Marathon Training is not all Unicorns and Rainbows.

This past week has been a rough week for me.  It’s STILL winter.  The snow is still piling up.  There are still subzero temperatures and even more frigid windchills in the forecast.  It’s almost midterm time, a busy time of the semester for me.  We’ve missed several class days due to snow and cold…that means everyone is behind and swamped.  Yet – I always feel like I have to stay on top of things and keep it all together – especially for my family and my coworkers.  But…I could feel myself unraveling at every exposed edge earlier this week.  

Fortunately, I have a tribe of mother runners in my support network to turn to – people who get the demands of juggling parenting, working, and training…and how sometimes all those balls just can’t stay in the air at the same time.  Some of these people are my friend and neighbors, some are my Moms on the Run peeps, and others are in my Another Mother Runner tribe as part of the Train Like a Mother Club or my fellow BAMRbassadors.  I had to reach out to that support network this week, and the gratitude I have for the empathy, kindness, understanding, encouragement, and love I get from these people (many of whom I have never met in person!) just blows my mind away, and I had to share.

As I sat in my car at the end of my street gazing at the path that I have run up and down thousands of times – so you’d think I’d be tired of it – I was so discouraged about the miles of piles of snow and ice that was restricting my runs to the treadmill in my basement.  This is what that path looked like earlier this week:

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That night I admitted to my husband that I was unraveling. There were tears at the dinner table. Although I’m sure he would love and support me through anything, he’s usually the last person I want to admit defeat to. He doesn’t understand my passion for many of the things that bring me joy, and I can’t help but thinking he’d rather I give a few of those things up. I also turned to my tribe, who I knew would understand where I was coming from, and why I had to keep on keeping on, despite things being just plain hard right now.  This is what I posted to my support network of #motherrunners:

“You guys, I need to be real and honest for a bit. I’m training for Boston, which is fulfilling a long term goal and dream for me. It took me 5 years and 3 solid attempts (and aging into a new age group) to qualify, and then it took some luck and grit to secure a spot on a charity team when my qualifying time turned out to not be quite good enough for the cutoff this year. I am so grateful for and excited about running Boston. But here’s the thing: I am absolutely hating the training right now. I live in MN, and we’re having a doosey of a winter. That is a picture of the path out of my neighborhood. They have given up plowing paths and sidewalks. There’s so much snow that the streets keep getting narrower as the piles on the roadsides get taller. It’s been cold, but even on the days when it’s *not* too cold, there’s no safe place to run where I won’t slip and fall (one of my BRFs destroyed her ankle and needed surgery a few weeks ago when exactly that happened) or get run over by a car who can’t see me over the huge snowbanks. I’ve run exactly one time outside in the last 6 weeks (when I traveled to CA for a conference!). I’ve never marathon trained during the school year before. I teach at a community college. I’ve got 19.5 credits in my teaching load (overloaded, full time is 15 credits). I have 3 kids, and I feel like I have a part time job as an Uber driver for them. I’m fundraising for a charity team and have a huge goal – and that’s hard work, even though the cause is near and dear to my heart. I’m doing ALL of my runs on the treadmill, and we’re at a rough spot in our relationship. We need to go on a break. The thought of doing another run on the treadmill makes me want to vomit, but I know I’ll have to do EVERY run on it for the foreseeable future. I’m nursing hamstrings tendinopathy and piriformis syndrome (going to PT weekly – today it was ultrasound and Graston). How in the world am I going to make it through the next 7 weeks so I can get across both the start and finish lines from Hopkinton to Boston?! What sort of suggestions, motivation, inspiration, sympathy, and humor can you all offer up for me? I had a complete meltdown last night…”

I felt a little better after I hit “post” just because it felt like I was able to get a weight off my chest.  Out of the blue, and completely unrelated to that post (and she didn’t have a clue and hadn’t seen it), another dear friend texted me this:

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Coincidence?!  How do my people know?!  It’s amazing to feel love and support when you need it most.  And in response to my post, there were a total of 33 comments!  Here are a few of my favorites that I keep going back and rereading over and over again when I need to:

“That is a LOT of snow and a lot on your plate!!! Maybe you can sneak in a massage or some kind of self-care moment this week just to treat yourself for keeping at it despite crappy conditions!”

💕 I don’t have many suggestions except that I wish I could come and do gym dates and keep you company on the treadmill.”

“No advice. Just love and empathy. And a wide open guest room here in the south”

“I say you come back out to California so we can run together!! 😂 Sorry, not helpful but sending a virtual hug. Thank you for sharing yourself. You’ve come this far…keep plowing forward. Bad pun? 😆 I wish I had something helpful to say but I am so excited for you to go to Boston! You will make it through and you have so many BAMRS behind you!”

