My name is Kathy.

It has been three months since my last road race.

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I have a million excuses. Three months of excessive transatlantic travel. Three months of reunions and events and work all with my tiny tot in tow. I’m tired. I’m not motivated. It’s hot in Florida. Blah Blah Blah rough life just do it already!

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Florida. 8am on a Saturday.

The night before a race, I start to wake up every hour after about 3am. I get anxious about little things like missing my alarm, forgetting to pick up the race packet, is my Ipod charged? Will these panties chafe? Is my GOOD sports bra clean? Do my shorts have a pocket for my keys? Where are my keys? How much wine did I really drink last night? Then I do the countdown: “if I wake up at 5am I can have 2 cups of coffee, a glass of water and be able to flush it all out before I get in the car.”  Then an hour later, “if I use the Keurig, bring a travel mug, drive 20mph over the speed limit and tinkle in the bushes, I can sleep until 7:15am….

When I look in the mirror to pull my hair into my very unglamorous pony tail I focus on the giant bags under my eyes and the trail of yesterdays wine err mascara down my face and think,

“this is ridiculous.”

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Today was no exception.

The race itself was at a popular park for road races. I’d completed several there before and was familiar with the out-and-back along a man-made lake. Very pretty. Mostly flat. Paved road. No cars. Chip timed, actual bathrooms and two water stations. All necessary for a very fast, easy and enjoyable race. And it was.

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My time was horrible. I’m not sure what I expected considering my daily runs had turned into thrice weekly jogs, the occasional paddle board and a power walk through the mall. Did I think I was suddenly going to set a state park record?

In the time before the start, I stretched. I don’t do it often or enough but I know as I approach 40 like a Mercedes on the autoban, my body needs more and more prep work. I found a quiet spot away from the crowd on a little hill to bend and twist. I noticed a few ladies make their way down to my grassy knoll and join me. Before I knew it, I was leading some sort of dysfuntional tutu wearing “i run for wine” cheering soccer mom yoga class. Kill me.

A group of very ripped cross fit ladies passed by and looked me up and down like I was loosening up for a 5k hostel takeover. Little did they know I was legitimatly afraid my thighs would cramp up at the sound of the gun and last night’s sushi would make a guest appearance by mile 2.

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Road Race Rule #1:

Don’t judge others. Don’t worry about what people think of you. Don’t do crossfit. (ok, kidding. but really don’t.)

A few hundred people lined up, the gun went off and before I knew it we were at the half way turn around point. I was in the middle of the running pack, a comfortable place for me to be. But then things got interesting. First, as we made the U-turn, we now faced the sun. A blaring hot Florida in August sun. The kind of sun that makes you question your life choices. The kind of sun that will horrify your dermatologist and change your makeup base from “creamy beige” to “Punishment For Past Sins.”

Race Rule #2:

Wear sunscreen. Pack aloe. Lips can burn, too.

Thankfully I was preoccupied with the 9 year old kid that kept passing me like Buzz Lightyear then WALKING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

Road Race Rule #3:

WALKERS TO THE RIGHT!

None of that ultimately matters. What matters is doing it.

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I need to reestablish my commitment to running road races at least once a month. I need to reestablish my commitment to pushing my body farther, harder, faster. I need to reestablish my commitment to encouraging YOU to join me in our endeavor to be the best versions of ourselves. (That’s way too new-agey-touchy-feely for me but Oprah said it and I can’t get it out of my head.)

I’m out of excuses. I need to get back to running consistently and with conviction. I can’t talk about physical muscle if i’ve gone soft or spiritual muscle if I’m not putting in the time to pray and reflect. We’re running to win! There’s no time to over think it, over analyze it. There are plenty of reasons NOT to do something but when has that made you better, healthier, happier?

I kept the sushi down. So can you.

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Until next week.

Run to win.

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I’ve finished the Southeast and the Mid Coast Atlantic on my journey to run a road race in all 50 states to honor my father and his battle with Parkinsons Disease.

Sometimes when I’m tired or sore I wish I had decided to do a movie marathon instead. Or a 50 state vineyard challenge. Or chocolate around the world tasting challenge. Or test-your-liver-limits vodka challenge. But, as my friend and teammate Will reminds me, “If this was easy, everyone would do it.”

