(More) Thoughts On Running a 10K

Shoes

Today on the podcast Laura and I are discussing our experiences running a 10K race. I know I covered the topic fairly thoroughly already but in case you missed it/were curious/want to learn more, it was a lot of fun to discuss on the show. The episode doesn’t have a lot of practical tips (I’m working on pulling together a post full of my tips and lessons learned soon!) but it shows two different approaches to running the same length of race.

We also talk about our fitness goals for the fall – I first shared mine for October here. I’m failing at the running distance goal, but my nightly walks are becoming a lovely part of my daily routine. Every time I start to feel too hunched over and anxious in the evenings at my computer, I go out to finish my 10,000 steps for the day and I always feel better when I get home. It’s a goal I think I’m going to roll over to next month for sure.

You can find the episode here or subscribe to us on iTunes here. Thanks for listening!

How My Mother Fed Me

How My Mother Fed Me

John Green says that creativity is about making gifts for people, and this is a gift for my mother. A tribute to all the millions of tiny, loving actions she gave us that we never thanked her enough for and that I’ll never be able to repay.

HWY Magazine is no longer around, but you can find the piece reposted below. Thanks for reading.


How My Mother Fed Me

Published in HWY Magazine, October 2014

I’m seven. I’m flipping through a book with my younger sister as my mom cleans up lunch. It’s a book with a different activity for each letter of the alphabet – we pass glitter, paper dolls, magic card tricks, and water balloon games. We land on J, jelly doughnuts. There are a handful of different options: eat a whole powdered doughnut without licking your lips, feed a friend one while both of you are blindfolded. We’re thrilled. She must have left, it can’t have been magic (in my memory, it’s magic), but then we’re in the freshly mown backyard, a box of raspberry jelly doughnuts between us, bright bandannas tied over our eyes, our smiles big and sticky. With five dollars, she has taught me what pure joy and a sense of possibility feel like.

I’m eighteen and idealistic. I read one book and announce that I’m a vegetarian forevermore. It’s only later, when I’m away at university, that I realize being a vegetarian could actually be a challenge. At home I got handmade five cheese cannelloni, delicious salads, black bean burgers formed by hand and slipped onto the grill alongside turkey burgers, all meatless versions of all my favourite meals delivered to me. How could I have known, when in our house my vegetarianism was a fun excuse to experiment with deep-frying tempura vegetables, taste testing different brands of tofu sour cream, deciding whether I preferred tempeh or seitan. Without knowing it was happening, I learned so much about unspoken support, creativity and the fun that can be found in a challenge.

I’m sixteen and late for work, which of course is my own fault. I sit on a stool at our kitchen island with its cool, forest green tiles and watch my mother make me pad Thai in ten minutes flat. It’s quiet except for the hiss of tofu and eggs frying in the pan, the drip of the noodles steamy and draining in the sink, the hollow stirring sound of her big wooden spoon. She’s quick and smooth and practiced in her movements. Then she’s finished, sliding it all into a Tupperware container for me, and we’re out the door, leaving piles of crushed peanuts and chopped cilantro and a cutting board soaked with lime juice in our wake. It’s a lesson in efficiency and choice: the decision to make instead of buy fast food to feed your family.

I’m eight, or ten, or seventeen or any of the years before and between, bleary eyed and inevitably cranky before school. I’m at the kitchen table with my younger sisters, all of us in various states of readiness. On these mornings we eat malt toast rounds, two with butter and two with margarine. I always eat the ones with butter last because of course, they’re better. Occasionally we wake up to homemade pancakes or fresh Pillsbury cinnamon buns with huge bowls of fruit salad. Sometimes we eat eggs and toast, my mother standing at the stove (she’s always standing in the mornings, reading her newspaper and eating her granola) like the world’s best short order cook because she always remembers what you want. She knows how we like our eggs cooked, our toast cut (soldiers, on the diagonal, in half), and whether or not we like ketchup. Once, at lunch, my father tries to step into this role and I realize just how absolutely I’ve taken for granted that other people should know my personal condiment preferences. On birthday mornings, we have 3 layer cakes, baked in secret and covered with chocolate frosting, candy and cute cake toppers. By the time I leave for university, I have had a home-cooked breakfast nearly every school morning for my entire life. I will be proud if I can ever embody a fraction of the care, patience and true love required for such a feat.