“when I read this I just thought to myself, holy crap, she has so much pressure on herself right now… Here’s the deal. Just as suggested – if any of us can donate even a small amount to Kristen, we could do something tangible to alleviate at least a bit of that pressure. GALS, WE CAN DO SOMETHING! And please, please, please – no pressure on anyone else (because who needs that?!) but if you do have the means and can give a little something, Kristen is only $1,650 away from her fundraising goal.”

“I wish I could just give you a big hug! This winter has been rough, and I’ve also been on the treadmill a ton. I just keep reminding myself that we’re almost there. There’s only a handful of hard weeks. And then it’s over. And I don’t have to train for a spring marathon EVER AGAIN. I’m also intentionally stepping back for fall, and I feel like that helps. Just know we’ve got you!”

“I have no thrilling words. You’re living my dream too. I feel like this is exactly how these things usually go- being hard will make the end that much sweeter. 💞 praying for strength and perseverance for you”

This one made me cry – and it still makes me cry every time I reread it:

“you are under a huge amount of stress! I’m so sorry. Can you give yourself a day or two off? Just take time off from a couple runs. It won’t derail your training in anyway. Just getting into Boston was an emotional roller coaster for you, I remember from the 26.2 groups. Instead of the run, get some coffee, take a nap, go shopping, get a manicure, read a book…whatever is something that gives you joy. I will also add this, Boston will be worth all of this. It will be worth the up and down of qualifying and then getting that charity bib. It will be worth the incredible fundraising efforts you’ve put forth. It will be worth the never ending hours on the treadmill. When you get to the city and feel the energy all around you. When the captain on your plane welcomes all the Boston athletes, when you walk into the expo and get that bib, when you’re sitting in athlete’s village sharing stories with others about how you got there, when you cross the start line to cheers of locals who came out just for you, when you thank the police officers along the course, when you kiss the girls at Wellesley, when you summit Heartbreak Hill, when you see the Citgo sign, when you have the medal around your neck and when you put on your Boston jacket – it will all be worth it!!!”

So here’s the thing –

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There are a lot of people who can’t comprehend why I’d want to do all the things I do that bring me joy – but when so many things (all things that normally I love) are happening at the same time, it causes a lot of stress.  It feels so good to have people who are willing to reach out and lift me up in so many ways.  The donations to my charity team rolled in from this support network – and now I’m even closer to my goal! (If you want, you can check out my  Fundraising page!)

So after I allowed myself to pout and sulk and feel discouraged and defeated for a little while, including turning off my alarm and NOT getting up early to get my miles in on my treadmill the next morning – because I just couldn’t – it was time to chase away the dark clouds of self doubt and start looking for the unicorns and rainbows again.  It happened to be a sunny day in the 20s with not much wind – heavenly weather to run in!  I don’t have much for plowed paths and sidewalks in my neighborhood, but I did have a plowed street without much in the way of traffic, so I could run up and down my little street for awhile and feel the snow crunch under my feet and the sun on my cheeks. And I could do some thinking and reflecting, and some resolving and recommitting.

And then I could post an update to my support network:

“Today’s a new day. I slept in instead of getting on the treadmill (couldn’t make myself do it). I took some time for myself – and my husband – and since I had to be downtown for work anyway at noon, I picked him up and we went out to lunch at our favorite Italian place. The sun was out and the windchill was above zero, so I got in a few slow and easy miles OUTSIDE. The new BAMRbassador hat helped too. And although I will most likely never train through the winter for a spring Marathon again, I will not let this beat me, so I signed up for Twin Cities Marathon this morning too. You have no idea how much your words and positive energy and love have lifted me up!! ❤️”

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I had my headphones on, and I was listening to my go-to running playlist that I hadn’t listened to for AGES.  Some of the songs that came up were exactly the right things I needed to hear to power my strides remind me why I’m doing this, and why I love this.  The song that was playing in my ears as I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon with my Boston Qualifier time came on (Titanium by David Guetta and Sia), and a few more with words and rhythm that really moved me: Try Everything by Shakira, Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer, and Be Good to Yourself by Journey.  It was as if someone had programmed these songs for me, but all I’d done was hit “shuffle”.

I’m going to miss a few runs in the training plan.  I’ve been traveling a lot (and I’m out of town this weekend AGAIN – this time in Wisconsin for a volleyball tournament), and I am nursing that chronic hamstrings/piriformis injury. This is not turning out to be the training cycle I had imagined and dreamed about. This is not a “Boston Worthy” training cycle. Sigh. But you know what else? It’s going to be ok. I’m going to keep doing the best I can with the time and weather I have. I’m going to get to the starting line, AND I’ll run across the finish line. It won’t be my fastest marathon by any stretch of the imagination – but that just means I’ll have more time to enjoy and soak up the Boston experience, right?

