My First 26.2; Running the Big Sur Marathon

photo 1-5The alarm was set for 2:45 am, but I was already awake. Full of excitement and nerves, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed a minute longer. So I popped out of bed and began getting myself ready for the day, the one I had been anticipating for months. It was Sunday, April 26th and I was about to run my first marathon, The Big Sur International Marathon. Twenty-six point two miles of mountainous, jaw dropping beauty from Big Sur to Carmel, California.

After brushing my teeth I sipped a small cup of coffee and began putting on the gear I had carefully laid out the night before. The butterflies that usually begin to flutter in my tummy the morning of a race were surprisingly absent. I was feeling confident. The training runs I had done through frigid winter temperatures and snow had me feeling more ready for a race than ever before. At 3:30, ready to go, my husband and I made our way from our hotel room to Monterey Peninsula College where we would soon board a school bus that would take us on the one hour ride down the California coast from Carmel to the starting line in Big Sur. Still three hours until race time we quietly ate our pre-race meal, the same one I eat every time. A whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and a banana.

photo 2-12Driving the hilly 26.2 miles we were about to run was downright intimidating. Luckily it was still very dark so we couldn’t fully see what we were about to subject ourselves to. But we had been here before just last year when I ran 17 miles in the relay. Even in the dark there was no mistaking Hurricane Point, all two miles and 550 feet of it. As we went down, down, down, all I could think of was the tough run it would be going up, up, up, later that morning.


photo 3-9We reached the starting line at Big Sur Station at about 5:00 am where we sat on the asphalt parking lot there in the darkness, the cold mountain air surrounding us. About 4,500 runners chatted, some old friends, some new acquaintances. All excited and nervous to start. At about 6:15 the sky began to lighten and the activity began to build. Runners started removing their warm outer clothes, putting on their race numbers and water belts, preparing for the trek back to Carmel. With temperatures projected to reach 65 and clear skies it would be perfect race weather… except for the 20 mph winds. After dropping our bags in a U-Haul truck we made our way to the starting line.

Highway 1 which runs along the coast is closed down for the race so we lined up in the middle of the two lane highway by projected finish time. A drone with a camera hovered above the starting line as we sang the National Anthem. Finally after months of training, the moment was here. I was about to run my first marathon; 26.2 miles! The excitement and energy was palpable. I was READY! And then, we were off!

The race started on a nice downhill slope. It was difficult to control the excitement, and my legs. The first five miles were some of my favorite. Through the redwood forests of the Big Sur California wilderness, past quaint lodges and cottages we ran, a dozen or so spectators were scattered every mile or two. I started out thinking I wouldn’t turn on my music until mile ten when I would ascend the dreaded Hurricane Point, but I found myself longing for my favorite songs to drown out the clip-clopping of my feet and the voices in my head reminding me that I still had 25, 24, 23 miles to go. Some initial pain in my feet from my bunions haunted me, but eventually went away and never returned. The gradual rolling hills here were pleasant. At just 7:00 am or so, the sun had not yet risen high enough to warm us up. The air was cold, but everything about those first miles was perfect. I was running 8:45 minute miles and while nervous about ALL the miles to come, I was feeling great.


photo 3-9As the road began to emerge from the forest and into a clearing, we got our first glimpse of the ocean. Cows at pasture seemed to watch us go by as if they were spectators. I do believe those are the luckiest cows on the planet, grazing in fields overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The sun felt wonderful, but it’s warmth was negated by the strong, cold headwind. It was enough to nearly blow my hat off several times and even toss me around on the road a bit. I quickly realized how much extra energy it was taking me to climb the gradual but significant hill through miles seven and eight. My pace slowed to nine, then nearly ten minute miles. Feeling cold, but strong I tried not to focus too much on my time, reminding myself to enjoy the unbelievably beautiful course. I stopped for a second and took a couple of photos as we approached the lighthouse. Somewhere on this stretch the four hour pace group passed me. Four hours was my unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, keep-to-myself goal. They were going much faster than I felt I should go up the hill, so I let them pass. During mile nine we reached the top of that long gradual climb and there we saw it, our first view of Hurricane Point in the distance.


