Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In which we ran for their lives: a race recap almost as long as the actual race

When I made non-refundable arrangements for Larry and I to run the half marathon in DC, I worried. I worried that one of us would get sick, that the kids would get sick, that I'd get injured. I held my breath and doubled up on vitamin C until the very last day before we were supposed to leave.

"What are the odds of it happening twice?" I'd joke whenever I talked to my friends about my plans and my less than stellar track record.

The odds were apparently pretty good. Because as soon as I began packing Thursday evening, Dani spiked a fever. A fever that needed to be gone by Friday morning in order to leave her with my sister as planned. Being the laid back and easy going gal that I am, I promptly commenced freaking the freak out. I'll skip the part about how I couldn't sleep AT ALL Thursday night, how I tried to get myself to calm down and breathe deep and pray and count backwards from a thousand, but how my brain and stomach conspired against me with a hells no and a when life hands you lemons, we make an ulcer.

I checked her temperature every hour, all night. The poor girl probably had nightmares about bugs crawling in her ears or being probed by aliens. Don't worry, little one, it's just your mother being neurotic again. Go back to sleep, darling.

The amazing thing was, her fever was gone by midnight and she woke up feeling great. Which is more than you can say for me. (See above re: neurotic lady sabotages pre-race sleep with pointless anxiety).

So, as it turns out, I made it to the starting line on Saturday. (Adjust the headphones and cue the angels.)

It was crazy crowded, but we miraculously managed to meet up pre-race with a few of our wonderful friends and Run for their Lives team members -- Dale, Sue, and James. My brother Aaron ran the half marathon too, but I didn't find him until after the race. (And after he'd beaten me by two minutes. Stink!)

The course was amazing, the crowds were great, and the music was rockin'. But did I appreciate any of it? Nope. No. Non. Nein. Why, you might ask? Because I was too busy looking at my watch, feeling fatigued, wondering why it felt SO. MUCH. HARDER. than the last time I ran a half marathon.

Runner's high? Yeah, notsomuch. Muscle cramping? Oh yes, indeed, with a side of stitches. I skipped my Shuffle back to Eminem's "Not Afraid" on at least four occasions--apparently because I wanted to completely and forever ruin my favorite inspirational running song. I also overdid Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)". Footsteps even lighter? This is clearly not a song about running. Because what doesn't kill you doesn't make you step lighter or stand taller. It makes you pass out, double over, hobble, limp, or curse yourself in languages you didn't know you knew for voluntarily agreeing to this torture.

What I didn't realize was how much the warmer temperature would impact me. You see, I've been training in 30 degree weather, which makes me pretty badass in an Eskimo sort of way, but is no help whatsoever when it comes to running nearly two hours while the sun beats the heck out of you. It was (to use the very precise temperature) too damn hot.

Anyway, I've concluded that the only reason I felt great during my first half marathon last year in Cleveland was because (a) it was a perfect cloudy 58 degrees and (b) I wasn't trying hard enough.

Speaking of trying hard enough, I can safely say I gave it everything I had, as evidenced by bonking in the last tenth of a mile and having to slow to a crawl/jog to make it to the finish. And as evidenced by a new PR of 1:47:10. Now, about that cheeseburger and chocolate shake? Because what doesn't kill you makes you hungry.

But let's jump back to around mile 10, where my husband was on his way to completing his first half marathon right on goal pace when a runner passed out in front of him. So off came his runner hat and on went his emergency physician hat. Nothing like a bit of emergent care practice in the middle of a race to make things exciting. He stayed through the hand-off to the EMTs, and resumed his race about 15 minutes later. So what did you do this weekend? Oh nothing much, just ran a half marathon, saved a guy's life, and advocated for victims of human trafficking. Stinkin' overachiever.

But seriously, and I know I sound like Corny McCheeserton right now, but that guy is my hero. I'm so, so proud of him for all that he did--finding time to train in the midst of his rigorous work schedule, encouraging me to get the Run for their Lives initiative off the ground, running the race, and responding with a quick mind and caring heart to the needs right in front of him.

Speaking of the Run for their Lives initiative, I am thrilled to announce that as of race day, we've collectively raised $1000 in direct support of Love146 and the fight against child exploitation! And we're not done yet. I'm not sure what shape our awareness and fund raising efforts will take next, but we're going to keep running with it, hopefully for the long haul.

And now, a few race photos (a.k.a. the anti-glamor shot) of our DC Run for their Lives team. Thanks to Danielle and Laura for the pictures and course support, and to Aaron, James, Sue, Dale and Larry for tackling this event with me. You're the best!

