Only 14 Miles

IMG_2417“Only 14 miles.” Those are the words I said to myself before I set out on my last “long run” before the Chicago Marathon, just 14 days before the race. ONLY. It’s a powerful, yet a dangerous word when using it to approach a run.

I have spoken (or thought) it before. It usually helps me when I’m feeling nervous before I head out (which is always). “Only” or “just” make me feel capable and up to the challenge. “If I have run 26.2 miles and if I ran 20 miles last week, then only 14 miles is easy.” These thoughts help build up my energy and allow me to make what is certainly still no easy task, seem a little easier. Doable.

Sometimes it does feel “easier” or at least a lot shorter than 20 miles I suppose. On occasion, I’ve set out saying this and have had a completely and totally enjoyable shorter, long run. These days I can run 14 miles and not have to walk down the steps sideways the next day. But it’s all relative, I guess. Because now I know what my body feels like after running a full marathon.

Other times thinking “Only 14 miles” can backfire. Because running 14 miles is never easy. It is still (for me) two full hours of running. It means running to the next village 7 miles up the road and back. Inevitably, there will still be cramps and foot pain, blisters and chafing. Oh, the chafing. That’s what ended up getting me this time. I forgot to put on the Body Glide and boy did I regret that for the last 5 miles of my run and for the last two days since. There is always something that makes me regret ever even thinking the word “ONLY.” It’s almost like I jinx my run if I let that cross my mind.

And let’s back up for a minute. Just three years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of running 14 miles or even 5 miles. Back then, my goal was three miles. And just two years ago, when I ran my first half marathon in 2013, 13.1 miles was my ultimate goal. It was “the impossible.” And when I finished I couldn’t walk right for probably a week. When I consider that, saying “Only 14 miles” seems almost… inconsiderate.

So what’s a girl to do?

These days I use the words “ONLY” or “JUST” very carefully when it comes to my running. I think them quietly and humbly to calm the nerves and to pump me up, but once I set foot out my door, I forget I ever thought it. And then, I run the mile I’m in. I’m not overconfident. And I never assume it won’t hurt. Because it will. But I don’t wallow in my fear and uncertainty either. Because the minute you start telling yourself how hard it will be, your brain will convince the rest of your body to turn around and head home.

For me, so much of running is mental. To be successful you have to be confident, but not presumptuous. Courageous, but realistic. With this in mind, run with the knowledge inside your heart, your mind and throughout your body, that you are strong and capable because positive thinking feeds positive running and enables you to meet your goals.

As I approach The Chicago Marathon in just a week and a half and feel excited yet nervous, I can’t help but wonder if someday I will have an even bigger goal. Someday, might I quietly think to myself, “ONLY 26.2”?


Expect the Unexpected

IMG_2248I wasn’t sure what to expect when I set out on my last run. I planned to go 20 miles, my longest run in my Chicago Marathon training, but anything was possible. While I knew I had the mental strength to persevere, I wasn’t as confident about my physical capability. Sure, I’d run 20 miles before, but not three weeks after an ankle sprain. This one had left my foot black and blue, too swollen to fit my shoe over and had me hobbling around in a brace. After having missed out on critical training runs to rest, my normal confident, cheerleader self who says things like, “Yes. I. Can.”, was thinking, “I think I can? I hope.”

When I geared up for my run I wasn’t sure if it would be one of those extraordinary days when my legs would feel powerful, my lungs efficient and my mind free. I wondered if my ankles would feel normal and allow me to meet my goal. Or, perhaps it would be one of those days (like a couple I’ve had this season) when I enthusiastically set out to tackle a long run and then everything comes to a screeching halt when my ankle suddenly gives out and I’m lying by the side of the road bleeding with my leg throbbing in pain.

“What would happen today?” Sure, there was some subconscious fear of the unknown. But I didn’t acknowledge it outright. It manifested itself as nervousness, the usual pre-long-run butterflies. Except this time I could barely even eat my breakfast. I was focused on the task ahead and tried to not let the four-letter words, doubt and uncertainty hijack the positive outlook I knew I would need in order to meet the day’s goal.

