Category: running (page 1 of 31)

Sisters Tell Stories

You know that the best part of any girls’ night is the loads and loads of stories that come spilling out of everyone’s mouths. One minute you’ll be laughing so hard you can’t breathe and then suddenly you’ll be crying for real as you make an emotional 180.

As much as I love hanging out with friends, cracking jokes and musing about nothing, it’s really in the storytelling that friends become sisters.
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Last night I listened as two wonderful sisters-from-church talked about their experience with divorce — shared their stories of heartache, loneliness, redemption, fulfillment. I knew these women before, had talked with them, had a sense of their strength and depth. But hearing their stories colored in the lines.

They talked about how much hearing other women’s stories helped them through their own difficulties. We have sisters all over the place, we just don’t know it until we hear their stories, or tell them ours.

“Story of my life!” and “I love that story!” one of my sisters-in-law always says.

Stories are our lives, and I hope that we love the stories we live, whether they are happy or sad, tearful or fearful. And I hope, too, that we share them with our sisters to strengthen and support them — to help them color in the lines of their own lives, of their own stories.

Sister Saviors: Guest Post by Livia Taylor

Babies babies babies. So much joy! So much pain! And so much we get to discover the hard way. But having sisters around to lead, guide, walk beside—and give the baby a bottle while we regain some sanity—can bring some order to the emotional/physical/mental chaos that is the postpartum period. Amiright? My friend Livia Taylor wrote up this story of how her little sister stepped up and saved the day (or many of them) after she had her second baby a few months ago. Thanks Livia!

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Being six years apart, my younger sister and I didn’t have much in common for a long time. I moved out for college by the time she may have been considered old enough to become my friend. There were a couple of sporadic visits over the years when I was across the country in school, but we didn’t connect very deeply.

She eventually moved to the same state as me to attend school herself, and we started seeing each other on major holidays, when I hosted family and friends at my home to celebrate. When my daughter was born, my sister spent the weekend at my house and helped me pull myself back together as I dealt with postpartum. The first week I was home from the hospital, my sister called me every day to make sure I was alright.

In the four years since my daughter was born, my relationship with my sister has grown into more than just sisterhood; we’re friends. She has since served a mission and done a study abroad while finishing up school, but her influence is often felt in our home even when she’s gone.

I had my son about four months ago, and I was very nervous throughout my whole pregnancy that I’d have a difficult postpartum again. My depression flares up when I’m sleep-deprived and hormonal after childbirth, and it was scary for me to consider having another when I knew he’d be born while my sister was out of the country.

But then my sister gave me the greatest gift; she sent me an email letting me know she was rescheduling her flights back to America so she could make a pit-stop at my house before finishing her summer vacation with our parents in Maine. She ended up staying four days, and it was such a relief to me to have her help while I recovered from the chaos of hosting my son’s blessing and my daughter’s fourth birthday that weekend. I couldn’t have “caught up” on sleep (all parents know that’s not really possible, but you know what I mean!) without her.

My sister will thaw breast milk without being asked and feed my baby while I sleep. She knows how to wrap him tightly and rock him until he’s ready for bed. She can negotiate with my feisty toddler and tolerate her tantrums without skipping a beat. She insists on babysitting so my husband and I can have a date every couple of months. She helps with meals when she stays at my house and cleans up without being asked. She has made it possible for me to cope with having two kids while struggling with managing my depression. Just when I think I can’t do it any longer, my sister will take a break from her life at school and visit me, giving me the boost I need to be a better mom and wife.

I’m so grateful that my relationship with my sister has evolved to this. Our family has been through so much that could have turned us against one another, and I consider it such a blessing we have become real friends. My sister is an example to me of hard work and selflessness, and I hope I can someday return the favor if she chooses to have a family of her own (hopefully by then my baby will be sleeping as well as my toddler so I’ll have the energy to do so :) ).

Also, I feel like I owe her for all the times I’ve borrowed her clothes without asking while she was out of the country.

photo credit Mary Oveson

Second Guessing

So, this aired today:

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(It looks like it got cut off. Sorry about that!)

You know, I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought I wanted to be a mom who taught her kids, who gave them opportunities to learn and grow. I hope that by doing so, they’ll become strong, self-reliant, capable adults.

