Why I Run

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Because... I didn't think I could. 
Because It's the only thing I do just for me. 
Because I love doughnuts. 
And bread. 
And strawberry ice cream. 
And pasta. 
Because I ran that first 5k without stopping. 
Because of Oklahoma City. 
And Boston. 
Because people think it's cool. 
Because I feel prettiest in workout clothes. 
Because there's a place in Riverside Park at 91st where the path curves. 
Because I became a doctor, aunt, and marathoner this year. 
Because there are things much harder than running. 
Because I thought it would be inexpensive. 
Because running shoes are cool. 
And runners are the most encouraging people. 
Because I am strong enough. 
Because I finally stopped caring about the number on the scale. 
Or the size on the tag. 
Because it's uncommon. 
Because this city is magical. 
And impossible. 
And heartbreaking. 
And home. 
Because sometimes you turn a corner and see the Statue of Liberty. 
And the Empire State Building is a normal view on a morning run. 
Because I fell in love in this city. 
And fell out of love in this city. 
And realized I was so much better than that in this city. 
Because I can. 
Because this is my city. 
Because New York.

26.2 Thoughts on 26.2

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Running a marathon is, in fact, hard. 

Really hard. 

To be completely honest, there are parts of it that I don't remember very well. And to be even more honest, that might be okay. Part of me wishes that I remembered every single second of those six hours, 20 minutes, and 28 seconds. The rest of me is pretty glad I can't quite recall every step...

In an attempt to document the journey from the Verrazano Bridge to Tavern on the Green, I give you 26.2 thoughts on 26.2 miles...

1. This can't be that hard, right? I've already done the hard work. 20 miles is practically 26.2. I'm good. Oh wait, this bridge is pretty steep. And crowded. Move over people. Speed up. Really really steep. Am I wearing the right clothes? Seriously, it's still the first mile? 

2. Whew, downhill. I can totally run 25 more miles. No problem. 

3. Hello Brooklyn. Where are all the people? They said it would be crowded. And, um... it's still pretty far to the finish line. This is serious, right? At least there's Gatorade...

4. Oh hey, Brooklyn people. I wonder if I know any of you. You know, because I know like five people who live in Brooklyn. I bet I'll see them soon. 

5. Seriously, there are a lot of people in Brooklyn. And they have cool bands. And kids who can't wait to high-five you. And gatorade. And I just ran my fastest five miles ever. And it's time for my first energy chews. Totally winning this marathon.

6. Okay, these people are excited, but they really need to stand away from the street and not in the street. I'm running a marathon here, people. 

7. If you don't get out of the street, I am going to yell at you. But thanks for cheering for me...

8. Are you kidding me that we're just now in downtown Brooklyn? And I still haven't seen those five people I know who live here? 

9. If I hear one more loud, obnoxious band, I am going to scream. How am I supposed to hear my motivational playlist over the stupid bands?

10. Totally nailed the first ten miles with my fastest time yet. I am rocking this marathon. Time for some more energy chews. But someone seems to have not told Williamsburg's Orthodox Jewish community that the streets are closed. They keep walking through the marathon like it's not even happening. Please don't let me run over someone. I really can't run another 16 miles with skinned knees...

11. Those hipsters in Williamsburg are just sitting there drinking their mimosas and having brunch and watching me like it's a fun easy morning. I hate them. Maybe they will let me join them? Wait, is that my cousin?

12. I hate Brooklyn. How am I still in Brooklyn? Oh right... It's bigger than Houston. But Greenpoint seems kind of cool...

13. I am going to be in Brooklyn for the rest of my life. And my legs are maybe starting to get a little tired...

13.1. Oh hey, halfway... Oh wait, it's only halfway. This is usually when I stop running. But I sure do love this city...

14. So this is Queens? Interesting. I usually only come here to go to the airport. It's kind of nice. In a Queens kind of way. These people are real friendly. And they have Gatorade...

15. Can't. Keep. Going. So. Tired. Maybe I should just walk the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge. It's really super big. And so so steep. Walking is good. Everyone else is walking too. It's just so quiet on the bridge. Eerie, creepy quiet. I really don't think I can do another 11 miles. But I love this view... 

16. Hey there, Manhattan. Hello, second wind. Love these crowds. Love this city. Love running. Love Gatorade. Doesn't even matter that my phone died. I have an iPod. I've totally got this.

17. I might not have this. First Avenue is really long, and I'm not really liking this hill. I wonder if I know any of these people? My stomach feels a little funny.

18. Where are all these banana peels coming from? Why can't I find a banana? Those energy chews were pretty sugary. I really need some real food. I would give someone that $5 in my pocket for a banana. I don't know about these next eight miles. 18 plus 8 is 26, right? 

