6am Serenity.

It’s 4:45am on a Monday morning and my cell phone screen lights up with the alarm. I quickly silence it, swing out of bed, and grab the running clothes I laid out the night before. I change and sneak out into the dark hoping I didn’t wake my fiancee. With my eyes barely open I navigate my way onto the nearly empty Expressway. Mental check to make sure I’m headed to the right location. As I park and make my way towards the small circle forming under a street light I can hear the rumblings of early morning chatter. Our circle grows, the conversation grows with it. We huddle together and recite the Serenity Prayer. “…. the courage to change the things I can…”. And then, we run.

photo (1)

As we make our way through the sleeping streets of the city conversation topics vary. With my wedding quickly approaching I’m constantly asked about last minute details, what my dress looks like. We discuss everything on these runs: race strategies for the upcoming half marathon, someone’s recent diabetes diagnosis, what it’s been like since being released from jail. As most runners know there is no judging while on the run. Conversations in this space are safe.
We loop back, and huddle again – slightly out of breath and sweaty. The serenity prayer is repeated and as the sun rises over the city we disperse to shower, to head to work, to class, to doctor’s appointments. And while most people are just waking up – I’m already well into my workday.
69288_10152251133271273_175377063_n
I love the look I get when I tell people what I do for a living. “So let me get this straight – you run with homeless people?” Yes, as the Program Director for Back on My Feet Boston I do run with people who are experiencing homelessness. I also run with people who are living in sober homes, who have recently been released from jail, and who have spent more of their life being high than they have clean. I also run with people who live in their own apartments, who are college graduates, who hold full time jobs. I run with people who are parents, who treat their pets like human beings, who prefer 5Ks over 5 milers. I run with people. We have similarities. We have differences. But as the sun comes up – we are all just runners.
FullSizeRender

This is the incredible movement that is Back on My Feet. We are a running, walking, and wellness program that works with homeless or at-risk individuals. In joining our teams participants are able to gain a sense of community, of discipline, and of self confidence. With these gains they discover the power they have to take the steps to move their lives forward, to work towards self-sufficiency and independence.

FullSizeRender

My heartstrings are forever tied to this mission because I understand the transformative power of running. I’ve experienced it myself. I know how it feels to have someone believe in you, to watch your self confidence grow from the ground up. I know what it’s like to take those itty bitty steps forward; afraid to fall but curious if you’ll fly. And to do it without judgement; or fear of rejection.

My job certainly isn’t easy. My days start early and sometimes are incredibly long. Sometimes I spend an entire afternoon sifting through boxes of running shoes, some days I sit quietly listening to the pain of someone who is struggling to stay sober in a world of temptation. Often my job is heartbreaking. But it can also be incredibly inspiring. I’ve witnessed team members who swear they’ll never run go a mile without stopping. I’ve paced guys through their first 5K; which somehow is more exciting than crossing your own first finish line. I’ve heard the pride in someone’s voice as they tell me they haven’t had a cigarette in 2 weeks, that they got the job they wanted, that today marks their first anniversary of being clean. It’s an amazing feeling to get to be a part of moments like that, to know my program has had an impact on their lives.

IMG_0700And so on April 20th I will be running for these individuals. Particularly for 26 individuals who have inspired me, who have challenged me in my job for the better, who have shown me how they push forward despite the challenges they face. On marathon day I will think of each of them, mile by mile, as I push myself towards Boylston Street. If they can do it, so can I.

To see the names of my 26 team members, learn more about Back on My Feet, or to help me as I work towards my fundraising goal click here. Thank you for your support!

*housekeeping note – I am headed off on my honeymoon so there will be no blog post for the next two weeks. Catch you all up before Thanksgiving :)

 

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

So….. I’M RUNNING A FREAKING MARATHON?!

I’m still giddy over last week’s post.

While this has been in the works for a while it’s finally now starting to feel real- this is really happening.

I’m going to run a marathon.