photo 1-5Making the descent into the valley all the way down to sea level, I was mentally preparing for the enormous challenge ahead. The Taiko drums at the bottom of the mountain were beating like our hearts were about to. They were like a drum announcing the battle ahead. At mile 10 we began the ascent. My breathing and my heart rate which until now was steady and calm, began to build. Up, up, up we started. All 550 feet of it. At first it felt beastly, but as I continued to move upward it felt manageable. I refused to walk up this mountain. I had done it last year (this was where I started) and I WOULD do it again. I wanted to know I conquered Hurricane Point. One foot in front of the other, slowly, slowly, slowly I went, like The Little Blue Engine chugging up the mountain. “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can,” I thought. The further I went, the stronger and more capable I felt. I could have sworn I was near the top, but then I passed the sign reading 11 miles, which meant I was only half way up. Still another mile to go. You see, this mountain is a tease. You get to the top of one curve to find only another and another and yet another. I knew I was going slow and my pace was no longer 10 minutes per mile. I tried not to look at my watch to check. To make things worse, the wind was relentless. I turned and said to the girl next to me, “As if this weren’t hard enough!” We chuckled, but she was too winded to say anything back. My legs were tired and I considered whether I should walk a bit to conserve energy, but I refused. Finally, I reached it, the TOP of Hurricane Point. I paused for a moment to relish my success, soak in the insane view and document it with a photo. That’s when the 4:15 pace group passed me. “Damn!” I said, and began running down the other side of the mountain.


photo 2-12Here I realized just how much of a beating that climb had given my legs. My hip flexors were already beginning to ache a bit, my calves, quads and hamstrings tight with fatigue. While I had been looking forward to getting to the picturesque Bixby Bridge to enjoy it’s beauty and celebrate making it halfway, I began to feel worried about the second half of the race. At 13.1 miles, the bridge lies exactly halfway between the start and the finish. After having run five half marathons and some 15, 17 and 20 mile training runs, I know how I usually feel at 13.1 miles, usually still pretty darn strong. Sure, my legs are commonly a little tired, but not like this. It was here that I realized that I hadn’t worked enough steep hills into my long training runs. I had run hills, but not 550 foot, two mile climbs on my longest runs. The hills of the first half and the downright brutal incline of Hurricane Point had taken too much out of my legs.

I tried to ignore the worrysome, negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. I reminded myself of how much I had just accomplished. I had finished HALF of my first marathon! I ran up a really freaking tall mountain and stood at the top looking out over the steep cliffs falling into the Pacific Ocean! 13.1 Miles my watched blinked. 2:07. My fastest half marathon time is 1:49 and my slowest 1:53. Never had I taken more than two hours to run a half marathon. But I knew that was ok because I also had never run such a tough course. I crossed the bridge to the sound of the piano music echoing against the mountains then stopped for a photo by the infamous baby grand and continued on.


283818_194180519_XLargeAfter climbing another large hill I descended the other side, my legs feeling slow. As backwards as it sounds, going down the hills at this point was actually more difficult than going up them. My hip flexors and knees were sore. I was working toward mile 15 as that was the end of the third five mile chunk I had broken the race into in my head; 5, 10, 15… check! Around mile 16 or so my eyes felt sort of cloudy. The strong winds had been blowing dirt into my eyes for over two hours now. I had a big chunk of something in there so I began rubbing my eyes to try to clear them. My left contact got stuck somewhere in my eye. The more I rubbed, the more worried I became that it would fall out into the dirt. So I moved to the side of the road where I stood for what seemed like several minutes trying to get my contact back in place without the heavy winds blowing it into the gravel below. Slowly I fished it out, carefully placed it back in my eye and carried on thinking about how interesting it would have been to run the second half of the race unable to see. I am as blind as a bat without my contacts.

The next several miles are sort of a big blur. While I enjoyed the beauty of the Pacific Ocean to my left and the oceanside cliffs to my right, I can’t say I enjoyed much else about miles 17 to 24. I used a quick porta-potty stop as a chance to rest my legs for a minute. Although hovering over the seat was hardly restful at all and getting sweaty shorts back on is time consuming, isn’t ladies? (One of the few times I wish I were a man.)

My legs were starting to feel really tired and sore, my quads, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors were almost entirely cramped up. Surprisingly, my feet which I had been so troubled by all throughout my training were fine. The toe separators I was wearing for my bunion pain were more helpful than they had been during my training runs. The blisters on both little toes were painful, but tolerable. What I had not anticipated was what the steep mountains and hills would do to the muscles in my legs.

