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July 22, 2013

Group Therapy

Group Therapy

IMG_4428“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

~ Ryunosuke Satoro

For the past couple of years as a runner, I have run alone almost exclusively. It’s not that I don’t occasionally go out with a friend, but mostly, I don’t. My running time is my time to not talk to others, to not answer, to not share. It’s mine. It’s personal.

In years past, however, my preference was always for groups. I did serious martial arts for a long time and part of what I loved was the dynamic of my school. We trained together. We trained a lot, and over time we became like a family. One big sweaty family united by upper cuts and side kicks and wrist locks. In years since I have had similar kinds of experiences in yoga studios, though less so because there is more transience in yoga.

For me personally, a funny thing happened over the years – the harder and more demanding my family and career became, the more I craved activities that took me away from people not towards them. Running lets me be an exercise hermit, and I am grateful for that. It also lets me be at my own pace and push only as much as I want to on any given day. One of my readers here once commented about physical “diminishing returns” in running…and I wonder if this is partly why.

So I started to think recently, that maybe part of the magic of a group has to do with accountability.

When someone else is there to push you, maybe you can expand your limits more than you can on your own?

Continue reading…

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June 28, 2012

Perspectives on Pain

Perspectives on Pain

Tomorrow is my birthday and I will have been running – and sometimes not running – for a year.

That seems crazy. I am sure I’ll have something more to say about it when I wake up.

Today, I have been just over 24 hours without medication for my back and my whole right leg is very unhappy about that – so it should not surprise anyone that I am going to say something about pain.

Pain is one of the great secretes of running. (and don’t any of you deny it)

When you are a non-runner, you look at runners along the side of the road or on treadmills or wherever and you think: Wow, that looks painful! You might even occasionally ask a runner why they would engage in an activity that looks like it hurts and they might laugh and say: Running doesn’t hurt – it feels great!

When you start running, you quickly learn that pain is just part of what you sign up for. Seasoned runners are kind of like military veterans. They won’t just go about telling everyone about their battle injuries – but once they know you are part of the team they all have a story or 5 or 10 to share because now they know you will understand. You hurt your foot and someone is there to tell you about their chronic plantar fasciitis or their last broken toe. Get hip pain and sure enough you will suddenly find 3 runners to tell you about their bursitis. Knee pain? No worries – five of your new runner friends will tell you about how they came back from that ACL repair and that that was the very thing that pushed them to a new personal record or their first marathon.

And you are going to tell me that running doesn’t hurt???

Running does hurt. Seriously. Let’s just all admit that. But it also feels great and this is the catch. When you pass that point where the feels great part exceeds the part where it hurts you are hooked.

Maybe that’s when you actually become a runner.

At least I can tell you this – ever since this injury got me to the place where I physically can’t run, I miss it all the time. Each and every time I see a runner on the road or the beach or simply tying their shoes, I get a little pang of sadness, envy, longing. I want that to be me.

Here is a true story from this morning. Continue reading…

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June 27, 2012

Up One Hill and Up Another

Up One Hill and Up Another

I got my MRI results today and I could use this space right here to review it and grieve over it a bit more, but I am not going to.

At least not today.

Today I spoke briefly on the phone with an old friend who always cheers me up. We mostly didn’t talk about my back, but about love and relationship and family and life. I just felt better when we hung up.

Tonight as I was reflecting on my day, I remembered a trip he and I took together in college to Yosemite National Park. We were camped for a time by a little lake in a more remote area of the northern part of the park. Beyond the lake was a ridge that looked like it must have a great view. The first day we set up camp we decided we should go up there to see the sunset. It took almost an hour to get to the top…and we found it was not the top at all. There was another higher ridge just beyond. So we watched the sunset from there and decided to try for the higher peak the next morning.

In the morning we set out. Up the first ridge, across a little flat, up the second ridge to the top…but no…seriously. Not the top, but another peak just beyond that. No problem it was early, we set out for the next one. Get to the top and then go back to camp for lunch. Up we go. What we found there was not what we had imagined. From the top of that ridge, we faced a mountain. A really, really big mountain. All those “peaks” it seemed had just been the foot hills.

For us, on that day, the mountain was just too big. We had not prepared for it.

I started running almost a year ago. I have had challenges on many levels but this thing with pain has been an interesting voyage. Continue reading…

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June 14, 2012

A Rocky Moment

A Rocky Moment







So while I sit around not running this week waiting on my ultrasound results, I might as well tell you about some other things.

At the end of May, I had the pleasure of going to Philadelphia and attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Clinical Endocrinologists. I had not been to Philadelphia since I was a teenager, and was hoping to get out at least a little and see some of the city.

Since I took up running, and I travel often for work, it has become kind of a fun adventure to find cool places to run when I am away from home. When it turned out that the Philadelphia Museum of Art was almost exactly a mile and a half from my hotel…well, how could I resist. And, yes, I took a picture with the statue too. And no, I am not going to post that. Continue reading…

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May 28, 2012

Of Titles and Name Calling

Of Titles and Name Calling

Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title.
~ Thomas Paine

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names
~ Chinese Proverb

On Mother’s Day this year  my mom gave me a gift certificate for my favorite running store. The card said “For your new-found passion.” As I was contemplating the cute new running skirt I had just seen in their mailer, I had this thought: My mom thinks of me as a runner.