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South Carolina was lovely. It was an easy trail run along a river where weathered fisherman hauled in catfish and striped bass. My tiny tot came along for the ride. We stopped to smell the flowers – something we rarely do in the short amount of time we have between races, states and home.

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North Carolina. 7:30am on a Sunday.

Earlier in the week (like a few days ago…) I received an email from one of our former cadets saying, “Hey! check out the All-American Marathon here at Fort Bragg.” Well, the only marathon I will run is the kind that gives away a million dollars to every finisher and has cabernet hydration tables along the route. However, as luck would have it, the race had a 5k attached to it. And I get to connect with old friends. Win-Win.

July 1, 1991. West Point, NY.

My father walked into the chapel to make sure the lights were off and the doors locked. (Ministers are never off duty. Neither are their families. Ever spent your Saturday evenings breaking up communion bread? Or folding bulletins? No?)  While doing rounds he noticed a lone visitor sobbing in the pew. “Just dropped off a new cadet?” dad asked. “No, he said. Two.”  Twin boys from Nebraska, the first born sons, home grown heroes off to the Academy for “R” day. Dad brought him in for tea and he stayed the week. 25 years later they’re still a part of our family – all of them – uncles, aunts, best friends, girl friends, 8th grade piano teachers…. they came with a crowd. I have a thousand “Thomson Twins” stories but I’ll save those for more intimate settings (like my Tour of America Via Airport Bars challenge perhaps?)

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The Fort Bragg run was through the main part of post – past the hospital, gracious spanish style Commanders homes and buildings meant to intimidate just a bit. Home of the 82nd Airborne Division as well as others including significant Special Forces commands, the run was filled with incredibly fit men and women, their incredibly fit spouses and incredibly fit children. It was an intimidating start when the starting gun was an artillery piece. The best part was an email all the runners received the night prior…

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Note to self – Leave the gas mask and RPG’s at home.

My host Derek and his eldest daughter got up at 0 Dark 30 and came with me. It was a great race full of all the pageantry you hope still exists, surrounded by the men and women who deserve nothing but our complete reverence and thanks. And me – a hopeless romantic, a sucker for uniforms, parades and balls.

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I love this particular challenge because of the reunions across generations and state lines.

Reunions are special.

They remind us we’re a part of something bigger – that our community isn’t just where we live or where we work but an intricate network of people from every road that have influenced the paths we’ve taken and the direction we’ve gone.

fast far      #Truth.

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Run to Win.

 

Alexandria, Virginia.  9 am on a Sunday.

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. 2pm on a Sunday.

Today I ran 2 races and checked off 2 states. I started with a 5k in VA. It was fine. I went home, downed a cup of coffee and half a loaf of gluten-free-sugar-free-flavor-free zucchini carrot bread, grabbed my little family and headed 2 hours north to PA.

The trip was beautiful. It snowed. So Much Snow. The fields and barns and cows had a light dusting of snow as we proceeded north. So Many Cows. The race was fine.

2 races in a day across 2 states is a feat. But today was tough. There was no fanfare. No balloon arches that said, “WAY TO GO KATHY!” In my head I’m fighting Khloe Kardashian for the cover of Shape magazine. Reality is a lot less glamorous. I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t share my mission or my mistakes or encourage anyone. I wasn’t a cheerleader for anyone today – least of all myself.

And thats ok. The first lesson I learned today was, you won’t always get what you think you deserve. Promotion, raise, accolade – recognition of a job well done. It can’t change the big picture.

The second thing I was reminded of is that we are never alone. My friend Matt, a Navy Officer that i’ve known for 18 years who isn’t just a runner but an ultra-marathon runner, posted on social media for me:

“Just because I didn’t run at the same time and place doesn’t mean I’m not running with you! #runtowin.”

My stomach was in my throat and not because I was ready to vomit from the run (though that was certainly true about half way up the 90th f’in Amish hill). It was a perfect gift of grace.

My father used in a sermon on Grace:

“Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.”

I will try to live life more gracefully.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14