283818_193661657_XLargeSomewhere around mile 20 my watch battery died. Ironic? Perhaps. I was honestly a little relieved because at this point I was so far off my unrealistic goal time that I wanted to ignore my time altogether. I knew I was moving much slower than normal up the remaining hills. I wanted to focus on the beauty of the course and think only of what I love about running instead of how fast or slow I was going.

On these rolling hills my mind was still strong, but my legs began to fail. My thoughts were still positive, although I’m certain I did tell myself one time that I didn’t plan to run 26.2 miles again. But I had plenty of energy and my breathing felt great. My legs were simply starting to shut down, telling me they couldn’t take any more. My hip flexors literally couldn’t pick up my legs any more. My strategy became to walk through the water stops where they also offered local produce; orange slices, banana chunks and strawberries, a welcome treat. At a couple of them I even stopped for a few minutes to stretch hoping to get more miles out of my legs. Turned out that walking didn’t feel any easier than running. And starting up again after stopping was harder than it was to just keep running. So I kept running, very slowly.


283818_193790092_XLargeThere is no doubt that miles 20 to 26 of a marathon are what separate the men from the boys, as they say. After getting through miles 20 to 22 I was feeling a little more confident. Four more miles seemed feasible. It would just take me longer than I had hoped. With no idea what my running time was, my only goal was to get to the finish line. Just then I was greeted by another steep incline at mile 22 and then another at 23. My strategy now became to walk up the hills and run down them. Feeling defeated walking up them, I was yelling at myself mentally, “You didn’t come here to walk. You came here to run!” So I started running.

At mile 24 I decided no matter what pain I was experiencing, I would NOT stop running until I reached the finish line. So I ran. Down the hill of mile 24, then up the final brutal hill in mile 25. I was uncomfortable, but my mind was so focused on meeting my goal that somehow my brain finally succeeded at telling my legs to shut up and stop complaining. I knew I was running slow, but the others around me were walking, so I felt fast. My speed didn’t matter at that point. I was running. I was about to achieve the goal I had worked so hard to reach.


In those last miles I thought about the training runs I had done through snow and rain and through single digit temperatures. I thought about the double digit miles I ran on the treadmill when the temps outside were below zero. This is what I had trained for. Right now. So I kept running. Slower than a snail, but I was running.

I thought about my three precious children from whom I had been away during long weekend training runs and the sacrifices I had made to put in the time and effort to get to this point. I thought of all the hours I had spent running while the kids were at school instead of doing housework and tending to my responsibilities. I thought of how my in-laws so graciously agreed to babysit our kids so we could come fulfill a dream. I couldn’t give up now. I kept running. I thought of the expense of our trip from Ohio to California. I didn’t want to leave here feeling disappointed that I didn’t accomplish my goal. So I kept running.

In those last two miles I thought about the 16 million children in our own country who go hungry and the generous friends and family, new and old, who donated to my personal No Kid Hungry campaign and the nearly 5,000 meals that we helped provide children in need. To honor those donors and those children, I kept running.


Soon, finally, I could see it! Spectators were gathered near the finish line. There were few compared to the number of people at the finish line in New York City where we watched my husband run, but many compared to the rest of this course. I turned off my music and listened to the cheers of the crowd. With each step I was closer to my goal. The pain in my legs was still there, but it had been silenced by the cheers of success screaming from my soul. I could see the clock; “4:41? Really? Wow. Shoot.” I thought. Tears of joy filled my eyes and as if in slow motion, I crossed the finish line lifting my arms to the sky. I’m not sure I can really put the emotions I experienced next into words. Pure satisfaction, pride, love, happiness, total euphoria.


After celebrating my finish with my husband who had reached the finish line before me, I slowly munched up my post-race food and we headed back to our hotel for a quick shower. Before setting out on the drive back down to Big Sur where we planned to spend a couple of days of R&R we limped into a cute restaurant in Carmel where we refueled with a delicious late lunch and a beer. I was still sort of in disbelief about what I had just accomplished. The reality hadn’t quite sunk in yet. It all went so fast, well sort of. In many ways it had been the longest morning of my life, but in others it seemed like a big blur. I was very proud of finishing and still in awe of the extraordinary scenery that surrounded me all 26.2 miles. It was an amazingly rewarding and truly awesome experience.