19. I can't make it any more. How are there still seven miles left? I would pay $1000 for pepto-bismol chews. Or some sort of food other than energy chews and Gatorade. Please God don't let me throw up. I hate Gatorade.

20. Maybe if I just stand here on the Willis Avenue Bridge for a few minutes and focus on breathing, I won't throw up. Maybe I just need to stop moving for a minute. Just breathe. You can do this. Those runners who just stopped to check on me are so nice. Runners are the best people in the world. And now I'm crying. It's just too much. People were not meant to run marathons. Just breathe. And stop crying. And start running. It doesn't matter how long it takes. You don't have to hit your five and a half hour goal. Just move. Oh hey, fake a smile for that photographer over there...

21. There are no people in the Bronx. Except for that super annoying band. At least it's mostly downhill. Maybe I'll be okay. Praise the Lord, I'm back in Manhattan. Why are there so many banana peels and no bananas? I would seriously eat a banana off the ground if I saw one. They said there would be bananas at mile 21. It's like a mirage. Maybe I'm hallucinating...

22. A banana! Thank you God for sending me half a banana. Just four miles. Breathe. And maybe just walk for a little while.

23. Fifth Avenue is kind of a big hill. And my friend said she would be here and isn't. I thought the crowds would be a lot bigger. Where is everyone? Is that lady holding out an entire banana a mirage or is she real? An entire banana from a stranger and not even a race station? I love you so much, random stranger lady. You are my hero.

24. Hello Central Park. There's the Met. And the reservoir. I know these roads. I've run these roads. I can do this. But bananas are kind of sweet though. No more sugar. I never want to see Gatorade and energy chews and bananas ever again. I cannot possibly wear this arm band for one more second. And my iPod died. And it's getting kind of dark in the park. How am I not to 25 miles yet?

25. I can see the Plaza. I'm going to make it. I might as well walk for a few minutes and save my energy for the finish line. Central Park South has never looked better. Except that they're starting to take the marathon banners off of the street barricades. How long do I have before the streets reopen? I guess all the spectators left for dinner.

26. I am going to finish a marathon. I am going to finish a marathon. I am going to finish a marathon. I should start running again. I can do this. I am strong enough to run the last few steps. I am going to finish a marathon. Oh hey, there's The Chief. And BFFs. Those grandstands are totally empty. It's so dark. It's okay. I am going to finish a marathon. 

26.2. I just ran the New York City marathon. I have a medal. It actually happened. This recovery bag is pretty cool. Oh hey, it has pretzels. Pretzels are the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. I love pretzels. This bag is really heavy, but at least I have my pretzels. Why didn't anyone give me pretzels at mile 20? But I did it. It seems a little cruel to make people who just ran 26.2 miles walk another 10 blocks out of the park. I'm just going to walk real slow and eat my pretzels. Finally, the post-race poncho. I've been waiting 26.2 miles for this. And the volunteer lady who put the poncho around me was so nice. This post-race poncho is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I am going to wear it forever. Oh wait, the poncho is slipping off. I'm too tired to catch it. My hands are busy with the pretzels. Hi, cute volunteer guy who rushed over fixed my poncho. I love you. Do you want to hang out sometime? Seriously. How long are they going to make me walk before I find The Chief? Cute guy says another five blocks and an avenue. That is so so far. And I'm out of pretzels. Oh hey, I found The Chief and BFFs. Wait, how did we get to Shake Shack? And why is there no line? And where can I sit down? 

Edge of Glory

Friday, November 6, 2015

So I ran the New York City marathon six days ago.

It was spectacular.

And excruciating.

And the hardest thing I've ever done.

And unbelievably inspiring.

Never in a million years would I have dreamed of running (much less finishing) a marathon. Never mind that it is the largest and one of the most difficult marathons in the world. 

No big deal. 

Piece of cake. (Speaking of cake, I had every intention of eating 26.2 Magnolia Bakery cupcakes after running 26.2 miles. I was, in fact, in no shape to do so.)

So we spent a fantastic weekend in the city, complete with two Broadway shows, cronuts, tons of carbs, BFFs who flew in to celebrate with me, The Chief, more carbs, a West Wing Netflix binge the night before the race, etc. etc. The only real problem was that pesky little business of running 26.2 miles. 

The Chief and I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on race day. Yes, I had new Lululemon gear for the occasion. Yes, I took a shower and put on makeup prior to running a marathon. There were just so many photographers. A girl has to be prepared.