I set out feeling good, reminding myself to go slow. The experts seem to all say to run thirty seconds to a minute slower than the pace you want to run during your race. My first mile always seems to last an eternity as I anxiously anticipate the many miles ahead. Yet my watch always proves it to be my fastest as my eager mind doesn’t always quite know how to slow down my legs. The next couple of miles felt easy, though each step was deliberate as I analyzed and surveyed how every piece of my body was feeling, especially that ankle that three weeks earlier was too painful to even walk on.  As I passed mile three I could see that today the ankle pain I expected to make things challenging, wouldn’t be the problem. Instead, unexpectedly, it was my feet.

At first the pain was dull, but I knew it would get worse because it was the same feeling I had experienced many times before. It was a sharp shooting pain in the balls of my feet. The pain I had always attributed to my (ahem)… bunions. With each step it was as if knives were cutting my feet from my big toe to my pinky and then down the arch. “This long run is going to feel even longer today,” I thought.

The view that approached called me to stop and regroup. The horses there were shrouded by the morning mist. I couldn’t help but take a photo because I knew the fog would lift by the time I returned to this point at mile 16. As I stood for just a moment soaking in this fantastic view, the pain was unexpectedly quiet.


I carried on to mile 10 where I stretched for a minute before turning back to complete the second half. The pain grew more intense and at mile 13 I decided to take off my shoes to remove the toe separators I’d been wearing. My friend Kristen met me at my mile 14 and I followed her the last 6 miles back to my house. Unexpectedly, small talk with a close friend has a way of quieting the voices and erasing the pain. I couldn’t have finished that last stretch without her leading the way. THAT is a true friend.


So obviously, I need to figure out a different solution for my shoes in the next three weeks, but after this run I was reminded of something much bigger.

Expect the unexpected. Not just in running, but, more importantly, in life.

If you’re like me, tomorrow’s possibilities (or sometimes impossibilities) float around in your head and keep you awake at night. I like routine and order… the expected. But, lately I often find that the “thing” I fear most ends up being the easiest one to conquer. It ends up being a non-issue. There is usually some other hurdle or sometimes even a fantastic reward in store that I hadn’t even considered yet that presents a new, unique path or even just a moment of complete gratitude. When you fear one thing, somehow, life has something else completely different in mind for you next to challenge you in a new way or to offer you an unexpected minute of happiness, to remind you that you are not in charge.

This year so many new and unexpected opportunities have unfolded right before my very eyes. This blog. Running marathons. A new job doing work about which I am extremely passionate. And so much more. My faith assures me that every new unforeseen challenge is somehow part of God’s plan.

So “What will happen today?” I can’t wait to find out! 

Highs and Lows

It’s been so busy around here that I haven’t had a chance to post in over a week. The last several days have been full of highs and lows. Let me bring you up to speed, or lack thereof, as it were…


  • The pain I experienced after falling during my long run two Saturday’s ago. The disappointment I felt when I discovered my ankle was blowing up like that of a 37 week pregnant woman and then turned black and blue from my calf to my toes.
  • Hobbling around in an ankle brace wondering if all the miles I had put in training for the Chicago Marathon were a total waste of time. Beating myself about how I could have possibly been so stupid to fall. The embarrassment I felt having to explain my clumsiness to everyone.


  • The end of another summer. I can’t for the life of me figure out how it always goes so fast!


  • The high I experienced during my long run two Saturday’s ago (before I fell).


  • Receiving a new part-time job working as the Director of Communications & Community Outreach for the Forest City – Weingart Produce Company doing work in which I am deeply passionate and very excited to begin.
  • IMG_2001A visit to the doctor for an x-ray of my injured ankle which revealed that it was not too severe and that I could run as soon as I didn’t experience pain.


  • All of my favorite end of summer traditions; The Great Geauga County Fair, a trip to the beach at Lake Erie and the first home football game of the season.
  • After a very mentally challenging week off from running to recover, a successful test run for a pain-free 3 miles and then another encouraging 5 miles today. Restoration of hope that I might be able to run The Chicago Marathon on October 11th after all!


As I reflect on the events of the past week I realize that life will always be filled with these highs and lows. Without them life would be pretty… lifeLESS. This week’s lows were really nothing of much importance in the world. Even so, it’s how we maneuver through the peaks and valleys that reveals our true character. And sometimes the tough days are actually what help us enjoy the easy ones. Like I often say to my children, “Every day can’t be sunny. If they were, we’d take them for granted. It’s the cloudy days that help us appreciate the sunny days even more.”