And I also thought I wanted to be a writer. I thought I wanted to write about life and motherhood and marriage, about continually finding happiness and joy in the most mundane and repetitive of circumstances.

But experiences like this bring all things into question. Like, am I raising my kids well? Am I endangering them by either giving them too much freedom, or by writing about them, or by not giving them as much credit and responsibility as they can handle?

Obviously, having people question my parenting choices would cause me to question them as well. I think that’s a good thing to do. I hope that I am always looking for ways to improve, looking for holes I didn’t see, looking for paths and tools and ideas for how to help my kids become the best they can be. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to get too comfortable in my motherhood, to think that I know anything. I want to be teachable and to be open to the idea that there are better ways that I currently know.

So that’s that. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to be part of this discussion. I hope it has been as enriching for others as it has been for me.

On the other hand, I’ve also had to question whether or not what I really want is to sit quietly and write about my life as a wife and mother. So I’ve questioned it and decided that it is what I really want in life. Really and truly. I find a lot of joy and value in it. And it seemed a good fit for me. I’ve joked that I have a face for radio and a voice for print, so writing is probably where I belong.

But then, I never expected to have the opportunity to try anything else out —to actually do live radio or live television, to speak on camera without a script. I can hardly say what I’m thinking in a normal conversation, so why would I even consider one in which I was sitting under stage lights, wearing a mic, with cameras rolling?

But I had the chance to consider it. To try it out. To do it. And now that I’ve done it, I feel like maybe I should question that, too. Just to see if maybe there is another way for me to say the things I want to say.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get there again, if I’ll ever be able to do anything but peck at a keyboard. But at least now I know that the keyboard isn’t my only tool. If I want to, I can reach for something else.

My Cup Runneth Over

20140912-232146-84106104.jpgEverything is a song these days. And we’re singing it out. Whether it’s “Can You Hear the People Sing” from Les Mis or the cheer the boys came up with to celebrate the occasion of finding a license plate from one of their favorite states (Ohio!), we’re belting it out and it makes my heart sing right along with them. Even after hours. Sometimes, after we’ve put the kids to bed, we hear what sounds like Manchild singing the triumphant national anthem of a distant country. Where did he learn that? Oh, right. It’s the national anthem of Paraparaparaparafeetland, a strange and funny country which Micah has been telling the boys about at random times over the past few months. Each addition to the story leaves Manchild red in the face and nearly doubled over with laughter. Micah knows just what buttons to push to get that kid rolling in the aisles — or singing in the top bunk. Neither of which are bad places to be.

But if we’re not singing, we’re talking. Mostly Little Miss, who seems determined to get this speaking thing down. She follows along when I read stories to her, saying what I say, testing out the words. Micah and I can’t help but say what she says right back at her. Her little voice is irresistible and begs to be heard again and again — even if our efforts are a poor imitation. It’s especially amusing to hear her talk about Pokemon or Shaun the Sheep — two of her brother’s favorite things. Sure, they fight and argue and wrestle and drive me nuts, but they are also really happy to be together and share things with each other.
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With school starting, however, Little Miss is a bit on the outs. Sometimes she cries when the boys leave in the morning without her. But she and I have been spending more time together and that’s a treat. We’re learning the ABCs, matching mama animals to their babies, and chanting, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” (well, she chants, I man the controls) as we ride the bike to pick the boys up after school. And at pickup she isn’t afraid to lay her claim: last week she practically chased Squish’s class down and invited herself to be part of it. Squish held her hand as the class walked down the ramp to the meeting spot. Heart bursting

The start of school also means more running. The kids and I managed to get out about once a week during the summer: Little Miss and Squish rode along in the stroller, Manchild pedaled his own bike. We stopped at playgrounds and took water breaks. It was hot and hard and slow and not frequent enough for me. But it worked for the summer, and now it’s just me and Little Miss, cruising around almost as much as I please. We can get more miles in and do it faster and I’m starting to feel like running is part of my life again after a 3-month lull.

And here’s one last thing to share before I wish you a happy weekend: I loved this story by Peter Sagal about what to do if you’re going through hell. Give it a listen. I think there’s something to it. ;)

Monday on Good Morning America

It turns out that some people think it’s a bad idea for 7-year-olds to be left alone for short periods of time. Some people have even gone so far as to say that no one should be left alone ever. (Or maybe that was just one person, but still. No one? Ever?)