I was scheduled for the 8:00 a.m. ferry to Staten Island. On our way to get bagels and coffee, I randomly found my Twin. We started running when a few blocks seemed like the most impossible distance, and we were insane enough to register for this marathon together. She is my family. God totally knew we needed each other on Sunday morning. 

So we hopped into a cab with The Chief. The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is the easiest place in New York to find. You just drive until you can't drive anymore. The island literally runs out at the ferry terminal. So naturally our cab driver had absolutely no idea where it was. Imagine Twin and I giving directions down the length of Manhattan ("Just keep driving downtown... no seriously, just keep driving. Take the West Side Highway. No, don't turn here. Just keep driving, dude.") and The Chief dying laughing.

Ferries were a little delayed, so we spent the wait taking selfies and then the 30-minute ferry ride just catching up on life. It could have been a normal Sunday morning...


Until we saw this...

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The first two miles of the race. There is nothing narrow about it. It is the longest bridge in the Americas and the 11th longest bridge in the world. Also, it is not flat. Look closely people. That's one gigantic hill. 

So after a 20-minute cab ride and 30-minute ferry ride, we arrived on Staten Island. The best part of Staten Island is, obviously, the view of Manhattan...

But it's not that easy. We then took an hour-long bus ride to the starting village. Staten Island isn't that big, but there were 50,000+ people trying to board those buses. It took awhile. Plus, there was the whole counter-terrorism security screening thing. No big deal.

Not until we arrived in the starting village did Twin and I part ways. Twin was in the green group (running on the lower level of the bridge), and I was in the blue group (running on the top level of the bridge). There was also an orange group, but I don't really care where they ran. Now, I was prepared to wait in the start village for hours. Having read endless articles on the marathon, I packed for the occasion: extra hoodie and sweat pants, gloves, hat, scarf, extra socks, book to distract me, phone charger, banana, granola bar, water, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, kleenex, bandaids, lip gloss, etc. etc. I threw it all away. (No worries: the clothes go to charity.) After the ferry and bus delays, we only waited about 20 minutes before our 11:00 a.m. start time. 

And just so you know, runners are hilarious. If you ever need good entertainment, just watch runners prepare for a race. So many costumes and pre-race rituals and strange customs. It almost distracts you from the idea that you're about to run 42 kilometers...

My pre-race ritual just involved praying that I didn't die and that I would have fun, too. It's a simple goal, really.

So then they lead you (and the 20,000 other people in that start wave) up to the bridge's toll plaza and play New York, New York. You know... It's the whole "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" mentality. And up until this point, it was all energy and excitement and possibility.

And then I was running a marathon...


Friday, October 2, 2015

Here is the thing about long-distance running and marathon training: you can't ignore what your body really needs.

New Yorker skinny girl diet? Forget about it. Cereal for breakfast and lunch, plus a banana or granola bar mid-morning, is no longer enough to get through the day. You have to eat real food and extra calories and carbs. You have to sleep A LOT.

Did I mention the carbs?


It may seem silly, but this part of marathon training has been nearly impossible. New York and society and every single magazine on news stands tells me that carbs and calories are the enemy. Avoid them at all costs. Bad. And I did, for a long time.

Remember how I had no exercise abilities whatsoever from ages 0-26? It showed. I was not a small person for the majority of my life, and it was a constant battle. Still is, if I'm being totally honest. I lost 50+ pounds since high school and college. I didn't do it eating carbs, that's for sure. I almost completely stopped eating bread and pasta. I swore off desserts for a long time. I found an exercise routine I actually enjoyed and did daily (or twice daily) spinning sessions. And it worked.

But marathon running changed everything. It's just not enough anymore. I cannot function on this whole, eat as little as humanly possible behavior that's been my life for the last several years. Last weekend, I ate an entire loaf of bread in four days. I am not kidding. I eat pasta AND bread for dinner. Lunchtime involves actual real food, not just granola bars. It's a whole new world, people.

And yes, I'm 10 pounds above the smallest number I've ever seen on my bathroom scale (five years ago, pre-running, and very short-lived). Only about half of my size four J. Crew pencil skirts actually fit. I'm not happy about that, for sure. Sometimes I worry too much about those extra 10 pounds.

But I'm going to run 20 miles tomorrow.

I'm running the New York City marathon in 30 days and the Boston marathon in 198 days. Never in a million years did I (or, let's be honest, anyone who ever met me) dream this was possible.

I am stronger than I ever imagined.

So I'm thinking that it's okay.

Ready to Run

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Let's discuss all the stuff it takes to go for a run.

Here is what a short weekly training run looks like...