Just keep running. It’ll happen. Turns out there are unicorns at the end of this story after all

Connect, Motivate, Inspire, and Make a Difference!

CONNECT is my word that I’m reflecting on all year long in 2019.  Connect is what I’m trying to do – with people, places, and experiences.  It takes time and effort.  Sometimes I feel bust and overwhelmed.  BUT – it also turns out that when I take the time to be present and really seek that connection (even when I may be thinking “I don’t have time for this right now”) – I’m ALWAYS glad I did, and I always come away having learned something new, developed a deeper appreciation for someone or something, and the affirmation that it’s always worth taking the time to make connections.

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I’m also trying to keep CONNECTION in mind as I’m 8 weeks away from the 2019 Boston Marathon.  I didn’t realize it until just a few days ago, but this year, the Boston Marathon falls on the anniversary of the actual date of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  So, on April 15, 2019 – all 40,000+ runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators will be connecting with that thought.  It makes the experience even more meaningful than it already was.

However, what I’m having trouble connecting with right now is the actual training…turns out marathon training in Minnesota for a spring marathon through a polar vortex then snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm is pretty brutal.  Turns out training during the school year when I’m teaching an overload  makes it tough to fit it all in.  Turns out fundraising for kidney disease research, a cause very near and dear to my heart, is very powerful and meaningful – and it’s also a heck of a lot of work.  BUT – I had the opportunity this week to do a little bit of a reset, recommit, and reconnect. And for that I am grateful!

I CONNECTED with a fellow mother runner from the Another Mother Runner marathon training group in the Train Like a Mother Club who lives near San Francisco, where I was traveling for a work-related conference.  She had great advice for a running route along the waterfront and across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I absolutely love the opportunity to do long training runs in new places. AND – she needed to get a long run in too and was available to join me – YES!! She needed 16 miles, and I needed 20, so I ran 4 solo before she got there, and then we had a lovely time in near perfect weather.  It felt like I was catching up with an old friend and not running with a stranger.  So grateful for the opportunity and my nationwide tribe of mother runners. I believe it was the BEST 20 miler I’ve ever had, and it came at a crucial point in my training where I really needed that.  I seriously could not do this in a vacuum, and I have my Moms on the Run tribe at home to keep me moving and accountable, and the opportunity to connect with other BAMRs when I travel.  Simply wonderful.

 

The 2019 Boston Marathon is 8 weeks away.  I’ve been watching the Course Preview pretty much daily and imagining myself running that route.  It’s coming, and I’ll be ready!  I really needed the win that this week’s long run was for me.  I was getting a bit fatigued with the training and the fundraising.  Sometimes I just need to take a step back and reset and then I can reconnect with a fresh perspective.

8 weeks left to hit my fundraising goal.  I’m more than 80% there!  I’m so grateful to my community of family, friends, coworkers, as well as the new people I’ve connected with  as a result of this experience.  I have two fundraising events left.  I’d love it if you’d join me, and help me spread the word.

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The upcoming event is a virtual charity run – the March Marathon to Make a Difference.  March is the peak training month in preparation for the Boston Marathon.  March is when Spring is creeping in, and we all crave the chance to get outside and get moving.  Join the March Marathon to make a difference – where we will run (or walk) the Marathon distance (or more!) cumulatively throughout the month of March.  Along the way, we will support and encourage each other, log our miles, and participate in challenges.  With the registration fee for the virtual charity run (which is a direct charitable donation of $26.20 to Team BIDMC for kidney disease research – more generous donations are also accepted!), each participant will earn a finisher’s certificate and swag from partners and sponsors.  Throughout the month, as you participate in challenges, log miles, and post photos in the private Facebook group (or send me updates via email if you’re not on Facebook), you will also earn points that will earn you chances in drawings for prizes, such as gift certificates from running gear online stores (e.g., Brooks or Saucony), prize packs from Gu, a $45 credit for a training plan from the Train Like a Mother Club (5K Program; The Traditional 10K Run Program; Training by Heart
Rate: Introduction or 10K, Level 1; Stride into Summer or Stride into the School Year; Sprint Triathlon), and other prizes that are still coming in!  This event is also supported by a  Thrivent Financial Live Generously Action Team Grant that will allow us to spread the reach and increase the impact – let’s get more people moving and CONNECTED, and raise all kinds of money in support of kidney disease research!  Please join us.  Please spread the word – share this blog post and the link to register.  Let’s marathon together in March.  Let’s connect and support each other on our journeys to support our health and fitness.  Let’s make a difference in the lives of those impacted by kidney disease by supporting important medical research in that field. Let’s remember the lives lost and lives forever changed by the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 as I run that course in honor of them – and in memory and honor of those impacted by kidney disease – on April 15, 2019.  Let’s do this, people.  Thank you!!