My brother (who I vow to beat next time) and me post-race

Top Left Photo, L to R: James, Sue & Dale; Bottom Right Photo: L to R: Larry, Me, James

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catching Up

Well, we've entered that exciting and slightly terrifying zone when the 10-day weather forecast includes a high and low for our much anticipated race day. That zone where even the smallest things remind me just how close we are to the starting line--like that gallon of milk in the fridge that doesn't expire until two days after the race. Or the library due date that crops up the day before.

I put off my last long run until today so I could run outside without requiring a parka and snow shoes. It has barely snowed this year compared to most northeast Ohio seasons, but when it does snow? It's always, always on the one day I planned a long outdoor run. And it's usually accompanied by gale force winds. This is of course all part of the joy of training for a spring half marathon while living in Ohio. Today there are gale force winds; but the temps are above freezing and the skies are clear, so it's now or never.

The good news is that I've generally kept up with the half marathon training plan. The bad news is I have completely dropped the ball on posting over here at Run for their Lives. I've written at least a half dozen posts in my head while enduring the dreadmill, but the telepathic app on my iPhone still isn't working properly, so these posts (which are absolutely brilliant, by the way) never see the light of day.

In lieu of any legitimate writing here, please allow me to share a few links and updates with you:

  • This week Jade Keller is writing an eye-opening series on modern slavery. Please follow along with her this week as she shares what she's learned while working in Thailand.
  • Over on Dailymile, several of us have completed our 146 mile challenge, and dozens more are well on their way.  I know I keep saying this, but it's not too late to get started. So go! Get started! 
  • I'm very excited to report that through our efforts at Run for their Lives we've raised a total of $755 for Love146 and the fight against child exploitation! But we don't have to stop there. There's still plenty of time to donate or to use the site to garner donations in support of your race. Please feel free to share the link with friends and family who might be interested in supporting our cause as well. Thank you all SO MUCH for your efforts both in spreading the word about this issue as well as your generous donations. 
Well, I've gotta run. Twelve miles to be exact. Here's hoping those gale force winds are at my back. (Also, can someone please remind me again why I do this? Oh yes, because I supposedly love it. As in really, no one is making me run 12 miles in cold, Mary Poppins-ish winds. I'm pretty sure people have been institutionalized for a smaller dose of crazy than this.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Face of Prevention: A Guest Post by Jade Keller

Hi everyone! My name is Jade. Jo so very graciously invited me to do a guest post about my experiences working with The SOLD Project to combat human trafficking. First, I want to thank her for the opportunity to share some of my experiences. Also, I just want to thank you all for your interest in combating this terrible injustice and for your efforts to help support Love 146 and the other organizations with which they’re partnered.

When we talk about the millions of children trafficked, our eyes glaze over because we can’t comprehend the numbers and we can’t comprehend the truth of each life and what each child goes through in the trajectory of their lives. Our organization focuses on prevention for a lot of reasons like “stop it before it happens.” But the truth is, for these kids, trafficking doesn’t begin with abduction or the first time they’re forced. It doesn’t even begin with the initial deceit. It begins long before that.

In northern Thailand, one of the principle causes of trafficking is poverty, where kids are lured to the big city with promises of well-paying jobs and money to support their families. The kids we identify as being at-risk all come from impoverished circumstances, and most have other hurdles: alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, abusive homes, etc. I can’t tell you every kid’s story. But I will tell you one.

I’ll call him Nong.

He came to the resource center,one of the new children in need of a scholarship, polite, humble, and shy. He didn’t speak any English, so my usual ice-breaker (a game of Hangman) wouldn’t work. So I invited him to draw with me, an activity I found I could do with the kids that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. His face lit up at the invitation and he immediately set out to draw pictures of his favorite football players, then copying covers of children’s magazines. By the time the other kids arrived, we were wrist-deep in pencil markings and eraser sheddings.

Later, he would hop on a bike and play with the other kids, while I heard his story. It began with his mother,who had been raped and contracted HIV from the rapist. She didn’t know she was HIV-positive until six months into her pregnancy, and so passed the disease onto her baby Nong. She managed to marry another man, and when she told him she had HIV, he said he didn’t care. He said he loved her, and that he would die with her. They had a second child together, a daughter. Due to precautions, this time, she was able to have this daughter without passing HIV on to her. But they were incredibly poor. So when she couldn’t afford to send both her children to school, she chose to give the money and the education to her daughter, the one who wasn’t sick.

And so, a terrible twist of fate, an impossible decision, and here this little boy is. His mother died six years ago, and now he lives with his grandmother. With most of the kids, my concern is figuring ways to encourage them to stay in school. With this kid, it was gift for him to be able to go to school at all.

