Celebrating Running 

Richmond never disappoints. I love this city every single time I visit. This weekend I kicked off Friday with a day date with my husband – enjoying sushi at our favorite spot, walking to Belle Isle, racing up stairs, and visiting a local brewery – before I was joined by my two best running buddies for a girl race weekend. 


Up and Over to Belle Isle

Saturday morning started just how I like it: chilly. We navigated our way to a parking garage, walked a few blocks to the started, took one last bathroom break, and jumped into the race a few corrals behind our scheduled started. No PRs would be chased at this race. It was simply about having fun, feeling confident, and most importantly, welcoming my friend Leah back to the running world after taking a year and a half off to have a baby. 

The race course was gorgeous. The miles flew by. We laughed. We talked. We sang along to music. I may have thrown my fist into the air one too many times. And we crossed the finished line feeling better than when we started. This race will always be a favorite. 


Mastering my running photography skills

As my fall “racing” comes to an ended, I’m filled to the brim with satisfaction. Every race delivered exactly what I needed. Running is fun again, and winter training has some really exciting things in store. My favorite half marathon is waiting to be conquered. PRs are ready to be broken. I’m taking on an exciting new role on the J&A Racing Team (more to come soon!). I’m adding an exciting new strength regiment to my weekly routine. 

I have big dreams for this sport I love so much. I’ve always had big dreams, but now I’m ready to do the work to make it happen. I’m ready to push a little. I’m ready to see what these running legs can do. 


Chicago Marathon

Oh Chicago! A normal race recap doesn’t do this race justice because this race wasn’t about racing at all. This race was about heart. From the top of Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru to the finish line in Chicago, Jerry has been telling me that this race was about loving the marathon. I always believed him, but I took creative liberty to define “love” how I choose. At times love meant fast. At times love meant a personal best. At times love meant taking one too many photos on the trails.

After a perfect peptalk, Jerry sent me off to Chicago with one goal: ENJOY THE RACE!

I had a conference just north of Chicago the week prior to the race. Recently Operation Smile was accepted into an organization called PQMD (Partnership for Quality Medical Donations). It is a collaboration of nonprofits and corporates to establish and execute best practices of medical donations around the world. The meeting was filled with amazing people and organizations – people and organizations that are changing the world. I left the meeting on Thursday filled to the top with excitement and passion. It sharpened my focus at work, and gave me clear perspective on what is next. Not at all a bad way to approach marathon weekend.

Christian met me in the city along with a few favorite friends, and the next few days were spent eating, drinking, laughing, and taking in the sights of Chicago.

And then there was the marathon. This was my slowest marathon by far, but it was also my most enjoyable. I took my time. I took in the city. I felt the excitement. I embraced the marathon. It was when I sat back, and allowed myself to flow with the never-ending crowd of runners that I truly understood what Jerry meant when he told me this race was about loving the marathon.

This race was about embracing the marathon.

This race was about embracing myself.

This race was about embracing Chicago.

We left grant park and got pulled to the magnificent mile. I spotted Christian at mile 1.5 (earlier than I expected) and was more than happy to steal a kiss. I couldn’t keep my eyes from looking up. Running between the skyscrapers was amazing. At mile 2.5, I saw Christian again. One more kiss to send me north of the city. It was in the miles that took us north that I allowed my heart to settle. I just wanted to feel the entire race.

I allowed myself to be embraced by groups of runners. I allowed myself to observe the race. I allowed myself to slow down. This race was a constant flow of happiness.

My body started to fatigue around mile 14 (after another hello from Christian). I felt the lack of miles in my training, but my heart stayed happy. I gave myself permission to slow down even more. I checked on runners who looked like they were struggling, I high-fived spectators, and I kept going.

As I ran through one of the 29 neighborhoods, I saw runners in front of a building waving. I looked towards the direction of their hellos. We were running by a nursing home. Every window had a smiling face cheering us on. I waved hello too.

I meet a group of runners from Boston. We chatted about favorite races. They couldn’t stop raving about a race they ran in Virginia: the Harbor Lights Half Marathon directed by J&A Racing (my running coach!). They told me it is the only race they haven’t unsubscribed to emails from because they want to run it again, and he was quick to tell me they never run the same race twice.