 

Fundraising Success! Charity Cribbage Tournament and Silent Auction at Invictus Brewing Co.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted – but trust me, I’ve been busy!  Fundraising for Team BIDMC in support of Kidney Disease Research (check out my story and fundraising page HERE) is like a part time job.  Marathon training – especially in the dead of winter in the Great White North of Minnesota – is like a part time job.  Driving the Uber for my three active and involved kids (although the oldest does most of her own driving, thankfully!) is like a part time job.  And then there’s the little detail of…wait for it…I already have a full time job that I actually have to do (and do well)!  I apologize that I’ve not updated you all on my training and fundraising progress, but I wanted to take a moment to do that today while I could carve out a few minutes before heading downstairs to run 16 miles on the treadmill (seriously, people…there’s a wind chill advisory outside and it currently feels like -19F).

Last Sunday, my friends at Invictus Brewing Co. (some of my favorite people, and definitely one of my favorite places) were gracious enough to host a Charity Cribbage Tournament and Silent Auction for my Boston Marathon charity team – all funds raised from those events PLUS $1/pint or flight of beer and $1/pizza from The Tipsy Steer are donated to Team BIDMC in support of kidney disease research.  I’d never done an event like this before, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I had a goal of raising $2000 that day, but as you’ll see – it was an even better day than that!!

The event got off to a bit of a rocky start, but I’m grateful that everyone was kind, patient, and understanding while I had some technical difficulties.  In a nutshell, I forgot to click the magic “lock bracket – start tournament” button on the super cool tournament bracket website, so as I was getting folks settled in for their first round games, when I scrolled to share the matchups, I ended up scrambling the bracket. Face palm. So…we needed to run the first couple rounds on paper and re-enter the names of our 48 participants.  Live and learn (and again – THANK YOU for your patience and understanding).

But we kept the event going, and there was good beer to drink, good food to eat, and good people to chat with while we waited for participants to report winners, waited for games to finish so we could move on the the next round, and waited for me to re-enter the 48 participants back into the brackets (and remember to lock them this time).  There was good and friendly competition, and cribbage players of all ages enjoyed the event!

While cards were being played, and pegs were being moved forward, the Silent Auction was happening in the main hall of the brewery.  Thanks to several generous donors, including Another Mother RunnerTwin Cities in MotionGrandma’s MarathonBent Paddle BrewingAlloy Brewing CompanyGarphish BrewingThree Twenty BrewingLadybug Pottery and PartiesCP ImagesVocalEssence, and several individuals (shout outs to Amy Sehloff, Molly Schmidt, Jill Lee, Elissa Weller, Shaun Olson, Carol Genet, Amanda Rohde, Chris Fort, Kevin and Tonya Rowe, Carrie Kirscht, and Chris Partyka) for their kind and generous donations!

When the event was over, Connie took first place (coming back from a loss, eliminating my husband, and then besting Randy, who was undefeated through several rounds in the winners bracket), and Randy took home second place.  I didn’t think to take a picture of our 3rd place winner or consolation prize winner – sorry, folks!!

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And the final total is (almost) in!  The total amount raised to benefit Kidney Disease Research was:

Cribbage Tournament: $960

Silent Auction: $1580

Direct Donation: $225

Beers enjoyed during the event: $302

Pizzas enjoyed during the event: (still waiting for that number to come in)

GRAND TOTAL (so far): $3067

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Happy New Year – and I’m still counting down.

It seems so close, yet still so far away.  In about 15 weeks I’ll be on the Boston Marathon course.  I’ll run from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.  I’ve already started my training, but honestly – it’s not off to a great start.  December is a horrible time to kick start an amazing training cycle.  As the semester comes to an end, it’s the busiest and most stressful time of year.  As Christmas comes – the calendar is full, and there’s way too much to eat and drink that does not jive well with marathon training nutrition. I did my best to get in regular-ish runs and cross off the workouts (strength, speed, tempo, long run, cross training), yet I also knew that there is plenty of time to enjoy both the holidays and get my body prepared for race day.