I’m going to run THE BOSTON MARATHON!

10653541_10102346029624712_7262812047710897521_n

Sometimes I catch myself saying it out loud to absolutely no one, simply because hearing the words come out of my mouth gives me goosebumps.

I am incredibly honored to be running Boston for my organization, Back on My Feet (more on that coming soon!). I know that some people frown upon charity bibs and feel that you don’t deserve to run unless you qualify. But for someone like me who knows they will never be fast enough – this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so appreciative of it.

FullSizeRender

I know that over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about taking a break. Obviously this break was two fold: yes I’m tired and a bit burnt out from constantly training, but this is also a break to get my body ready for this crazy adventure I’m about to embark on. I know (or I should say I’ve been told a million times by now) that marathon training is going to be like nothing I’ve experienced before. So the next few months are going to be spent getting myself ready both physically and mentally. More time swimming, strength training, rolling, stretching, yoga-ing. I keep reminding myself that everything I do in the next few months is going to make me stronger for training. Make me stronger as a marathoner (Gah! That word!).

IMG_2462

Of course I’m still running, but minimal miles and just when I feel like it. The kicker? I’ve been Garmin free for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. (“Father please forgive me, it has been two weeks since my last Garmin paced run”). At first I thought I was going to hate it, but I’m kind of liking running according to how my body feels (I still tap my wrist at every intersection sadly).

I like that I’m going for a run because it’s nice out, because I had a bad day, because I know that I will feel better after those thirty minutes. I like that I can chose my route based on what view I want to see, not how far I have to go. I like that I’m running simply because I want to – not because it’s written on my plan somewhere. Without any goals I’m focusing on how my body feels, my kick ass new playlist, the leaves crunching under my feet.  I can’t remember the last time I ran this way, but I like it. I feel stronger.

IMG_2487

I know that marathon training is going to get tough, and it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to make me cry (a lot, if I know myself by now). I’ve heard it enough times that I get i – it’s going to suck. But I also know that I want to appreciate every second of this journey, even the sucky parts. I want to take it all in, I want to do it right. This may be my one opportunity to run Boston and I don’t want to look back with any regrets. I’m thankful that I have this blog to help me capture all of the moments of this journey, because I want to remember it all. And I hope that you’re not already sick of hearing “the M word” and that you’ll buckle up and join me for this crazy, crazy ride… errr run. :)

IMG_2623

The Third Monday in April.

My earliest memories of the Boston Marathon begin in elementary school. Marathon Monday is first and foremost, Patriot’s Day which for Massachusetts kids means … vacation! I remember playing on the blue carpet in my grandparent’s living room with my brothers, glancing up at the television every now and then as my grandparents switched back and forth between the Red Sox game and Marathon coverage. “I ran the Marathon once” my grandfather said as he leaned back into his recliner. “Got a beer and a hot dog at the end”. My grandfather passed away 14 years ago so it remains an urban legend if he ever did cross that blue and yellow finish line. But perhaps, that is where my spark first began. I like to think so anyway.

 

FullSizeRender

 

In high school I dated a boy from Wellesley, the half way point in the race. I remember it being a gray, cold day as we stood and watched the elites run by so fast it was hard to make out their facial expressions. Being a teenage girl, after a while I naturally was more interested in flirting and holding hands than I was in watching complete strangers run by. But I still remember how fascinating I found it.

 

In 2012 the temperature reached 88 degrees by mid afternoon. My fiancee and I, sweat-stained from sitting in the sun at the Red Sox game, poured out into Kenmore Square just as thousands of people do each year. I was just days into my weight loss and both miserable and proud that I had sat through 9 innings slowly chewing on a portioned bag of almonds I had snuck in. As we made our way towards the crowded train station I saw an opening at the barricades and pushed my way into it. I told my fiancee that I was pretty sure that the trainer I had just started seeing was running. I scanned the runners, as if I would pick out someone I had just met in a crowd of 20,000 people. I remember watching people shuffle by, with pained looks on their faces, thinking “Who the HELL would ever want to do this? These people are CRAZY”. Even though it seemed absolutely insane this little voice in my head made me wonder if I could ever be a runner, if I could ever do something that incredible. The curiosity was there. The spark grew.

