Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lessons in Crewing

The weekend before Christmas I did something I have never done before, but definitely hope to do again.

I had been asked by a friend to crew and pace her for Devil Dog Ultras as she would conquer the 100k race. There was also a 100 mile option that another member of our group (Fred) would set out to destroy. Initially, I wasn't sure I could or should commit an entire weekend to something that wasn't on my initial schedule for 2016. After discussing and thinking more about it, I knew I had to! Bekah is a good friend and I knew I had to be there with and for her. 

Emily, Bekah and Fred all ready (and maybe a little nervous) for the hours ahead of them.

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The early morning crew-ers. Me, Chris and Maegan. 

Here we are right before Bekah was getting ready to leave on her journey. Ice and all. So badass.

After we saw them all off on their running journeys, the 3 crew members headed back to the hotel for some breakfast and to pack up the rooms.  This was an interesting trip because of the worsening ice/rain situation. When we parked at the hotel we actually had to "ice skate" to the front door because it was so slippery. I would love to know how long it actually took us to travel the short distance from the car to the door. I would also love to see a video of it, because it was definitely an interesting time. 

We had requests for beer, so after breakfast we headed to Wegman's to pick up a six pack to be enjoyed later in the day. By the time we left Wegman's, it seemed like the temps were rising a little and maybe things were thawing out a little, too. 

We returned to the race site and waited for our runners to return from their first loops.

We were SO excited when Fred returned from his first loop. We were getting a little worried because he was expected sooner, but because of the ice and cold he was delayed. He looked a little tired and even a little defeated already but we cheered him on, got him dry clothes, shoes, and some food. We chatted a little and then sent him back out for loop 2.

Maegan with Fred as he put on dry shoes- Yes she (and we!) were VERY COLD waiting for everyone. 

About an hour or so later, Emily came back from her first loop and shortly after that so did Bekah.

Bekah was tired, but in good spirits and ready for some dry clothes as well. We got her everything she needed and I told her I couldn't wait to see her next time so we could go out and run together!!  Everyone knew the second loop would be better than the first since it was warming up a bit and gradually everything would thaw out. 

Fred was pretty hungry after his second loop!! Quesadillas, soup and pizza were on the menu. 

When Emily arrived at the aid station the second time, she had some blisters that Jade helped her take care of and got some food and switched out her clothes again. I think we started battery changes for headlights as well, knowing the third loop would be completely dark. Emily looked very tired and seemed pretty stiff heading back out for the third loop, but seemed determined. 

Bekah came back in from loop 2, and I think I cried a little for her. I knew she was concerned about not making it to this point due to a miss last fall at a 50 miler race. I had told her I knew she could and here she was!

One last shot before we headed out into the dark together, for a good long run/hike. I waited ALL day for this. No really, I did. I had spent the day with the other crew members, waiting, eating, waiting, pondering napping, chatting, eating some more and waiting. I was so excited that it was finally my turn to be out on the trails with Bekah.

I think this was one of the first aid stations we hit and they had devil dog treats, so funny. I had to snap a quick picture.  As you can see, we had a guest with us too!! Brian joined us when his girlfriend Adriane had to drop out due to some bad pain and just couldn't continue.

The funny thing?? I knew Brian from YEARS ago as he went to college with a long time friend of mine. It continues to amaze me how the running community works and how you re-meet people from different times in your life. Needless to say, it was fun to experience part of his ultra-running journey with him that day as well.

So long story short is that the next hours were long. Some of the miles felt VERY long and everyone was tired, but I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world. You see, when you do something that is not for your benefit, how you feel doesn't really matter. I mean, I guess in some way it does, but at that moment, for me, it did not. My legs and feet were tired from all the time spent out there, but I didn't dare say anything. I knew that whatever I was feeling, Brian and Bekah were feeling 3x as much. They endured so much that day and I was merely there to support them on this last stretch. I was there to make sure they got their butts across that finish line and that was exactly what I would do.

We kept each other company as we chatted here and there and ran as much as they were able. Pacing. It is not an easy job. There were tears. There were moments of wanting to sit, give up, scream, and more tears. There were moments of encouragement, hugs, love and happy tears. Every moment was worth it. The course measured long so when I told Bekah that we hit mile 19 and then noticed we were almost to 20, she asked if I had lied to her. I told her I would never do such a thing. I am pretty sure there were more tears shed. I told her that I knew she was tired, hungry and 100% ready to be done with this race.. but that she had to keep moving so we could make that happen. 