2019

My One Word for 2018 was EMBRACE, and I did keep that word at the forefront for 12 months.  I embraced my goals.  I embraced the training and executing and achieving of those goals.  I embraced Grandma’s Marathon last June.  I embraced my first ultramarathon on the Superior Trail last September.  I fully and completely embraced the rest and recovery afterwards.  I embraced the changing dynamics in my family as 2 of 3 kids are now teenagers…and that comes with its own challenges.  I literally embraced friends and family as much as I could – I can always use a good hug. The other day – on December 31, 2018 – was last day to EMBRACE what is to come.

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Now I’ve got another goal, another training cycle, and another race to prepare for.  It’s time to look forward to what 2019 can bring me, and how I can grow as a result.  That also means I need another word. Unfortunately, I don’t have one yet.  There are a few I’m mulling over, but so far none are grabbing me and leading me into 2019.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I *can* keep looking forward, and keep working towards new goals and welcoming new challenges – and reflecting on what brought me there and why it’s important to me.  I’m trying something new this training cycle – journaling my way through – and more than just recording the miles and the times and the workouts.  This time, I’m going to put some real thought into this component of my (mental) training.  Each week, in addition to the workouts, I also get reflection and journaling prompts from my coach.  This is what I’ve been wrestling with the last few days:

What is your “why”? What makes you do what you do? What gets you out the door to do the training and put in the work? Not the “why” you may say because you think that’s what the other person wants to hear. What deep down drives you? Find that “why”. Expand on that “why”. What all comes to your mind as you think about that “why”?

I started all this craziness about 10 years ago.  I had a newborn (Hannah), a 3 yr old (AJ) and a 7 year old (Sarah).  I had recently lost both of my parents to horrible health issues, had a miscarriage, and then been blessed with a beautiful, perfect baby girl.  I had lost about 30 lbs and gotten on track for a healthier lifestyle…and then lost traction with the pregnancy and coping with the switch to zone defense, now that we were outnumbered with three kids. At that time, setting a goal (which was a sprint triathlon in my hometown with my niece) and working towards it was a way to get me out the door, back in shape after baby #3, and to see if I could do something I’d never done.  The bonus was that my niece and I had the same goal.  We had a connection and a purpose.  It was hard, and amazing.  I’ve written about that experience before: Looking back…looking ahead…

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I’ve always been a goal setter.  I look ahead, envision what I want or how I want things to be, figure out what I need to do to get there, and I get there – or at least as close as I can.  When I was little, I wanted to play piano as well as my big sister – so I took 12 years of piano lessons (still don’t think I completely got there, but I *can* make music!).  When I was in high school, I wanted to travel and experience another culture – so I became an exchange student for a year in Germany (hands down the most transformative experience of my growing up years).  When I was in college, I wanted to play in the top, touring band – but there were too many people auditioning on flute and saxophone (and I wasn’t *that* good), but they were short on oboeists, so I spent a year learning to play the oboe and auditioned – and earned a spot in the front row of the Gustavus Band (that also came with some amazing and transformative experiences during my college years).  I wanted to complete a race with my niece (who was half my age!), so I committed to, trained for, and finished a sprint triathlon with her.  All of those goals and experiences led to connections – between me and important people in my life, and between me and things that both calm and stir my soul (beautiful music, travel and other cultures, endorphin rush that comes with training and racing).  And when I set a goal to train for a BQ marathon and make it to Boston – it was because I felt connected to that race, those people, and that community after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that Hits too close to home. And now that I accomplished that goal of qualifying, and I’m working on actually training to get to the starting line – it’s on a charity team for a cause that I feel deeply connected to – kidney disease research – and I have been lucky enough to make new connections with people who are also impacted by kidney disease.  Please visit my Fundraising Page to read my story – and consider making a donation to support kidney disease research and help me achieve my goal of running the Boston Marathon.

Setting goals is what I do.  Working towards them and accomplishing them is what comes next.  My goals have always been important to me.  They represent something that is challenging, and possibly out of reach.  They represent what takes me to places (either geographically or within myself) where I can be both uncomfortable and fulfilled.  They allow me to grow and learn more about myself.  They allow me to forge and strengthen connections – to people and to places.  I need a goal out in front of me to get me out the door – and if that goal is meaningful, it pushes and inspires me to do things that I previously thought impossible (I mean – who knew I could run 50 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail all in one day?  I sure didn’t – until I did it).  I think what drives me – deep down – is the desire to keep digging to find out what I’m really made of.  I know that worries my husband – he doesn’t understand why I keep setting goals that are harder, for longer races, and doing things that “normal people don’t do.”  I want to know my purpose – and I know that the goals I have set, worked towards, and achieved are leading me to to discover that purpose, and that I have met a whole lot of amazing people, had a lot of amazing adventures, made some amazing memories, and learned a LOT about myself and other people in the process.  I mean, I have some ideas of what I’m made of, but I’m never really sure if there’s more to it – so I have to keep digging, keep pushing, keep learning, and keep reflecting.