As I made my way down through the final miles, I spotted a familiar face, Michele from NYCRunningMama. I only know her because I’m a fan of her blog. I hesitated before I said hello. Maybe I should just keep going? But this contradicted my entire plan to embrace the day. I quickly made my way across the street and introduced myself as a creeper. Before I could even finish my hello, I heard someone else shout my name. Just on the other side of Michele was Jess (from Paceofme) who has become a friend near and dear to my heart. I spent the last few miles catching up and laughing some more.

Before I knew it, the marathon was over. My heart was ten times bigger and 100 times lighter than when I started the race. It’s all still a blur punctuated by some really amazing moments. I can’t stop smiling when I think of this race. I feel so content, happy, and satisfied.

This race and this trip to Chicago brought me back to a place I’ve been chasing for two years. It gave me my love back. I have some really big running goals, and I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am that my running coach recognized exactly what I needed (even when I begged to focus on speed). I needed to slow down. I need to embrace this race. I needed to polish my heart.

Mission accomplished! I finished this race ready to do it all again. I can’t wait to add another layer to my training. The Chicago Marathon just gave me the foundation I needed.

My love of the marathon is back!

Rock n Roll Half Marathon Race Recap

I really don’t feel like writing this recap. In fact, I really didn’t feel like running yesterday’s half marathon. I knew it was a good time to run a race before Chicago, so I signed up. I also know that this race never leaves me feeling satisfied. But I showed up. And I ran. So I’ll write anyway because I know there is a silver lining in here somewhere. 

I set a modified goal for this race to execute my race plan for Chicago. The first four miles I kept myself in control. I consciously slowed my effort. I did my best to respect the weather. 

Mile 4-6 were a mental battle. Should I push? Should I take it easy? 

I started reading Brene Brown’s new book Rising Strong while we were on our mountain vacation. There is so much in that book that I need to absorb.  

I have become a master at reckoning. I am brilliant at owning my own story. I live it. I breathe it. I see, feel and recognize all my emotions. I know exactly how they connect to every aspect of my life. 

This is the space I ran in yesterday. This is the space I’ve been running in all summer (all year! For years!). Yesterday’s race actually had nothing to do with yesterday’s race. In fact, I doubt it has anything to do running at all. Running is never about running for me. Running is about life. Running is about living. Running is about breath. I often wish I could separate the two. I wish running could be just running, but that’s not how I’m wired. It’s not how I work. Right now I’m struggling to navigate The Rumble. I’m stuck in the middle. 

Mile 6-8 was a true rumble in my head. 

“We can chose courage or we can chose comfort, but we can’t have both.” ~Brene Brown

My friend Heidi wrote about this statement days before the race (read it here). These words hung on me during the race. I wanted to chose courage, but I picked comfort. I seem to always pick comfort these days. Miles 6-8 I tried to rewrite my story. I tried to write a different script for how my races have been playing out these days, but I picked comfort instead. 

If I’m being honest, I have no clue how to get to The Revolution. I’m stuck in The Rumble. 

Around mile 8, a familiar face appeared in the crowd. I jumped in beside her. I asked her what her goal was. She was right where she needed to be. So I happily ditched my internal battle and ran beside her. The last five miles are quite possible the most fun, I’ve ever had on a race. I drank a beer. I enjoyed Popsicles. I ran through sprinklers. I cheered my friend on as we ran up and over the final bridge. As we turned on to the boardwalk, I heard a woman coaching herself to the finish line. She was desperately pleading for the finish line to appear. I took one look over my shoulder, saw her struggle, and told her to come on. Run with me. We’ve got this. Stay beside me. You are going to finish strong. For the last mile I pulled her with me. My heart swells as I think about that moment. As soon as she finished she let out a thank you and tears. It was her first half marathon. She had cramping at mile 6. And then with a simple statement, she reminded me of why I love running – I just pushed through it. And somehow it passes. Somehow your body just works through it. 

Most days I feel like I’m nearly drowning in The Rumble. What is truth? What is self protection? What needs to change ? 

If yesterday has a silver lining hiding inside of it, it is this: I know what needs to change. I need to get out of my head. I need to find the celebration in my own race. I need to push through it. I need to trust that somehow my body will work through it. 

I am still struggling to squash the disappoint I have in my ability to preform in race day, but I know this is all part of the  process. 

If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fail…

The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.” ~Brene Brown

The journey is hard, I may struggle a lot, but there is no other way I want to live my life than with my whole heart. 

Yesterday’s race is proof that I can live through the entire process. I lived it all: the reckoning (miles 1-4), the rumble (miles 4-8) and the revolution (miles 8-finish). 