We FINALLY made it back to the finish line and Bekah collapsed to the ground right after crossing. Race staff asked if she was okay and I simply replied that she was tired and hungry, but medically okay. We got her off the ground and into the pavilion where she could start to rest and recover.   

Upon entering the pavilion, we saw Emily who had finished not long before us. She soon headed up to the warm building to sleep and rest while she waited for Fred to finish his race.

Bekah and I bundled up and waited for Fred to return from his loop before we headed home. It was cold and we were tired.. can you tell??

It broke my heart a little to see Fred when he returned from his 4th loop. He was very tired and very much unlike that happy go lucky Fred we all know. I have always heard about the dizzy, delirious and exhausted feelings people experience during all the hours it takes to complete a 100 mile race, but to witness them with your own eyes is a totally different story.  Nonetheless, the crewing duties called once again. We tried to get him to eat some food, got him new shoes and helped him out in any way possible. We told him he could and would do it. He wanted to sleep a little, but experienced Jade said "You've got 2 minutes! That's it!"

We sent him off and then a few of us headed home. 

As I got home, I dropped my stuff down and headed for the shower. I headed to bed and checked facebook for updates every time I woke up. Eventually I saw this ...

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and then this...

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I was so excited to see that Fred made it across that finish line with the help of his amazing crew and pacers. It was great to meet Chris and Jade. I am glad we got along well since, after all, we spent a LARGE chunk of time together Saturday. 

If there is one take home that I can share with you about my crewing/pacing experience it is this. You are not there for you. You are 100% there for the person you are supporting. Every decision you make is for that person. We so often brag on ourselves and what we did, but this is definitely not a time for that. Not at all. It is a humbling experience to be such a support for someone else. 

If you have never volunteered for a race I challenge you to. If you have never crewed/supported a friend or loved one in a new distance/important event, I challenge you to do that as well. 

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Just like a race or event that you complete is life changing for you, doing something for someone else's important race or goal is even more life changing. 

With today being the start of the new year, I challenge each of you to do something new in 2017. It might be a little scary, it might be cold, it might be hot. But I guarantee you will learn a lot about yourself and how amazing it is to serve someone else.

Monday, November 28, 2016

{Not your average} Medal Monday

I can't let this month slip by without sharing an amazing part of this year's running journey with you.

This is not about a personal achievement. Not at all.

Although personal tooting of our own horns is often the subject of our blog and/or social media posts, that is not the purpose of this post.

Instead, it is a celebration of friendship, same pace camaraderie, and the massive amount of miles it takes to cross the finish line of a marathon. Especially a first marathon.

Back in January of this year, the running gods aligned me with three amazing women. We all had similar goals for our spring half marathon races and therefore had similar goals for our workouts at each Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg led running class. We all held each other accountable to our goals and paces... just a little obsessively.

This is a picture of us all bundled up at that first workout. Little did we know...

Long story short we trained together all spring and, in the process gained a group nickname. We always needed to know very specific details regarding paces and exactly what our workouts each week should entail. We asked lots of questions and pushed ourselves at every workout. What was the nickname, you ask? OCD Diamond. We were referred to as the OCD Diamond quite a few times and we eventually gave in and began referring to ourselves as just that.

Next came the summer/fall season and we all signed up again to train together. Katie and I had eyes set on marathon and ultramarathon distance (respectively) while Michele and Michelle were focusing on half marathon goals. Unfortunately Michele became injured early-ish in the season and was out for PT a large part of the summer and fall. We missed her dearly and exchanged TONS of facebook chat group messages back and forth checking in on each other to see how she was progressing.  I had issues of my own and also missed some running. Katie had an Achilles issue and was also out and on reduced running restrictions for over a month. Michelle dealt with some unexplained calf cramping issues at a few races.The injuries and issues sucked, but knowing that we were all always there for each other was unbeatable. 

