health, hope, running, sports

Inspired: Don’t Just Remember the Boston Marathon. Honor Boston and Its Residents.

Boston Marathon starting line

In exactly two months the media will turn its attention to Boston to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. My friend, Mary, a runner and proud Bostonian, is in the midst of some incredible work that I want to share with you.

Many of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors were treated at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. Mary ran the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab as a mobility impaired runner and this year was at the Mandarin preparing to celebrate the Race for Rehab Team’s triumphant crossing of the finish line when the bombs went off.

As Boston and the world count down the days until the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon, Mary is honored and proud to co-host two phenomenal fun(d)raising events to benefit Karis Antokal and Greg Gordon who are running with Spaulding Rehab’s Race for Rehab Team in Boston 2014:

Karis’ Karaoke for a Kause happening on 2/20/14 from 8:00-10:00 pm at the Limelight Stage and Studios at 204 Tremont Street Boston. Suggested minimum donation is $20 and you receive a Take a Chance ticket to be entered to win an autographed Tom Brady Jersey. And don’t worry if you’re too shy to step up to the mic. They’ll have plenty of people singing strong. Cash bar and appetizers will be available. Read Karis’ story on her fundraising page. Silent auction items include autographed books by Bob and Lee Woodruff, a Cape Getaway Weekend, Celtics and Red Sox tickets, and gift certificates to Stapleton Floral Design and Marathon Sports.

An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehab will take place on April 4th at Boston University. Terpsichore, Boston University’s all-female a cappella group, will be your host from 7:00pm – 9:00 pm at Sleeper Auditorium located at 871 Commonwealth Avenue. The evening features performances by Terpsichore, the BU Dear Abbeys, BU’s In Achord and Bostonality, a post-collegiate a cappella group. Minimum suggested donation is $10. Make your donation to Greg Gordon’s fundraising page and in the comments section note that it is for the benefit concert.

No matter where we call home, let’s show Boston and the city’s residents the love they need to heal and get through this difficult milestone.

exercise, marathon, New York City, running

Beautiful: I Caught New York City Marathon Fever

2014 ING NYC Marathon - here I come!
2014 ING NYC Marathon – here I come!

Want to run the 2014 ING New York City Marathon with me? 12 years ago I ran the Chicago Marathon with my dear friend, Mark. It was a profound and healing experience and the fulfillment of a dream I’d had since I was a teenage cross-country runner. After I completed the marathon in 4:23:13 on a high, I checked that accomplishment off my list never to run a marathon again. Or so I thought.

Yesterday I woke up early and attributed it to the extra hour from the end of daylight savings time. I quickly realized it was something else. I know what goes into taking all those steps, and I am so proud of these people for making the journey. Watching all the preparations in Central Park this week made me want to join their ranks. I was surprised to feel that tug in my heart, edging me toward the goal of completing my hometown’s biggest race and one of its hallmark celebrations of life. And with that, I decided to run it in 2014. I’ll be 38 by then and it will be 5 years since the apartment building fire that changed everything for me. It’s a bit of a process; I can enter the lottery, raise money for a participating nonprofit, or look at a variety of other options to make it happen.

Have you ever wanted to run a marathon? Does NYC’s race call to you, too? It would be fun to train with people. Whether you’re here in NYC or live far away, we can share our training experiences right here on this blog and encourage each other on the figurative and literal path. And then of course celebrate together at the finish line next year. If you’re interested, let me know. Let’s make it happen.

health, running, yoga

Leap: Back to Running

From Pinterest

Maybe it’s the bright, crisp sunshine after days of rain. Maybe it’s the thought of the Chicago marathon from last weekend. Maybe it’s just time. Whatever the reason, yesterday I went back to running.

My yogi friend, Marita, did her final project for our ISHTA yoga training on yoga for runners. As a former competitive runner and someone who’s solely used yoga as exercise for the past few years, I was really intrigued and inspired by her research. After reading her paper, I realized I’m not getting all of the cardio I need for optimum health. For me, the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to get that cardio is by lacing up my running shoes and hitting the park a couple of times per week.

