My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

The finish line is a thing of magic

My friend JP recently shared a video on Facebook of a woman finishing the London Marathon. She had lost her husband and son and suffered from PTSD. His comment was ” This! 💙 Running will change your life if you have the faith to invite it in…”

And he’s right.

Running has taken me places I never thought I’d ever go.

I watched the video, and it was beautiful.

My comment on the video was:

“the finish line is a thing of magic. no matter the distance, no matter how long it took to get there, you are forever changed once you cross it. whether it’s an actual finish line in a race or an imaginary one you create for yourself.”

And that got me thinking just how true of a statement that is.

So I thought I’d write about it.

When I first began my journey to be a healthier person, I wasn’t really sure where it would take me or even how I’d get there. I just knew that I needed to begin. I also knew that I had to take it slow, at least at first, or I’d just end up spinning my wheels and would get very far. Baby steps. One thing at a time.

It reminds me of a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

I never imagined I’d end up becoming a runner.

I never imagined I’d love it.

I never imagined I’d start doing local races. And love it.

When I first started working with Tyler, he asked me what some of my goals were. I explained a bit about my journey, and that one of my goals was to walk in and complete a 5k event. I’d given myself a year to complete that goal. With Tyler’s help, I was able to complete that goal in less than 4 months.

It was a very hot and extremely humid day in July 2012. It was a small local race put on by a friend of mine. And I was the only one walking it. A spectator asked if he could walk along with him, and I said yes. I found out his girlfriend was one of the runners. He and I became good friends that day. Not far from the finish, I had to sit down on a bench because I was having trouble breathing. (I had forgotten my inhaler). After a few minutes, I was able to continue. When I rounded the last corner right before the finish line, I was amazed to see so many people waiting. As soon as they saw me, they started cheering, and I’m pretty sure I started tearing up. I remember an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment as I crossed the finish line that day.  It was one of the hardest things I’d done up to that point, and that made that feeling all the more special.

That finish line was a thing of magic.

In that moment, I knew my life would never be the same.

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to do that again.

About 6 months later, I started running. have completed 29 other races.

And since that first race in 2012, I have completed 29 other races. Mostly 5Ks, although there was one 10k and one half-marathon.

And the feeling is the same every time I cross the finish line.

It’s like magic.

No matter the distance, no matter how long it took me to get there.

I crossed the finish line. Every. Single. Time.

In 2015, I took on one of my biggest challenges – completing a half marathon. An incredibly intimidating goal to me, especially considering I’d never done more than 10k before. But I was determined to do it.

I had almost a year to prepare for it, so I did a lot of research to find an appropriate training plan. I eventually found one that was close and adjusted it to make it more appropriate for me.

Every run had its own finish line. Whatever the distance that day, I wouldn’t stop until I reached it. I’d carefully map out my runs to make sure I could cover the distance. I often planned them so I’d end at my favourite coffee shop. As the weeks of training continued, the runs got longer, and I’d have to remap to make sure I covered at least the distance necessary. Often, my runs were a little bit longer than they needed to be. There were days that were hot and humid (even early in the morning), but that didn’t stop me. One of my longest runs was done in the rain, 17.25k, but I didn’t let that stop me either. Another run my back seized up with about 2k to go, but I just kept moving forward.

I trained for 4 months. 4 runs a week. Every single run I did by myself. And some days it was very hard. It’s not easy training alone. Especially for something so big. There were days I didn’t want to run, but I did it anyway. Some mornings I wanted to sleep in, but I got up anyway. I was determined to cross that finish line.

Things didn’t go very well on race day. Things happened that were completely out of my control, but I didn’t let that stop me. I kept moving forward. It took me longer than I’d hoped, but in the end, I crossed the finish line. And once again, I knew my life was changed forever.

Now, when I think I can’t do something, I think about my races. 30 races total. And I have finished every one. Every. Single. One. Often I’m the very last person in, but that doesn’t matter to me. And crossing the finish line never gets old. I get goosebumps every time. I often tear up. Because I’ve accomplished something truly amazing. Every goal I set has its own finish line. Only I can see it, but it’s there. Every time I accomplish something I set out to do, I cross that finish line.

The finish line is a thing of magic. It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything.

