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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Get in Gear

Now that we've covered a bit about training plans, let's talk about the gear you need to to help you get off on the right foot. 

It's a run, not a runway.  
Let's just establish this upfront. This ain't no fashion show. Sure, we all dream of gliding down the trail in a perfectly styled mix of Sporty Spice meets Nike ad. But Honey, if that dream doesn't die by the first mile, you can bet the third mile will do it in when you get a literal taste of what I like to call the Active Lifestyle Facial--the road-tested beauty formula of snot meets sweat. Let's just say this. If you still look pretty when you're finished, you didn't do it right. 

A spring in your step.
I can't stress this enough: Professionally fitted running shoes are a must. I know it's fun to be matchy-matchy, especially when you have to spend the equivalent of a week's grocery budget on one stinkin' pair of shoes, but don't be tempted to select your shoes based on color or style or what's available in the clearance section at TJ Maxx. Instead, concern yourself with finding the right fit, including the proper amount of support to address pronation. Experts at your local running store can analyze your gait and help you find the perfect shoes to support your stride.

Running shoes generally need to be replaced every 300-500 miles, depending on the type of miles you've logged. I like to keep track of my miles on Dailymile so I always have an accurate count and don't have to rely on my fuzzy mathematical memory. 

Music in your ears.
I know many of you out there are purists. You could run for miles just listening to the birds, the sound of the wind in the trees, the cars honking at you to get out of the blanketedy-blank way, and the sound of me whooshing past you as my new favorite running tune propels me forward. But for the rest of us normal folk who need a bit of music to beat the boredom and keep the pace, there are some great options for MP3 players and earbuds designed to stay put. My personal favorite (and I've been through a few) is this one--as it incorporates my old school Shuffle with wireless headphones that won't fall off even after I reach speeds of 50 mph. (Because that totally happens. All the time.) 

Time on your side. 
For as little as $10, you can find a sports watch with a clock and a timer. If you plan to run outdoors, this accessory is essential for keeping track of your pace, not to mention ensuring you make it back before the kids get off the bus or your lunch break ends. You don't need a fancy dancy GPS watch to get started (though that would be fun and those are wicked cool). Just strap on a plastic Timex, click over to chrono mode, and run like the wind.

Speaking of time, it's seems I've run out of it. I promise to write more soon, to include info on getting app-tly equipped, winter wear and hydration belts.

Any questions about gear so far? How's your training going so far? Please comment with your questions or share what gear, shoes, etc., you've found to work well for you.  Thanks!


Don't forget, our Love146 donation site is up and running! Click over to make a donation or to set up your personal donation site if you've chosen to run a race with us. Also, there is still plenty of time to join in on the challenge at DailyMile!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More on training plans: All about Hal

I'm delighted to share a post here today written by my lovely friend Sharone, a kindred spirit and fellow average Jo runner.  Sharone provides a great introduction to perhaps the most popular and average-Jo-friendly of all the training plans, the Hal Higdon Plan. Please read on to learn how this training plan has enabled her to eat cheeseburgers run longer distances!

I backed into running against my will. My friend Kelsey convinced me to do a sprint triathlon, and once I pushed past the initial wanting to die stage that was my first few weeks of training, I realized that I kind of loved running. It was the most satisfying of the three sports, and it was the most efficient use of my workout time. Not to mention that it requires me to have more discipline and determination (confirmed) than skill (questionable). And it’s something I’ve come back to over and over in the four years since, especially for races.

Since the triathlon, I’ve run irregularly, usually 3 to 5 miles at a time. I’ve also done a few 5Ks. I never come anywhere near winning. I’m middle of the pack, happy to have lately worked my mile time to just around 10 minutes—and that’s one of the things I love most about running. Besides the fact that it keeps me in cheeseburgers (not an exaggeration), running offers a challenge to work harder and a chance to see measurable results. The Go Green St. Patrick’s Day Run will be my first half-marathon, and I’m really nervous terrified excited about it for that reason: it will be hard, and at the end I’ll be really proud of myself.