As Andy and I talked through all the ups and downs of our race, I began to fall into my normal, “How did I do?” mode. Since I began running, I’ve discovered that I am more competitive than I realized. My time, 4:41, was far from the 4 hour goal time I had projected in my head. I see now that the only problem with that goal time is that it was totally unrealistic for me for the Big Sur Marathon, full of steep hills and 20 mph headwinds. It was totally unrealistic for my first marathon. I guess I originally figured that if I could run half marathons in 1:50, I could certainly do a full in 4 hours. After all, I had run my 20 mile training run in nearly 3 hours. I realize now that I didn’t account for what those steep hills would do to my legs and how that would affect that last miles of my race. After encouragement from my husband and my running mentors, I began to put things into perspective a little better, but I’d be lying if I told you I had completely let it go.

It wasn’t until I returned home and went for my first post-race run that I had an ah-ha moment. As I ran down my favorite trail through the woods, I began to remember why I started running in the first place. I started thinking about all the many reasons I run and what I love so much about it that made me want to run 26.2 whole miles. I shared those reasons in a blog post called 10 Reasons Why I Run earlier in the year. It includes things like, “FREEDOM, THE GREAT OUTDOORS, I FEEL ALIVE, SELF-DOUBT TO SELF-LOVE.”

NONE of the reasons I run have anything to do with SPEED.

I run because I love THE GREAT OUTDOORS. There is nothing quite like the feeling of my own feet pounding the pavement, moving me through this great planet; over rivers, through forests, past farms, up mountains and down valleys. From one village to the next. I take it all in; the cold air on my skin, the wind in my face, the trickling water, and the singing of birds. Getting outside for a run feeds my soul! At the Big Sur International Marathon, my soul got a huge helping of some of God’s most incredible creations. The breathtaking sites and sounds I witnessed on that long and curvy road from Big Sur to Carmel will keep my soul satiated for a long time to come.

I run because it makes me FEEL ALIVE!  During a long run, I am working and feeling with every inch of my body. Throughout my first marathon I asked my body for everything it could give. I ran with blisters on my feet, sweat-drenched clothes, chafed skin, and cramps in every muscle of my legs. Inside I was experiencing an emotional roller coaster ranging from nervousness to complete euphoria. And I persevered through all of it. I’m not sure what else in life can make you feel more alive than that.

I run because there is no better feeling than running through self-doubt, achieving a goal and realizing that you are capable of so much more than you thought possible. It transcends every part of your life. On April 26th, I began my first 26.2 mile race with plenty of self-doubt. Before then I had only run 20 miles and I felt completely spent. I entered my first marathon with fear of the unknown. A big part of me wondered if I could really do it. I realize now it doesn’t matter how long it took me, I FINISHED what I thought was impossible and I turned SELF-DOUBT INTO SELF-LOVE.

On April 26th, 2015, I was lucky enough to spend an entire four hours and forty one minutes on what is perhaps the most beautiful stretch of road on the planet. I was fortunate enough to spend all that time doing something I love in a place that I love. In a pre-race training run I learned that “FASTER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER.” I was reminded of that lesson running this race. In life, we have to remind ourselves now and then to slow down, to stop and smell the roses. I’ve discovered that we should sometimes do the same when we’re running. The way I look at it now, in the Big Sur International Marathon, perhaps the people who finish LAST are actually the winners, because they get to enjoy all of this vast, divine beauty longer than anyone else.

20 Miles to “The Impossible”

BeforeThis past Saturday I ran 20 miles. The furthest I’ve ever run. I’m still in disbelief. A few short years ago I had never run more than a mile or two. If someone had told me back then that I’d be training for a marathon in 2015 I would have said, “Yeah right! No way could I accomplish running that many miles (or even 5 for that matter).” Honestly, I wouldn’t even have had any desire to try. Running wasn’t my thing. In my 10 Reasons Why I Run post I shared the story about how I began running and how it transitioned into running half marathons. This winter I decided I was ready for more.

And so began the training for my first marathon. I spent the winter running through snow and bitter temperatures. When it was dangerously cold I moved inside where I logged 10 and 11 mile runs on the treadmill. Some might consider that a form of torture. At times it seemed impossible that I would be able to fit in proper marathon training in between the responsibilities of my real job as a stay home mom. So far this year our household has been wrought with illness including the stomach flu, ear infections, colds, coughs and even pneumonia. Somehow I made it through to tell the story and was able to get in enough running to make it to the climax of my training, 20 miles.

