade and a banana. By mile 11, I gave back all the Gatorade, banana, and most of what I had eaten in the past 24 hours to yet another porta-potty. That’s when it happened. I quit, gave up, surrendered. For the first time since the training began, I did not finish a run that I had started. I staggered out of the porta-potty, (trying to forget what had just transpired) and told coach I couldn’t go on. Good man that he is, he volunteered to run and get the car for me. Before he left, he instructed me to find a park bench and wait for him. We were 2.5 miles into an 8.5 mile loop. I was very thankful and touched as I watched him run off until I realized that he was running in the wrong, LONG direction. Ok, so the world does not revolve around me. I started walking the other, SHORT direction, looking for but not finding a park bench. We ended up getting back to the car at about the same time. He was pumped about the run. He really needed it. He has spent so much time running with me that he must have been bursting to finally run at his own pace. The walk had helped calm my stomach down as well although at least one concerned person commented on how bad I looked! I went home and spent the rest of the day on the couch.  

Coach adjusted my running plan for the next few weeks to make up for the lost run.  Yesterday was the test to see if I was back on track and ready to peak at 20 miles. We ran it in 3 hours and 59 minutes with much encouragment from coach. Our goal was to come in under 4 hours. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! We now go into our scale back stage (shorter runs) which allows the body to rest and recover for race day.

Oh yes, one more thing…I want to give a big shout out to Joe Blow!! My knees are no longer hurting before, during, or after any runs short or long. Guess I did need a more stable shoe, even if it was a size 9 and a half.

You go Joe Blow!! You rule the Running Store world!!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Chasing the Road Runner

I ran a marathon last week. It only took 128 hours and 12 minutes (5 days, 4 hours, 12 minutes). So at least we know that I can do it, just need to cut my time a little.

We also know that I can run half a marathon, 13.1 miles. I did that at the Philadelphia Rock N Roll Half Marathon a few weeks ago. My time was 2 hours and 27 minutes. In case you’re curious, I was neither first nor last in any category: overall, women, or age group. The winners came in right around an hour. The winner of my age/sex group came in at around 1 hour and 38 minutes. She was a freakishly fit and beautiful 54 year old woman and henceforth will be known as the Road Runner. I came in 259th (out of 473) place for women in my age group and 6257th out of 8843 women overall. Got a little work to do!

It was a perfect fall day, sunny and upper 60’s. There were over 15,000 runners. The race was run around much of the same course that the full marathon will use in November. It was a perfect training opportunity for me. The start and finish areas were at the Philadelphia Art Museum (think Rocky). The beginning of the race went through downtown Philly. After that, there was a long stretch along the Schuykill River where the old boathouses are located and so many elite rowing teams train. All along the route, there were live bands playing and numerous volunteer groups cheering everyone on.  There was one man dressed in a super hero outfit dancing to boom box tunes. Gatorade and Gu (energy gel) stations were positioned about every two miles. Porta-Potties were everywhere! What a relief.

The start was organized in “corrals” so that the runners went in waves. The faster runners went in the first corral, the next fastest in the second and so on. Coach and I were in the 16th corral. You are assigned a corral according to what you estimate your finish time to be when you register. I think there were about 20 corrals. The race started at 8am but coach and I didn’t actually cross the starting line until about 20 minutes later when our corral was finally up. Each runner has an individual timing chip attached to their shoes so it doesn’t matter that you start late, your time is still accurately tracked. The wave starts also allow runners of the same ability to run together so that there are not as many collisions with faster runners pushing to pass slower runners etc. It was comforting to be surrounded by runners of similar ability. It would have been much more intimidating otherwise.

Coach and I started out slow. I was nervous about my knee holding up and needed to get my confidence. We ran at about an 11:30 minute per mile pace for the first few miles. Lots of other runners were passing us at that stage. As I got warmed up, we started slowly going faster for the mid part of the race. It was around miles 8 through 10 that we noticed other runners around us starting to slow down and drop out. Some were getting medical attention on the side of the road. Once we passed the 10 mile marker, we picked up the pace again. Now we were running at a 10:30 minute per mile pace and passing everyone around us. Each time I tell the story, the number of people we passed increases. At this point in time, I’m sure it was in the hundreds! Our last mile was our fastest at under 10:00 minutes per mile. At no time during the race was I out of breath or struggling. Toward the end, my legs were tired and heavy but I was not in pain.