A month before Katie's goal race, Harrisburg Marathon, the other three of us were inquiring over what the plan would be for Katie and whether she was still planning to attempt the race. Although she had missed quite a few long training runs and more miles than she would have liked, she continued to be cautiously optimistic. She persevered and continued increasing her mileage gradually to assess whether the race was realistic. 

Katie sent a message the group after each run with a status report. Every time we had a verbal positivity party for her as we neared closer and closer to THE day. With each added mile and each positive report the excitement for her grew. 

We made group shirts and I even got group bracelets made for us by Momentum Jewelry which I gave them and of course we had to get a picture immediately!! We adapted our shirts to say "The Diamonds" so as not to offend anyone who didn't know the story behind the name. 

You might be wondering... why did we need group shirts if we weren't all running the marathon? Well, back in the summer when Katie first set her eyes on the marathon, we all decided we would also form a relay team so that Katie would not be alone in those miles when things got really tough. At that time we were just thinking it would be a nice thing to do given that it was her first and that having company is so helpful, especially in those final miles when you want so badly to throw in the towel. The night  took the photo above we had an an honest conversation with Katie. We all told her that we were not leaving her or letting her quit (barring really awful injury or reason she couldn't continue) because we were not there for us, but for her. There may have been a small tear fest at that moment, but that was the 100% truth. 

I was volunteering earlier in the day to help set up all the water stations so Michele and Michelle ran the 2nd and 3rd legs of the relay, while I ran the 4th. I waited there for Michelle to return and then would take my turn running with Katie. When Michelle arrived, we switched the tracking anklet and off I went. She had to make a pit stop and then (QUICKLY!!) caught back up to us. Katie was hanging in there at mile 21. Recognized soreness but no injury or pain that was going to stop her from making it to the finish line.  The three of us put one foot in front of the other, chatting like usual, until we reached mile 25 where we picked up our 4th member, Michele!!

She even had the honor to carry the pacing stick the last .2 of the race since the Diamonds had become the pace group. Doesn't that sign look good on her?? 

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Getting to cross that finish line as a group and being there to support Katie as she bravely finished her first marathon was by far one of the best moments of the year!! She fought and worked so hard to make this finish happen despite her body trying to punk her and make her give up.

So today's medal Monday isn't about my medal from this race. It is about Katie's and all that it stands for. Strength, perseverance, and true grit. 

(yes I stole this from her facebook)

I am so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishment. Thanks for letting us all be part of your special day and share those miles with you. I hope you never lose the feeling of how it felt to cross the finish line at your first marathon. 

I was also hoping to have a super special photo to end this post with, but I am still on the hunt. After we all crossed the finish line, we instantly went into group hug (and crying) party mode. Someone from the media staff covering could be heard taking many snapshots of us together. Unfortunately, I am still trying to track down that photo. I do think I have a pretty good lead, but bummed I didn't have it in time to share this post. 

That being said, I could say so much more about our little group and our crazy weird bond that we share, but mostly that I am so honored to know each of them and am so proud to call them my friends. Each one of these ladies inspires, uplifts, and encourages me just when I need it the most. 

Is there someone (or more than one someone) in your running circle that you have a similar connection with?? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Try This Tuesday

All week, I was looking forward to this weekend. I know they say you shouldn't live for the weekends, but sometimes it's hard not to. I didn't go on a trip or some fancy getaway, I just stayed in my home area and enjoyed some great events/outside time.

Friday night after work, I headed over to Absolute Pilates for a special "Runner's Night" event hosted at their Mechanicsburg location. There were two 30 minute classes along with some great tips on remaining injury free from Zang Physical Therapy and running form type advice from the wonderful Fred at Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg,  Funny enough I knew most of the other ladies who showed up from class at Fleet Feet.

When I first walked in, I was pretty intimidated by all the equipment!

Really though, that's only because I have no idea what they do with it!! I set up time to meet with Andrew Zang prior to the event starting to seek out some possible answers on my annoying returning injury in my left leg. He confirmed to me what I though- glute weakness like WOAH. Basically, my injury is pretty typical of long distance runners because we all stink at strength training and making sure our muscles are at our absolute best for running. So lesson learned (again and again) is that I need to focus on continuing my strength training even during marathon and further distance training. I struggle so much with this but I continue to lose time running (and progress) each training cycle because of it. It's time for a change!!