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It has not been easy to get out the door and put in the time and miles for training so far – and I’m already a few weeks into my Boston Marathon training cycle.  I think it’s because I’ve been too busy and distracted to focus on my WHY – and now (because that’s what people do in the New Year, right?!) I can refocus and recommit.  I also know that my One Word to keep in mind for 2019 is CONNECTION.  I didn’t know what when I started thinking through and writing this, but that’s where it led me.  Looking ahead to make and strengthen the connections in my life this year – that’s exciting, daunting, and reassuring – all at the same time.

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Kidney Korner: John’s Story

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve put up a post – suffice it to say it’s been a busy, crazy, joyous, and full (in every sense of the word) holiday season.  Although we’re still eating leftovers and cookies, playing all the new games we just opened over the last few days, and looking over the pictures of the most recent memories made with family and friends – things are settling down.

I’m in week 3 of training for the 2019 Boston Marathon.  The first few weeks have been a challenge.  I’ve been sick (stupid winter crud).  I’ve been busy.  I’ve not made the smartest nutrition choices throughout the holidays.  It’s been hard to carve out the time and motivation for consistent training – but it’s time to get back into a regular routine now.

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When I was looking for charity team options for the 2019 Boston Marathon, I knew it needed to be something meaningful to me.  I didn’t really think much about who else it would be meaningful to – as long as it was meaningful to me.  With several people close to me affected by kidney disease, Team BIDMC was a good fit for me.  What I’ve discovered is that there are so many more people affected by kidney disease, abnormal kidney function, and transplants than I realized.  It has given me the opportunity to learn more about people I thought I already knew, and it has also given me the opportunity to help increase the awareness and understanding about kidney disease – in order to increase the impact of the fundraising for kidney disease research (to help us make a difference, consider a generous donation – here’s the link to donate!).

I first got to know my friend Nicole through Moms on the Run and then years later, she also became the Girl Scouts troop leader for my youngest daughter, Hannah.

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She has three amazing kids: Tori, Alli, and John.  Johnny is an adorable little boy who reminds me of my own (now teenage) son.  When I shared that I was running for Team BIDMC and fundraising in support of kidney disease research, Nicole shared John’s story with me.  She kindly gave me permission to share it with you.

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When I was 24 weeks pregnant we had an anatomy ultrasound with John and discovered that he had a kidney birth defect with an unknown origin.  We unfortunately were not given a lot of answers at this time but told that everything would be managed post birth.  His kidneys appeared to be functioning enough to not cause concern about his health and development while in utero but would possibly need some sort of intervention post birth.  After his birth we worked with our pediatrician and a urologist to monitor the abnormalities in his kidney-  which was eventually confirmed as left hydronephrosis caused by a mega ureter.   Before getting his official diagnosis John endured 1 very serious UTI that left is st Children’s for a 5 day hospital stay when he was less than 8 weeks old.  This kidney issue caused his sodium levels to decrease which resulted in a very serious condition called Hyponatremia.  Over the course of 5 days he had to be monitored extremely closely to bring his sodium levels back into normal range (blood work every 4 hours) and maintain a healthy state for more than 24 hours on his own.  He had difficulty feeding during this time and we had to monitor both his intake and output to the ounce to make sure he was getting appropriate nutrition for such a little one.

His recovery so far had been pretty good.  We have continued to see a specialist for his ongoing kidney,  bladder and urology issues every 3-6 months.  Unfortunately during his last check up this past October they did find that his left kidney is again enlarged.   We will be diligent about monitoring for any fevers and continue to ensure that he is maintaining growth as expected.

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John doesn’t fit the typical-  “kidney disease” patient but none the less his less than perfect kidneys have touched our family.  Because of that we support research for kidney disease and our friend Kristen!

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Run, Rest, Recover, Recommit…READY, RUN (again)!