It's pretty easy and not so much stuff...
  1. Lululemon No Limits tank (my fav, no longer in production)
  2. Lululemon Run Times shorts
  3. Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 shoes (new-ish and not quite broken in)
  4. Feetures socks. Good running socks, but the very basic version.
  5. Cheap sunglasses and sunscreen
  6. Earbuds, iPhone (with Map My Run), arm band
  7. Normal 16-ounce size bottle of water (you know what it looks like, right?)
I do three or four shorter runs each week, usually on the treadmill. This normally occurs from approximately 5:07 to 6:23 a.m. each day. I HATE the treadmill, but sometimes it's the best option when it's super hot and/or dark outside. And we're just talking three to five miles, so nothing too difficult. My goal is 10-12 miles weekly, in addition to a long run.

Now, here is a glimpse of my gear for tomorrow's super long, 18-mile training run...

It's a whole different ballgame, people... 
  1. Lululemon What the Sport Singlet
  2. Lululemon Energy Bra
  3. CW-X Stabilyx 3/4 Compression Tights
  4. Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 shoes (with about 150 miles on them)
  5. Feetures ultra cushioned anatomically correct socks (seriously, $17 socks?)
  6. Flip Belt (to hold all my energy gear)
  7. Cheap sunglasses and sunscreen
  8. Earbuds, iPhone (with Map My Run), arm band
  9. One to two 50-ounce bottles of water
  10. One to two bottles of lemon lime gatorade (served every mile along the NYC marathon course)
  11. Clif Shot Bloks energy chews, mountain berry flavor
  12. Powergel energy gels, double latte and berry blast flavors (served at mile 18 on the NYC marathon course)
  13. Banana and granola bar (again... you know what those look like, right?)
It is so so so much stuff. Running may be somewhat low-tech and easy, but it is definitely not cheap. My goal is to try out all my options before the New York City Marathon, so that race day is as perfect as possible. Last week's half marathon was my first experiment with compression gear (like the tall nerdy socks), so this week I'm testing the compression 3/4 pants. Apparently they help your muscles work better. I'm hoping that means that 18 miles feels like three miles. If that's the case, I will purchase every pair of pants they offer. Also my first attempt at energy gels, rather than chews. I hear they're disgusting, but then again, so is running 18 miles.

Obviously, colder weather will bring longer pants, jackets, hats, and gloves. But I love love love cold weather running, so that's when it gets good. Also obviously, I buy gear to make me feel better about the insanity that is marathon running.

Stay tuned for details about tomorrow's 18-miler and next weekend's 20-miler. My max distance so far is 15 miles, so it's a big leap. In the meantime, please feel free to drive around Kansas with bananas and gatorade and some sort of witty encouraging sign. I'm going to need it.

Please Come to Boston (the details)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Previously on {the ivy project}...

Katie is not athletic. Katie starts running. Against all odds, Katie gains entry to the 2016 Boston Marathon.

So now you're all caught up.

The truth is, I did not qualify for Boston. The qualifying standard for my age and gender is a previous marathon time of three hours and 35 minutes. Registration for qualifiers closed yesterday, but initial reports are that it wasn't enough to simply qualify this year. Runners needed to beat that standard by several minutes. And given that last weekend I ran a two hour and 39 minute half marathon, I wasn't so much close. It's elite for a reason, you know?

But here are two things you should know about me:
  1. I love a good challenge, particularly if it's quite prestigious and uncommon.
  2. I care deeply about communities impacted by tragedy. Scan back through {the ivy project} to learn more (hint: start with the April posts). I wrote a 75,000 word dissertation on learning from tragedy. I grew up in Oklahoma City. I am a New Yorker. I know amazing people in Boston. It matters.
Once I realized I could actually run New York, all I could think about was Boston. I know, I know. But you kind of already expected that, right? Knowing I would never be one of the 24,000 qualifiers, I sought ways to make one of the remaining 8,000 entries mine. 

Enter the 2016 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team.

Charity entries are common in the world's top marathons. They guarantee accessibility for non-elite runners and support the marathon's community in meaningful ways. Each marathon designates a minimum fundraising amount for charity team runners. Runners pay a higher entry fee (which provides a few perks on race day... cool gear and heated tent in the start village, anyone?) and fundraise for their organization. It's still a fairly competitive, application-only process.

So fast forward a few days, and I'm officially on Run DFMC 2016, with 100% of my funds raised supporting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It's Harvard's cancer research institute, and y'all know how I love a good Ivy League connection. But more than that, I love that their goal is to eradicate cancer, AIDs, related diseases, and the fear that comes with them. I have friends who lost children to cancer or who are currently battling cancer. My grandmother lost her battle with lung cancer when I was in high school, and my uncle passed away from the same disease less than a year ago. Fundraising for this marathon is a huge commitment, but it also seems like the right thing to do. Because what if there was a world without cancer?