 

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I’m not a runner like you

When I first started running, I was reluctant to call myself a runner.

I thought of runners as those who have been running most of their lives; those who have always loved running; those who run fast.

I was none of those.

This is just my third year running; I hated running as a kid; and I most certainly am not fast — there are people who walk faster than I run.

And I always thought runners looked a certain way.  They were lean and muscular and athletic-looking.  Definitely not me.

I would often watch others running and think “I’m not like them.  I’m not a real runner.”

 

But here’s the thing:

None of that matters.

NONE OF IT! 

When you start running, you’re a runner.

It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve run all your life or are just starting out.

It doesn’t matter if you run for fun or for a purpose.

It doesn’t matter if you have the latest in running gear.

All that matters if that you go out there and run.

 

One of the things I’ve discovered about the running community is that everyone is welcome.

It is a very inclusive community.

And I love that.

We all want to feel like we belong, that we are a part of something.

And when I started running, I found that.

I’ve met a lot of people through running; even made a few friends.  People I probably would not have met otherwise.

When you talk to another runner, you have an immediate connection.

 

Another thing I learned is there is no such thing as a “typical runner”.

All runners are different.

We have different paces; run different races.

We have different gear; have different rituals.

We run long, short, fast, and slow.

We run in good weather and bad; when it’s hot and when it’s cold.

Some follow plans; others just go with the flow.

But we are all part of one big family.

And we welcome new members all the time.

All you have to do is lace up your shoes and run.

 

In running, I found something in me I didn’t know was there; and a part of me I didn’t know was missing.  I found strength and confidence.  I discovered I’m capable of more than I knew.  I surprise myself often with what I can accomplish.

Running helps me find solutions to problems that have been nagging at me.  I’m able to clear my mind.  I can sort of zone out and just listen to my feet hit the pavement.

Running has helped me learn more about the town I live in.  It’s helped me appreciate the beauty around me.

If I’m feeling blue or stressed out, going for a run almost always makes me feel better.

There is something empowering about running.

And as much as I hated it as a kid, I actually love it now.

I’m not fast.  I’m not lean and muscular.  I’m not athletic-looking.  I’m not what other’s might think of as a “typical” runner.

So no, I’m not a runner like you … I’m a runner like me.

And that’s how it should be.

 

runner

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In honour of Boston

Before I started this journey, I never really paid much attention to races, not even during the Olympics.  It was just another sport.

When I did my first 5k race, I still didn’t quite get it.

But now that I’m running, I get it.

There is something empowering about running.  And even though I call myself a turtle-pace runner, I feel it every time.  It’s almost magical.

And the “runners’ high” you hear people talking about?  It’s real.

Today is the 118th Boston Marathon. (Sometimes also referred to as “Marathon Monday”)

A year ago, the race was cut short because of bombings at the finish line.  Some had already finished, but many were unable to.

I remember being shocked and horrified as I watched events unfold on tv.

And now that I’m a runner, I’m even more shocked a year later.

I may never be able to run a marathon.

But those that do, inspire me greatly.  More than I can really explain.

So in honour of those running in Boston, I set out to do a special run of my own today.

A little background first.  I have a fear of bridges.  Actually, it’s not really the bridge itself that scares me.  It’s the height.  I’m usually okay if I can only see out across the water.  But if I can see down, see just how high up I am, I’m scared.  Just driving over a bridge can freak me out.

There is a bridge near where I live.  It’s not super high, but high enough.  In 2012, I walked across that bridge with Tyler and Joe.  I was terrified, but I did it.  I even wrote a post about it.  You can read it here:  http://wp.me/p1Bqw3-2a

Last year, to prove to myself I could do it, I walked the bridge by myself.

This year, I decided to run it.  That’s right. I DECIDED TO RUN THE BRIDGE.

I wanted to do something special.

Something I was scared to do.

Something that would take everything in me to do.

So I picked today, Marathon Monday to do it.

To honour runners everywhere, but most especially those running Boston.

So this morning, after my breakfast and my morning coffee, I took my racing outfit out of the closet and put it on — grey pants with a hot pink stripe down the side, and a hot pink shirt.  Put on my yellow hoodie and my magic hat (that’s what I call the hat I wear for races).  Laced up my sneakers.  And headed out the door.