I’m twenty-two, and about to leave for a three month solo backpacking trip through Europe. It’s summer, and my mother, self-employed, takes the day off to be jittery and excited and terrified with me. We go hiking together and afterwards she offers to take me out for lunch. For once, I don’t want to, so we end up at home, quietly slicing up yellow peppers, mango, and avocado on our big wood cutting board. We make a dipping sauce with soy and citrus and green onion for the little packages we form with delicate rice papers. The freshness doesn’t soothe the butterflies in our bellies but at least it doesn’t make them worse. Less than a year later, I’m 23 and about to leave for a year teaching in Korea. We make spring rolls again, turning it into a ritual for the days that we can’t make it through a single song without getting emotional and when our appetites are uncharacteristically non-existent. Unsaid is the understanding that the things that are very hard can only be weathered, something more easily done with someone you love by your side.

For a long time, I thought that all kids got from-scratch Belgian waffles, blueberry and raspberry preserves and whipped cream for special Sundays. I thought it was normal to get still-warm croissants on Saturday mornings and have bread baking in the machine on a random Wednesday after school. If you’d asked me then, I would have complained about the little plastic Ziploc bags of potato chips and the rareness of miniature chocolate bars in my school lunches. I would have been indifferent about my thermoses full of homemade chili or stew, which had been filled first with boiling water in the morning so that my food would stay hotter for longer. I would have told you I looked forward to lunch money days when I could buy greasy pizza or dry popcorn chicken or giant sour keys. Now of course, as I learn to feed myself and others, I’d give anything for one of those hundreds of lunches carefully packed by my mother. Now, I miss the quiet, small celebrations we had in our household, like breakfast for dinner on Shrove Tuesday, latkes on Hanukkah despite our lack of religion, apple crisp on a weeknight as soon as it was the season, stretching out pizza dough with flour-covered hands, or taco night with heaping bowls of toppings on the lazy Susan and tortillas my mom always insisted on warming up.

Once I shared some of these memories with a friend. After a pause, she told me that I’d described the childhood she desperately wished she’d had, and that momentarily, I’d made her feel like she wanted to give that childhood to someone else. I know what she meant, because that’s all I want too. With every elaborate birthday cake I make, every heavy-handed glass of wine I pour, every pasta sauce I add extra garlic to, I want to embody the warmth and love of my mother had every time she hugged me or fed me. I want to do the work it takes to make everyday moments magical, and to breathe generosity and care into the food and the moments I share with the people that I love. I know I may never live up to my own childhood, but my mother gave me inspiration enough to last a lifetime.

24 Before 24: Run a 10K Race!

Photo by race photographers
Photo by race photographers

You may remember that a while ago, I announced that I was going to be doing the Busan Half Marathon this fall. I started out that journey feeling really motivated and positively, but unfortunately my body had other plans. After about a week of running high mileage days every day, my knee started complaining and eventually went on strike one morning and I could barely put weight on it, let alone run, without it screaming in pain. I am very stubborn and did not want to give up, especially since I only had 3K more to go to meet my training goal for the day (…) but finally I was forced to listen to what my body was trying to tell me: “too much”. Having started my training a bit late, I wasn’t able to take rest days or chip away at it over a longer stretch – it was all in or nothing, and my body had decided for me. I went to see a specialist at the hospital who didn’t speak much English and told me, in essence, not to run. Ever.

Busan 10K View

After that, I decided not to be an idiot – a surprisingly difficult thing for me to do. I knew I could run 10K, since I’ve been happily working on my 10K endurance this whole running season, and so I could give myself a break in training and still do the race. Also, considering the fact that I’ve never run a 10K race before it should have been my logical first choice for my birthday list goal in the first place. So I amended my goal to be a 10K race instead of a half-marathon. This sucked for me because I really hate changing goals and because I had just announced I was going to do the half here on the blog so suddenly I was embarrassed as well as disappointed. Thanks to some good friends telling me (in kind words) not to be an idiot (I need constant reminding), I got over it. I took some weeks off and then went back to my normal running schedule of about 2-3 times a week. And then this Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and ran one of the most beautiful runs of my life with a seriously great personal best time.

Busan is home to the Diamond Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge that stretches across the water connecting two parts of the city. Along one length of the bridge is Gwangalli beach and the mountains, along the other side is ocean as far as you can see. It’s absolutely stunning from the mainland, especially at night, but it turns out it’s just as beautiful of a view when you’re actually on it with thousands of other people on an impossibly beautiful, blue-skied, windy day.