We came into the finish line holding our arms in the air. It felt like a victory. We were handed a medal and proceeded to get our picture taken. After that, it was on to the “recovery area” where we were handed water, Gatorade, bananas, power bars, and chips. We looked everywhere for the beer tent but never found it.

I did some cyber stalking a few days after the race on the marathon photo web site. That’s where I “met” the Road Runner. She is what I will never be… a true runner. I admire her, respect her, love her, and hate her. I bet she never tripped on a walkway bridge and messed up her pinky finger. I bet she has actually run in Central Park. I bet her coach can’t keep up with her!!!  

Still…it makes no sense to expend energy being envious or jealous. I’ve accomplished so much in my short career as a runner. After all, I survived a half marathon and must have passed a thousand runners in the last 3 miles. Instead of being negative, I’m going to “find the pony”.  It’s time to channel MY inner Road Runner. Look out!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Finding the Pony in Central Park

As the runs have gotten longer, coach and I have tried to find ways to make them entertaining so that our excitement for the training doesn’t wane. We did a six mile run along Avalon beach and a twelve mile run in Center City, Philadelphia. I did eleven miles in my hometown of Anderson, IN and fourteen miles in Louisville KY where my daughter lives. It takes some time and planning, especially since these runs are taking 2 and 3 hours at a time. Recently, we had trouble fitting our fifteen mile run in over the weekend so we did it on a Monday afternoon. This was not our best idea. It was hot and humid and we both had already put in a full day of work. We ran on a local road with lots of hills. We made relatively good time, 3 hours 11 minutes, but we both got too dehydrated and over- heated. I was sick for an hour after the run. Even worse, my left knee started hurting and over the next two days deteriorated to the point that I could not walk without limping or even climb stairs. I started self-treating with ice and ibuprofen and just hoped for the best.

We had planned to do our next long run of fourteen miles in Central Park, NYC. This was 6 days after the ill-fated fifteen mile run. The morning of the run was beautiful and the park was bustling with runners. My knee was better, but far from good. I wanted to run in the park so badly. I wanted to be a part of all the energy and activity. I wanted to experience this with Coach.

I wanted the Marathon more.

I bowed out. I knew that by running, I was putting in jeopardy any hopes to participate in the marathon. My knee needed more time to heal and rushing the process could have completely derailed my training.

My mother used to say that I was a “Where’s the pony girl”. It’s an old saying used to describe someone with an eternally optimistic attitude. The story goes that a little girl walks into a barn full of horse shit and she looks up at her Daddy and asks, “Where’s the pony?” My life has sucker punched me in the gut on more than a few occasions and I have lost that little girl. If I were to walk into a barn full of horse shit now, I would probably say, “Other than me, who’s going to clean up this mess?” Well, that day at Central Park, I’d like to think that I got a little closer to the person I used to be. I let go of my disappointment and decided to find other things to enjoy in the park. It wasn’t hard to do.

First the people watching: I saw people of all races and nationalities enjoying themselves in different ways. Some were running and walking, of course, others were riding in horse drawn carriages, doing yoga, and competing in large groups of Simon Says. I saw people boating in a small pond with a gondolier and a woman playing classical music on a violin. There were 3 bongo drummers, two black men with long dreadlocks and one white guy in a basketball jersey and a baseball cap. There was a very fit father running shirtless in bike shorts while pushing two kids in a stroller. I saw him twice.

Second the sights: I saw the Dakota where John Lennon lived and died. I saw his “Imagine” memorial in “Strawberry Fields”. Coach and I were contemplating just how many of the Beatles’ songs were written while they were high and concluded that probably most of them would fit that billing. We put Imagine and Let it Be on top of the list. There are parts of the park that are wooded, parts with lakes and ponds, and parts with ballparks and playgrounds. There were statues of all sorts, everywhere. Funny how many of them are posed with their arms in the air. Elation or exhaustion?  Victory or surrender?