Maybe I do know how to do this! 

Tomorrow is a fresh start, a new week on my training plan, and a very exciting new chapter for our family. Cole’s middle school adventure begins, and I have another chance to rewrite how my story will end. I have another chance to live this life with my whole (messy) heart. 

Best spectators in town

Shamrock Half Marathon 2015

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

A week ago I crossed the finish line of the Newport News Marathon 8k. Over the five hilly miles, my head quickly tried to play its old tricks. By mile two I found myself thinking old thoughts of “I can’t” and “it’s too hard”. As quickly as they came, I quickly laughed them off. I spent last year battling those mental demons. There was no way I was letting them win this year. Instead I had fun with the runners around me. I chatted with the few spectators that were on the course. Even when congestion prevented me from breathing deeply and a cramp emerged in my side around mile 3, I stayed happy. The result was an 8k and a perfectly executed race

(Finish Time: 45:15, Splits: 9:11, 9:02, 9:01, 9:01, 8:56)

After this race, I knew my heart (and most importantly my head) was ready for my big race weekend: Shamrock Half Marathon.

I wasn’t supposed to be running the half this weekend. I was supposed to be in Africa. I wasn’t training for a spring half. I thought my goal race would be a 10 miler at the end of April. So when plans changed, I quickly adapted my training plan to squeeze in a few double digit runs (two to be exact).

As race day approached, I had a few goals floating around in my head. First and most importantly, I wanted to duplicate the feeling I ran with at the One City Marathon 8k. I wanted to run with a happy heart. I wanted to have fun. Based on my current fitness level, I also had a few anticipated finish times.

A Goal – Sub 2 if the day was absolutely perfect mixed with a little race day magic (the same pace as my 8k the weekend before)

B Goal – PR (sub 2:03:19)

C Goal – stay strong (9:30 pace)

As I lined up at the start of the Shamrock Half Marathon with my friends, I decided I wanted to go for. I wanted to see if I had a sub 2 hiding inside my running legs. Regardless of my inconsistent training and regardless of my unfocused running all winter, I knew my heart and my head was the strongest it has ever been going into a race

The excitement is building

The excitement is building

Mile 1 9:08

Mile 2 9:06

Mile 3 9:06

Mile 4 9:01

Mile 5 9:04

Mile 6 9:05

The first six miles head north through the North End of the oceanfront and along Shore Drive through First Landing State Park. My only thought through the first six miles was to slow down. I didn’t want to run faster than a 9 minute mile. I consciously head back and resisted the urge to run faster as the excitement of race day took over.

As we turned on to the military base, I started to fatigue a bit. I think mentally I knew what the next 3 miles had planned. Three miles through a lonely, quiet military base. My running buddy Laura dropped back at Mile 7 due to some cramping so I was all alone. I started the process of counting miles and water stops. Run to the next mile marker. Run to the next water table. Run to the light house. Get me off this stupid military base!

Mile 7 8:54

Mile 8 9:05

Mile 9 9:23


I expected to feel a surge of excitement as I left the military base, but it never showed up. I was tired. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep the wheels turning. I hadn’t been paying attention to my garmin at this point. If I had know I was so close to going sub 2, I think I could have fought a little harder. Mentally I thought I was in the perfect bubble of finishing with a new PR above 2 hours.

Mile 10 9:35

Mile 11 9:21

Mile 12 9:56

As always Christian was waiting for me as I came out of the military base. Seeing him is always a welcome sight. He stays if I want him near. He bikes ahead when I push him away. I really wanted to be done by the time I saw him. Mentally I was tired.  When I finally saw the mile mark to let me know there was 1 mile left, I finally found some energy. I didn’t run 12 miles to quit, so I tucked my head and kept going.

Mile 13 9:30

As I made my the final turn onto the boardwalk, I was smiling from ear to ear. I knew I was going to cross the finish line with a personal best. This year I really allowed myself to enjoy the energy of the crowd. I high fived everyone on the turn. I cheered along with them. I embraced ever single sign and every single word of encouragement. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Final Stretch 8:36 pace


Official Results 2:01:43, 9:17 pace

I felt like I was beaming as I made my way down the finisher shoot. Satisfied didn’t even begin to describe just how good I felt about my run on Sunday. Running a PR always feels good, but this year feels different. This year running was my last priority. This year family time always came first. This year my work has become my source of pride. This year I choose sleep when my body was weary. This year my life felt like everything fell in place perfectly. To be rewarded with a personal best is truly the cherry on top.