Almost 43 years ago, and perhaps without even intending to, my mom gave me my first title: Daughter. I still hold that title along with mother, ex-wife, doctor, friend, boss and others. Mostly, I am comfortable with all of them.

Since I started running in June of last year, I have occasionally had someone call me a runner – sometimes seriously, sometimes as a joke. Mostly it has felt awkward and uncomfortable – like a thing I am trying on and I am not sure I am comfortable enough to wear it out in public.

I had a recent conversation about this with another friend who is a doctor. She didn’t understand why I was not comfortable being called a runner after nearly a year. It went like this: Continue reading…

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April 10, 2012

Far Away with Children and Running Shoes

Far Away with Children and Running Shoes

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
~ Anais Nin

6 AM in Darwin, NT, Australia is 1:30 in the afternoon and a day behind in California. I woke this morning feeling like a weary time traveler. My 10 year old had taken all the blankets (but given that it’s 95 degrees here most of the day, that was not so bad) and my 12 year old is snoring like a wild bear.

All I can think is:

Can I find my running shoes in the dark and get back before they are awake?

I change in the dark. Whisper in the ear of my older son that I’ll be back within an hour and slip out the door. He grunts and rolls over. Did he hear me?

10 minutes later I am running here:







Sometimes it seems like – just when I start to get accommodated to the level of chaos I have – I throw a new challenge at myself for sport. So why not a major international business trip combined with my kids’ spring break vacation?

I know at least some of you are laughing now. Continue reading…

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March 6, 2012

On Being and Becoming

On Being and Becoming

It is a puzzling thing.  The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. 

~Robert M. Pirsig

The transitions in life are sometimes hard to see.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. There are obvious transitions – birth, death, marriage, a new job, a new house. But there are others that – even if profound – sort of sneak up on you and may only be visible in hindsight.

Isn’t that funny? We think the things in front of us should be easiest to see right – the thing right in front of your face, right in front of your eyes…but no, like the mom with eyes in the back of her head we can really see what’s behind us better than anything.

Today I realized that I went running because I wanted to.

Mostly, for the better part of 8 months I have been running as a sort of commitment/experimental challenge. It’s been hard, it’s been painful – but it gets results and that s what I have been looking for. Convenience and results. I have not asked for more. Ok, I have asked for a little bit more. I have been hoping – secretly, and sometimes out loud – that I might find the magical thing that makes people fall in love with running.

Love of anything is always a bit secretive isn’t it? Sometimes we find out the thing we thought we loved is not even a thing we like…and sometimes the thing we never expected shows up and finds a way into our hearts. Continue reading…

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February 17, 2012

Listening to Solitude

Listening to Solitude

Solitude stands by the window
She turns her head as I walk in the room
I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting
Standing in the slant of the late afternoon
– Suzanne Vega

Do you every have a day – or maybe even a week in your life where the universe keeps trying to tell you something over and over and over again? I have been very busy lately, and very stressed, and struggling with my asthma – so maybe by today the universe just needed to shout at me a little…

It started early this morning. Thanks to the hefty dose of drugs I am taking for my lungs I was wide awake at some hour of the morning that barely qualifies as morning. I read this great blog post titled What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space by Scott Belsky. It’s a short piece, I hope you read it. In it he talks about the increasing pressure to be be constantly plugged in and with this the loss of disconnected down time. He reflects on this loss of time alone and relates it to the loss of the “creative pause”- the moments, where the mind, no longer listening to the outside world, can turn in and listen to itself. He writes:

In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.

I saved the article. Tried to quiet my mind. Tried to sleep. No such luck. Continue reading…

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February 15, 2012

Remembering to Smile

Remembering to Smile

Smile, breathe and go slowly.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

There are days when I feel like I simply forget what really matters.

For several days now I have been really struggling with my breathing. I have asthma, so this happens sometimes, but when it get protracted and out of control, it can take over my whole world.  Mostly, we get to get to go through life and things like breathing just happen. But when they don’t, trust me, it can through things off in the rest of your life.

I am not – of course – actually going to blame my asthma for the horrible leak under my kitchen sink, but it didn’t entirely feel like a coincidence last night. Continue reading…

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February 9, 2012

The Meaning of Push

The Meaning of Push

Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable.
~ Leo Rosten

Today, I am home with a sick kid. I am playing doctor-mom, working from my kitchen, trying not be be distracted by the laundry and the unopened mail. There is never a time when there isn’t too much to do.

Today I also decided on a 5k run. It’s warm and sunny here and I thought that a break outside would clear my mind that was feeling pretty slow (think up every two hours with kid with fever and cough…I know some of you have been there).

I don’t know if it was my tired brain, but somehow, barely a third of the way into my run, I just wanted to stop. I slowed my pace, thought about the route ahead, thought about the route back. No choice seemed good.

Then I thought about what it takes to push.

A good push is often what it takes to get something done. Pushes can come in lot of forms – I have seem my kids’ coaches push a child back on the field or into the pool because he somehow knows that if he just gets him out there it will all be fine. I have felt my self pushed by a challenging task or a an obstacle that needs overcoming. It’s funny isn’t it – the way that positive enticements (accomplishment, reward, money, etc) often feel like the carrot we chase, but that a bit of adversity or an obstacle in our path can seem like a slap on the back? Continue reading…

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