I haven’t been on a good run for over a year. I hunted around in the back of my closet for my running shoes. I sunk my right foot into my shoe and felt a crunch – it wasn’t my foot that crunched but a dead bug. Maybe it’s been longer than a year since my last run? 🙂

I flushed the dead bug, put on my shoes, and headed out to teach my yoga for seniors class. After the deeply relaxing class, I took off for Central Park, the sun in my face and the wind at my back. My pace was steady, my gait smooth, and my breathing even. I could feel my good ol’ heart pumping, my lungs taking in all the fresh oxygen, and my muscles and bones getting a workout they’ve needed for far too long.

30 minutes flew by and I returned home refreshed and focused to have a productive afternoon. Somehow movement helps us to settle in. I guess when we shake things up, it’s easier to find our groove.

I’ve committed to at least 2 runs and 2 yoga classes per week to keep myself in tip top shape as I continue leaping through a life of my own design. Want to join me in this promise? Tell me about your running and yoga adventures. (And thanks to Marita for inspiring me to get going!)

memory, running

Leap: Remembering the Chicago Marathon

11 years ago this weekend I ran the Chicago marathon. I was working in Chicago on the National Tour of the Full Monty. It was an uncertain time. September 11th happened while I was there and many of us were from New York. We felt like traders being away from our city at a time when it needed us so much. The threat of our show closing and the idea of losing our jobs hung over all of us every day. (These concerns came true just days later.)

It’s funny what we remember during challenging times. My friend and running partner, Mark, was a rock for me during training and during the race. I may have designed all of our training runs for 13 weeks but he was the one who held it all together for both of us, especially when the going got tough. For me, that happened on race day around mile 18. I was really hurting and Mark asked me this simple question, “Tell me about your dad.”

During a training run months before I had mentioned to Mark that the only time I ever thought my dad was really proud of me was when I ran. Mark wanted to know the whole story, and now at mile 18 we had plenty of time. Mark also knew I needed a serious distraction to get to the end of the race.

Running and my history with my dad are deeply entwined. When I was 16, I had a series of injuries that piled up during pre-season training that left me unable to walk for a few months and took me out of the season. 2 months later, my dad passed away suddenly and tragically. I continued to run for the following year, but I gave up any hope or desire to run while in college. The fight just went out of me.

In many ways, I ran that Chicago marathon for him and for the 16-year-old me who missed all those races years before. It was a reminder of my strength and my ability to endure. It was ironic that this would happen at what was such a low point for our nation. I will never forget the warmth, love, and support from the people of Chicago who lined the race route. They were there with cowbells, signs, and happy shouts of encouragement. I vividly remember a young women who had a huge bowl of popcorn for runners to take from as they went by and another young woman who was passing out orange slices from her front yard. It was a good, good day.

When the finish line came into sight, Mark and I had to split because they separate men and women for timing purposes at the end of the race. I took off. I felt like I was flying toward the finish. In that mad, happy dash, I shook off a lot of sadness and regret. I let go of a lot of “what might have been”s in favor of a whole lot more “look what’s up ahead”s. It was a life-affirming moment that I’ll never forget. And I owe it all to Mark and to the beautiful people of Chicago.

Happy race day to all of the runners out there, making their own memories today. I hope it’s as good to you as it was to me.

curiosity, education, running, safety, yoga

Beginning: Learning How to Breathe, Run Barefoot, and Ditch Conventional Wisdom

Last week I attend my first class at The Breathing Project with Leslie Kaminoff. I used his anatomy book as a part of my yoga teacher training, and since then have been curious about his renegade style and obsession with how we breathe. In traditional yoga classes, we learn the 3-part breath by filling up the belly, then the chest, and then the collar-bone area. Leslie flips that around, literally and figuratively. He advises students to fill up on breath from top to bottom. At this suggestion, my brain began to twist and turn, trying to rewire its thinking about breath.

Similarly, last week I began reading intensely about barefoot running after an article in the New York Times Magazine, The Once and Future Way to Run. I’m entering the lottery to run the New York City marathon in 2012 and looking for the most efficient way to complete my training and beat my time from the Chicago marathon that I ran in 2001. For a number of years, I’ve heard about these barefoot runners and mostly written them off as just a hair shy of completely insane.