Post Race Celebrating

Post Race Celebrating

As I put another check in the box next to a goal accomplished, I can’t help but feel like this is my starting point. I felt this exact same way last year at the finish line of the Shamrock Half. I’m finding my stride. I’m finding what works best for my life. Running has become the perfect compliment for everything that makes me happy.

This year running embraced me back. My heart won this race!


ECSC 5k – Race Recap

“Light tomorrow with today.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This morning I lined up for a 5k knowing I’m not in racing condition, knowing that I’ve struggled all summer to find space in my runs, and knowing that 3 miles now feels like a long run. I know all of this, yet I was excited. The timing of this race just felt right. I was ready to test my new running philosophy: accept where I am at today.

But old habits die hard. I did my best not to speculate about finish times, to analyze the few runs I have worn my garmin on this summer to predict my outcome, or to stress that a PR wasn’t a possibility (24:50 for those of you who are curious, 7:59 pace). I only let my brain wander as far as setting a few loose goals for the race outside of enjoying myself and pushing myself on the course.

A perfect day – 27:xx, 8:59 pace (I am well aware that I ran this pace for 10 miles in April. Another true test of my new running philosophy. Could my ego let go?)

A solid run – Low 9s

Crap that sucked – anything over 9:20

I lined up next to a few friends and told them that who ever was having a solid day running was required to run.

Laura and I stuck together for Mile 1. I had previously told her my plan was to hit a 9 minute mile. At some point she kindly told me that if a 9 minute mile was my pace, I was running way too fast. We slowed down, chatted, and had some fun.

Mile 1 – 8:28

In mile 2 I encouraged Laura to go ahead. My stomach was telling me to slow down, but I knew I was in a good spot if I could just hang on. Panicking mid-race has been my weakness this year. When I saw 8:28 on my watch and my stomach started to rumble, I felt panic taking over. My focus quickly become to sit in a pocket that felt comfortable. Don’t panic. Relax. Don’t panic. Relax.

Mile 2 – 9:35 (I may have got a little too comfortable this mile)

Mile 3 was about hanging on. My hip flexors are tight lately. I like to lead with my pelvis when I run. Instead of focusing on the miles or the finish line, I focused on my body. I did my best to keep my hips under me. I did my best to keep my upper body relax.

Mile 3 – 9:16

In the final stretch I found a familiar face. Teresa, the overall female winner today, came back to run me in. She helped squeeze out the last bit of energy I had left in my legs. She reminded me to lift my knees and to use my arms. She took over my thinking since my brain had shut off.

Final stretch – 6:58 pace

Official Finish time: 28:00, 9:02 pace

Finish line fun with some great friends

Finish line fun with some great friends

Am I happy with this run? You bet!

It’s no secret my ego has been attached to my running ability for some time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the race to run further or to run faster. I got stuck in a place that let the pace on a race clock determine my level of success. Today that ego didn’t show up. I hope it’s squashed for good. I ran each mile as best I could. I have happily accepted exactly where I am at right now, not last year, not last month, but today! Coming to terms with this has been hard. My ego put up a good fight. But man, it feels good to kick that ego to the curb. It feels good to enjoy the run!

Today’s run was perfect! It makes me really excited about the fall races I have coming up!

Cheers to a very happy start!

Cheers to a very happy start!

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

On Thursday afternoon I sat in a room with all of my coworkers and Shawn Achor. Shawn Achor was just on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday for two weekends in a row. He has one of the most viewed Ted Talks. There is a reason for all of this. What he has to share with world needs to be heard. He is a happiness researcher. His words echoed into my heart, and I’ve been trying to hold on to them.

Happiness is our choice. We choose which lense we use to view life. Why not train our brain to find patterns of happiness instead of patterns of stress, depression or pessimism? During the two hours he spoke with us, he repeated this phrase several times, and I quickly reached for my pen to write it down.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

I took these words to heart. I interpreted them to fit my life. If I focus on my now, if I take the time to pay attention to my inhales and exhales, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I take the time to move beyond living life on the surface, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I do things that give meaning to my life, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Today I headed to the CHKD 8k Run/Walk. My intention was to carry these words with me. I was running on Operation Smile’s Team World Care. We were running to say thank you to the children’s hospital for taking such amazing care of our world care patients. Running is a privilege I don’t take for granted.