 

IMG_2626

 

On April 15th, 2013 I was inside of a porta-potty on Boylston Street when the bombs went off. That trainer from the year before had become my good friend and just 5 minutes before the chaos I cheered from the bleachers as I watched her cross the finish line. While the walls of plastic protected me physically from the explosion, there was nothing that could protect me from the emotional angst I felt for days, weeks, and months following the race. I was afraid that what I had witnessed would take away my love for running, but in fact it only made it grow deeper. And that spark that I had started to feel grew into a stronger flame. I vowed to become a stronger runner, to someday push myself towards the incredible goal of chasing that unicorn.

 

FullSizeRender (1)

 

“Take Back Boylston” became the theme of 2014, and boy did my friends do just that. Now fully submerged in a community of runners I developed quite a crew of friends and colleagues who trained throughout a miserable New England winter. I listened to their stories of frigid 20 mile runs, I helped them reach their fundraising goals. I went with them to pick up their bibs at the expo. I assisted in the coordinating of race day outfits, envious of every step of their journey. I told myself that someday it would be my turn.

 

And on Marathon Monday I headed out on the same route, stopping in the same spots, cheering louder and harder than ever before. I stood in the family waiting area observing runners hobble to meet their loved ones, with medals around their necks and giant grins on their faces. I was envious of all of it. On that day I realized there was no question of a flame – there was a full fire of desire burning within my little runner heart. I wanted it. I wanted all of it.

 

unnamed

 

It has been six months since that beautiful third Monday in April and the flame I felt that day hasn’t diminished. In fact it’s continued to grow, every single day, with every single run I lace up for. It is this burning desire that I have never felt before. A desire to take on that epic course, to cross that iconic finish line, to feel that medal slide over my head. A desire to accept the ultimate challenge.

 

And with that I am so overly excited/scared out of my pants to announce that this year, on the third Monday in April, I Kathleen – the former half ass, about to become the ABSOLUTE bad ass – will be running the 119th Boston Marathon.

 

And I can’t wait to share my journey with you. :)
2015bostonmarathon

Running tough.

At what point do you figure you’ve learned everything there is to know about running? Is there a certain amount of time that passes – or a specific milestone? In the last two and a half years I feel like I’ve learned a lot, even enough at times. At first it was the basics: put on a pair of shoes, head out the door, left, right, left. Then I started learned about paces, types of shoes, fueling, distance. You’re all set to go.

Ah except for this thing called mental toughness. Which it turns out- is not as simple as left, right, left. Mental toughness takes time to develop, mental toughness takes technique, practice, strength. I’ve seen a glimmer of it from time to time- when I finished Timberman completely on my own or just last week in that shit show of a triathlon.

FullSizeRender

But more often that not lack of mental toughness gets the best of me. I actually really suck at it. It gets lost in my brain, overpowered by this nagging voice that says I can’t do it.

It reared it’s ugly head this weekend – somewhere between miles 8 and 13. That’s usually where the wall hits for me. There’s nothing worse than cruising along on a beautiful fall day, visions of a PR on the time clock in your head when suddenly – there it is. It has the effect of a migraine, coming on fast and furious and you pray that if you try not to think about it it will just go away. These miles get blurry, your legs get heavy, and it’s hard to remember much except the feeling of wanting to stop. Of reaching out to the person closest to you begging them to make IT stop.

IMG_2441

But the feeling that comes after that? It’s even worse, and it remains clear in your memory long after your feet stop moving. It’s the feeling of knowing you gave in, of disappointment, of regret. The feeling that you let the voice win again.