Turns out I may be the crazy one. Heel-to-toe running, which most of us do, is just about the worst possible way to beat up our bodies. Making contact around the mid-foot / toe region takes advantage of our bodies’ natural springing motion, protecting the body from undue injury, increasing our speed, and making our motion more efficient. Like Leslie’s class on breathing, this idea from barefoot running sent my mind happily reeling toward new possibilities.

Both of these ideas ask us to harken back to childhood, remembering how we used to act as children and how we have been misled as adults. We pick up so many bad habits on our journey into adulthood and sometimes we forget to question the new learnings that generate these bad habits. The result of losing our courage to question conventional wisdom? Harming our own bodies and minds.

This questioning of how to breathe and how to run, two very basic actions that we all do all the time, got me thinking about all the other “truths” that I may have accepted to easily. Business is loaded with them. “Experts” tell us that we MUST have a fully baked business plan, perfect products, and so much market research that we scarcely have time to look at all of the findings, much less make sense of them. Phooey!

What if we try this: go against the grain. Go ahead and put some kind of business plan in place, and then be prepared to change every blessed word of it. Launch good-enough products as quickly as possible to get real-time input on design from a live market, and then commit to iterating future versions just as quickly with real feedback. Forget market research composed of focus groups and other traditional methods. Make the business one giant market research experiment.

Here’s what would happen: our rate and level of innovation would increase, more people would create things of value to others, more people would take their futures into their own hands through entrepreneurship, and we’d all learn more. Oh, and we’d have a greater rate of jobs creation – quite possibly the biggest hot-button economic issue in our country today.

What do we have to lose by ditching conventional wisdom? Bad habits – we’ll breathe more fully, run with greater ease, and have a healthier economy. The value of taking conventional wisdom at face value? Staying right where we are.

Which option sounds better to you?  

Chicago, exercise, friendship, health, marathon, New York City, Real Simple, running, theatre, wellness

October 14, 2001

Several months ago, I submitted a story to Real Simple Magazine to answer the question, “Tell us about one of the most important days of your life in 1500 words or less.” I’m sure a lot of people wrote about their wedding day, or their kids bring born, a graduation. I wrote about the marathon I ran in in Chicago in 2001, a month after September 11th. I was on the eve of losing my job and was heart-broken that my city had been violated so terribly. I was angry, confused, and scared. For that month after the attack, I felt alone. The Chicago marathon changed some of those feelings for me, and as it turns out it was one of the most poignant moments of my life. Here’s the story:

In the summer of 2001, I was in Toronto on the Broadway tour of The Full Monty. I was the first person hired full-time for the tour and we had grand plans. I had been working so much that I had neglected my workout schedule and decided a big goal would help me to recommit. In the Fall the tour would be traveling to Chicago, and the Chicago marathon would be in the middle of our run.

I was a cross-country runner in high school and always interested in running a marathon. Chicago was a perfect opportunity! I recruited my friend, Mark, the drummer on the show, to run with me. He wanted to get in better shape, too, and agreed to go the distance with me. I purchased a training book that laid out an ambitious but doable schedule for us and we were off.

Long runs, short runs, speed workouts, stretching, improved eating habits. Mark was with me every step of the way, everyday, with his cheery attitude and lovely British accent. There was no way I could have gotten through the experience without him. Training in Toronto was a magical time in my life because I felt like I was regaining my sense of self. It was easy to get lost in my work, and I needed to rediscover who I was and where my life was going. This training helped me do that.

Before Chicago, we had a brief hiatus and I returned to New York City for a few weeks. I did a few touristy things I had always wanted to do. On September 7th, I ventured to the World Trade Center and had a look around. I had never been to that neighborhood before. There wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about that afternoon. I remember that it was a long, beautiful walk along the Battery. I do remember looking out over the water and feeling lucky to be there. I looked forward to coming back to New York when the tour was over.

I left for Chicago on September 9th. Mark and I were getting into top physical shape, and were glad to be reunited to finish our training in Chicago. And then September 11th happened. My brother left me a message that morning, panicked that I was in New York. I figured he heard about some kind of crime in the city on the news. I dismissed his concern as nothing more than his overprotective nature and sense of exaggeration. I tried to call him back and his cell number was busy. Odd. I tried to call my mom. Busy. Was the entire AT&T network down?