As I neared the bridge, I started to get nervous.  The doubts started echoing in my head.  I tried shutting them out.  I didn’t want to listen to them.

I got to where I planned to start my run.  I plugged my earbuds into my phone, and opened my running app.  My heart was pounding.

I hit start and off I went.

The wind was blowing hard.  Traffic whizzing by me.

I started good.  Then had to dig deep to get up the hill.

I could hear Tyler’s voice pushing me along, encouraging me.  (He’s really good at that)

I’m breathing hard, but I’m not stopping.

Don’t look down! Keep looking forward!

Finally, I was getting near the top of the bridge.  I pause very briefly to take a couple of photos.

GO GO GO!

Finally going down the other side!

Have to pause to let a bike go by. (The path is not very wide)

I’m down the other side.  Pause to turn around and head back up.

You got this, Coleman! You can do it!

I’m trying to enjoy the view as I’m running.

Another runner passes me.

I’m at the top again, heading down towards where I started.

The runner who passed me is down by the park below.  She sees me up on the bridge and waves.  I wave back.

I make it back to my starting point and decide to do it again. So I turn around and head back up the bridge.

Come on, Coleman! Dig deep!

Back up I go.  And down the other side.

Turn around one more time and head back up.

GO GO GO!

Up at the top again.  Down the other side one last time, back to where I started.

I did it!

It took me a little over an hour.  And my total distance was just over 5k.

I am so proud of myself!

In honour of Boston, I threw myself out of my comfort zone and did something I never thought I could do.

In honour of Boston, I dug deep and pushed myself hard.

In honour of Boston, today I ran.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When I got home, I posted on my Facebook that I had completed my run.  And that I was writing a blog post about it.

And I got this comment from Tyler:

Way to go Coleman! I received an early morning text from Jim Langille who saw you crossing the Bay Bridge!?!! He sends his best. Looks who’s running to new heights, literally! So proud of you. Did you know it was Boston Marathon today as well? (Probably). There are a lot of inspiring stories in this world Jenn, you should count yourself among them! I’m going for my first run in two months this morning since injury my knee in that 1/2 marathon #soexcited! Don’t ever stop, girl! You’re running for more than just yourself… T

I’m not sure if he realizes just how much words like that mean to me.  He is a great inspiration to me.  And for him to say how inspiring I am is just beyond words.  When I read those words, I cried.  Copying them here, I cried again.

Today is a great day.

 

 

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The bridge.  (Not the best picture of it)

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The view going up the first time.

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The view coming back the last time.

 

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So now I’m a runner

For some reason, last year I made the decision to start running.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know where the idea came from.

But somewhere in the back of my brain I decided it was a good idea.

The weird thing is I’ve never liked running.  Ever.  Not even as a child.  I hated when we had to run in gym class.

So the idea of me becoming a runner is a little crazy.

I can hear the old me … the extremely overweight, couch potato, junk food loving, old me … saying things like “you are insane!” and “what the hell are you thinking?” and “you’ll never be a runner!”

But I’m not listening to her.

The new me … the healthier, active, good food loving, new me … thinks this is a great idea.  It can only help me along my journey.  Already I’m feeling more motivated, more empowered, better in general.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to do this was just how much there is to learn about running.  Proper shoes, proper technique, proper breathing, the right gear.  So much to know.  So much to learn.

I used to have super wide feet, and I could only find 1 shoe that fit.  And they were not proper running shoes.  I discovered that the hard way.  My feet have shrunk as I’ve lost weight, which is a good thing.  And it has taken a while, but I finally found shoes that work well for running.  (Look for a post detailing that story soon)

When I started running last year, Tyler helped me with technique and breathing.  I think both have gotten better.  At least I hope so.

When I started running, I was doing it on the treadmill.  The first time, I lasted 30 seconds.  Then I got to a minute.  The first time I ran 5 minutes, I was so excited! And so exhausted!  And this was before I got the right shoes.  I ran outside a couple of times, doing one minute on/one minute off.  It was hard! Most of the running I did, though, was on the treadmill.