We were able to secure a scholarship for him, so that at the age of 13, he has the chance to go to school for the first time. He glows with the innocent excitement of getting his first school uniform. As we gave him a ride home after English lessons on Saturday, we asked him if he enjoyed his time there. He nodded shyly. We asked if he wanted to come again. His face split open in a wide grin and his nod was vigorous.

His smile is one I never forgot.

So the issue of prevention is not just about making sure kids never fall into the awful fate of sexual slavery. It’s about giving them a chance for life they might not otherwise have. This child, Nong, who otherwise might never have gone to school, was on a path where his lack of education would have left him no skills to sell, only his body. We can’t save him from his disease, but we hope we can give him a chance for a richer and fuller life for the days he has here with us.

When you run, know you’re running for kids like Nong too.  

I blog at Tasting Grace ( If you’re interested to learn more about the issue or to hear about my experiences on the ground, please join me there for the week of March 5-9. I’ll be doing a series of posts highlighting some of things I’ve learned since I got here. Hope you’ll join me there!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Her first half marathon: a guest post by Rebekah

I'm delighted to share with you today a guest post by my lovely friend Rebekah. She just completed her first half marathon a couple of weeks ago, running in support of Love146. I hope you'll find her story both encouraging and inspirational, just as I did. Thanks, Rebekah!


I did it!

I ran 13.1 miles and lived to tell about it!

In fact, I ran 13.1 miles in considerably less time than I expected to. My goal was simply to finish. Other goals included not meeting any paramedics along the way, not getting picked up by the pace car and, most importantly, to bring attention to a cause.

Joanne challenged us to run and spread the word about Love146. I have and am continuing to do so. Though I wasn't able to wear my shirt – temps were too hot for the long-sleeves – I have and do wear it when I'm running around town and I've placed donation envelopes at my husband's office.

Last year I set some goals for myself and this race was a big one. The Atlanta Track Club posed a question on Facebook today: “As a runner, it is so important to set goals. Let us know what you're ultimate running goal is, whether it's a certain distance, race, or PR. And press "Like" if you are confident that one day you will achieve it!” My answer was: “The best part about running is that you can always set a new goal! PR, log so many miles in a year/lifetime, longer distance, etc.. Running is for movers and shakers, baby! I set and met my half-marathon goal last month which I thought was my ultimate goal. Time for a new goal!”
I have an added motivation to running now. But it's not just about measurable goals. Running is for my physical, mental and emotional health, for my future, for an example and to see these same things happen for the millions of people currently living in slavery. Physical, mental and emotional health. Freedom.

You can do it, y'all! I know you're training. If you've never done something this big before you're thinking, “Holy crap! That's a long way!” And it is. But I did it and so can you.
I didn't start running consistently until January of last year. This time last year I could barely run a mile and a half without being really winded. I definitely wasn't running faster than 4 miles an hour. After running for 3 months I participated in a 5k race and finished in 31:30 and a year later I've run a half-marathon.

And just like you can finish this race (whichever it might be), you can be a part of something bigger. One person at a time bringing awareness about an incredible injustice, a horrible reality, and supporting change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In which we are all winners, but only one person gets the free tee shirt

We have a winner! The Run for their Lives tech tee goes to Jo N.!! (A totally different Jo--not me--of course. And I promise the drawing was random and I wasn't showing name favoritism....) And really, I think you're ALL winners. You just don't all get a cool tee shirt like Jo does.


Also? It's not too late to join us in the 146-mile challenge at Dailymile. A couple of rock star runners have already completed the challenge (give it up for Sue H.!), and a few have broken the 100 mile mark. But remember--this isn't about how quickly we can tally 146 miles. It's about getting there mindfully, with the abolitionist cause in mind, about giving some meaning to our training and encouraging each other along the way. So no matter whether you'll be walking, jogging or running, no matter how long it might take you to log 146 miles, I encourage you to join in!


We're just a month away now from the DC Rock n Roll Marathon & Half Marathon and the Los Gatos St. Patrick's Day Run! I'm equal parts excited about the race and paranoid about getting injured/sick given my less than stellar track record. It's funny because on my very rough "editorial calendar" for this blog, (and by "editorial calendar"  I mean the sticky note that's no longer sticky where I scribbled some ideas back in 2011), I had jotted down the topics of injury prevention and staying healthy. And now I feel as if writing about those subjects would be akin to asking the universe to flood my house with wintery germs and my running path with big ol' rocks on which to trip and otherwise torment my joints.