Here's a cool shot posted on their insta @absolutepilates from the barre class. Such a neat (and SUPER challenging) experience. I definitely felt all my muscles working really hard. The burn was REAL. 

During the PT session, we learned some great ways to work the glutes since this is a major problem area for female runners. Apparently glute weakness is a pretty primary reason for most female runner injuries. Explains a lot. Again.. work to do!! 

Fred talked to us about stride, cadence, posture, and other run-nerdy things. I have heard of a lot of the info before through taking their training programs, but it is really always great to hear the info again. Sometimes you learn something in a different way than before or you end up with a good reminder. Either way, its great.

After the two info sessions, we hit the mat and did some more WORK! I definitely felt it all in my legs and abs. I knew I would be feeling all of that hard work the next day (and no worries, I did!!).

In addition to the great workout space, they carry some adorable shirts and tanks as well as leggings. They carry some other fun stuff too, but theses caught my eye. 

I was pretty excited that one of my favorite running ladies hung out the whole night too and we snapped this cute selfie before heading home for the night. 

Have you ever tried Barre or Pilates? 

Monday, November 21, 2016

(some of my) Weekend adventures

Saturday morning I woke up earlier than I do on work days- and happily!!

One of my trail runner partner in crimes, stopped by to pick me up shortly before 7 am to make our way to Boiling Springs to meet up with Appalachian Running Company for their trail run. I have been trying to make it out to more of these runs while my mileage is lower to keep my "trail legs" as they say. Really glad I have been doing this since my 50k since I have added something to my plans for the end of the year (more on that later).

It has been fun to join this group on a few runs and meet some new faces and enjoy a change of pace with the trails and beautiful views.

Here's the crew!!

We were greeted by some really cool fog on the Children's lake in town and I quickly jogged across the road to get some photos (of course!).

Views I don't get to see on my regular day to day. So refreshing and wonderful to soak up the last of the beautiful colors of fall here in south central Pennsylvania.

But wait!! There's more.

Trail partners at the top of the climb!

This picture doesn't even it do it justice.

We got a nice 6 miles in on the trail and we were ready for some breakfast!! We grabbed coffee and carbs at the near by cafe and headed home. 

On to Sunday!!  I got up even earlier- at the bright time of 5am to get myself ready and get to Hershey by 6am for the fall Capital Area Girls on the Run 5k. This is my fourth season on the planning committee and even though it means early mornings on race day, I am always happy to do it!!  We got all the bins unloaded for each of the "Friends and Family" zone areas as well as the registration and other check in areas first and then we all spread out to set up our individual areas before the girls and their families arrived.

The pitch black when we first arrived.

We got all set up and watched everyone start rolling in.

Each school team has their own table where all the girls meet for their race bibs and their running buddies (people they can choose to run the race with them.) They have recently added a middle school program "Heart and Sole," which I think is so awesome and important with all the life changes at that time.

My happy hair station!! Always so fun to add color and spunk to each girl's hair pre-race. For some reason, blue seemed to be the popular choice this season.  Our hands were cold, our hair aprons and spray cans were constantly blowing away, but we definitely had a great crew this time around. 

(both Spirit runner photos borrowed from a friend ;))

This year we changed it up a little and added super cool new tradition called "Spirit Runners." This was a group of runners (most of who I think I recruited from our local River Runners group..LOVE!!) that kind of floated all over the course to cheer on and encourage the girls. I heard great feedback about how fun this responsibility was and I am so glad. Not all of them are pictured here, but I hope they all had a great time.

After the girls headed to the warm-up and announcements pre-race, I relocated to the info booth to relieve another volunteer. It definitely got even colder as the morning went on and the girls and their families did not stick around long like they do sometimes. 

We got cleaned up and that was that. We pretty much ran to our cars since we could not wait to get in the warmth again. Oh, and get home for a hot shower and a nap.

In all seriousness, I love this organization and was so glad that this 5k was on my weekend "to-do" list. To be honest, my to-do list was really not a chore this weekend and I am so glad for things in my life that allow me to step away from all the madness of every day life and the online world to enjoy and appreciate even the smallest things. 

So I ask you--- how did you spend your weekend?? 