Near the end of summer, I injured myself.  I was pushing myself hard, trying to make myself go faster than I was ready for.  I strained the arch on my right foot.  After getting custom orthotics, and taking a few weeks off from running, it started to get better.  It’s the kind of injury that can take a long time to heal.  I was lucky.  It was too severe.  The orthotics did the trick.  I always have them in my shoes when I’m running.  And if I’m going to be walking long distances.

I eventually got my treadmill time up to 20 minutes.  I was so proud of myself for that.

But I was just itching to try running outside again.  The problem, of course, was the snow and ice Mother Nature bombarded us with this winter.  It seemed like it was never going to go away.  The last time I had done any running outside was in November at my last race of the season.

Lucky for me, our local wellness centre has an indoor track for walking and running.

So I started going to the track.  At first, I just walked around the track, doing 5k.  My time was getting better and better.  So I decided to try running.

That first time around the track was hard.  But I figured it probably would be.  I even wrote a post about it.  You can read about it here:  http://wp.me/p1Bqw3-rX

The first time I ran the entire 5k without stopping, I felt like I was on top of the world!  I was tired and a little achy, but it felt so good.  I was so proud of myself.

I kept running around the track.  Not every day, but pretty close.  And my times were getting faster.  I was really amazed.

As much as I was enjoying my time around the track, I still badly wanted to go outside to run.  But Mother Nature kept pounding us with winter.  No fun.

Finally, a little over a week ago, I tried my first outdoor run.  We’re lucky that the city put in a path along the water where we live.  It’s a great spot for walking, running, biking, even just sitting on one of the many benches.  I used the walk to the path as my warm up.  I started my running app, which has my running playlist linked to it, and off I went! It was slow, but I expected that.  It’s one thing to run around a track, it’s another thing to run on uneven ground on a winding path.  I was so proud of myself when I was done.

This is what I posted as my Facebook status that day:

I went a little out of my comfort zone today.

I laced up my sneakers, put on my sunglasses and magic hat, and did a 5k run along the waterfront. All running, no walking. It was a little slow, but I’m okay with that.

Then I walked to the coffee shop for a post-run coffee, which is, of course, the best coffee of the day.

After sitting and chatting a while in the cafe, I started the walk home. As I was coming up the hill on Bridge Street, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the first couple of times I walked up that hill and how difficult I thought it was. And today, I walked up it like it wasn’t even a hill.

As I leisurely walked the few blocks to my house, I noticed a little swagger in my step. And again, couldn’t help but reflect on how difficult of a walk I once thought that was. And I smiled.

Amazing how times have changed.

What a great day. — feeling awesome.

It really was a great day.  One of the best days ever.

Here’s another update I posted this week:

A few things happened on my run today:

For some unknown reason, my phone died a little past the halfway point. I had a full charge when I left my house, so it shouldn’t have died.

When my phone died, I didn’t stop. I kept on running. Even though I no longer had music, nor a way to tell how far I was running, nor how long I was running. I kept right on running, only stopping once to wait for a light to change, until I got to the coffee shop.

After my post-run coffee, as I was heading home, I RAN up the hill on Bridge St. Yes, the hill I once had trouble walking up. The hill I once thought I’d never to used to. Today, I ran up it.

Today’s run was a good one.

Since then, all my runs have been outside.  I’m still slow, but that’s okay.  I know I’m adjusting to a new running environment.  

Anyway, now I’ve got the running bug.  I’m slow, but I’m still running.  And that’s what matters.  A mile is still a mile, no matter how fast or slow it is.

Look for more running related posts soon!

 

 

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Today’s workout – February 25th

Ok normally I don’t write a post specifically about a workout, but I’m making an exception today.

Today I had a great workout. I rocked it! I’m so proud of myself.

Instead of going to the gym, I decided to go to the wellness centre and use the indoor track. I set a goal of doing 5k no matter how long it took. I was a little worried I would have a hard time, but I was determined to do it.

I haven’t been pushing my cardio very hard lately. I’d been doing an hour on the treadmill or elliptical and then done. And to be honest, I’ve been bored. I have been wanting to get outside, but the weather has been preventing it. But hopefully Spring is on the way and I can get outside. In the meantime, I think using the track is a good alternative.