So if it's okay with you all, I'll just ask you for YOUR tips on staying healthy and injury-free during training. Do you have any for me? Leave 'em in the comments so we can all benefit from your sage advice. Or, if you have questions, leave those too, and I'll do my best to answer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get in Gear: Part II

Remember that one time, about five hundred days ago, when I promised to "write more soon" about getting in gear? Yeah, so I guess "soon" is a relative term. To the hundreds of you out there who were holding your breath waiting for the next installment of The Average Jo's Guide to Running, take a deep breath in, then exhale, releasing all the toxins of bitterness and resentment toward me for making you hold your breath for two weeks.

Anyway, let's talk some more about gear, shall we?

App-tly Equipped

Whether you're looking to start running, keep running, or rant about how you hate running, yes, there's an app for that. Thousands of them, I'd guess. I've highlighted below a few of the apps I've found useful.
  • Electric Miles (Free): Whether you're using Dailymile to track your mileage, to participate in the 146 mile challenge, or to connect with other athletes and runners, you might be looking for an easy way to enter your mileage on your phone. Well, look no further. Electric Miles is an app that allows you to log in to your Dailymile account and add workouts easily from your phone. The functionality is more limited than the Dailymile website, but I find it helpful for logging my workouts right after I complete them. (Because by the time I get home and in a place where I can sit down to log a workout, I've generally forgotten the details of my distance and paces.)
  • RunKeeper (Free): I downloaded this app a year ago, but admittedly haven't used it much as I prefer to run without my phone. For the price, I suppose I'm still getting my money's worth. RunKeeper will track your route, time and distance with GPS, and allows you to store your workouts within the app.
  • Runner's PaceCalc (Free): I probably should be embarrassed by how much I love this app. Because it's a calculator. I'm assuming the cool kids love apps like Angry Birds or Shazam, but definitely not calculators. I mostly use this app to obsess over how fast I might be able to run a 10k if I ran it at the same pace I just ran a 1600m rep. Or what the minute per mile pace would be to qualify for Boston in my age bracket. (Never mind that I've never run a marathon, nor am I signed up to run one, nor do I have any hope of qualifying for Boston if I spend more time daydreaming with a calculator than I do actually running.)
  •  Couch to 5k ($2.99): I haven't actually used this app myself, but I've heard nothing but great things. If you're thinking about doing the C25K program, this app might be just what you need to help you get started and stay on track. 
I know I haven't even scratched the surface on all of the apps out there for runners of all levels. If you have an app you've found useful, please share it with us in the comments below!

{More on gear to come soon...ish. We still need to cover winter gear--preferably before winter is over--and talk more about hydration belts. And if there's any other gear you're curious about that we haven't talked about yet, leave me a question in the comments below, and I'll be sure to address it.}


Don't forget--the Run for their Lives tee-shirt give-away is underway! Your donation to Love146 in any amount--no matter how small or large--enters you to win. So click on over and help us make a difference in the battle against child sex slavery and exploitation. Thank you so much!

Monday, January 30, 2012

It has everything to do with us

When my husband mentioned Human Trafficking Awareness Day to a colleague, she furrowed her brow, raised a skeptical brow. "Well, I've never heard of that."
Exactly the point of having an awareness day, don't you think?

We can't go a mile without seeing a pink ribbon. We're aware as we've ever been about breast cancer. We can add a dollar to a department store purchase to fund diabetes research and education. We can join a campaign to prevent childhood obesity. And if we're really feeling politically active, we can rally together in a walk or run or march for life or for choice. 

But when we talk about the innocent, vulnerable babies already born, the children who face not the risk of obesity and high blood sugar, but a life of captivity and serial rape, we get blank stares. We get "Come on, how bad can it really be?" And, "It's a problem overseas, but that has nothing to do with us."

No, my friends. It has everything to do with us.

I used to roll my eyes when non-profit organizations would include "raising awareness" as part of their primary mission. It seemed like a fancy way to justify the existence of one more marketing person on payroll without really getting anything done. But I'm starting to see how difficult progress is in the absence of awareness. No one cares about fixing a problem they don't know exists.

So let's keep talking about it. Let's keep reading about it, sharing about it, looking it in the face, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

This Huffington Post article by Corban Addison is a good place to start:
Reality check: There are more slaves in the world today than were taken from Africa in the four centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade--over 27 million. Of those, two million are children exploited in the commercial sex trade.

If you wish to give directly to the fight against child sex slavery and exploitation, we've set up a donation site with Love146. Over the next two weeks, your donation, no matter how small or large, will also earn you an entry to win a Run for their Lives long-sleeved tech tee!

Thank you again for your continued efforts to spread the word about the issue of modern day slavery and our efforts to abolish it.