I’ve told you my running life story as a build-up to telling you why I chose Hal Higdon’s novice half-marathon training plan for this race. As Jo mentioned, the Hal program is based on the principle that gradually increasing total weekly mileage over twelve weeks will give runners the training they need to run longer races. Before I started Hal, I’d been working through a run-walk-run program that I loved, but as I came into the home stretch for the race, I wanted more experience running longer distances without stopping. Also, I know quite a few people who have used Hal and swear by him.

Maybe most importantly for me, I went with Hal because I found a way to make the training so easy that I barely have to think about it. I don’t have kids, but I’m writing a dissertation and working multiple jobs, so I need a program that doesn’t require a lot of mental exertion. Enter BluefinSoftware’s Hal Higdon’s Novice Half Marathon iPhones app. I’ve used their Ease into 5K and Bridge to 10K run-walk-run training programs and loved them, and this app is even better. It’s super easy to use. It tells you what distance to run or how much cross-training to do on which day. 
You can use audio from iTunes, Pandora, or any other music app you like, tap the go button, and it will tell you when to start running and when to stop. And it keeps track of your time, distance, and routes for all your workouts and puts them into pretty charts so you can see your progress (one of my favorite parts). 
I love charts, and I love progress, so for me it’s perfect. It’s a little expensive for an app ($9.99), but if you can swing the money, I think it’s worth it.

So. The nitty gritty. Here’s how Hal’s plan works:

Each week of training consists of three running days, two easy cross-training days of 30-60 minutes each, and two rest days. Hal suggests running 2-3 miles on one of the cross-training days, which affects the total weekly mileage. He also suggests incorporating stretching and strength training somewhere into the week. But really, the plan’s very flexible.

* If you run the suggested races, Hal recommends rest for the two days prior to the race.

I’m a few weeks into Hal and I’m pretty happy so far. I’ve found that the suggested cross and strength training has made a huge difference in my running: better speed, energy, stamina, the whole deal. I like to combine the cross and strength/stretching by doing yoga or pilates, which are great because they give special attention to the joints that are getting the most strain. I feel stronger and more confident, and my mile times are coming down. All of these things make me really happy.

That’s probably the biggest thing I’m learning from all of this. The combination of Hal and the Bluefin app and the distances and cross-training really works for me, and it motivates me to train just as much as the 13.1 mile race I’m staring down in nine weeks.

What have you found that works for you? Hal Higdon? Some combination of plans? What do you do to make training as easy as possible?

Monday, January 16, 2012

More Than You Might Think

I sat wedged between an oval window and a gray-haired, gray-suited man. No use opening our laptops during the hop from Frankfurt to Zurich. There was barely time for the beverage service.

He folded his newspaper twice over and back. I reached for my book.

Even three chapters deep into Gore Vidal's The Golden Age, I struggled to follow the myriad of characters parading across the pages of the 1940s. Jet-lagged and meeting-weary, I read words, sentences, paragraphs, and reaching the end of the page, I knew none of it. I started to drift.

His voice startled me back to the open page. He ordered a drink in German. I don't recall what.

I looked back at my book, pretending I'd been immersed in the story and not in sleep. And there it was. A scene with FDR, an imagined look at the hours before Pearl Harbor.

And here I was. Only 57 years past Normandy. Flying over Strasbourg. Sitting next to a man who might have been a tall ten years old when the war was finally over, whose father might have "heil"ed Hitler, whose mother might have mourned, whose neighbors might have fled.

When our wheels touched down in Zurich, history didn't feel so far away.


"That was 1960?" I asked in disbelief.
"Texas," my husband replied. "The Cotton Bowl. And they've got the actual footage. It's awful. They aren't exaggerating this."

We'd heard the movie The Express (The Ernie Davis Story) was supposed to be good. And it was.

But it was hard to imagine that barely 50 years ago, when my father stood a tall ten years old, the Cotton Bowl's Most Valuable Payer wasn't welcome at his own awards ceremony. Because of his skin color.

When punches were thrown and slurs were shouted and signs were posted to keep people apart.

When equal opportunity was still just a dream.

A desperate, lay-your-life-down-for-it dream. So much more than a poster in the break room.


Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a jail in Birmingham:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

It doesn't matter which continent or century you pick. Our human history is ugly. It started with the garden, and we haven't let up since. But it has taken me a while (too long, in fact) to realize that our history--no matter how ancient--is connected, decade to decade, century to century, generation to generation.

It isn't just words in a book and multiple choices in a high school history quiz.

It's real. It happened. Some of it not very long ago.

I confess I have cared very little about history. I have paid only scant attention to the true stories that don't directly contribute to the plot of my own. In my apathy, I've stayed the "so-what?" student who studies to pass and not to learn.

And in doing so, I have been utterly foolish.

Because in this ancient and ongoing battle against self-destruction, indeed "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny".
Just because my daughter hasn't been sold into slavery,
Just because my husband hasn't been tortured for his political views,Just because my son hasn't been forced to fight a grown man's war before he turns eight,
Just because my faith is not currently cause for persecution,
I still don't get to be immune.
I still don't have an excuse for crouching apathetically in a caved existence.

So let's say I stand up and take note. Let's say I study and say out loud that
this is injustice. What difference would it make in the world at large?

I mean, really, what can one mother do to rid the world of injustice?

I'd like to know how Alberta Williams King would answer, if she were still alive.

Perhaps her reply, shaped by the brokenness of outliving her own son, would inspire us.

Perhaps she'd shut her eyes to lock in tears, shake her head and repeat the question, "What can one mother do to rid the world of injustice?"

Perhaps she'd open her eyes, tears slipping toward her smile and say,
More than you might think, my dear. More than you might think."


I can't tell you how many times in the past year I've turned this question over. I'm just a mom. When people ask me what I do, I tell them "laundry". Who do I think I am, that I could actually make a difference, to pull even a pail's worth from this ocean of injustice?

Honestly, I don't know if the little I do will make any difference at all. But I want to be rid of this ugly habit of mine--this giving up before trying.  I want to believe that even the smallest steps matter, that the miles will add up. Will you join me in the trying?

Originally published at Mylestones in January 2010.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When She Was Twelve: A Post on Human Trafficking

If you've chosen to help us spread the word through your writing, we invite you to link up below with your post about human trafficking. Thank you so much for joining with us in refusing to look away.
When I was twelve, I knew nothing of the world and its dark corners, nothing of tragedy. When I was twelve, tragedy meant Grandpa's cancer, Coach P.'s heart attack, and a vague notion of malnourished children continents away. When I was twelve, I cried because I bombed my balance beam routine, because I fought with my mother, because we were about to move five hours away from my best friend.

When she was twelve, home was a dark concrete corner of the world, and horror was her status quo. Taken as a child, sold as a slave, she wore the number 146. When she was twelve, tragedy meant being torn from her family, raped repeatedly by strangers, beaten by her captors. She was twelve, and the tragedy was that she wasn't the only one, not the first, not the last. There were and would be millions more.

Love146 History from LOVE146 on Vimeo.

I can't fathom millions. Bombard me with startling and horrific statistics, and I shut down. My first reaction is to look away, to turn it off, to plug my ears and sing la-la-la.

But the story of the girl with the number 146 stays with me. Because I can picture her there, a child for sale. I imagine her staring back through the glass, the life not yet gone from her eyes. The millions are a faceless blur, but this girl, this girl I can see.

When I consider the grave and overwhelming issue of human trafficking, how modern day slavery stretches across nearly every corner of the world, including my own, it is tempting to throw up hands, to stockpile despair, to hide my eyes. But when I picture her face, I can't look away.

Today is national Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  Will you join me in the refusal to look away?
From the towering mountains of tragic stories, we mine tiny stories of hope. Of lives restored, of captives freed, of returning home.

You can help to multiply these stories of hope by partnering with Love146 in their efforts to end child slavery and exploitation through prevention and aftercare. Whether you choose to give directly, to run for their lives and raise funds, or simply to spread the word and raise awareness, even the smallest of steps can be turned into high hopes in the battle against human trafficking.

Monday, January 9, 2012

First, we need a plan

My friend Elizabeth made my day when she chimed in to comment on yesterday's post:
"I really was someone who *knew* that I HATED running and would never be a runner, and I discovered I was wrong and that I could do it and that I would feel great. Point being: ANYONE can do it!
My next goal is to run a half marathon next fall. (I'm thinking this spring is too soon to double my distance?)"
I promptly replied to welcome her to Crazytown, and also to tell her that NO! Spring is not too soon! You can TOTALLY be ready by spring!!!

And no, I don't think using more exclamation points than actual words is overkill. It really is that exciting.

So let's talk about how to get ready for that spring half marathon, assuming this will be your first half, that you've already completed a Couch to 5k program or something similar and that you can comfortably jog four miles (at any pace).

There are a few major training approaches out there, all of which will adequately prepare you for the 13.1 mile distance:
  • Perhaps the most popular and traditional is Hal Higdon's plan, which relies on the time-tested principle of pure mileage accumulation. The assertion is that if you log the miles--no matter how slowly--you'll find yourself more than ready to tackle that half marathon, and at a (sometimes significantly) faster pace than you did in training.
  • Another approach is the Galloway plan, which encourages a run/walk/run method as a way to build both speed and endurance while decreasing the risk of injury. And don't assume that just because walking breaks are included as part of the training and the race itself that this plan isn't as difficult or effective. I have a friend who qualified for Boston using the run/walk/run method, an accomplishment that requires some serious grit and speed. 
  • Less well known, but gaining popularity is the FIRST training plan developed by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr. This is the plan I've followed loosely over the past year, and the one I'm going to highlight here not because I'm convinced it's superior, but because it's what I know.

The FIRST Training Plan (modified ever so slightly for the average Jo)

The FIRST program incorporates just three time-targeted runs per week, but at typically higher intensity than what other plans prescribe. The focus is efficiency--making the most of the time you have to train and making every mile count. So you'll do fewer runs and log less mileage overall, but purportedly achieve similar fitness results.

You can see then, why as a mother of two little ones, this plan appealed to me. Three runs per week as opposed to five. The plan strongly suggests cross training on two additional days, but I cross train sporadically at best. I figure I am lucky to be squeezing in the three runs. And also, I reason, Bill Pierce isn't the boss of me.

The three primary runs are as follows:
1. Speedwork - usually a 10 minute warm-up, followed by series of either 400m, 800m, or 1600m repeats, with 2 minute recovery jogs in between each rep., then cool down
2. Tempo run - a higher intensity run at 15 seconds faster than your targeted half marathon pace
3. Long run - a longer, more relaxed run at a pace of 30 seconds slower than your half marathon target

Because all of the suggested paces for training are based on your targeted half marathon pace, the first thing you'll want to do is set a realistic goal. The easiest way to do this is to use a recent 5K or 10k time and then reference this chart. Whatever you do, keep your goal realistic. Pushing yourself too hard too fast will only result in discouragement and increase your risk for injury.

If you read the entire Runner's World article covering the FIRST plan--which I encourage you to do--you'll see they use an example of a runner targeting a 1:30 half marathon., that's not even close to average.

Let's look at an example of the plan for average runner, shall we?

Half Marathon Goal: 2:11, 10 minute mile pace

Speedwork Paces: 

400s--HMP, minus 75 seconds (8:45 per mile), divided by 4: (2:11)
800s--HMP, minus 65 seconds, (8:55 per mile), divided by 2 (4:27)
1600s--HMP, minus 45 seconds (9:15 per mile)

Tempo Pace:
HMP minus 15 seconds (9:45)

Long Run Pace:
HMP plus 30 seconds (10:30)

And last but not least, the detailed mileage for the 10 week training plan:
Week Tuesday Wednesday Sat/Sun
1 4x400 3-mile tempo 6-mile long run
2 4x800 4-mile tempo 8-mile long run
3 3x1600 5-mile tempo 10-mile long run
4 6x400 6-mile tempo 6-mile long run
5 3x1600 4-mile tempo 10-mile long run
6 4x800 8-mile tempo 8-mile long run
7 6x400 6-mile tempo 10-mile long run
8 4x1600 8-mile tempo 12-mile long run
9 3x800 3-mile tempo 6-mile long run
10 4x400 2-mile tempo Half Marathon

Now if I may just say a few personal words about the plan. It worked for me. As in really well. I trained to run my first half just under two hours at a 9:05 pace. And I finished more than six minutes ahead of my goal. That being said, the tempo runs nearly did me in. I found them incredibly difficult. I whined for at least 48 hours in advance of each one. But I'm convinced the tempo runs were what made the difference for me in pushing myself to that next level of fitness.

Of course just because it worked for me doesn't mean it's the right plan for you. I'd encourage you to learn more about the other training plans and decide on an approach that best fits with your goals, your schedule, and your attitude toward running.


What about you? Have you already chosen and begun a training plan? If so, what plan are you using?  Are you considering using the FIRST plan to train for a half or full marathon? Do you have any questions about the plan or about training in general?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

From terribly daunting to totally doable

I was 33 and a mother of two, three and under, when I first started running. I was chronically exhausted, out-of-shape and frequently made a meal out of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms. My friend Kate asked me to join her in running a 5k as a way to motivate us both to get out and run. I said yes. Not because I wanted to actually run. But because you don't say no to Kate. And also? I was tired of being tired and out of shape. And I figured if I started exercising more regularly, I could continue eating dark chocolate peanut M&Ms with minimal consequences.

Everybody starts somewhere, and for me, somewhere was finishing a 5k without stopping to walk. I never dreamed (not in my worst nightmare) that I'd run anything further than 3.1 miles. But then Kate roped me into running 5 miles in a marathon relay, and then running a 10k, and then....well you get the point. It's all Kate's fault. And I love her for it.

Fast forward to today. I'm training for my second half marathon. It was only a year ago (when I began training for the race I didn't get to run) that I increased my distance beyond 3 or 4 miles. What surprised me most about training for the half was how the distance went from terribly daunting to totally doable after less than three months of training.

You see, I'm the average Jo. When I started running, it felt anything but easy. I was convinced the elusive "runners high" was just a cruel hoax perpetrated by naturally gifted runners. I rolled my eyes at those deranged people who called running their "therapy." I'll stick to a glass of wine and a good book, thankyouverymuch. 

But I kept running in my oh so average way. And with each mile, I grew stronger, faster than I was the month before. And it was a good feeling--an addictive feeling--when I realized I could run faster and farther at 36 than I could at 16. Pardon my dust, 16 year old self.

(That being said, even now I can't run one mile, downhill and with the wind at my back at the same pace my friend Kristin can run 26.2 miles. If ever I get big-headed and call myself one bad mother runner, you can just remind me about Kristin, mmkay?)

Anyway, all of this is to say that no matter if you are just starting out, if you've never run a race in your life, if you are terrified of tackling 3.1 or 13.1 miles, you are more than capable.  You can do this. We can do this.

I'd love to hear more from you. Do you believe that you can (run that 5k, 10k, or that half marathon) or are you doubting yourself? Tell me, what is holding you back from giving this running thing a shot? What goals have you set for yourself with respect to running? Have you signed up for a race? Have you found a training plan to help you get started?

Coming up tomorrow: We'll dig into some training details, and I'll share specifics about the training plan I've used to prepare for a half marathon.

The Run for their Lives donation page is up and running! If you're hoping to raise funds for Love146 as part of your upcoming race, visit this page and click "Join the Run". From there, choose which team you'd like to join and customize your personal donation page as you like. You can join any of the teams set up even if you aren't running the specific event for that team. (So far we have a team for DC, West coast, and Southeast.) 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More on getting started

The Race
Rumor has it that the USA Rock N Roll Marathon is filling up fast--only 1,000 spots of 24,000 left. So if you're seriously considering signing up for this race, now would be the time to act. And remember, if you register by January 5th, you can use the code RESOLVE to get $15 off your registration fee.

Please keep in mind that you can participate with us in any race you choose to run, at any distance. If you are a beginner who gets winded on the long journey from the couch to the fridge, then your best bet is to start with a Couch to 5k program and choose a 5k race that is at least 10 weeks out. On the other hand, if you're a veteran runner and 10-time Boston qualifier who gets up to run Yassos at 4 a.m., then you can run any race you darn well please, and also, I kind of hate you.

But seriously. No matter where you are in your running journey, you can join us in running for their lives. If you haven't yet found a race that suits you in terms of distance, date and location, here are a few links that list upcoming races by area:

  1. Cool Running : Many of the road races in New England are listed here, though I found after we moved to Ohio that the site is light on the listings for midwestern states.
  2. : This site provides fairly comprehensive listing for most regions for races of all distances.
  3. Half Marathon Calendar: Here you'll find a listing of half marathons by date and state.
  4. When all else fails, Google it. If you search the web by just plugging in the distance (5k, 10k, half marathon, etc.) and name of your city or region, you'll be able to find many of the smaller events that the national sites above don't list.
Now, for those of you who have already nailed down your race and are fast approaching race day, (looking at you, Rebekah), I'm happy to report that we'll soon have a customized Run for their Lives webpage for tracking and making donations to Love146. Please know that by choosing to participate with us in this project, you are in no way obligated to donate or to solicit donations. But you will at least have that option, and we're working to make it as easy and seamless as possible with our very own Run for their Lives donation page. (Link to follow soon!)

The 146 Mile Challenge
Our team of runners on dailymile is up to 13 and growing! If you haven't yet committed to running 146 miles in support of Love146, there's still plenty of time. I created this challenge with the thought that it would be a great way to provide some purpose behind our training, to offer encouragement through connection, and to track our collective miles. There isn't a monetary component to this, no matching gift that springs forth when we each hit the 146 mile marker. If donations come in as a result of our efforts, fantastic. But that's not the driving force behind this particular challenge.

Coming Up
I promise I'm almost done bombarding you with details about how to get started. Going forward, the content here will likely be a bit less bullet-pointy and a little more tear-jerky. We're planning a series of posts (and guest posts, if I can effectively twist some arms) that will cover the issue of human trafficking in more depth. In addition, I hope to intersperse a bit of levity with a weekly post in the Average Jo's Guide to Running. Emphasis on average. Ahem.

So lace up, my friends. We've got a lot of ground to cover!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Starting Line: How to Get Involved

Friends, thanks so much for your enthusiastic response to Run for their Lives. I realize that in my impulsive first post, I asked you to come with me without really even telling you where we were going. Details, details.

So let's talk about where we're going and how to get started.

1. Join dailymile and sign up for the Run for their Lives challenge.
Whether you're looking to 2012 as the year to start running, keep running, or reach a new PR, if you plan to run a mile, will you join us in running for their lives? We've set up a challenge at dailymile to run 146 miles in support of and the battle against human trafficking. Let's tally our small steps together for one big distance!

To sign up for this social networking site with a fitness twist, you can use your Facebook or Twitter account to sign in or simply set up a new account. Dailymile is simple, free (of course) and can be tailored to share as little or as much information as you choose. For example, I usually just track my mileage and pace, but don't post my running routes on the off chance some creepy stalker might try to locate me. (Not that he could catch up with me if he tried. Yeah, creepy stalker, you're creepy AND slow.)

I've used dailymile over the past several months primarily to track my training in terms of overall weekly mileage, average paces and to figure out how many miles are on my running shoes. But more on that later. For now, here's what you need to know. Sign up. I'm serious. Go right now. I'll wait for you.

2. Okay, so you're back? Great. Next, we need to make sure you don't miss any of the riveting updates and posts that will be pouring forth from this site in the next ten weeks. There are a few ways to do this. You can join this site using the "Run Along, Now" widget to the right.  You can subscribe to the feed in a reader, or you can enter your email in the space to the right to receive updates delivered to your inbox. And if you're an over-achiever, you can do all three. Knock yourself out.

3. If you plan to participate with us in some way, and you have a blog, please leave me a comment below with a link to your blog or website so I can add you to a soon-to-be-created link list. 

4. Find and sign up for a race in your area. Larry and I are signed up to run the USA Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Washington, DC on March 17th,  as are a handful of our friends and family members. Some are traveling from afar, and others may just be walking from their house to the starting line. If you register to run the DC event, please let me know! Email me with your name and  contact info at mylestonesblog at gmail dot com so we can include you in the event-specific activities. (If you're thinking of signing up, the USA Rock n Roll Marathon is running a special of $15 off registration when you use the code RESOLVE. The offer is good until January 5th, 2012.)

5. Some of you (God bless ya) have already asked about how to donate and where to direct potential sponsors for an upcoming race. I'm working on a process for that--hopefully one that will allow us to tally all the donations that have been made through our Run for their Lives efforts. Stay tuned, and I'll be back to you shortly!

It's possible I set a PR for word count and exclamation points. I'm not usually this exclamatory, but this is exciting stuff, folks. Okay then. You have some homework to do. And some miles to run. On your mark, get set, go!