So anyway, back to the workout.

According to the info at the track, you need to walk almost 10 laps to equal 1 mile. So that meant I’d need 30 laps for 3 miles or 5k. A little daunting, but I was determined. I even wore my new pink sweats and pink shirt. Sort of matches my pink running shoes and pink hat.

So I start by walking the first lap. I have some of my favourite music playing on my phone and my yellow duckie earbuds in my ears. At the start of the second lap, I start jogging. Now I’m not very fast. In fact, there was several walkers going faster than me, but I was jogging. And it felt good.

I went around 6 times before I needed a little break, so I walked the next lap.  But then I went back to jogging.  I was struggling a bit, but I didn’t give up.  I kept at it.

Another lap, and then another, and then another.

When I felt like giving up, I could hear Tyler telling me I could do it, that I was doing great.  It was almost like he was right there jogging next to me.

Another lap and another and another.

The music I was listening to was really helping.  I skipped past a few slower songs so I could keep the pace going.

Another lap and another.

I was trying not to pay attention to the time.  I picked a spot as my starting line and would count the laps as I went.

Another and another and another.

And finally I hit 30 laps.  And then walked one more for good measure (and to cooldown).

And then I looked at the time — 1:07:23.  Not my fastest, but not my slowest.

But the time didn’t really matter.

What mattered most was I jogged almost the entire thing.

And that made me extremely proud of myself.

I made a goal.  And I did it.  And I didn’t give up.

I ROCKED IT!

Am I sore? Oh yeah.

Does it matter? no, not really.

Am I going to do it again? Hell yes!

There’s no stopping this skinny bitch!

turtle

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To nourish my soul

As I move along in my journey to become a healthier person, I’ve come to realize my soul needs as much attention as my body. Off and on over the years I’ve thought about volunteering somewhere, giving back to my community. And I’ve done things here and there, but nothing really major. A couple of weeks ago, something inside told me the time is now, that I needed to find something that I can put my heart into and nourish my soul.

So I considered a few different options, and although they are great organizations, nothing jumped out and said this was the one. Then I remembered Celebrate The Hero. I was introduced to the organization last year, and even blogged about them. I love what they are trying to do, what they are doing. So I sent Nick an email asking if they needed volunteers. I didn’t know what I could do for them exactly, I just knew I wanted to help. Nick and I arranged to chat over coffee. I was very nervous, but excited. We had a great meeting. And I’m thrilled to say we will be working together! I will be doing a number of things, helping get done what needs to be done, but the one thing I’m most enthusiastic about is writing a blog. It’s not just that I’ll be writing, it’s what I will be writing about that has me so fired up: I will be looking for good people, events, organizations, businesses in my community and writing about them. How awesome is that!!

As I explained to Nick, I stopped reading the newspaper and watching the news for the most part because I got tired of reading/hearing so much bad news and not enough good news. I know there is good in the world. Good things happen every day. We just don’t get to hear about it as much. I want to change that.

And that’s why I’m so excited about my work with Celebrate the Hero. I want to celebrate my community. I want to bring attention to those who are doing good. I want to promote organizations, events, and people that are making our world a better place. I want to show the world there is a lot of good things happening if you just open your eyes.

So if you live in my area and you know of something good you think I should write about, please let me know.  I’m open to all ideas.

And if you aren’t in my area, look around for the good in your community and spread the word.

Be part of the good.  Be part of the change you want to see in the world.

focusonthegood

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Run for Reece

This morning I walked/jogged my 3rd race of the year. It was the annual Run for Reece, which is put on by my friend Karen Walsh in memory of her son who died of SMA. This race has special meaning for me. First because it’s run by my friend; and Second because it was my first EVER race when I walked it in 2012.

When I did this race last year, I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t know if I was ready to do races. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be ready until this year. But my friends convinced me to try any way. I’m glad I did. It was the hottest/humidist day of July when we did it last year. And I walked the whole thing. It took me 1:28:58, but I crossed the finish line. I was so proud of myself!