The race took off, and I fell into a comfortable pace (except it was too fast). I had no goal for this race except I wanted to remember why I was running. I wasn’t running for a race clock. I was running to say thank you. I forgot all of this in the third mile when things got hot. I forgot all of this when I started to hold the tension in my hips. I forgot all of this when I started to think I wasn’t capable. My brain shut down. My body gave up with it. I got irritated with myself. The negative self talk took over.

Just past the fourth mile marker a girl ran by filled with optimism. She was cheering for everyone. It was the reality check I needed to get my head in check. It was the reality check that got me to the finish line pushing instead of giving in.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Not too long after my finish, I was joined by more coworkers. We were joined by our world care patient from Haiti. We walked the 1 mile fun walk together and celebrated the importance of life. This young lady that joined me on the race course has spent her entire life hiding behind a four pound tumor that had grown on her face. Thanks to some really amazing people and this amazing Children’s Hospital, she will see another birthday. The tumor has been removed forever. I ran one bad mile. Life was put back in perspective.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.


During Shawn Achor’s talk he reminded us that choosing happiness isn’t about being naïve. It isn’t about turning our backs on the real sadness and heart ache in our world. It’s about looking for patterns in our life, patterns of gratitude and appreciation for what we do have. I am lucky enough to live in a culture that encourages me to chase my dreams. I am lucky enough to have the chance to grow as a person. Every single day I get to work on fine tuning my well-being because I live with a healthy body.

I have work I want to do. It’s not work that I have to do. It’s a privilege. I want to learn to be strong in the middle of my race. I want to learn to hang on when things get tough. I want to learn to fight for my potential. I’ve got work to do. This is my privilege.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Grow into it.

(Today I forgot)

Race Results:

8k – 46:23

Garmin: 5.04 in 46:25, 8:34, 9:02, 8:53, 11:05, 8:45, 5:37 across the finish line (talk about potential!)

When I crossed the finish line today, I viewed my race as a failure. I was done racing for a while. The one mile walk with our world care patient changed that. I was using the wrong lense to view my run. Today’s run wasn’t a failure. It was a chance to see where my weaknesses exist. It was chance to see where I have the potential to grow. This is how I want to view my life. This is the lense I’m choosing.

Gorgeous Finish Line View

Gorgeous Finish Line View


Elizabeth River Run 10k Race Report

The past two weeks I’ve done very little running. This was intentional. I wanted to give my head and my body a chance to adapt to all the changes that come with starting a new job. I knew when I lined up on the start line with a few close friends on Saturday morning, I wasn’t in race condition. I’m no where close to my peak condition. My race plan was simple: have fun.

I could have run the race in cruise control, but running solo has lost its appeal lately. I wanted to run with my friends who are also fast and also in great running condition. I’d hang on as long as I could.

Part of my race plan was to also run without my garmin. Numbers didn’t matter for this race. As I left for the race, I grabbed it anyway. What if I had a great race and wanted to know my times?

Damn Ryan (my running coach). He rigged my watch.

I never got a connection during the race. There was no cheating on my race plan.

At the Start (photo credit: @thefitpetite)

At the Start (photo credit: @thefitpetite)

I hung with my friends until just past the three mile marker. My hips were tired. They didn’t want to open up. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I let them slowly slip away, and I took in the gorgeous views on the race course: historic downtown and riverfront streets.

Around mile 4.5, I remembered why running solo (on a crappy run day) isn’t fun anymore. Maybe I should have fought to hold on instead of giving up? I had settled into cruise control mode, and I was now running solo. Just when I started to think this is not fun. Running slow and solo sucks. a smiling face was waiting for me on the side of the road. Jess, The Fit Petite, was waiting for me. We start the race together. We finish the race together. I could have hugged her, but I was tired at this point.

Being rejoined by a friend on the course gave me an extra boost of energy. I may have mumbled and grumbled that I didn’t feel like going faster, I’m pretty sure I speed up significantly when she joined me.

My finish time: 58:25. Five minutes slower than my PR, but significantly faster than a fun (lazy, crappy) run a year ago. ( read my report from Elizabeth River Run in 2012)

The race was exactly what I needed. Racing slow isn’t fun anymore. I’m ready to pick back up my training plan to get myself out of my comfort zone. The day was also filled with lessons of trust but I’ll save that thought process for another post.

Always learning. Always growing. Always smiling. It’s the only requirement I have for myself.

(photo credit: @thefitpetite)

(photo credit: @thefitpetite)