IMG_2440

Despite the mental battles I crossed the finish with just :34 seconds to spare. A PR by the skin of my teeth, but a PR nonetheless. I’m proud of that, I know that I put in some decent work out there. I just can’t help but wish I could go back in time and change those seconds and minutes I wasted. It could have been so much more than :34 seconds.

IMG_2366

And so I’ve answered my own question – there is so much more to learn. Mental toughness remains a mystery to me. I can’t grasp my brain around it. I’m hoping this break will help me figure out some motivations and methods to tackle it so that at some point I can jump far over that wall – and never look back.

FullSizeRender (1)

A race gone wrong.

I hated writing this post. Every single word of it. I love the weeks when I tell you how I’m rocking and rolling, PRing and feeling on top of the world. I hate the weeks when I have to be real and honest and raw, when I have to admit defeat.

When we decided to trade in our Labor Day Triathlon for a weekend of fun and relaxation I came home and immediately signed up for this one. I couldn’t let the summer pass by without doing at least one tri and I knew that if I actually registered it would force me to follow through with it. So despite all the chaos of the wedding I managed to squeeze in a decent amount of swims, bricks, and finally learned how to ride a road bike.

Race morning was a bit hectic – we arrived late, had a hard time finding parking, hurried to pick up our packets and set up our transition areas. I felt scattered from the start. And then I began to notice that very few people were without a wet suit, and I started getting really nervous about the swim. I knew it was my strongest leg, but I couldn’t help but imagine myself as a frozen iceberg in the middle of the pond. Despite the recent warm weather it is September in New England after all. As someone sang the national anthem I went in up to my ankles and it was exactly what I thought it would be: brrr. I told myself it would just help me swim faster.

FullSizeRender
What happened next is both a blur and yet very clear in my head. Our wave was called, the airhorn sounded, and everyone bounced into the water. I walked in up to my chest and then dove under. Almost instantly my body felt stiff, my lungs felt like they had been sucked right into my heart. I jerked my head out of the water, and tried to calm down and swim. I couldn’t catch my breath, I felt like I was weighed to the ground. Barely a minute into the swim I yelled to my buddy “I can’t do this” and turned around.

Climbing out of the water to a beach full of people staring at me was one of the most mortifying moments of my life. I was barely in the sand before my husband was there wrapping his arms around me and I of course responded in the only way I know how, by bursting into hysterical tears. My heart ached from embarrassment, from panic, and with the realization that I had just blown the entire day in seconds. I have never felt like such a failure.

My immediate instinct was to flee – leave all my gear in the transition area, ditch my buddy, and get away from that park and all those people who had just witnessed my disaster. Once my husband had calmed my hysterics he convinced me that we should stay to cheer on my friend, and then suggested I ask the race volunteers if I could jump in with her for the bike and the run. The sweet woman I shuffled up to told me that she had seen me get out of the water and that she felt terrible for me, and that I could keep my chip on and keep going.

I headed back into the transition area, dreading the disappointed look I would get from my buddy when she returned from the swim. To my surprise she asked if I was okay, and then reminded me that sometimes you have to make smart calls. Knowing that she wasn’t mad made the blow a little softer and I threw on my clothes, took my bike off the rack, and we headed out.

IMG_2271

The combination of anger at myself and knowing that I couldn’t mess up any more made me ride faster, push harder, and run stronger. I didn’t dare complain and I knew I couldn’t stop so I gave it everything I had. I rode further and faster than ever before, and my run splits were better than any triathlon or brick I’ve ever done. It’s a shame that I didn’t finish the swim because I could have had a really decent time and walked away glowing.

IMG_2270

Instead we crossed the finish line, and I was handed a medal that I knew didn’t belong to me. I smiled for pictures, but I was cringing on the inside. I kept my fingers crossed that no one would recognize me and yell at me for continuing on. I got home and immediately threw away the swim cap, ferociously scrubbed the sharpie tattoo on my arm. I just wanted it all to go away.