I had been looking forward to today for a while. I was excited to see my friends and maybe make some new ones. And while I was hoping to beat my time from last year, I told myself that what’s important is to finish regardless of the time. But last week I started having issues with my right foot. I was freaking out because I didn’t want to miss the race. As it turned out, my foot is okay, just putting too much pressure on my arch. I got arch supports for my shoes, which are helping. And I’ve slowed down my speed on the treadmill. So I was all set for this morning.

I had a hard time sleeping last night. Nerves I guess. And the alarm seemed to go off way too early this morning. But I got up, showered, dressed in a new racing outfit I purchased, had a good breakfast, and killed some time online. Karen picked me up early so I could help with registration. The closer it got to race time, the more nervous I seemed to get. That’s a normal reaction apparently LOL. At least according to some of my friends who do lots of these races.

I chatted with my friends as they showed up. I was bouncing around trying to warm up my muscles so I could start the race jogging. There felt like a herd of butterflies in my stomach. Ya, I know that’s not right. A group of butterflies is not a herd, but they felt like a herd this morning.

Karen leads us in a little warm up, then gives a little speech. And then we are off running/walking/slogging! I’m the last of the crowd, but I don’t care. I have some tunes blasting in my ears and I’m trying to keep myself going. I jog for a few minutes but have to switch to walking. Thankfully the weather gods decided it does not need to be incredibly hot or humid today. It was a beautiful morning and a little breezy. Perfect weather for a race if you ask me. Anyway, I try to walk a few minutes and jog a few minutes, but it becomes too much so I just walk as fast as I can. Eventually I came upon a woman who is doing the race for the first time and she’s unsure of the route. We walk along together and I explain the route. We chat about everything along the way. We encourage each other to keep going. We make the loop around the park and head back the way we came. People that did the 10k are passing us know. As we near the end, I point out where the home stretch starts. We decide to jog to the finish line. We round the corner and start jogging. She’s a little ahead of me but that’s ok. My friends see me coming and start cheering. I love it! Who doesn’t like having their own cheering section!

Then I see the time clock. OMG! I’m going to finish in under an hour! Holy crap! I seriously didn’t think I was going to. I mean it was my goal, but because I wasn’t able to do at much jogging, I didn’t think I was going to do it. And I did it!! I crossed the finish line in 58:18. My best outdoor walk/run yet!! And my treadmill time is only slightly better. I was nearly in tears as I crossed. I kept moving so my muscles would have a chance to cool down. Friends are still cheering for me. I feel incredible. My foot was hurting but I didn’t care at that moment. I crossed the finish line and had a great time. What a day. What an amazingly fabulous day.

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New shoes!

Today has been a good day.

Today I finally got new shoes!

And so far, I’m loving them 😍

I’ve been complaining for a while now about my old shoes. They were just worn out and hurting my feet. I knew I needed new ones badly. I wanted ones for running. I may not go very fast, but at least I go. And if I plan on doing more races, I need proper shoes. I also need shoes for my regular workouts. I had it in my head that I would 2 pairs, and I was ok with that.

I’ve bought men’s sneakers for as long as I can remember. My foot is very wide at my toes, and I’ve never been able to find women’s shoes that fit right. They have always been too tight. The problem with having wide feet is the really cool looking shoes never come in my size. My choices are usually black shoes or white shoes. The last ones I bought were white. To make them more fun, I bought different coloured laces. One pair had green laces and the other had purple. The shoes were good when I bought them, but that was in November. And since I wear them everyday, they are pretty worn down. So worn down, in fact, that they squeak when I walk. Very annoying. Way past time for new ones.

So last week, I went to the mall to look for shoes. I went into one store that I’ve shopped at before. It is a sporting goods store. I stood there looking at the men’s sneakers for a few minutes. I picked up a couple to look at them and then put them back. There was another guy looking at shoes as well. After about 5-10 minutes, a salesman finally came up to the guy and asked if he needed help. He answered the guys questions, and when he was done, he walked in my direction. BUT instead of stopping to ask if I needed help, he walked right by me! He didn’t even look at me! So I picked up my bag and walked out of the store. Then I went to another shoe store nearby. Again, I walked in and looked at the men’s sneakers. The salesman came over to talk to him. I told him what I wanted. He tried to get me to buy the most expensive shoes in the store. I pointed out shoes that my trainer just purchased, and the salesman said they were not right for me. So I thanked him and left the store. I felt defeated. I didn’t think I’d ever find new shoes.

