Tag Archives: running

Don’t Build your Own Glass Ceiling

Last weekend, I decided to run a 5k while on vacation in San Diego. I grew up there and knew the course would be pretty flat and a quick one. I was looking to PR. Not that it would be difficult because I do not run 5ks very often (prefer 10k and half-marathons) and my last time was 29:55, circa 2008. To commit, I told a few people I was aiming to run a 26:00 and under…because I knew that was pretty safe. I was pretty sure I could run an average of an 8:20ish mile for 3.1 miles.

Saturday AM, I’m running on adrenaline and Nespresso. I keep thinking about what my run coach/friend/ass-whooper O texted me: Don’t doubt yourself!!! At the end of the day it’s only 26 minutes of your life. I have a bad habit of holding back, even during workout runs.  It’s partly subconscious; am I worried that if I go out too fast, I might get tired/run out of gas and then what…God forbid…have to walk?! So this time I tried to just run as good as I felt, while glancing at my Garmin every 5 minutes or so rather than every 30 seconds. When I was coming around the bend and saw the finish line (and my dad standing there cheering me on), I knew I would make my goal. What I didn’t know then was that I ran an average 7:56/mi pace and won first in my age division! I couldn’t have been more excited. Ok, maybe my dad was more excited. It was an amazing start to a great day–which was followed by an afternoon spent at the beach and awesome dinner with my visiting BFF. I also learned a good lesson: don’t hold back, (applies to racing and, well, life in general): putting your whole self out there, even if you fail, is always gonna be a win. My new goal? Sub-24!

Race morning. In another lifetime, I was to be married at this spot. Life has a sense of humor, so it's probably best I do too!

Race morning. In another lifetime, I was to be married here. Life has a sense of humor, so it’s probably good that I do too :)

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Unbelievably Grateful

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This quote has a permanent place on my fridge to remind me to be grateful of what I have and not to get caught up in what I still want (air quotes) and do not currently have. It reminds me that there is a big difference between “wants” and “needs.”

I have dealt with depression before (most recently, the entirety of 2014, which I refer to as the Missing Year because I was missing from my own life and the lives of those I love and care about). Suffice it to say that for months on end, I was only able to sleep 3-4 hours per night. And sometimes, as I was finally falling asleep, I wished that I wouldn’t wake up. Not because I wanted to die, but because I didn’t know if I could get through another day feeling the way I was feeling.

Yesterday, I was running along a favorite path that I hadn’t been to in a while. The sun was shining, it was 80 degrees out (a big apology for mentioning this to all East Coasters and Midwesterners) and I was running faster than my usual pace.  I do not listen to music when I run. Partly because when I am not depressed, I value my life and don’t want to be surprised by traffic, but partly so I have time to think or just listen to my breath or feet hitting the ground. It’s probably the closest I get to meditation. Yesterday, the thought crossed my mind: even if nothing in my life changed from how it is right now, I would be okay with it. In fact, more than okay. I am happy right here, right now. And for my friends who saw me through 2014, they know how this is nothing short of a miracle. And how incredibly grateful I am to have been restored to myself.

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Personal Bests

Props to this lady who gets to check off the 4th box today! Awesome. I wished I had a Sharpie with me.

Props to this lady who gets to check off the 4th box today! Awesome. I wished I had a Sharpie with me.

One of the things I love about running (other than allowing me to eat tasty high calorie foods with wild abandon) is that it is an individual and group sport…at the same time. Most of the runners I know aren’t running to beat other people, they are running to beat themselves. Reaching towards your goal alongside others doing the same creates a certain energy in the air. I recently joined a running group at the urging of my friend S. I was reluctant but walked by a sign for a group sponsored by a local running shoe store that is jogging distance from my house. In LA, if you want to do anything during rush hour (basically 7a-10a, and/or 12p-7p), this can be a crucial factor. I decided to try it out and after a few weeks, I was a convert. Even though I am usually at the back of the pack and sometimes run by myself for stretches, I am not running alone. Therein lies the difference. We start as a group and end as a group, hydrating and chatting after the last runner has come in; sometimes there are even raffles. Running with the fast kids usually shaves 20 seconds off my regular solo mile pace–I’m usually trying to hustle back to the store so I don’t miss the raffle!