2018 has been a big year for me.  I’ve been chasing the goal of qualifying for and getting to the starting line of the Boston Marathon since I set that goal in 2013 and made my first (unsuccessful) qualifying attempt in 2014.  But I kept at it.  It was never easy, but it turns out that it’s worth it (like so many things in like that are never easy, but always worth it – marriage and parenting come time mind).  I spent the first several months of 2018 focused on training for Grandma’s Marathon.  Training started at the end of January, and the race was in the middle of June.  That means the first half of the year was spent intently (and intensely) preparing for a third (and what I thought may be my final – because it’s just such hard work, and because also I felt like this time was REALLY my time) attempt to qualify for Boston.  Looking back at that race, I really don’t know what I would do differently.  I loved the training plan that I used (I followed the traditional “Crush it 26.2” from the Train Like a Mother Club) and the super supportive and encouraging community I had around me – both in the Another Mother Runner virtual community and my tribe of strong and amazing women who I run with regularly in Moms on the Run.  Race day came and the weather ended up being perfect, and I had a great pacer who stuck with me and encouraged me every step of the way (Thanks, Dillon!!), and a coach who has been with me through multiple training cycles (Thanks, Gabe!).  I look back at these photos, and while there were a few things that I may have done differently if I got a chance to rewind and get a do-over, the bottom line is that it was a great day, I qualified for the Boston Marathon (with a cushion of not quite two minutes), I felt fantastic, and I finally earned the privilege of putting on my Boston shirt that Gabe got me when she ran the 2016 Boston Marathon!

After Grandma’s I needed to rest and recover a bit before jumping into the next challenge, the next goal, and the next training cycle.  Since ALL of the kids were at camp the same week immediately following Grandma’s Marathon, John and I got to spend the entire week in our happy place, hiking and camping on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore.  I let my legs rest – no running, but plenty of hiking – and took every chance I could to stick my feet in the cold and rejuvenating waters of North Shore streams and Lake Superior.

Turns out that was great preparation for my next goal – my first ultramarathon (Superior 50.  I ran a lot of miles this summer.  A LOT OF MILES.  And I honestly loved (almost) every single one of them.  I got to spend time on trails, including a fantastic long run on trails in Acadia National Park overlooking the water – and it looked and felt so much like northern Minnesota.  The Superior 50 was such an amazing experience – and SO HARD and SO LONG, but seriously an incredible 16 hours with one of the most wonderful women (You ROCK, Emily!)!!  We had a fantastic crew, and a very memorable (and perhaps more than slightly painful) experience on the trail that day.  I will be forever grateful for the amazing September Saturday we had – the weather, the company, the support crew, and the surroundings were absolutely heavenly.

Once that was over, now what?!  Clearly I had earned some rest and recover time, which I completely and totally embraced.  Registration for the Boston Marathon opened shortly after Superior, and again I was focused on my goal to get there.  As I’ve written about before, The road to 26.2 is thousands of miles long…

I took plenty of time to rest and recover.  I ran, but it wasn’t far, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t frequently.  I got a little out of the habit and routine, and that means it’s a little hard to get back into it – but get back into it I must!  You see, the other day, I got the email from the Coach who’s working with all the charity team runners.  He sent me my training plan, my link to all the strength training and yoga videos, and brought me back to what will be my reality (although it still doesn’t feel quite real) will be over the next 18 weeks.  It’s time to recommit to my goal – except this time my goal is not to GET to Boston, it’s to RUN Boston.  Our flights are booked, our hotel is reserved, I’m making progress on my fundraising for Team BIDMC in support of kidney disease research (Please click here to check out my fundraising page and consider a donation!!) – all that’s left is the training.  I can do that.  This is not the first time at this rodeo – this is marathon #10 (say what?!).  It’s go time.  I’m ready to run.

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Running for Reasons: In Memory of Tony D’Angelo

There are many reasons why I run.  I started running out of rebellion and resentment – I was upset about how my mom had not taken care of herself and had suffered such debilitating health issues that also ended her life just shy of her 68th birthday.  I was angry that I was only 33 when I lost my mom.  I was sad that my kids would never know their grandma.  I was frustrated with the example she had set for me.  I resolved to make my story different, in spite of whatever genes she had shared with me that would render me vulnerable to developing similar health issues later in life.  I started running out of fear – I was afraid I wouldn’t be a strong and healthy role model for my kids.  I was afraid that if I wasn’t that…I might not be around to enjoy retirement years and watching the next generation grow up…and the generation after that.  Over time, resentment and fear evolved into gratitude and passion – it’s amazing what the meditative rhythm of running shoes on trails can do – especially when paired with a therapy session with a BRF, or a solo run filled with contemplation and prayer.

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I’ve always been driven to run to honor the memory of people special to me.  I run for those would can’t (or couldn’t), and to bring awareness, understanding, and tangible benefits for people and causes that are near and dear to my heart.  Right now – I’m running toward fulfillment of my dream – to experience the iconic Boston Marathon.  This was my dream, but I’ve discovered that it’s never been just about me.  My dream, passion, persistence, and grit got me to the point of qualifying, but it can’t be that “easy”.  My road to Boston involves my tribe, my community, and my village.  It involves making a difference by running on a charity team in support of kidney disease research – and kidney disease is something that I’ve watched affect several people close to me.  It involves telling their stories – so more people can be touched by the lives of these people – which at minimum may spark kindness towards all people, gratitude for the experiences we have and the people with whom we share them, and reflection on the little things (that really are the big things) – and perhaps will result in greater and grander things, particularly when we consider what can come of the funds raised in support of kidney disease research, and how that may impact people’s lives to make their stories longer, healthier, stronger, and happier.