I really hope it was filled with lifting people up, being kind, and witnessing some awesome humans doing awesome things. Otherwise, you might be doing it wrong. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hero Run 5k - 2016 edition

Hey there, friends!! I am not quite sure what happened to the last month, but I do know that I have been SUPER busy. Between work, my side jobs, family, and running I feel like the last month has been both long and short.

Do not fear, even with the busy times I still made time for some fun and this really cool favorite race of mine.

This is both the 4th year of the race and 4th year I have run it. If you have been around a while, you know that I tend to prefer the longer distances so you might be wondering, why?

Originally, it just started out as a fun and different race at the end of the year to see how I could race a 5k after long distance training all summer and fall. But the race has a great mission as well.  Funds raised from the race gives back to the Keystone Wounded Warriors, helping veterans either currently residing in Pennsylvania or those with past "ties" to the state. Funds also go to COPS for K.O.P.S which supports children of officers wounded/fallen during service in Pennsylvania. Last, but not least, it also contributes to the local Swatara Township Police Department's Crime Prevention fund. So basically, I get to challenge myself, have a blast, and support a good cause all at once.

One of the SUPER fun things about this race? Dressing up as a hero, of course!! I am not a huge running in costume fan generally, but it is always so fun at this race. I especially love when I don't have to buy a thing. I borrowed the skirt and sleeves from a friend, cut a sticker from adhesive vinyl to put on my shirt and made the mask and cape myself. It definitely pays to be crafty in situations like this. 

All ready to go, just hanging out waiting for others to arrive.

River Runner crew 

Smaller crew with the mall mascot

This picture was by far one of my favorites from the entire event. My friend Allison and I found our doggy twins and thankfully their owners were AWESOME and let us get our pictures with them. Aren't they freaking ADORABLE?!! Warms my heart a little every time I look at it.

This is a nice little action shot inside the mall. Another super unique thing about this race is that you actually run from one end of the mall to the other right before popping back outside to the finish. While it sometimes presents a little bit of a challenge breathing and temperature-wise, this year I didn't feel like it affected me as much. Either way, its SO COOL to run through the mall. After all, at what other time is that acceptable? 

Right ahead of me in the picture is Ana from Mother, Run, Hike, Repeat and I can't end this post without a huge shout out to her.  Our story is pretty funny and I think I will save it for another day, but she has become one of my favorite running partners. She always pushes me and this race was no exception. We ended up starting together and staying nearby the entire race. This was really my first "race" since my first ultra run last month and I really didn't have much confidence for the pace I could or could not keep. But we did it!! We got to mingle with and encourage some other runners as we coasted through the course. The only time that didn't feel so easy was the slow painful path around the mall to the front entrance. 

I am actually stealing this photo from her blog because its SO awesome. We truly were in sync until the end. There was definitely some back and forth about who was in front of the other, but never in a competitive way. In fact, on the way out of the mall, Ana was the one who pushed me to power it up right at the end. 

Smashing the finish. 

Darn sun glare. 

Great job, ladies!

I will definitely be back for year number 5 in 2017!! After all, it is Wonder Woman!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hershey Half Marathon take 2

WARNING:  This isn’t going to be your typical race recap- it may also be a little lengthy. Bare with me. 

A little over a week before Hershey Half Marathon was set to take place, my phone vibrated and when I checked the message it was one from a friend asking if I’d like dibs on a free bib to run. HECK YEA!!! I hadn’t planned on running any more long distance races this year since I had just completed my first 50k merely a week before. The being said, as a stubborn runner who doesn’t like to miss out on an awesome opportunity, I could not turn this down.  I responded very quickly that I would love to.

I was not sure how my performance would be at all but I knew I could not miss out.  I have mentioned to a couple runner friends how much I wanted to go back and do this race, but figured I would have to wait to see if it would be in the cards for 2017. Last year I decided against running it because I had a marathon the following week.  This year, the 50k two weeks prior and I had no idea how my body would feel recovery wise.

Why did I want to do this race again so badly? Hershey holds a special place in my heart and always will. This is where I ran my first ever half marathon (you can read about it here). It is also, coincidentally, my PR half marathon.

Yesterday all I could think of was how different so many things were for me since I ran this same race just 3 years ago.