Today, I was trying to best my 10K PR in the LA Chinatown Firecracker 10K.  I missed my mark by 40 seconds but I couldn’t help thinking that a year ago, running this race seemed impossible, physically and mentally. So to be out there again with S, in perfect running weather, enjoying Elysian Park, was a personal best. And just about 10K times better than forty seconds.

Oh and S, if you’re reading this, next time I will NOT let you confiscate my Garmin! You owe me another 10K :)

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Caution: Oncoming Human

It started as an experiment. Last year, there was a period when I would go days without speaking to another person. There were also many days when I felt incredibly lonely, even when I was with people. It is a particular flavor of pain to feel lonely in the midst of others. So when I went running, I started smiling at people with whom I made eye contact. Partly because I was raised to be polite, but partly because it made me feel tethered, to something, in some small way. Research has shown that smiling, even forced, has been shown to lift mood. I figured I had nothing to lose.

One thing I learned from my experiment was that you really can’t predict who will smile back. Friendly-looking woman in Lululemon, power-walking towards you. Nope. Grumpy-looking older man with shoulder-length gray hair. Smiles. Good-looking hipster kid with headphones on. Head nod and smile. Nice!  I get it if you’re shy, having a really bad day (though for aforementioned reasons, that may be the best time to smile back) or having a moral dilemma as to whether or not to pick up the kid your dog just dropped off on the lawn (please do), but I find the following two reactions amusing/bewildering:

  • Stone Face: These are the folk who you smile at and get zero response. Nothing. This is LA, but not everyone indulges in Botox. Maybe they think I’m slightly crazy. That’s fair. Regardless of the reason, I did my part, and that’s the only part I can control. When I come across Stone Face, I feel silly for about a second but then move on, literally.
  • Invisible Blinders: These are the folk who make eye contact with you at a distance, but as the gap closes, they stare straight ahead as if they have whiplash and a mini office cubicle sitting on their shoulders. A variant I experienced yesterday: guy makes eye contact but just as we are about to be in the same linear plane, he turns to check himself out in a store window. Okay…that might be more LA than Botox.

By far, my experience has been positive. Valets are routinely nice and often smile first. Other runners usually reciprocate (the etiquette has actually come up in the Q&A section of running magazines) with an expression that says, “Hey, how can what we are doing be great and awful at the same time?” I’ve received the rare catcall; who couldn’t use a little ego boost when you’re running? Besides, if they are even remotely creepy, there’s motivation to pick up the pace.  Some people are surprised and give you the Late Smile, almost as they’re walking past you. Those are some of my favorites. In our technology-obsessed society, when so many walk with headphones on, while texting, or using an earpiece (it used to be if you were walking and talking without a companion, people might worry you had schizophrenia), it’s refreshing to have a moment with a total stranger. A brief acknowledgment that you are human, they are human, and that you live on the same planet.

My tally for last night’s run:

  • Non-smilers: 3 Two Invisible Blinders, One Stone Face
  • Mildly embarrassing, completely hilarious moment: 1 A girl walking her dog suddenly shouted “Hello!” at me. I was taken aback but said “Hi!” A millisecond later it became clear that she was answering a call on her earpiece. I had a good laugh. Reminded me of the time my friend waved at a guy in the dorm across the quad from ours. Only after he waved with his other arm did we realize he was putting on deodorant while looking out the window.
  • Smilers: everyone else
  • People on bikes: 2 This was new for me.  One was a cyclist (clipped in and in a unitard kit), stopped at an intersection.  The other was riding leisurely on a single-speed. I challenged the latter to race me to the end of the block. I’m pretty sure he let me win. But we both laughed and I got a little speedwork in.

So next time you see an Oriental Lady smile as she jogs past, smile back. Better yet, try the experiment yourself when you’re out for a run or stroll. I’d love to hear how it goes. You might just make someone’s day a tiny bit brighter. That someone might even be you.

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