And it looks like a lot of people want to talk about it. This is a good thing. I think we should talk about it. I think we need to have a conversation about how to teach our children to be more independent and how to give them a little more freedom in a world that is so fearful for/about kids that we get yelled at if we let them ride their bikes half a block ahead of us. Our kids need to be given space and opportunity to grow into capable human beings who can take care of themselves. It’s our job as parents to be in tune with them enough to know when and how to give them that space and those opportunities.

This week I’ve been floored by the amount of attention my essay on Babble has been getting. It was picked up by the Daily Mail, I was contacted by several news stations and a radio show (if you want to listen, my segment starts at 20:17), and just tonight a film crew from Good Morning America came by our apartment to film a segment for tomorrow’s (Monday) show. (It’ll be in the second hour, in case you want to tune in. And I’ll post a link to it afterward as well.)

Even if I’ve been floored by the response, I stand by my decision: my son was ready for a little more responsibility and a little more independence and Micah and I prepared him and taught him and gave him a chance to spread his wings a little bit in a safe environment. If we keep this up, he may just be ready to be a contributing member of society when he reaches adulthood.

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Just a note: I know that lots of people are expressing their opinions and that not all of them are being very kind about it. It doesn’t really matter to me. I cannot make good parenting choices for my kids if I am parenting to quiet the critics, so I don’t listen to them.

Beauty and Brains

“You may say most positively that ‘Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,’ but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty.” — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

We talk so much about teaching girls to be themselves, to nurture their talents, to not be afraid to do or be anything. But then we also praise them so much for being “pretty” or “cute” that it would be easy for them to get the idea that being pretty is the only thing to be. I am for sure guilty of this. My daughter is only 2 and it’s already a habit for me to praise her beauty every chance I get. It’s kind of a problem because she may get the sense that no matter what I say, her true value lies in being pretty.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I have definitely felt that way. Growing up, I was the Sandra to my sister’s Susan. Everyone told me I was smart. It seemed like they were complimenting me. It seemed like they were trying to tell me that this was a good thing. And yet it felt a lot more like a curse. I was told that is was probably the reason I didn’t have a lot of friends and the reason boys didn’t ask me to dance (apparently, my big brain was super intimidating?). Even my youth leaders seemed perplexed by what to say to a girl whose “intelligence” outshone her looks. It wasn’t until I was receiving scholarships my senior year of high school that I started to feel a small amount of validation that being smart was actually something to be admired and celebrated.

I know that there could have been other things going on. I am a reserved person. My face is hard to read and that makes me seem unapproachable. But during those extremely formative years of my life, all I could see was that the “pretty” girls (including my sister) were getting a lot of attention, and I was . . . not. I felt like this trait that I had, these “brains,” was talked about it like it was worth something but it wasn’t really valued at all. It was worthless and so was I.

It has only been recently that I’ve started to unravel the truth that the value that I have as a person is something separate from whether I am pretty or smart or approachable. At that time, I had been working really hard to earn the love and attention of others. I wanted to prove that I was worthy. It was crushing when I felt like my efforts were ignored or unappreciated. But about a year ago something turned in my head — and my heart — and I could kinda sorta see that there were at least a few people who liked me because I am me, and not because I can bake pie or run fast or because I’m somebody’s sister or friend or because I am or am not “beautiful.”

Then last spring this idea came into focus a little bit more when I went to the Women in the World Summit and heard Ken Burns say, “Eleanor Roosevelt would not have become who she was if she had been made to feel like she was pretty.” So much of the work that she did — helping the downtrodden, fighting injustices, bringing attention to the overlooked — she didbecause she felt that she couldn’t get by on her looks alone, that she wasn’t worth anything if she didn’t do it. 

Later that same day I listened to a panel of women talk about how girls pin so much of their self-worth on whether or not the selfies they post online get a lot of “likes” or comments. It hit close to home for me. I admit it. I don’t post pictures of myself very often because I don’t feel like I get “good feedback” (or any feedback). And I let it tell me that I’m not beautiful, not worth praising, not worth anything — that people don’t like me. When Rashida Jones, one of the panelists, suggested that girls and women be encouraged to invest more in their “appreciating assets” — their heads and their hearts, rather in the “depreciating asset” of physical beauty, another small wheel turned in my head and this idea became a tiny bit clearer.

I’ve been thinking a lot since then about what it means to be “beautiful” or to be a “beautiful person”and last week I had the chance to sit down with a dozen other women to talk about it. There were so many insightful, thoughtful, and helpful comments. Some of the best:

“Every day I look in the mirror and I tell myself I’m beautiful. In fact, I’ve only seen myself ugly once. That was when I was angry. I told God, ‘Thanks for letting me see me ugly,’ and now I am never angry.”

“I want to tell people that I love them, but what I hear myself saying instead is, ‘You look beautiful today. I really like that dress.'”

“When I think of all you ladies, I don’t see what you look like as much as I see the things that you are doing, how you are helping others, that special moment I got to see between you and your child, your talents and what you are contributing to the world.”

“People don’t think about you as much as you think they do.” (Which is possibly the most freeing realization I have ever had in my life.)

“I have a friend whose default position is, ‘They like me.’ She just tells herself that everyone likes her, and then they do, because she’s not afraid of them.”

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With all this coming into focus in my mind, I was bold enough to post a photo of myself (not exactly a “selfie” since Little Miss was actually the photographer) to Instagram. It’s not a glamour shot by any means, but it is me — my face, my story. When I first posted it, I held my breath a bit and waited to see if anybody would “like” it — or me. But then I talked myself down and remembered: people aren’t voting on how pretty I am or how much they think I am worth. I posted the photo to tell my own story, and whether or not they like it is irrelevant. It’s fun, but it doesn’t change the fact that no matter what people think of my looks or my brains, I can still be a beautiful person — someone who is kind, generous, thoughtful, patient, selfless, sensitive, honest, cheerful.

Some Kickin’ Cute Clothes from Kicky Baby

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Sharra first told me that she was coming up with a line of children’s clothes last fall as we were running through the park with our kids in the strollers, as we do nearly every week. I hadn’t known that she was a fashion designer/seamstress. I knew she was a runner, a cyclist, a yogi. An art conservationist. A good conversationalist. A totally hip mom. A supportive and patient wife to a man with a lot of responsibilities. And an all-around fun friend/great person to be around/model of who I want to be when I grow up. But of course hidden talents abound in Brooklyn and Sharra was revealing to me one of hers: she makes kid clothes.

Real, live kid clothes for real live kids that move and run and kick and climb. Clothes that are bright and colorful and stylish and . . . just what you want because it’s just what you ordered.

At the time, back in the fall, I didn’t know all this. I just knew she was a self-taught seamstress and she was trying to work out the kinks in some of her patterns before she went big and launched her Etsy shop.

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But then, a few months later she needed some models for her clothes and because I like nothing better than to be able to tell people that my children are models, I jumped at the chance. Squish and Little Miss went with the program and gamely let me change their clothes 5 times in 30 minutes and twirled and kicked and stretched and stood and sat for photos in Madison’s photo studio/bedroom.

And OH MY GOODNESS. The clothes! SO CUTE! Harem pants! Pinafores! Bibs! Bubble shorts! In infant to 5T sizes! I die. So beautiful. So fun. So perfect for little people and the parents who want them to look like the adorable children they are — and not like little adults.

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Of course we had to get a pinafore for Little Miss.* Obviously. Sharra sent us some fabric choices and then waited patiently for us to peruse them and debate among ourselves for a couple of weeks before we settled on elephants and flowers. And then she surprised us by having the finished product to us basically the next week. Such service!

Now, many of you know that Little Miss is still mostly wild animal, and has not yet evolved fully into the civilized human being that she will one day be. But in the pinafore you wouldn’t know the difference. She looks the picture of a ladylike little person, but the cut and fit are perfect for allowing her to climb and jump and kick and swing like the monkey she is inside.

Clearly, I love the pinafore. Just like I love all the clothes that have come out of Sharra’s workshop. And because Sharra is such a generous friend, she’s giving MotherRunner readers a 25% (!!) discount on Kicky Baby clothes through the end of July (!!). Just message Sharra the promo code motherrunner25 when you make your order on Etsy.

Find Kicky Baby here! And be sure to order before July 31 to get the discount!

 

*Full disclosure: Sharra kindly provided the pinafore for me to gush over review on the Internet, just as I have been doing in person since I first laid eyes on her work.

A Mile In His Shoes: My Dad

Well friends. We’re in our new apartment. It has a balcony with a view of the Freedom Tower. It’s next to a train line (we can hear the train running by every 9 minutes or so — good thing there are only 2 cars on it!) And I finally made it out for a run with Madison (and the kids) this morning — after an entire week of just not having the time. Things are slowly but surely coming together and maybe (just maybe) in a couple of months our new place will be put together enough that maybe (just maybe) I’ll give a little tiny house tour. (Little and tiny because that’s how much space we have.)

But. It’s been months (months!) since I asked my dad to let me spotlight him here and I thought that now, with Father’s Day right around the corner (and with my notes from Women in the World still packed away), would be a good time to share the results.

So, without further ado, here’s my dad.

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Who are you?

Wallace Blackhurst

I have graduate degrees in Economics and have taught at universities both east and west of the Mississippi. Spent most of my career working at the administrative headquarters of a religious organization. Currently retired. I live in Utah, am married to Barbara Sue and have 12 children (7 boys, 5 girls).

Can you walk us through your typical day?

Being retired, I now spend most of my time doing things I always wanted to do but never had the time for. I just finished a multi-year project to renovate one-fourth of our large home to create a separate apartment.

Once each week I go to the homes of my grandchildren who live nearby and read to them. I’m once again training to run a marathon, so I try to work in a significant run nearly every day. I allocate time every day for intellectual stimulation. My favorite is home-based college lectures on a broad variety of topics. I’m the leader of a men’s group at my local church and am involved in other service opportunities as well.

What is your perfect day?

Making progress on something that matters to me. That involves me in activities I don’t necessarily enjoy in and of themselves, but I do immensely enjoy their outcome (see “do-it-yourself projects” indirectly referenced above). My perfect day includes some of this kind of progress, plus physical activity, intellectual stimulation, and making at least one thing just a little bit better.

What is one of your biggest challenges as a parent/person? How do you deal with it?

I want it to be easy to be me. But the me I want to be is better than the me I am. Closing the gap between the me I want to be and the me I am is my biggest challenge.

What is a story you always tell?

My memory no longer warns me that I’ve told a story before. I would have to consult my children to find out which are the stories that I repeat.

(As his daughter, I can say that there a couple of favorite stories. One of them is the time he was on a Boy Scout campout (possibly a Jamboree?) and he and a friend noticed that the Dutch ovens had just a few coals on them. Realizing the food would never get cooked with so little heat, they piled on a bunch more hot coals. Enough that not only was the food cooked, but the cast iron was too. If my memory of the story serves me right, it melted. The scout master was so amused he had the melted lid etched with their names and the dates of the scout trip — or something like that. 

I also like the stories about when he was a kid and his mom never took him to the hospital — even when he got in a bike accident and nearly cut his ear off.

And it’s always fun to hear the birth stories from his perspective. All 12 of them.)

Do you like to run alone or in groups? Why?

I always run alone. The obvious reasons are that I’m slow and have trouble keeping up with a running partner, and that I become so winded that I can’t carry on a conversation with that person anyway. But there’s another reason behind these. I’m towards the introvert end of the scale. Some introverts, and I’m one of them, are best able to replenish their reserves when they are doing something alone. So I run for rejuvenation and renewal.

What is your best running moment?

When I feel like I’m at, or tying into, a beginning. So I love to run in the morning when the sun is rising over the mountains.

If you could do anything over, what would it be?

Raising a family, but not because I feel like I didn’t get it right the first time. I really enjoyed raising my family. There was always tons of energy flowing around me, emanating from my children. I got involved in new, interesting things that they were interested in, and that I wouldn’t otherwise have been part of.

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(That’s Dad, nearly jumping the fence to cheer on his kids!)

What is your favorite mantra? (or what would you put on a t-shirt?)

[Drawing a total blank here.]

Do you have a power song? What is it and why does that motivate you?

When I was a teenager I read science fiction because it opened my mind to the biggest stage I thought there could ever be. Then about ten years ago a human resource consulting company came to my office and asked me a lot of questions that didn’t seem relevant to anything. Several weeks later they told me what they had found out. They said I was a person that always had to be involved in the most important thing, whatever that was. I thought nobody knew. It was true, and it was why science fiction thrilled me. Anything, including music, that opens the drapes of my mind and allows me to see a long ways off, either in space or in time, is a thing that motivates me and gives me power. At this point in my life, looking back at what has already happened and forward to what is yet to happen, just about any spiritual anthem is my power song.

What is your favorite book?

Good to Great. How small and unheralded things–consistently applied over a long time–can bring about big and beneficial change.

What’s for dinner tonight?

Whatever Barbara Sue fixes.

Here is a bit more about my father the runner . . . something I started a long time ago and still plan to finish— maybe even this year. Let’s give it up for my dad! (And thanks, Dad, for letting me spotlight you! Love you.)

A Race of One

Lining up in Boston with all those thin, sinewy gazelle-ish people, knowing that just about everyone there takes this marathon-running thing seriously and probably worked really hard just to get there, can make you feel like such an imposter.

I don’t belong here.

I can’t really run that well.

I’m still new at this.

I’m not as fast as I look.

It’s a little surreal and a lot intimidating. I hear people talking about their pre-race rituals, about that time they ran a marathon through a downpour with a sprained foot, about their plan to kick it into high gear at the halfway point. And although it is tempting to feel like I really don’t belong there because I really can’t compete with them, I try, instead, to remind myself that I’m actually not competing with them.

I’m running my own race. Against me and my inner coward, my inner sloth, my inner egotist. And the goal is not to win, not to beat anybody else, but instead to be brave, and true, and humble.

I can’t compete with anyone else not only because we run at different paces, but because we’re coming from different places. Some are coming off of injuries, others are having the best race of their lives. Some have really specific goals and others are there just to have fun and soak in the atmosphere. This is serious business for some and a 26-mile party for others.

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It’s hard enough to remember that on the race course, when you actually are running a race. But it’s even harder in real life. So hard to remember that I’m not competing with any other mom, or writer, or woman. I can’t be “the best wife ever” — I can only be Micah’s best wife ever. I don’t need to feel inadequate or unworthy or like I don’t belong. I just need to be me.

And even when there are people all around me doing the things I want to be doing, people who look like they are living the dream and crossing the finish line while I’m still slogging through, I can’t be discouraged by their success (and my implicit failure) because they aren’t running the same race I’m running. Maybe I’m coming off an injury, maybe I’m just getting through this while my mind and heart are somewhere else, maybe this is just the first step in a long journey.

Whatever the case, I need to keep my eyes on my own page, my feet in my own lane, my heart in my own race . . . and feel lucky to line up next to so many people who are courageously doing the same.

Micah’s Got Next

For weeks and weeks I’ve been looking forward to being DONE with the marathon. I was so tired of running every day, so tired of pushing the darn stroller with two kids in it, so tired of logging miles. I imagined that my post-marathon life would be full of playdates and free time, that I would have more time to write, more time to sleep, more time to cook, more time to . . . not make myself so tired.

But then the taper happened. I rested up. I was less stressed about logging miles. And running was fun again. I wanted to do it everyday. I wanted to run a marathon every year at least. I wanted to be as fit as I am now for always. I wanted to never. stop. running.

And of course, that is still the plan. To never stop running. But for now, it’s time to pass the baton. I’ve been telling Micah for months that he’s got next. It’s his turn. He’s been holding my horses for me for a couple of years and, now that his body is feeling better, it’s time for him to go get his. meandmicah

As much as I want to sign up for all the races while I’m still riding the post-race high, I need to catch my breath. So I’m going to stay true to my word and pull back a bit. I’ll still run, yes. I’ll still race, even. But Micah gets to do what he wants to do first, while I hold the horses along the sidelines.

And while I still (always) put my family first, I’m hoping to focus a little more on my writing. Maybe get a little more sleep. (I never realized how awesome 8-hour nights were until I tried it for a whole week!) Possibly be a better friend. But mostly, I want to be as supportive of Micah and his goals as he’s been to me and mine.

It’s only fair.

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