Today, I’m documenting here this longest run of mine so I can look back and remember the experience. Perhaps someone else might gain something too. Remember, I am no expert. Just an average mom and an average runner, trying to overcome the odds to fit in something for myself that makes me a happier person and a better parent.


I set out early, about 8:00 am, on my favorite course which happens to be right out my doorstep and up my own street. I began with excitement in my veins, doubts in my head, butterflies in my belly and the “F” word on my lips. The air was cool (about 30 degrees) and the skies were gray. A small dusting of snow rested on the ground like it was frosted cereal and occasionally a gust of wind blew snowflakes into my face.

I started off through the woods, past creeks and over bridges. Passing the first mile I realized I had begun too quickly. No way could I sustain my normal 8 minute pace for all 20 miles. I told myself to slow down so that I wouldn’t hit the wall at mile 15. Feeling good, I ran through the first four or five miles without much thought. I was singing, smiling and enjoying the moment. It’s funny how when I set out to run more than 10 miles the first few seem easy. Yet sometimes when I plan to run just 4 or 5 total, they seem so much harder. I reached the bottom of the biggest incline on the course, celebrated finishing 5 miles (the first quarter of the run) then powered to the top of the hill raising my arms to the sky and punching the air like I was Rocky.

Gates MillsThe clouds had begun to clear revealing a bright blue sky, my favorite music kept me singing out loud and I felt like I could run forever. As I came down the other side of the big hill I caught my first glimpse of the Chagrin River on my right. It was raging from the heavy rain that fell over night. It’s energy was contagious. I followed it’s path another couple of miles glancing up at the rocky cliffs surrounding it. Navigating the curvy roads with no shoulder here was tricky. One careless car even sent me rushing off the road right into a big puddle. With wet shoes, I passed mile seven and crossed over the picturesque bridge in Gates Mills. This was the furthest point I’d ever run to on this road. “Three more to go until my half way point,” I thought.

I continued to feel great until about mile nine when I kept looking at my watch hoping my turn around would come sooner. I began to feel really far from home and started to doubt whether I would actually be able to make it all the way back. Soon my watch beeped and blinked “10 Miles, 9:20.” I did a U-turn to begin the trek back and gave myself a mental pat on the back.

I started to notice my legs and knees were beginning to feel sore and tired. I tried to refocus my attention on something else, so I started to think about how badly I needed to find a bathroom. It was the perfect distraction. The location of the Gates Mills library couldn’t have been more perfect. At about 13 miles I popped in and used it as a chance to quickly refill my water bottles and stretch my legs for a few seconds.

Chagrin River I set back out with seven miles to go. That didn’t seem like a lot compared to the 13 I’d already run, but envisioning all the road that lie between me and home seemed overwhelming. I set my sights on completing the next two miles bringing me to 15, three quarters of the way through the run. Before climbing to the summit of that tallest hill once again, I stopped for a moment to admire the river glistening in the sun. “Come on Ashley,” I said out loud.

With five miles left my feet were throbbing from my bunions and calluses. My knees were sore and my quadriceps were beginning to cramp up. Running down some small slopes exacerbated the pain. I reached a low, flat spot we call “death valley” because in the summer it gets really hot. Just when I needed it most I saw a familiar car approaching. My in-laws had come to check on me with all three of my kids in the back seat. They turned around and drove alongside me for a bit asking if I could make it home. The kids’ smiling faces helped me perk up and carried me through the next mile.

Horse FarmI reached the top of the hill bringing me out of the valley and to one of my favorite spots, the horse farm where I always look forward to seeing the animals grazing. I paused long enough to capture a photo and then waved good-bye to the horses.

“Four more miles” I thought. I ate my last gel and reminded myself to stay hydrated. I realized I must have dropped one of my water bottles somewhere along the way. The road ahead was very familiar. I run here often. I tried to forget about the 16 miles I had already run and pretended I was just out for a short 4 miler on any given weekday. There was no fooling the pain I felt in my body. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Soon I had three miles left. Normally three miles is easy for me, but this was the three miles that would bring me from 17 miles (the furthest I’d run until now) to 20 miles. My mind was telling me that seemed impossible. But again, I told myself, “Three miles is nothing on any other day. You’ve come this far. You’ve got this.”