First and foremost, I arrived by myself at 6:15 am this year instead of probably a little later with my husband and training friend in 2013. I did not stay alone for long though!! I knew a few groups were meeting up at different times prior and quickly checked dear old Facebook to see if anyone else was there yet. Low and behold, Brad was parked close by so I hopped out of my car and walked to meet him. We chatted for a while and caught up since it has been a good few months since doing so. We talked about race calendars and our plans for the race. 

At 6:40 am, we traveled up to another meeting spot for our local running crew, RIVER RUNNERS for our group picture.  We chatted for a bit, used the bathrooms, then headed back to the cars to finish getting ready.

(from the RR facebook page)

Part of getting ready was heading back to my friend's car to partake in some adult beverages. This group was fun because I didn’t really know most of the people very well and two of the ladies were running their first half. It was funny to hear how nervous  and squirmy they were, mostly because I remembered the feelings all too well!! 3 years ago I would have never dreamed of drinking anything other than water before a race but there’s apparently a first for everything!!

(thanks for the photo, Brad!)

After partaking, we all broke up and headed our separate ways to the start line. This was another awesome difference from 3 years ago. I have a running family now that I could have never dreamt of 3 years ago. While I trained with and ran about half of the race with a friend 3 years ago, it is so different when you know a ton of the people running.  I started out with 2 other friends who were  in the same boat as I was- recovering from races and unsure what the race might hold for our bodies.

(Names have been changed to protect the identity of the runners. Just kdding- we were all running on swapped bibs)

I also ran into an friend from an old job and got to catch up with her before the race started- SO SO GOOD to see her. 

(Ignore the weirdos in the background..ahemm)

We got started and just chatted away. The miles flew by. SERIOUSLY FLEW. About 3-4 miles in, we heard a familiar voice (and laugh) of another good friend coming behind us. We continued to chit chat all the way through Hershey. We checked on each other to see how we were feeling, made sure we all kind of stuck together, and had a good old time.  We all conquered each and every hill together and stuck together mostly until somewhere close to mile 12.  I am still pretty impressed that we took very few very quick walk breaks and kept on pressing on. 

(thanks for the photo, Holly!! A fellow solemate- we laughed because later in the race someone cheered for us by saying "GO PURPLE PEOPLE EATERS!! Much needed humor. )

One thing that was just as amazing the first time around was the support from the awesome kids at Milton Hershey School. For anyone reading that doesn't know, this school is generally for underprivileged and impoverished kids from all over the country. It is an amazing opportunity for these kids and they live and go to school on the campus in Hershey, PA. the race takes you through quite a few areas of the campus and kids of all ages are out there cheering you on with signs and high fives galore. I dare you to run through and not tear up a little. I can't. They tell the runners how inspiring we are and we tell them thanks for being there and how much the mean to us. FEEL THE LOVE?!

(from MHS facebook page- I wasn't trying to take a picture at this point!)

(arm candy including a bracelet handed out by the MHS kids)

Crossing the finish line felt just as victorious this time around. Although it wasn't my first half marathon any longer, this finish line represented how far I have come in the last 3 years. Countless 5ks, 10ks, 10-milers, half marathons, two full marathons and one 50k later I know I can do so much more than the runner I as 3 years ago. 3 years ago I though maybe, some day I would do a full marathon. I wasn't entirely sure when or how I would make it happen. 

(official, not so official race photo with Kelly!)

I have changed as a person and as a runner since 2013 in SO MANY WAYS. So many good ways. Ways I am proud of. Running has truly evolved my life and given me this incredibly wonderful running group that I consider family. It has really helped me push my limits, give me confidence and connected me to so many amazing people in the process. 

(from Chocolate Town Challenges facebook page)

We celebrated afterwards at Troeg's brewery since it was a quick drive from where we were.. of course we needed another group photo. Sadly, there were a few other's there beforehand that we missed.

I was so nervous back in 2013 as I lined up at the start line but little did i know that it was just the beginning of an amazing adventure and how much running would continue to change my life race after race and year after year.  It was so fun to reminisce at yesterday's race as I took in all the miles for the second time. I hope I will be back many more times in the future!

Have you ever run a race more than once and stopped to think.. really think about how you are different than the first time you ran it?? I am not just talking about paces, but rather how YOU are different as a person?

How has running shaped or changed your life?