From now until April 18, you can find out more (or, you know, donate) at rundfmc.org/2016/katie, or just click "Boston Marathon" at the top of the page. If you want to give me a holiday/birthday/Tuesday/just because gift, maybe do this instead please. And yes, 100% of donations are totally tax deductible. Yes, I'm paying all the overhead costs, so all donations go directly to cancer research. No, I will not become super annoying and beg you for money. Yes, I will annoy you with super cute pictures of Little on his first trip to Boston.

So that's the plan, and it's going to be spectacular. 

Please Come to Boston

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I'm back.

I know, right?

To make a really long, totally MIA story short, I just had nothing to say. Not too much exciting happened, except for becoming a doctor and an aunt. It's basically the same life everyone else lives, except for this one little thing...

I have become a runner. A serious one.

Now, let's take a moment to review my history of doing anything athletic or healthy:

  • Ages 0-26: Absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Occasional pretending to diet or do Weight Watchers without attending meetings or going inside Baylor's gym to see what was happening in there.
  • Ages 26-27: Discovered indoor cycling. Started to make friends with the idea of exercising. Attended a month-long, miserable exercise boot camp (during which I participated in all activities except for the daily running).
  • Ages 28-29: Moved to New York. Could no longer afford the gym. Proceeded to do weeks one and two of the Couch to 5K app for two years. Despised running longer than approximately 60 seconds. Worked up to maximum distance of a whopping two blocks.
  • Age 29: My super-runner boss told me to run slower. Decided she was insane but listened anyway. Registered for the National September 11 Memorial inaugural 5K. Ran the entire 5K without stopping and immediately swore that I was done with running.
  • Age 30: Moved to Kansas and became a little (a lot?) restless. Registered for the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon. Trained hard and finished in 2:48. Immediately swore I had no interested in anything longer than the half marathon. 
  • Age 31: Signed up for the OKC half again. Underestimated the final dissertation semester madness and fell in love with this little person. Proceeded to run a half marathon with absolutely no training in 3:05. 

Obviously, somewhere after that first half marathon last year, I started to wonder about something more. Now, for those of you who know me well, daydreaming about something bigger is kind of a pattern. It's how I got myself into the summer in Italy and New York and the Ivy League and all of the good stories of my life. And you also know that once I've started to daydream about something, I find (strategic/unrealistic/hard to justify/awesome) ways to make it real.

So I entered the New York City Marathon lottery, just to see what would happen. I am a super slow runner. No way I would ever qualify. People apply for lottery entry for years without gaining entry. I, however, am awesome at lotteries. Naturally, I got in on my first try. I've never been so thrilled to see a $266 charge on my credit card. Later that day, we discovered that this little person wanted to be in our family. Here is what Little thought of his first half marathon spectator experience:

26.2 miles is ridiculous. Insane. I can't even handle it. Except... somewhere in the last 10 weeks of training, I realized that I could. I'm running about 23 miles a week and adding a half marathon nearly every weekend. Last weekend, I ran my fastest half time yet (2:39) on the most awful, total uphill, downtown Kansas City course. For the first time, I ran 13.1 miles straight (with no walking). For the overweight, not in shape, struggled to fit in through high school and college girl inside of me, this is epic. I love race medals and free race photography...

In a very strange turn of events, I actually have no doubt about my ability to run 26.2 through the five boroughs of New York in five weeks. But if you really know me really well, you know that the "what's next?" daydreams show up like clockwork. (It's like an "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" type situation). Two weeks ago, when I started seeing information about another opportunity, I was hooked. The Chief (a.k.a. Mom, if you're new here) and I agreed that I wouldn't apply next year. It wasn't the right time. Too much going on in 2016.

Obviously, I applied anyways.

I am quite good at applications. I look great on paper. 

Wait five weeks, they said. But 24 hours later, I got a response.

Please Come to Boston.

So this, my friends, is the story of how a girl who couldn't run two blocks got herself into the Boston Marathon. In a five-month span, I'm going to run two of the six World Marathon Majors (leaving only Chicago, Tokyo, London, and Berlin to go). I cannot believe that I am doing this... that I'm this person. We're just under six weeks from New York City and 30 weeks from Boston. 

November 1 and April 18. 

Because I'm a little bit stubborn and a little bit fearless and a little bit determined to do the things I think I can't. I'll do my best to keep writing. Apologies in advance for the annoying social media posts. Thanks a bunch for all the love.