I felt like a snail. I turned on my standby playlist with all my favorite songs that motivate me the most. As much as I wanted to walk, I kept running. With two miles left it felt like there were knives scraping the balls of my feet. My knees were throbbing and my legs were tight and firey. With just a mile and a half or so left, I stopped to walk for about 20 yards, but somehow walking was not easier. I began running again and soon was just one mile from home. I wasn’t sure whether to celebrate or cry. I kept going. As cars passed me, my once enthusiastic wave or smile to say “thank you” were no longer present. I began counting electrical poles and setting short goals like the pine tree ten feet ahead or the next road sign. With a half mile to go I knew I could do it. Soon I could see my neighbors’ driveway and then my own. I climbed the last hill with pain in my body, tears in my eyes, words of praise on my lips and pride and gratitude in my soul.

This morning’s journey that began with excitement, doubt and butterflies ended with praise, pride and gratitude. It took a little more than three hours, but it was really a journey over three years. Three years of hard work, dedication and self discovery. Three years ago my goal was to complete two or three miles, then 5.25 in my first race, then my first 10K. I accomplished “the impossible” when I ran my first half marathon in the fall of 2013. On Saturday I accomplished “the impossible” again as I completed my longest run to date.

I am confident that I will meet my goal on April 26th and finish the Big Sur Marathon. But if I don’t, it’s ok. Because in so many ways, I have already met my goal. I don’t need a finish line and a medal to prove anything. I have already proven to MYSELF that no matter how difficult the challenge in life, even one that seems impossible to me, I can persevere. I am capable of more than even I thought possible. Through pain, doubt, and tears, I’ve run. I’ve conquered steep hills, frigid temperatures and uncomfortable distances. If I can get through those struggles, I’m prepared to power through any challenge life throws at me. Through running that idea has transcended the way I live my life. It helps me live life to the fullest, not afraid to try new things or take on new challenges. This average mother of three who can’t manage to get the laundry folded, has managed to conquer her fear and accomplish something she never thought possible. I discovered a love of something I had never even tried until I was 35, causing me to broaden my horizons. I began running in 2012 to help me LOSE baby weight. Back then I didn’t realize that running is actually more about what you GAIN; confidence, faith, love, happiness, strength, focus, and so much more.

YOU too are capable of more than you realize. YOU can do anything you set your mind to. Whether your goal is a half marathon, a 5K or just running down your street and back, you can do it! Whether it’s an athletic goal, a career goal or a personal goal, you can accomplish virtually anything you can dream. But you will never know if you never try.

Sharing My Strength; Running for Hunger

BS Logo BGSix weeks from today I will be running the Big Sur Marathon in Big Sur, California. Like last year, my husband and I are signed up as a two person relay team. In 2014 I completed about 16 miles for our team. But, this year, I’m planning to start the race and my goal is to keep going after I complete my “leg” and run all the way to finish.

13.1This is the point in training for a race where I begin to feel guilty and selfish for spending so much time running. This week I logged 23 miles. While I fit in most of my runs during the few hours while all three kids are at school each day, the time required for my upcoming longer runs is going to mean I need to spend more time running on the weekends. While I do feel bad sometimes setting aside my other responsibilities, I know that if I want to make the most of my race and have any chance of meeting my goal of finishing, I must put in the time. And, of course, I do spend the rest of the day catering to everyone else’s needs under my roof.


No Kid HungryBut, this past week I have been called to use my running to do more. It’s time I began putting all this time and effort to a more meaningful purpose. That’s why I have to decided to run the Big Sur Marathon in part to raise money for a cause in which I believe. So today I’m asking for your support to help end childhood hunger.

Food provides me the fuel I need to power through long training runs and helps me build up the strength I require for races, not to mention the challenges I face as the mother of three. I am lucky and blessed to have the food I need to nourish myself and my family. It’s time for me to SHARE MY STRENGTH.

It is easy to forget that many families don’t have enough food to feed their children. I open up the refrigerator door to shelves full of food and grab a snack whenever I need it. One of my hobbies is whipping up concoctions in my kitchen to share with my family and friends. I am fortunate enough to be able to fill up my grocery cart every week, sometimes twice. I compare prices, but if I choose not to put something in my cart it is usually only because I don’t like the list of ingredients. Here’s me, fortuitous enough to be picking only organic, non-GMO, cage free, all natural foods when many families are having to pick between buying milk or eggs because they can’t afford both. I am ashamed to admit that, on occasion, I have even complained about having to go to the grocery store or about how I “hate putting them away at home even more.” I’m not proud of that. It is easy to forget in my bubble in the suburbs that not everyone is so lucky.