I walked to work that morning, winding my way through the theatre district in Chicago. A beautiful day. I had never been to Chicago before and was entranced by it. This was going to be a great run for us. I stopped in at the Corner Bakery to get a coffee and a danish. Could life be any better? Then I got to work.

My boss was frantically searching on the internet, listening to NPR. The office phone was ringing off the hook.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Two planes flew into the World Trade Center.”

“By accident?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

And then everything was different.

My beautiful city, the very area I had been only days before, was in chaos. We worked all day, talking with our producers, easing the fears of our company members, and trying to calm our own fears. Finally, they closed the Loop in Chicago, and we were forced to leave the theatre.

I went to visit my friends and finally saw so many of the pictures that people had been watching all day. It was even more devastating than I had imagined. I went to bed that night thinking that our nation would never be the same, that all these years I had taken our safety for granted. I was right on both counts.

Within a month, our show announced its closing and we lost our jobs. The bottom fell out of the theatre industry. But before closing down, Mark and I ran the marathon. On Saturday, October 14th, we arrived at the starting line at 6am. We dropped off our valuables at check-in and got our numbers. We had trained hard in the final weeks – running was the only time of day I felt useful. Still, I was worried that we weren’t ready. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to finish. Maybe there was just no point to anything anymore.

We lined up, the gun went off, and slowly we wound our way through the neighborhoods of Chicago. The morning was sunny, the temperature perfect. A few miles in, I found that for the first time in a month, I noticed the sunshine, and felt warm. Mark and I stopped at every water and food station to keep our energy up.

What struck me the most about that race was the generosity of the crowd lining the entire route. I hadn’t expected that. They had orange slices and popcorn, cowbells and signs to cheer us on. That crowd made me believe in the goodness of the world, in our ability to reaffirm life. 

17 miles in, my knees began to ache terribly. “Come on, Love. We can do this,” Mark said. With that vote of confidence, he gave me a Tylenol. My knee pain was gone in minutes since my blood had been pumping strong for over two hours. Mentally, I was still feeling rattled. And then Mark did something that will make me love him forever. Mark asked me, “How did you start running?”

No one had ever asked me that before. Truth was, I started running to run away from my life. My dad was sick for most of my childhood and during my teen years, the situation in my home grew dire. I suffered from insomnia, and found that long-distance running would tire me out enough to sleep peacefully for a few hours. When I was racing, I knew my family was proud of me. I also thought if I could get good enough, I might be able to go to college on a partial scholarship. There was no money in my family to send me to college.

In my junior year of high school, I sustained a terrible injury that knocked me out for the season. I was devastated. I felt broken. I had a hard time walking for a number of months and began to run on my injured foot too soon, re-injuring it. A few months later, my father passed away after a long illness. While there was more peace in the house after his passing, it was an uncomfortable silence. That spring, I ran to forget, to hide. I didn’t care if I won any event. I just wanted to exhaust myself.

After that injury, I had the goal of someday running a marathon to pay tribute to my family for having lived through a difficult time. So this was it. This marathon was for my family. And if I could make it 26.2 miles, I’d believe that finally my body and my spirit were no longer broken.

Mark was quiet the whole time. I thought he might be bored with my droning. Turns out he was just a very good listener. “I’m sure that today your dad’s proud of you,” Mark said. And I believed him.

At the 26-mile mark, the finish line was in sight. There were banners flying high, and masses of people cheering. I felt like I was flying. At that point, Mark and I had to split because they timed men and women separately. We’d reunite at the end of the race. I smiled so wide crossing that finish line that I thought my face might crack. I lost all sense of exhaustion and burden. Mark and I made it – 26.2 miles in less than four and a half hours, step by step, together.

That day, I learned more about the world than any other day before or since. I developed a special fondness for Chicago – I felt that the crowd who came out that day breathed new life into me at a time when I felt very hollow and alone. That crowd helped me to refocus on the generosity and commitment of people to a community. Despite a dark set of circumstances facing all of us, we could rediscover happiness and enlightenment and move forward. I learned that true friendship carries us in the most trying times. I’m forever indebted to Mark for his positive attitude and belief in me. Almost 10 years after my dad’s passing, I lived up to the promise to honor my family. I raced toward sunshine, and found it. And I have been alight ever since. “

The photo above can be found at: