Ending Poverty? The Time is Now.

I tend to try to live my life on an even keel. A "breathe in, breathe out, just keep moving forward" perpetual motion thing. For example, as a runner who has been training for my first full marathon, I've had to learn a great deal about pacing and purpose. If, during training, I run faster than the pace I'm scheduled to run, I risk an injury. While I absolutely CAN run fast, I shouldn't always do so, for it interferes with the ultimate purpose of training-which is to prepare my mind and body to cross a finish line healthy and successfully after navigating the terrain of a marathon. 

I also try to keep this kind of focus in the work I do as an anti-poverty advocate with RESULTS. In fact, when I speak with many of volunteers and colleagues, we often refer to our advocacy work as a marathon, not a sprint. It's much easier to achieve the vision of ending poverty by 2030 if you work with the mind set of what do we need to accomplish now in order to get to then. While there is an urgency in the work we do, if we don't pace ourselves we will find we have lost our momentum and drive...and have miles to go before crossing the finish line. 

I also know this. As a runner I am often asked by others for advice on how to run a successful 5k when they've never run before. Now I only know what works for me, personally, and I try to advise while providing that disclosure. Recently I ran a 5k in 22:20. That was a personal best for me, and at 45, I placed first in my division and was fourth place overall out of all the women running that day-and only two minutes behind the lead female runner (who was half my age). But that time, that pace, was only achieved after training since January to improve and increase my stamina and speed. In fact, my first 5k race over two years ago was a personal best of 32:08. And I was thrilled with that accomplishment as I had just started running. But the training program I follow is not one size fits all. It's personal to my height, weight, and purpose. Which is why when I advise my friends who ask about training that I can only speak from my experience, but that they need to explore what works best for them and not compare it to anyone else. 

Now, returning to anti-poverty advocacy. While the organization I work for and support has great tools to help volunteers speak about poverty and help create a movement for sustainable long term change, by no means do we ever say we are the ONLY organization doing this work. We welcome partners and work closely with allies because we know that each organization is more effective when we are collaborating on the issues, not competing for our volunteers voices and stories. 

So I admit that sometimes I lose my even-keelness when I read articles or social media posts from organizations that I support which claim to be the only group doing anything effective...on anything. It's not just anti-poverty advocacy mind you, but the whole notion that if you belong and support multiple groups you, the advocate, are being ineffective and inefficient. 

That is simply not true. 

While I would love every single one of my family members and friends to be a part of the work I do at RESULTS (and believe me they get asked all the time), I recognize that for some picking up the phone and scheduling an appointment with a member of Congress is not something they are comfortable with...just like they have little inclination to ever run a marathon like I am going to. But the knowledge that they support me in my work, as an advocate and as a runner, means that I know that I am never alone. 

But I cannot do this alone. Now is the time for you to take an action. To step out of your comfort zone and set a pace. 

Because recent census data reveals that, as Talk Poverty points out, "the share of families struggling on the economic brink also remains elevated, with about one-third of Americans--33.9 percent--just one paycheck, sick child, or broken-car away from poverty." 

45.3 million Americans live in poverty. 

Let me repeat that. 


That should make you very un-even keel. That should make you stop and take that deep breath. That should make you loudly exhale. That should make you say unacceptable to anyone and everyone who will listen. 

Of the 4,247,103 residents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky where I live, 823,197 are living in poverty. The poverty rate for Kentucky is 19.38% which is -4.16% worse that the United States average. The child poverty rate is 26.5% which is -5.27% worse that the United States average. 

Let me say it. UNACCEPTABLE. 

These just aren't numbers on a spread sheet or a bar graph. These are our family members, our children's classmates, our friends, people we pass by as we walk to work, and those we stand next to a the grocery store as we wait to buy our groceries. These are people who are sleeping on a family member's couch, who are going to bed hungry every night, and are choosing between buying diapers or paying an electric bill, because they cannot afford to do both. Poverty isn't someone else's issue, even if the media doesn't want to talk about it or address it. It isn't someone else's problem, even if we believe we don't have a problem in the world. Poverty is about you and me and us, and WE. 

Marathon training is a process. I tend to run alone. It's hard to find people who want to keep my pace (whether they are faster or slower runners than I) and often times running a long run (like I just did for 18.6 miles) is a solitary experience. However, even though much of my effort is solo, I'm not alone in my endeavor. I have a large group of people who send me virtual high-fives and family that make sure I have ample supplies of coconut water and protein bars to refuel with. 

I cannot do it alone. It is a team effort. 

Just like ending poverty. 

I work with RESULTS because I believe WE have "the power to end poverty" for as John Green said, "there is no Them. There are only facets of Us."

So whether you sign an online petition (or several from several different groups), send a letter to an editor, tweet a statistic, share an article, speak to a group, speak to a friend, or speak so often you lose your voice, just step up and out and do it. 

Every marathon is run one mile at a time and every time is the right time. 

And as for ending poverty? There is no time like the present. Let's go. 


Someone To Watch Over Me

I've written this blog at least a thousand times. On scraps of paper, napkins, and notebooks. I write it in my head as I run, thinking of all the ways to start it, to navigate the middle of it, and how it should end. In some versions it is perfect. It captures every shadow, every sliver of light. In other versions it sits like the burnt rice at the bottom of a pot that no amount of soaking in the sink can remove. But no matter what words I put on the paper, no matter what I say, there is no correct tone, no perfect word, no part that will ever expertly smooth out the jagged edges or sand over the cracks.

And here is why.

Today, August 20th, is my mother's birthday.

My mother at nineteen.
How I miss that 'Mona Lisa' smile. 
She would have woken up and heard my voice on her phone singing happy birthday and found a card waiting for her in the mailbox. She would have made her way to her neighborhood coffee shop, sat down and held court, having the staff bring her a breakfast bagel sandwich and she would have spent the morning playing gin rummy or reading another Dan Brown book. She would have gone home, had a siesta, then she would have sat in her sun room with her beloved dog, and she would have called me. Because her memory was so poor, our conversation would have been the same conversation we had every time we talked. We would close the conversation by saying our "I love yous" over one another, laughing. She would have dinner with her best friend, then watch Casablanca for the hundredth time, and maybe fallen into a light sleep with the television on.

By no means a day any different than any other day, but still a day.

And since my mother died in March, there hasn't been a day where I haven't longed to hear her voice, to hold her hand, or to sit with her.

One of my favorite of her: confident, healthy, happy.
Ours was, like so many mother-daughter relationships, one where we each wanted to be the lead in the dance, but at times we couldn't follow because the music we heard wasn't the same. She raised me to be strong and independent, yet bristled and balked when being strong and independent meant challenging and questioning her authority. She found it especially difficult to be reliant on me, her child, for anything, especially emotional support. Part of that stemmed from her own insecurities from a childhood with a strong-willed mother who raised her to be...strong and independent. Sadly their inability to express love to one another impacted how my mother often felt unable to express love to me. I have never doubted my mother loved me, it just was the way that she expressed that love that created many a year of insecurity and self-doubt. Was she proud of me? Yes, proof of which can still be found in her home-a wall and shelf of photos of me interacting with the President, articles in which I was featured, cards I had sent. But did she speak kindly to me? Quite often the opposite, criticizing what I wore to the White House or how I had cut my hair. In fact I have no doubt that if she had lived to hear about my trip this summer to Africa and to see photos of me standing on the summit, her first comment would have been not about how proud she was of me, or how exciting it must have been, but, instead, "Is THAT the hat you wore? Couldn't you have found one that made you look less like a boy?"


I wish she were here to say that to me.

I have said this before. I am now a motherless daughter, yet in so many ways because I am my mother's daughter, I am never without her. She is an echo in my heartbeat; a catch in my voice when I say a certain phrase; in the way I hold my hands or gesture when I talk; in my brashness and boldness; in my sarcastic quips and cynicism; in my ability to eat books for breakfast and belch quotes out at the most inopportune times; in how I am insecure and unable to take a compliment, and I am always suspect when one is given. She is found in every sunrise I see, whether at Stella Point on Mt. Kilimanjaro, or the one I see when I run. She is in the mirror's reflection when I wear a piece of her jewelry.

And I find, yet again, this is woefully inadequate and incomplete. That all the words I wanted to say have slipped away. That to you I have not described the woman who when I was a teenager dyed her hair orange, and when she was 65 got a tattoo, who wore from wrist to elbow large turquoise and silver jewelry pieces, believed that aliens built Machu Pichu, knew every piece of dialogue to Casablanca, who loved to mix tang with her Lipton ice tea (and spike it with white wine upon occasion-don't ask), who adored Frieda Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe, who ran red lights in her mini-cooper, loved shopping at TJ Maxx, and styled every room in her house as if it were going to be featured on HGTV.

My mother. My friend.

Frances Elizabeth "Beth" Garland Ledden.

Brilliant. Beautiful. Blustery. Bossy. Bold.

My words are inadequate. My thoughts incomplete. There is so much more to say, yet what more can be said? And I know that after I post this, I will think of another thousand things to say, another thousand memories will wash over me, and another, and another, and another. And none of it will ever be enough, or right, or perfect, or measure up in any way to any thought in my head. I will continue to bumble and stumble. To not ever have the right haircut. To not ever be able to explain why I run. To not ever say I love you loud enough.

And maybe all I now know is only this:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings


Age Is Your Destination, Not A Number


Yesterday I turned 45.

This is significant as it marks a halfway point in my life, since there is a distinct possibility that I could see my 90th birthday. My grandmother, who has smoked pretty much all her life (only finally quitting two years ago), who likes to start every phone call with "I wish God had just let me die last night," and then talk about all the negative things that happened over the course of her lifetime, has just celebrated 90 years.  Which makes 90 sound like so much...well, if you are her, not fun and not young.

But then I also watched the news and saw a brief story about Ida Keeling, who at 99 just set a new age-group world record of 59.80 seconds for a 100 meter dash.


And trust me, my birthday yesterday, while filled with lots of loving and kind comments (especially appreciative of all the ones that included "you don't look any older than 29" or some variation of that theme), it really was a day like any other.

A day that included an early morning marathon training bike ride, lunches for kids, signing paperwork handed to me at the last minute, washing a load of laundry, talking with my colleagues at RESULTS about group expansion work and anti-poverty advocacy initiatives, cleaning up some cat ick, having lunch out with my spouse, sitting in my car reading a book waiting to pick up my daughter, attending a group meeting to talk about ONE's "The Power Project" campaign, shopping at the grocery store...

It's not always about where the sunrise is, but
the fact that you get to experience one that matters most
Well,  I think you get the picture.

It was an exercise in the ordinary.

And I loved every minute of it.

Because the way I see it, every single day that we are able to get our bodies out of our beds, walk around, have coffee, cuddle with our cats or our kids, see a sunrise, drink a smoothie, go for a run, meet with loved ones and friends, talk and share about issues we support and believe in, make a phone call to someone who we've been meaning to talk to, get a phone call from someone who you haven't talked to in a while, ... THAT'S what is worth celebrating.

The exercising of the ordinary.

The fact that we can do all those things, without having to think twice about doing them, is what matters.

Because, despite what so many people seem to think, that I live this life extraordinary with superhero status, the truth is that it is the ordinary which is the sum of our whole and what helps us when we are faced with the out of the ordinary, to be extraordinary. Trust me, I want nothing more than to stir it up and make the world take notice that it's time a change takes place. But I also know that at 45 (even if a few someones think I look 29) I have aches and frustrations which sometimes I get far too focused on forgetting all the rest. That:

  • I have to hold books further away to read the print and need glasses and am vain enough to just hold the book further away than buy the darned glasses. 
  • I fight depression and still wrestle with grief and guilt over the death of my mother.
  • I have swollen ankles. Like Fred Flintstone swollen and am living in flip flops when I'm not in running shoes. I have thigh muscles that feel like they are on fire. Yes, this girl is on fire. 
  • I have calf muscles that get so tight I sometimes can't point or flex my feet, no matter how long I use the foam roller or how hard I press. 
  • I have more grey hair than can be counted (which thankfully a good black and white filter can hide).
BUT none of that prevents me from getting up, walking outside, and taking a look at the sunset. To exhale. To know that if I'm fortunate, I will wake in the morning and get an opportunity to start fresh and try to do my best, again. To focus on compliments rather than complaints.

And celebrate it all.

The taste of strawberries and cream. The smell of sunscreen. The feel of sweat rolling down my neck after a run. The sound of laughter at bad jokes. The sight of a sunrise on a city street.

45, no filter, as "I myself am made entirely of flaws,
stitched together with good intentions"

So tomorrow morning, as I sit on my couch, sipping coffee, groggy with sleep, with every inclination to pull up a blanket and listen to every fiber of my being saying just be still, go back to bed, let someone else do it, I will not stop. I will exercise the ordinary. Because someone is me. I will get up and celebrate it all. I will practice all the self-care that I can. I will use all the ice in my house to soak in after my long run on Saturday. And every day that I am able I will get up and do it all again, because it takes a lot of ordinary people to make extraordinary things happen, like finding a cure to Parkinson's (as I'm asking my friends to do via my Michael J. Fox Foundation fundraising page).

I was asked yesterday what I have learned in the last year. I've learned, as Lou Holtz said, "if you're bored with life, if you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don't have enough goals."

So, I woke up today with a goal.

Choose to live the next 45 years, keeping track of the hurt, the frustration, replaying the moments where I "could have been a contender" and find myself at 90 always playing out the bitter rather than savoring the sweet.


Choose to live the next 45 years (plus), striving to reach a point where I'm mentally and physically healthy enough to run a 100 meter dash fast enough to set a new world record of 59.79. Because you don't have to beat that record by minutes, just by a second.

A goal to live if age is a destination, not a number. I know which goal I choose.
What's yours?


Measuring Moments

Every day I'm one mile closer to my goal of running 1000 miles in a year.

When I decided in January to set this goal I honestly thought it would take the entire year. But I'm only 115 miles away from realizing that goal. Certainly training for and running in a variety of races, including a spring half marathon, have made this come about much faster than I thought it would, and averaging about seventy to eighty miles in a month...well it all adds up.

That's a lot of sunrises. 

And although I'm not there yet, I still have to say: 1000 miles. Who would have thought that even possible?

And perhaps because I have been so focused on that goal, and then training for my first full marathon this fall in New York, I've not been writing as much as I have in the past. Wait, let me rephrase that. I'm writing facebook status updates and clever quips to accompany instagram photographs, and as an active advocate, I have quite a bit to say about ending poverty, polio, and Parkinson's. Certainly not a day goes by when I'm not speaking up, whether verbally or by a deed, about causes I am passionate about and dedicated to. As is often pointed out to me, I tend to "walk (well, run) my talk." I've spent this spring and summer advocating in Washington, DC, with both my fellow champions from the UNF Shot@Life program (about the importance of global vaccination efforts) and fellow anti-poverty cause agents from RESULTS (on strengthening EITC and other tax policies to help lift the millions in poverty out of poverty and keep these families from falling off the fiscal cliff). I also spent time this summer in Africa, hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with my friend, Liz Nead, and supporting the Wounded Warrior Project and Girls on the Run, International. And all of that walking and talking adds up (and with the use of the Charity Miles app I can also help contribute financially to those causes) and thus I recognize I am at a point where I believe my actions have spoken louder than my words.
wisdom where the sidewalk ends

But on today's run, the first five miles of the month, I happened to glance down and see...words. It was a message of encouragement. And while I wasn't struggling physically during this run, I have certainly struggled at other times. And as I stood there, breathing, I realized how much a disservice I have done to myself by making it sound as if there has been no struggle at all during my training. I think it's past time to rectify that, if only to set the record straight about what this soon to be 1000 mile journey has been...and renew my sense of hope and a future.

Because the truth is... I'm tired.

I'm tired because in this past July I ran 72 miles. I ran those miles in sweltering heat and humidity. In rain. In a lightening storm (I promise I was only outside for ten minutes before I dashed inside and finished my miles on the treadmill. Dedicated. Not crazy). In the best of health. In the worst of health. I ran alone. I ran with a friend. I ran in the dark just before the dawn of a new day. I ran on city streets and on uneven trails. I ran. I ran with guidance, support, and a plan from my coach Scott at Team All American. And if you add in the 41 trekking miles from base to summit to base again on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, or the biking and walking miles, it was a month packed full with close to 161 miles of movement. 

I'm tired because turning 45 in just two weeks (even with an on-line health insurance assessment which says I'm no older than 43) and having my oldest son turn 16 in a week are things to take note of. Also my knees loudly protest and remind me every minute of every mile that I'm not as young as I look, even when people assume that I am. Yes, it's flattering to be mistaken for a twenty-something, but I'd be happier to have twenty-something knees than a twenty-something...something else.

And I'm tired of keeping track of my pace, of how much water I've drunk, how many calories I burned to know how many calories to consume. I just want to eat a pizza covered in guacamole. Followed by a big bowl of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. Okay...two bowls. And yes, I said a pizza...not a slice. Soon. Soonerish. 

So, there you go. Despite the numerous high-fives and "rock star" or "you are my hero" cheers I receive, I am by no means either a rock star or any hero. I am simply someone doing a something because I am capable of putting forth something of an effort for someone else. And I'm not a hero either. I'm completely selfish as to why I run. While I am running to honor the memory of my step-father, Donald, who passed away two years ago and navigated Parkinson's to the best of his ability until his death, I also run for, well, as an apology of sorts in the only way I can apologize. I was a lazy daughter. Like many adult children I assumed that, even though I knew he was ill, that we would have more time together. That an email was as good as a phone call which was a good substitute for a visit. Sadly, nothing can replace sharing time in the same place as the person with whom you want to spend time with, and once you run out of that time you cannot get it back. So, I run because every time I do, I hope that I am helping someone else, somewhere else, be able to have a moment of time with someone they love. And because I can't say I'm sorry the very least I can do is work to change a story so someone else doesn't have to say it either. 

But being tired won't stop me, because being tired is temporary and being tired will pass. But for far too many people, those who have Parkinson's and those that love them, they know this isn't temporary and it just doesn't go away after a nap or an extra cup of coffee. 

But without all of us working together, Parkinson's will stop someone.

Beth and Donald, with love
So I turn to you. My family, my friends, my cheerleaders, my caregivers. As you know, I am not very good at asking for care. I tend to believe that I can do it all, in my own way, without help, or support. But I realize that doing this alone isn't going to get it done. I've made a commitment to run in NYC for my step-father, Donald, for my mother, Beth, who passed away unexpectedly back in March after breaking her hip, for friends who have, through illness (fibromyalgia, polio, cancer, and PD) lost their ability to run (let alone sometimes walk), but yet get up and get moving, every single day, no matter how tired they are. 

Those are your rock stars and heroes. 

So help me honor them and consider making a donation to my Michael J. Fox Foundation, Team Fox, fundraiser, "One Step Beyond"  , because any amount makes a substantial difference just as any amount of time you share with those that you love creates a memory out of a moment.

And those moments? They give us hope that the first mile will turn into a thousand. 

One step at a time. 


"I run because..."

There is a moment when you are walking through a pre-race expo and someone stops you to ask what is written on your tee shirt. When you tell them that you run as part of Team Fox for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson's research, you notice a slight change in their body language and facial expression, and amid the noise and bustle of the day, this person gently rests their hand on yours and says, "thank you. My dad has Parkinson's." At that moment you slip one of your Team Fox bracelets off your wrist and hand it to them. They take the bracelet, take a deep breath, and place it on their wrist. You don't know each other, but you find yourself sharing a hug. As you part, she tells you to run a good race. You nod, then wave, and move on. 

And make a promise. 

Which is this. 

On April 19, 2014, during the KDF Mini/Marathon "I run because" 
  • Woody Dulaney is unable to run any longer;
  • my friends Chris, John, and Ruth, even with their PD, get up and move every day;
  • my friends Grove, Susan, Gene, Matt, Gwen, Stephanie, and Missy, are doing their part for their family to help speed a way to a cure;
  • my step-father Donald never stopped believing there would be a cure for Parkinson's even if he didn't live to see it;
  • my mother raised me to honor my promises and live my life to it's fullest potential;
  • my children should always believe that life is about following your dreams no matter how old you are and that you can work hard every day to achieve your goals and still have fun doing it;
  • my coach, Scott, is confident that one day I will run a 6:30 minute mile (maybe not this race, but one day!);
  • my family, friends, and team mates (like those on #run3rd) believe it isn't how fast you run a race, it's just that you are willing to run the race that is worth every high-five and clang of the cowbell. 
"I run because" it gives me an opportunity to see the sunrise or watch the sunset. To hear the sound of my heartbeat and feel my feet fleetly touch the earth. To smell the scent of rain. 

And on the days when I run, when I think I can't run any further, when I am exhausted and haven't had enough protein, when my calves are so tight it hurts to walk across from the living room to the kitchen, I still know this: my tired will pass. I'll shower, have an omelet, and I'll be good to run again. And when I run-I'll keep running every single day until there is a cure.

One mile at a time, because, after all, every mile matters

So, why do I run?

"I run because" I can and the truth is "we only can't if we don't."

"I run because" I'm a runner. 

What about you? 


Everywhere At Once

So then this happened...today I ran a 7 minute mile. 


I know. You might be wondering how that came about. Was I being chased by a bear? Was I fleeing zombies? Was I running to catch a bus? 

No. None of the above. What I was doing is what I've been doing for these last several months. I was training for an upcoming half marathon (and for the New York City marathon this November). And I have never run a seven minute mile at any point in my life, let alone these last two years I have been running. Until today. 

What made today any different from any other day? 

Nothing really. I didn't run at a special time or wear special clothing. I didn't alter my morning routine of two cups of coffee and a banana for breakfast. I didn't even use my ipod which plays the Plimsouls and The Cult. In fact, today was a scheduled "48 minute lactate threshold" run-which is just my coach's way of saying "for about 18 minutes you are going to run as crazy fast as you can for 5 minutes until you cry, then you will jog for a minute, then you will do it two more times. It's fun, really!" A training run I don't particularly like to do, in fact. I think the only different "thing" about today was that I knew I needed to clock a 5k to support my friend Megan P.'s Fox Trot for Parkinson's Virtual Run. I also thought that my coach, Scott Fishman (of Team All American) would be a bit peeved that I ran a wee bit faster than the 7:30 pace he set for me. He wasn't. In fact, he thinks I can run a 6:30 mile. 


And I actually eeked out close to a 10k today, running a total of 6.08 miles. That's pretty cool too. 

Well, maybe it is because that as a member of Team Fox, with a goal to complete the New York City marathon in 3:30:00 (I believe this is more than possible, even with a mid-summer trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro on the schedule-you can read about that over at I AM LIVING BIG) and it also happens to be Parkinson's Awareness Month, I just was more in tune to how important my miles are in a grander scheme of things. I've been thinking a lot about Michael J. Fox and his statement statement "our challenges don't define us, our actions do." And while I have friends who like to call me a rock star, I am not a rock star by any means-I am just fortunate to have the time (and support) to train to achieve some pretty specific goals. If I were a musician or a painter, I'd be putting in the time to hone my skill at my craft in the same way. 

The number of miles in the marathon never will change, but how you run the course will always be a variable in which some conditions are out of your control. 

At the Anthem 5k, first race of the "Triple Crown"
Since January I have been working with a trainer to not just improve my running times, but to make sure I don't over-run and injure myself. My initial goal was to be able to run an upcoming local half marathon (the Derby "mini"-marathon) in 1:45:00. This means running each mile under 8 minutes. Now I ran my first marathon of the season in February and although there were only 32 of us running (it was a snowy day after all and temps in the twenties), I was the first woman across the finish line (and the 8th runner altogether) with a time of 1:54:19. My fastest mile for that race was an 8:06. With each race though I quickened my pace. 

  • Running a 5k in 23:44.5 at an average pace of 7:31/m and coming in 4th in my division (486 in the division);
  • Running a 10k in 48:13 at an average pace of 7:40/m but with my fastest mile at a 7:15;
  • Running a 10 miler in 1:20.39 at an average pace of 7:58/m and a terrible cough-as well as this race was the weekend after my mother had passed away;
  • Running a training run of 48 minutes where I logged my fastest 5k ever at 22:25.3 and yes, my fastest mile ever at 7:01.7
with WHAS 11 Anchor Ben Pine before the Rodes 10k,
after an on-air interview talking about Team Fox
And the Triple Crown total results came in placing me in the TOP 2% of all runners in all three races. 4th in my division overall and there were 334 in the division (305/3935 runners total, 46/2312 women runners).

Since January of this year I have also travelled to Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Washington DC, and Arizona (again). I have run in snow, in rain, during a sunrise along the bank of the Potomac, and during a sunset in the Tucson desert. I have run races, laps, sprints, and strides. I have run for twenty minutes. I have run for two hours.  I have run in the bitterest of cold temperatures where my eyelashes have frozen and run in the hottest of days where I have stripped down to the bare minimum I could get away with without receiving a citation. i have run with a raging migraine. I have run with a horrible head cold and cough. I have run during the darkest of my grief. I have run with a ridiculous "can't wipe the grin off my face" look. I have run alone. I have run with friends. I have run with celebrities. I have #run3rd for a long list of friends I have and for people I have never met. I have run using Charity Miles for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Shot@Life, and in March I ran 138.40 miles. 
With #run3rd team members at the Louisville Chocolate 5K,
including Sean Astin, Linda Iroff, and Matt Killinder

I have run a total of 407.64 miles this year. 

And the only thing I have learned in all of this is this: the challenge of my every day is no different than anyone else that I know.

We all have hardships. Struggle. Sorrow. Fear. We all question, sometimes constantly, "Am I living my best life? Am I being kind and caring to others, even when I don't feel cared for by others? Am I making the most of my "dash" of the space between the hour when I first awake and the moment I fall asleep? Am I saying "thank you" and "please" and "I love you" in all appropriate and needed situations? Am I looking to the future with hope and optimism or am I holding onto the past with sorrow and regret?" 

Finally, "Am I making sure that the challenge doesn't define me, but that my actions do." 

Because whether you are running a seven minute mile or spending seven minutes advocating for a cause or seven minutes hugging and laughing with your child, you decide what those minutes and moments are. You control them. You craft them. If you want to write a book, start by writing a sentence. If you want to be a painter, start with drawing. If you want to run a seven minute mile, get off your couch and start walking. 

And do it every single day. Your miles in your marathon never vary, but the circumstances around your marathon do. But that's why you train, why you endure, and why you don't give up. 

And that's the challenge. 

Now what's your action? 


No One Gets Here Alone

I'm having one of those rare mornings where I can take a moment and reflect upon a few things that have recently happened in my life. There is a stillness to this day, perhaps it is because of the weather, all rain and grey clouds, or just that I find myself sipping a cup of coffee listening to jazz being piped through the coffee house's speakers. By this point in the day I've been up for six hours, have run or biked anywhere between 4 to 10 miles, and have multi-tasked away a good portion of the morning.

And actually that's what I'm reflecting on. The taken for "grantedness" of my life. The very fact that in a six hour period I can accomplish a great many things without thinking twice of my ability to do so is actually very impressive. For at any given moment at any point things could just simply stop. But through some sense of grace, they go on. And while not always gracefully, there is a fulfillment in the fact that a something was accomplished. That whatever else happens in the course of my day, I did a something that made a difference.

And the truth is that we are all capable of doing a something because we all have talents and a drive to reach our goals and make our possibilities into probabilities.

And no one does it alone.

Let me expand on that thought. As a runner, there are times when I find myself on the road in a moment of solitude. Just me and the space that I am passing through. There is no loneliness, for truthfully at any given time I can turn the corner and find that I wasn't alone-other people might be navigating the same space. We nod or wave to each other as we cross paths, and for that brief moment we are connected in our purpose and goals, then we part ways again and our own individual journey continues.

For some of us, our vision of what our lives should be, or where our path will lead us, is fairly secure. There are no roadblocks, no obstacles to overcome, no major upheavals that cause us to regroup and redress the map we have lovingly crafted.

But for others, it isn't that simple. The who they thought they would be tilts and they have to readjust to a new way of thinking, being, living. I've spent a good portion of the last two years of my life readjusting to the who I thought I was to the idea of the who I am as well as the who I will be. Along this journey I have realized that as alone as I felt I was, I am not alone.

I am part of a rich tapestry that enfolds my life. I am lovingly supported by family and friends who cheer me on when I run a half marathon in 2:02:51 and then challenge me to run my next in under 2 hours, telling me that they know I can do it. And you know what? I will. But here's why. For me running is about finding my moxie and making magic happen for a greater purpose than just earning a medal that will gather dust on my shelf.

  • It's running with Charity Miles as a part of Team Fox for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to honor my step-father Donald who passed away from complications due to Parkinson's;
  • It's running for my friend Ruth. Although we just met we have slipped quickly and wonderfully into a great friendship and I run for her on the days where she probably doesn't feel like running due to her Parkinson's (even though she runs anyway);
  • It's running for someone I've never met named Ann and her father who live in England. Ann's dad has been in the hospital because of his Parkinson's, and if my few miles can help raise money for research, then I'll do my best to get those miles managed;
  • It's running for my friend Annika whose mother has Parkinson's.
And it's running for Bernard, who I don't know, and who may never know that I run for him. While standing in the store looking at running shoes a woman commented that I look like a runner and could I suggest a shoe for her. I laughed and said I'm so new to running I wouldn't know where to start and suggested she actually go to one of our local running stores to ask of their expertise. As we talked I mentioned how I use Charity Miles and dedicate my miles to MJFF. There was a pause. She took a deep breath and as she started crying she said, "My father-in-law has Parkinson's. He's in a nursing home. He wasn't very active and when diagnosed just couldn't handle it. Then his wife died and he spiraled into a depression. It has been so terrible to watch and I've felt so helpless. Thank you." Then she hugged me. I asked for his name. Bernard. 

I want Bernard, his family, and all who have been impacted by Parkinson's to know that they are not alone. That so many others are dedicating their time, talent, energy, and effort to making sure there is a greater awareness and understanding of this disease, and they are spending their days walking, running, and bikes those miles for a cure. 

So to Susan, Jeff, Matt, Stephanie, John, Gwen, and Missy who are running as part of Team Fox this upcoming NYC Marathon, thank you. Thank you for months of training that has no doubt left you feeling spent and exhausted, but yet you dig deep and get up and do it the next day. I will be cheering you on every step of the way and next year we will run together. Thank you to Gene of Charity Miles who knows that every mile matters and for providing a way for us to do so. Thank you to friends Grove and Paula who always send words of support and encouragement as I plod along my path. Thank you to my friends Jen and Cindy who will wear superhero costumes and fairy wings to prove that despite being serious advocates and runners, they know that being super silly makes life worth the living. 

For all of us, no matter what our cause is, no matter what path we are walking on, know you are not alone. Ever. You have the resources, the relationships, the resolve to make it all make a difference. And always remember, as Dean Karnazes said "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."

Republic Bank Big Hit 1/2 Marathon, October 26, 2013
Net time 2:02:51 with a pace of 9:23

If you would like to read more about some of the fantastic Team Fox runners, my friend Matt Mitchell has written some incredible stories about some pretty inspirational people. Definitely worth a read as well as a shout out next Sunday as they run the NYC Marathon.