FullSizeRender (1)It’s been a few days and I’ve been retelling the story by cracking jokes, because it’s a lot less awkward to laugh than it is to spill warm tears. But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset, not embarrassed, not disappointed in myself. I’m scared that the memory of my panic in the water will affect me in the future, will surface again the next time I face the open water. It’s my first real black mark.

I know I’ve got to pull myself together, got to tuck away my lessons learned, got to get back out there. And I will at some point. I’m just not done sulking yet.

What motivates you?

“What motivates you?” It’s a question that I’ve been asked quite a few times over the last few years. People are always curious as to what made me wake up and decide I wanted to lose the weight, change my lifestyle, and become one of those crazy runner people. And I’m realizing lately, it’s a question that doesn’t hurt to ask yourself every now and then.

The week leading up to the wedding happened to also be a pretty high mileage week for me- with a sprint tri just two weeks after the big day and a half marathon the week after I had a long run, some bricks, and some pool time to get in. No problem. With the week off from work I figured I would pencil them in as a break from table assignments and sign painting.

IMG_0072

Except that when the time came for my workouts I kicked, screamed, whined, half assed, and even ditched some of them completely. What I thought would be a welcome distraction was just another to-do… that I didn’t want anything “to-do” with. I got the bare minimum accomplished and told myself that once the wedding was over I would be back to normal.

Until the workouts after the big day felt just the same as the week before. I got really good at talking myself out of getting out the door and staying on the couch. I’d kick myself after, but that didn’t stop me from not getting it done or not trying as hard as I could have. And every time I complained about not wanting to go for a run that same question was always asked of me “Why are you doing this?”

IMG_1879

Obviously I can’t use the “white dress” excuse anymore – but we all know by now it was always more than that. So what is it? What makes me want to get up on a Saturday morning and run 10 miles alone? Why do I come home from work, change, and head out on the bike? What motivates me to sign up for races, to run new distances, to challenge myself? While I know there’s an answer inside of me, at this very moment I don’t have a clear view of it. I’m just so tired.

I’ve been running long enough now to recognize a burnout coming. And after a summer of wedding planning, training, Run Club, and the rest of my life- it’s no surprise I’m tired. So I’m pulling myself together and rallying through the next two weeks, because that’s what a true bad ass would do. And then I’m ready for a well deserved break when I can sit back and remember all those reasons I love what I do…. from the comfort of my couch.

Short & Sweet

I still can’t believe I’m married. It’s been 4 days and I constantly catch myself saying “Did that really happen? Is it really over?” Just as everyone told me all those years, months, weeks and days that went into planning disappeared with the blink of an eye.

Luckily those same people told me take moments in the day to just let it all sink in, and I’m so glad I did. I did it as I watched the sun rise over the ocean on my morning shake out run. I did it as I stood back in a big, bright kitchen, as I watched some of the most important women in my life curl hair, pour mimosas and laugh. I did it as I stood in an open doorway, pacing between checking for the limo and looking in the mirror because I just couldn’t believe what was staring back at me. I did it as I sat in silence in the empty limo, staring out the window as familiar faces made their way to rows of white chairs. I did it as I took my first steps down the grassy path, clutching the crook of my father’s arm. I did it as I watched my husband shakily slip a band onto my finger, as he spun me on the dance floor for our first dance, and as I watched my parents trade off dance partners with my new brother and sister-in-law. I don’t think a tent has ever felt as much love and happiness as that tent did that night. I’ve certainly never.

And so this week, I’m going to leave my words at that – and let a few pictures do the talking, for they say it best. I’ll be back next week with my usual ramblings but today, I’m going to spend some more time in this wave of happiness. :)

 

PS. Thanks to the friends/family for capturing these shots. If you want to see more (I mean, how could you not? ;) ) check out our photographer, Rebecca Deaton’s blog post.

photo (14)

photo (10)

 

10703994_964120560280026_8721442440343478333_o

photo (11)

photo (9)

photo (8)

photo (7)

photo (2)

photo (12)

photo (1)

photo (5)