I told Tyler the story and he said he’d go with me and help me find shoes that will work for me. So we went today. We went to the same store where the guy tried to sell me the expensive shoes. He wasn’t working. There was a very nice lady working today. Tyler suggested I try on women’s sneakers first to see if they fit now. So we picked out a couple of pairs and the saleswoman went to see if they had the size. They did. So I tried on the first pair. AND THEY FIT!! Amazingly, my feet seemed to have shrunk. I guess that makes sense since the rest of me is shrinking too. The shoes fit incredibly well. I tried on the other pair, but they didn’t fit as well. So I went back to the first pair. Love love love them! The best part is they are good for running as well as my regular workouts! And they were on sale. I bought 2 pairs, different colours. In fact, I wore the first pair out of the store. Then Tyler and I went back to the gym where I tried out my new shoes on the treadmill. So far, I’m super happy. I can hardly wait to take them outside for a workout. I’ll let you know how they hold up.

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Aren’t they beautiful?!

I’m hoping these new shoes will be the first step in getting me back on track and out of this slump I’m in. Time will tell, but I’m feeling good about it. I’m feeling sort of empowered with these new shoes. I’m starting to feel excited again about working out. Like I said, it’s been a good day.

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Chandler Relay for Life

This year, I had the honour and privilege of travelling to Arizona to participate in the Relay for Life with my friend Jeff and his family. This is the story of that amazing experience.

I’ve participated in the Relay at home for several years now. Jeff and his family have done the Relay near them as well. Last year, Jeff and I half-jokingly said maybe next year I’d travel to Arizona to do their Relay with them, and he’d come to Canada and do mine with me. The more we talked about it, the better the idea sounded.

I arrived several days early, partly because that was the best travel day for me and partly because I wanted to get myself used to the hotter weather. I’m glad I did. While I adjusted to the time change easily, it took a day or two to get used to the weather. It gets pretty hot in Arizona, and I’m not used to it being hot this early in the year. At least they have very little humidity.

I had met his parents, Alan and Marion, many years ago, although they didn’t really remember me. They are wonderful people. So nice. And they happily welcomed me. A few members of Jeff’s family came in for the Relay as well. His Aunt Judy and cousin Kevin arrived on Wednesday. His Aunt Eileen and cousin Barry arrived on Thursday. His family is a riot! They had me laughing so hard at times, I could barely breathe! They made me feel like I was a part of the family. That really meant a lot to me.

Friday morning, Jeff and Kevin went with Alan to help set up stuff at the Relay. The rest of us had lunch and then met up with them before going to the Relay. The Relay was held at a local high school. The teams sites were on the inside of the track. Our site was pretty much in front of the stage area. It was a pretty good spot. We got our site set up, then waited for the festivities to begin.

I was anxious to see how they did things compared to how we do things at home. It started pretty much the same — speeches, prayer, national anthem. Then it was time for the Survivor Lap. Everyone on our team is either a survivor or caregiver, so we were all out there. I proudly wore my purple survivor t-shirt. There was so many of us. It was awesome to see so many purple shirts. As we were walking around the track, the announced that there was one person who is a 43-year survivor! Incredible!! We finished the lap and the Relay was underway.

One of the best parts of the night was seeing so many kids there. I was told a lot of high school students take part in the Relay every year. I’m not sure I’ve seen as many kids at home. And many kids serve on the committees as well. That’s so amazing.

I was trying to take in as much as I could. I was taking note of the things they do differently. I was extremely impressed by how well run the Relay was. I think they do an amazing job. And I got several ideas to suggest back home. I told Alan about a few things we do differently, and he seemed really interested.

I had a goal for myself for the evening. I wanted to walk 50 laps. It was a goal I set at the beginning of the year. I did 35 laps at the Relay at home last year, so I thought I should be able to do 50 this year. I took an extra pair of sneakers, just in case. I’m glad I did too, because I had to change shoes around lap 10 or so.

Early in the evening, there was a dinner for survivors and caregivers. It was provided by a local restaurant. What a great idea. We got little gift bags too. After that, my real walking began.