At our house, every school day we wake up and I rush around packing the kids lunches to meet all their picky desires and then I scurry around taking breakfast orders and filling them like a short order cook. I list off all their options, “Caroline, you need to tell me what you want so we’re not late! I have eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, cantaloupe. I could make you french toast or waffles.” My kids often don’t clear their plates and as I smash their leftovers down the disposal I begin my tirade about how there are starving kids in the world who don’t have food. The kids look at me in confusion because they have never gone a day without a meal. The fact that is sometimes forgotten is that, those starving kids (millions of them) are right here in our own country.

This week I’ve been imagining what’s it must be like as a parent to not have enough food to feed your child. These moms and dads must feel tremendous guilt sending their little ones out in the world without food in their belly to nourish and energize their body and enable their mind to learn. This is not just a problem in some far off third world country, it is happening right here. It is the reality for more than 16 million families here in the United States of America.


  • More than 16 million children in America live in families who struggle to put food on the table. That’s 1 in 5!
  • Nearly 22 percent of children in the US under the age of 18 live in poverty.
  • Almost 25 percent of households in large cities with children are food insecure.
  • 9.8 million kids get free or reduced meals at school. But 10.6 million eligible children go without.
  • Hunger has a huge affect on how children perform in school. In fact 9 out of 10 teachers say having a healthy breakfast is key to academic achievement.
  • School representatives in low income neighborhoods have discovered on student home visits, that in many cases families have no food in their homes.
  • A child who doesn’t have food to eat isn’t going to perform as well in school and is, therefore, less likely to graduate from school or go on to college which will negatively impact her economic success in life.


  • Share our Strength and No Kid Hungry works to ensure that every child has access to nutritious food where she lives, learns and plays.
  • Their School Breakfast program provides children in need with a healthy breakfast at school each day helping them to thrive academically.
  • Through its Cooking Matters program, the No Kid Hungry Campaign educates and empowers low income families to stretch their food budgets so their kids get healthy meals at home too. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically, make healthier food choices and they are taught how to cook nutritious, affordable meals.
  • Visit for more information.


It is time for us to SHARE OUR STRENGTH with these children who have so little.

Today I’m asking your support in my mission to help end childhood hunger in the US. When I run the Big Sur Marathon on April 26th I will be running to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. Every $1 you give, will provide 10 children with a meal who would otherwise start their day without any food.

And for every dollar you help me raise, our family’s produce market will match it by donating the same amount in fresh fruits and vegetables to The Greater Cleveland Foodbank.




Thank you SO VERY MUCH for your support!

My Big Sur Marathon Training Plan

Big Sur Marathon 2014In just 13 weeks, Andy and I will travel back to Big Sur, California to run the Big Sur International Marathon on April 26, 2015. I can hardly wait! It is quite possibly my favorite place to visit on Earth. Well, one of them, at least. I joke that if I go missing sometime, this is probably the first place you should look. I’m excited to get back there, but I have A LOT of work to do between now and then!

We are signed up as a relay team, mostly because the race fills up within minutes of opening for registration. Even though we attempted to sign up to run the full marathon the second it opened, we didn’t make it in. The relay apparently isn’t in as high demand, so we signed up as a relay team of two. There is a lot of flexibility as to how far each team member can run and while only one team member can start the race, there is no rule that that person has to stop running when they hand off the baton to their team mate. So, technically, that person could go on and run the whole thing. I guess you could say we found a bit of a loophole. Of course, they don’t want everyone doing this I’m sure, so don’t tell anyone. 😉 Only downside, is that you only get one time for the team and you don’t get the same medal as those signed up to run the full marathon. But I don’t care about that. I’m there to experience the beauty of this unbelievable place.

Last year Andy finished the entire marathon even though we were signed up as a relay team. He started the race, handed off the baton (a slap bracelet) to me at mile ten and he just kept going. He originally intended to do the full, but during his training developed a stress fracture and had to wear an air cast for the next three months. Once he got it off just a month before the race, he was able to train a bit and made it to a 10 mile long run. During the race, he felt so good he just kept running and finished the whole marathon. I’m still in awe.

The ViewI ran from mile 10 to the finish, about 16.2 miles, the furthest I’ve ever run. This year I want to do more. Now that I’ve run four half marathons, plus this 16.2 miles, I feel like a full marathon is the natural next step for me. When I finish my half marathons, I’m tired, but I feel like I’m capable of more. Since Big Sur is hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever (or perhaps will ever) run and I have the opportunity to run the whole thing this year, I want to give it my best shot. With only 13 weeks to go, fitting in all that training in cold, snowy weather amongst the business of raising three children, during cold and flu season, may be totally unrealistic, but here is the plan I have mapped out. It’s my “Pie in the Sky” training plan. I’m going to do my best to fit it all in and we’ll see what happens.

At the Start - 2014The other thing I’ve been considering is that the Big Sur Marathon course is no easy, flat race. In fact, I would go as far as to say it could be one of the most challenging marathons out there. You’re running through the mountains and cliffs alongside the Pacific Ocean. It is breathtaking! But it’s also very difficult. Hurricane Point falls virtually in the middle of the race and is a 560 foot incline. My leg of the relay last year started at the bottom of this mountain. I had to stare at it for the two hours I waited to start the race. Looking at the struggle I was about to take on, was a little intimidating, to say the least. This year, I know I need to include some steep inclines in my training. I’m not fully convinced that trying to do a race this hilly is smart for my first full marathon, but I have a tendency to not let anyone or anything get in the way of what I want to accomplish. So, again, I will fit in as much training as I can between the winter weather, the cold and flu season, the craziness of parenting a 7, 5 and 2-year-old and I will reassess things as the race approaches. I’m pretending the occasional foot problems I experience will not be a problem.

I know things will not go as I plan, but here is my very optimistic running calendar for the next 13 weeks. This is adapted from Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Plan. In weeks 4 and 5, I’ve moved my “long run” to Wednesday because I will be out of town both of those weekends.


Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 1 Cross Train 3 m run 3 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 7 m run Rest
Feb 2. to Feb 8. 2 Cross Train 3 m run 3 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
Feb 9. to Feb 15. 3 Cross Train 3 m run 4 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 16. to Feb. 22 4 Cross Train 3 m run 10 m run 3 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 23 to to March 1 5 Cross Train 3 m run 12 m run 3 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
March 2 to March 8 6 Cross Train 3 m run 6 m run 3 m run Rest 13 m run Rest
March 9 to March 15 7 Cross Train 3 m run 7 m run 4 m run Rest 15 m run Rest
March 16 to March 22 8 Cross Train 4 m run 8 m run 4 m run Rest 16 m run Rest
March 23 to March 29 9 Cross Train 4 m run 9 m run 5 m run Rest 18 m run Rest
March 30 to April 5 10 Cross Train 5 m run 10 m run 5 m run Rest 20 m run Rest
April 6 to April 12 11 Cross Train 5 m run 8 m run 4 m run Rest 12 m run Rest
April 13 to April 19 12 Cross Train 4 m run 6 m run 3 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
April 20 to April 26 13 Cross Train 3 m run 4 m run 2 m run Rest Rest RACE!

If things begin to fall apart and the weather, illness or lack of time make it impossible to follow the plan above, at some point, I will stop being unrealistic. If that happens I will decide to run only two or three of the relay legs making it a 21 or 16 mile race instead of 26.2. Here’s the half marathon training plan I have followed in the past. It is adapted from Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Half Plan. I will follow something similar to this except perhaps go up to 14 or 18 miles for my longest runs.


Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 1 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 2. to Feb 8. 2 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 9. to Feb 15. 3 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 16. to Feb. 22 4 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 23 to to March 1 5 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 7 m run Rest
March 2 to March 8 6 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
March 9 to March 15 7 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 9 m run Rest
March 16 to March 22 8 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 10 m run Rest
March 23 to March 29 9 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 11 m run Rest
March 30 to April 5 10 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 12 m run Rest
April 6 to April 12 11 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 13 m run Rest
April 13 to April 19 12 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 10 m run Rest
April 20 to April 26 13 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 2 m run Rest Rest RACE!

Want to join in? Maybe you want to do a spring half marathon? Let’s follow each other’s progress and inspire each other to keep running. If you haven’t already, “Like” my Facebook page where I provide running tips and inspiration. I’m also on Strava and Map My Run if you want to “friend me” there and we can see each other’s courses and pace info. I hope you’ll join me on this adventure!

Good luck!

DISCLAIMER: You should always consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine. This is my personal training plan.