Busan 10K

Due to a strange flaw in the registration system for the race, our alien card numbers weren’t accepted and our registration was rejected after the deadline so we couldn’t try to register again. We’d heard from friends that in years past it’s the easiest thing to run it without registering but I was still nervous about not being a registered runner. Up until we were on the bridge I felt sure someone was going to pull me off to the side and tell me no. I needn’t have worried! It was easy to get in (really, no sneaking of any kind was required as there were no barriers or blocks) and nobody was checking.

The race itself was funny, as so many things in Korea are: there was no security at any stage of the race, people walking in totally normal clothes carrying shopping bags, little kids walking along with their mothers, selfie sticks everywhere, and people stopping smack in the middle of the bridge to take photos of each other from every angle. At the water stations they were giving out water and….wait for it….choco pies. Yeah. I also saw a mom and son walking the wrong way up the very narrow shoulder into oncoming running traffic just as the route had narrowed for the final burst to the finish line, presumably to try and cheer the father on from the least ideal spot imaginable. The bridge speakers loudly played some seriously bizarre music, it sounded like the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic action movie. And so on and so forth.

Busan 10K

Walking up to the start and for the first kilometer we were moving slowly, shuffling basically, in an enormous crowd of people of all shapes and sizes. Many people were using the race as an opportunity to just walk across the bridge and I don’t blame them, it was beautiful – I only wish there had been more division of lanes so that the people walking wouldn’t have stretched out so much across the wide bridge that the race, at certain parts, was an endless dodge of people walking or pushing the occasional baby stroller. That being said, there were great volunteers clearly showing people where to turn back for the 5K (it went halfway over the bridge and back) or which lanes to stay in for the 10K.

After the first kilometer, it opened up a lot and I was able to run, albeit sometimes needing to dodge people like I said. Having never done another 10K race I don’t know if this is normal or not! I almost instantly lost my friends after agreeing on a spot to meet up at afterwards, but it was for the better anyways, I prefer to run alone. I turned on my music and my training app and just enjoyed myself, the breeze, the beautiful view and the blue sky. I’m so used to running alone that it was bizarre to be around so many other people. I had to remind myself to just try for my own personal best, to dig deep when I needed to and appreciate myself for trying when I needed to.

Busan 10K

I only stopped once for a split second to take a picture, and the rest I ran at a steady pace. Within the last 3K, two of the half marathoners passed me – the half marathon did an 11K loop before running our same 10K route – and I marvelled. They were so beautiful – two African runners with the most effortless gait I’ve ever seen up close. And they flew past me and everyone else, practically catching up with the car that drove slowly ahead showing their time. They had run literally double what I had in the same amount of time and it really fired me up. I dug deeper and ran the last 3K much faster than the previous 7, in the end shaving close to 30s off my average time per kilometer! I had started my tracker about 0.2 km into the start of the race, but I ended up running 9.79 km in 1:03. I trust my app measurements, and that means I ran at a pace of 6’26”, which is a personal best for me.

At the end I felt amazing. It had been like a wind tunnel on the way back, and my ankles were a touch sore, but I sprinted to the finish line and felt totally incredible. I got a little medal saying I did the 10K race and I am still so proud of myself. It would have been foolish to try and run the half marathon, I know now that the 10K was absolutely the perfect goal for this stage in my life. After the race, I found my friends and we were all feeling great. We stepped around picnics spread out everywhere on the pavement with tons of bottles of makgeolli (rice alcohol) and beer and lots of Korean food – all at 10 in the morning! We hopped on the subway and treated ourself to some delicious, well deserved brunch before heading home.

Busan 10K

I’m so excited I did this race, and it only inspires me to try to do more scenic races in different beautiful locations in the world. I’m so happy to call this one crossed off my birthday list.

October Goals

Lately I’ve loved looking through Elise’s #makeitpublicmakeithappen hashtag. I love the idea of sharing your goals publicly so that you are motivated to get them done. I love seeing what is on other people’s goals lists. And most of all, I get so inspired seeing what people can accomplish when they set their minds to it. I’ve been meeting so many people lately that inspire and motivate me, and my goals for October are a reflection of that. Let’s see what I can make happen this month!

What are your goals for October?