When the sun went down, it was time for the luminary ceremony. The luminaries were lined up along the outside of the track. They went around and lit all the candles. Then handed out candles to everyone there and they were lit as well. Someone gave a little speech about the ceremony, and the overhead lights were turned off. Then everyone silently walked around the track with their candles in hand. It was beautiful and awe-inspiring. I’ve never seen it done like that before. I loved it.

I walked mostly by myself. Jeff and his family walk a lot faster than I do, but that’s ok. I didn’t really mind walking by myself. I had my phone with me, so I had lots of music to listen to. I tried to walk as many laps at a time as I could. I think I was doing at least 10 laps at a time. I’d walk until my feet hurt too much, then I’d sit for a few minutes before going out again. A few times people would cheer me on as I walked by their sites. A couple of times people would slow down and walk with me a while and chat. One guy would ask me what lap number I was on as I walked by. Late in the evening, a woman offered to buy me a coffee. I gladly accepted it. Another guy asked me if I had stopped at all because every time he looked up, I was on the track. I said yeah, I’ve taken a few breaks, but I was trying hard for 50 laps, so I wasn’t stopping for too long. I got a lot of positive feedback from people. It was pretty awesome.

Throughout the evening, there was something called the “spirit stick”. Someone would carry it around the track, then hand it off to someone else and ask why they Relay. I thought that was pretty neat. Someone hand it to me late in the evening, or i should say early in the morning. I carried it around for 2 or 3 laps. A guy walked up beside me and asked if he could walk with me. He said he really wanted at least one more lap and he had seen me walking throughout the night. He was impressed by how much I was walking. His name was Will. We had a nice chat as we walked. As we neared the stage, someone with the microphone asked me to come up since I had the spirit stick. They asked my name and my team name and why I Relay. I said, “my name is Jennifer and my team is Allie’s Army. I relay because I can. I’m a 3 1/2 year survivor, I lost my stepdad to lung cancer, my husband lost his father to cancer, and I have friends fighting the fight. I Relay because I can.” They thought that was a great answer.

I handed over the spirit stick and kept walking. It was early morning and people were starting to pack up their sites. I was very tired and my feet hurt, but I kept going. At lap 46, Marion stopped me and said things were winding down. They were getting ready to start the closing ceremonies. I could have kept going, but I decided to stop. I slowly walked to the bathroom. Then waited while things finished up. We packed everything into the cars including ourselves, then headed home to get some much needed sleep.

In the end, I walked 46 laps, which is 11.5 miles or 18.5 kilometres.

I didn’t make my goal, but I’m not upset about it. I did the best I could. And in the end, I still walked more than I did last year. I’m pretty proud of myself.

And besides, I have another chance at 50 laps next month when I do the Relay at home.

I want to thank Jeff, Alan, Marion, Judy, Kevin, Eileen, and Barry for allowing me to be a part of their team. I had a great time. And I hope to do it again next year.

 

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Why do I do it?

Why do I put myself through a tough workout?
Why do I have a personal trainer?
Why do I get up 5 mornings a week and head to the gym?
Why do I push myself so hard?
Why do I expect so much of myself?
Why do I eat as healthy as I can?
Why haven’t I given up?

Because I want to be healthier person.
Because I want to be strong.
Because I want to be able to say I did it.
Because I want to see how far I can go.
Because I want to wear “regular” sized clothes.
Because I want to learn new things.
Because I want to look in the mirror and love who I see.
Because I don’t ever want to sit in another doctors office and listen to him tell me I’m sick.
Because I don’t want to have to ask for a seatbelt extension when I fly.
Because I want to be the best person I possibly can be.
Because I love the feeling when I do something I’ve never been able to do before.
Because I love surpassing expectations, mine or anyone else’s.
Because I love making a goal and then shattering it.
Because I want to be sexy.
Because I have goals to reach.
Because I want to mark things off my bucket list.
Because I want to prove to all those who doubted me that they are wrong.
Because I don’t want to take medications for the rest of my life.
Because I want the rest of my life to be a very very long time.

Sometimes when I’m having a hard time and I’m struggling through my workouts, I remind myself of things on this list. This list is far from complete. I think of new reasons all the time. And when I forget, I have friends who help remind me.

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