Third the experiences: I went swinging. I got really high just like I used to do when I was a young girl. I lasted all of 30 seconds before the nausea set in. Not to be deterred, Coach and I decided to ride the Merry Go Round. The price was right, only $2.50. I had the outside pony, he had the middle, and some other woman was on the inside. It was a long fun ride. Coach tried to be friendly to his fellow rider by inquiring, “Ride here much?” She looked slightly baffled and confused. Maybe she didn’t speak English. A photographer took our picture. At the end of the ride we checked this out but had to reject it when we were informed that they had no way to photo shop my waistline or his chin line. We succeeded in making ourselves laugh even if none of the other people around us fully appreciated our humor.

I enjoyed watching a very fit father running shirtless in bike shorts while pushing two kids in a stroller. Wait, did I already mention him?

 That day in Central Park I feel like I not only found the pony, I rode it!!!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MenopausalMarathoner Answers Your FAQ's

The training continues……lots of running. I ran for 3 hours and 19 minutes this past Sunday. That was 14 miles, which if you project forward means it would take me about 6 hours to finish the full marathon. The cut off is 7 hours. That’s when they start packing the tents and take down the finish line. The only people left to cheer me on would be the truly diehard “’Pausal Possey” members, of which there are few. I hope to make you proud or at least not too embarrassed to wear your “’Pausal Possey” gear around the house. I still have 2 and a half months left to train.

I get many questions from people when I tell them about the marathon and I thought this would be a good time to answer as many as I can. Really, there is no reason that I can’t answer all of them now that I think about it. So here they are:

Are you running a half marathon?                                                                                                               
 I get this question almost every time I say, “I’m going to run a marathon.” I wonder if my feelings should be hurt. Let me set the record straight. I am running a marathon which is 26.2 miles long. The original marathon man was a Greek named Phidippides. He was on a mission too. It was slightly more important than mine. He was warning Athens of a possible attack from Persia. He had a busy week with lots of running and battling and then he died.

Does anything hurt when you run?  
 If you were to see me while I’m running, you would surely think that everything hurts. You might say to yourself “Boy, SOMETHING is surely hurting that poor woman.” But you would be mistaken. I have been very lucky so far in that no body parts are causing me any long term pain or discomfort. I have the occasional twinge here or there but it generally goes away as soon as I stop running. I stretch semi-aggressively on a regular basis and pay particular attention to my Achilles tendons since I read they are more susceptible for injury in older persons. I mostly have issues with “tired” muscles, obviously in my legs. I soak in Epsom salt baths or the Atlantic Ocean (if it’s available) on a regular basis which seems to somewhat relieve the tiredness.


Will you need bathroom breaks during the marathon?                                                                                              
 YES!! I can’t run more than 5 miles without needing a bathroom break. It’s not what you think though. I have no trouble holding my urine, I can’t stop my bowels from moving. In other words, running gives me the runs. I finally read somewhere that it’s not an uncommon problem and is caused by all of the bouncing around. This is a real issue,  because as I’m sure you all know, when you have the runs, you don’t have a lot of time to find a toilet. For my training, I have become very skilled at finding nice wooded areas and squatting. This will not be an option during the actual marathon. I believe there will be portable potties at regular intervals and I will need to be proactive with my stops to “eliminate” this problem before it becomes urgent.


Have you found the “zone” yet?                                                           

No, I have not. Unless of course, the “zone” is that special place where you are constantly checking your times, questioning your sanity, and worrying about finishing the miles. I can only dream about the elusive “zone”. When I find it, I’ll let you know.


Are you on any special nutrition plan?                                                                                                                   
Not exactly, but I do try to eat something in the "not too unhealthy" food group every 3 hours and keep a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, especially for recovery periods. I live on Clif bars. My favorites are White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Peanut Butter. I also drink huge amounts of water and Gatorade the night prior to any run. I have become a disciple of hydration and have accepted that Diet Pepsi is not a hydration friend. I carry a fuelbelt with me on long runs. This can best be described as a fanny pack with water bottles attached to it. You do not have to be a marathon runner to have one of these. Dick’s will sell one to anybody for $45.99. No kidding.


What do you do for a warm down?                                                                    
 I walk home. For long runs I may locate the nearest park bench and rest before I walk home.


What is your favorite thing about training for the marathon?                                                                                    
That’s an easy one.  I love being in shape and being able to eat virtually whatever I want. I burned almost 3000 calories running last week.

 This is a good summary of the many questions that come my way. I hope I’ve given you a better picture into what this whole process has become for me. I do love it and feel blessed to be able to engage in it. I am having so many experiences that I would never have dreamed of having just a year ago.

 That leads to the last, but still very important FAQ, which I will ask of myself:

 What would you say is the most important thing that you’ve learned so far?   
I've learned lots of very important things. It's hard to say whether they are things that I have known all along (and forgotten) or things that are brand new to me.
 They are things like:

*Double knot my shoe strings.

*Trim my toenails.

*Being patient and kind not only works best on other people but on me too.
*If I treat my body well it will amaze me.

*Days off are as important as days on.

*It’s Ok to look around at the beautiful scenery but don’t lose track of the path for too long or you may trip and fall.
*And finally…some miles are longer than others


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Running Through My Past

My marathon training has officially begun. Each week I receive a running schedule from Coach. We are now in week 4 of a 16 week training protocol. There are 4 runs each week of increasing distances with built in rest and cross training days. The cross training days of walks, bicycling, golf, and tennis are refreshing. The rest days are long. If the plan is designed to get me addicted to running, it is working.

The weekly schedule has a rhythm to it. It begins with a short run, doubles up the next day, goes back down for the next, and then hits increasing highs for the last run of each week. This week, I was back in my hometown of Anderson, Indiana and scheduled for my longest run thus far, 11 miles. Instead of just running round and round "looking" for the miles, I planned ahead and plotted out a course which would take me the distance without a lot of hills, traffic, or back tracking. I had plotted my course well but had not anticipated the constant flow of memories that it would evoke.

My hometown was a great place to grow up. It was young and alive, full of awesome parks, good schools, and safe neighborhoods.  Now, it struggles to find that same vitality. Like many other Midwestern rust belt towns, it was jilted by the auto industry some years ago and has never completely recovered. Still, it is mine and I love it. As I ran, memories came to me, not in chronological order, but ordered by distance and place, like mile markers on a highway.

Mile 1- Tam’s Drug Store
From a young age (much younger than the times we live in now would ever consider prudent) my sister, brother, and I would walk the 6 blocks down 10th street to Tam’s to get our fill of candy and soda pop. My favorite treats were Sugar Daddies and Jawbreakers. It seems my habit of treating myself to treats has been around a long time.
Mile 2- Edgewater Park/White River
This park along the river had slides so tall that just climbing up them would cause a knot of fear to form in your stomach. Then, coming down, you would go so fast that you were lucky if you could get your feet underneath you in time to avoid a wipe out at the finish.  A short time later, I ran past the rocks on the bank of the river where my father patiently tried to teach my children to fish. Casting out and reeling in slowly, over and over again

Mile 3- Athletic Park/City Free Fairs     
Growing up in Anderson, the best part of summer came when the City Free Fair came to town. Athletic Park would come alive with carnival rides, games, and food. After riding the Zipper, Scrambler, and Tilt-A-Whirl, the brave children of Anderson ( I include myself in this category) would then attempt to keep down the corn dogs, candy apples, and elephant ears we had gorged on.

Mile 4- Frisch’s Big Boy
This was a 50’s era drive in restaurant. At the end of our first date, my high school sweetheart and I went there. We shared a hot fudge cake, part of which he dribbled down the front of his shirt. We both noticed it, but neither of us mentioned it, maybe we were too shy. I fell in love that night.

Mile 5-Shadyside Lake
I was approaching the halfway point of the run and doing a quick assessment of my progress, when suddenly I turned my head and saw myself clearly at the edge of the lake with my mother and CareBear. I’m not sure exactly what lake we were at, but the memory was vivid. We were feeding bread to the ducks. CareBear was just a toddler and not very steady on her feet. She was so excited and intent on her task that she got too close to the edge of the lake and fell right in. I was close by and immediately reached down and fished her out. The water was only a few feet deep and she was never in any real danger but I had a moment of motherly panic nonetheless. I held her, wet and sputtering, thankful. My CareBear was safe.

So often I stop the memories because they cause so much pain. This memory snuck up on me when my defenses were down. It didn’t hurt though, it was a gift. A gift that running gave me.

I turned around and finished the last half of the run with a peaceful heart. I got more out of it than I gave.