You can read more about my story and my road to the 2019 Boston Marathon on my fundraising page: CLICK HERE to make a difference for kidney disease research!

When John (my husband) and I started graduate school at Michigan State University many years ago (it was 1996…so last century…), we didn’t know anyone there.  We rapidly were welcomed into the village comprised of other graduate students in our cohort (many of whom are still our dearest friends), faculty mentors from MSU, and friendly folk from the East Lansing/Lansing area community.  We met some amazing people during our six years living in Michigan…six important years that included important life events like a marriage, the birth of our first child, purchase (and subsequent sale) of our first house, and unfortunately also the experience of getting to know, and then having to say goodbye to, a close friend.  Tony was one of the first people John and I met when we started at MSU – he worked in the Biology labs for the introductory biology course that almost all incoming graduate students in our department were assigned to for our rookie teaching experiences.  His laugh was infectious.  I can still hear his singing voice.  I will never forget his sense of humor, his kindness, his mischievous streak, and how he prioritized time with family and friends.  We got to know his family when we were welcomed into the pack of “Tony’s Tigers”, participating in an annual walk at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing in support of the National Kidney Foundation.  Tony had kidney disease – and coped with reduced kidney function, transplant, and dialysis for most of his (much too short) life.  Tony made a permanent impact on our life in the five short years we knew him. Our son (Anthony, or AJ) is named after him  I want to share his story – which was contributed by his brother and sister in law (Joe and JoMarie D’Angelo).  We have stayed in touch with his family in the 17 years since we said goodbye to Tony, and I am so grateful for the time with and memories of Tony, as well as the connection we maintain with his family.

IN MEMORY OF TONY D’ANGELO

born: May 13, 1962          died: May 13, 2001

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Anthony J. “Tony” D’Angelo was born on May 13, 1962, which happened to be Mother’s Day that year. Tony had many hobbies and enjoyed all types of music, loved to dance and sing. He played the keyboard and also belonged to the St. Martha Catholic Church choir.  Karaoke was a favorite of his and he provided great entertainment at parties with family and friends. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends and having people over to his home to cook for them (especially stir frys).  He also hosted an annual Christmas tree decorating party at his home every December.  He loved camping, fishing, birdwatching, butterflies, and nature. Tony belonged to the Audubon Society and a group that did wood carvings of birds.  He was an important part of getting the Mackinac Island Butterfly House open for business back around 1991. Tony was a fan of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions teams.  He was the captain of “Tony’s Tigers” a group of family members and friends that walked each year in the charity Kidney Walk at Potter Zoo in Lansing.  His family still continues to walk annually in his memory at the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo.

Tony was a healthy boy until he was diagnosed with kidney failure at approximately 14-15 years old.  He began dialysis and continued the demanding schedule of dialysis several times a week until receiving his 1sttransplant in approximately 1981 from an anonymous donor.  Tony’s mother was scheduled to be his donor but then his tissue was changing so much that they were no longer considered “a match”.

Tony lived in St. Clair Shores, Michigan during this time and attended Macomb Community College.  Then he transferred to Michigan State University in East Lansing for his degree in Entomology (the study of insects).  At some point in 1986, his transplant began to fail.  It had been not quite five years since the surgery.  He then went on peritoneal dialysis (a procedure done at home several times a day, which removes excess fluid, corrects electrolyte problems and removes toxins in patients with kidney failure).  Tony became so comfortable with this procedure of draining fluid out and then replacing it with fresh fluid, that he was able to set up a sterile environment at work to perform the procedure.  He even went on an Alaskan cruise with his sister, Gloria, and had all his supplies delivered to the ship!  Eventually Tony educated other young patients and their parents how to perform peritoneal dialysis.

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Throughout this time, Tony never let anything defeat him.  He always had a great attitude and positive outlook.  He often would walk into a room, whether at home, school or work and burst into song!  His family and friends loved him so much.  He continued his studies and eventually obtained his Master’s Degree in Entomology. Then he landed a job with Michigan State University in the Kedzie Hall laboratories.  There he made some of his closest friends with his co-workers.

Sadly in 2001, Tony developed sepsis (a severe infection of bacteria and toxins) in his gut.  He died on his birthday 5-13-2001, again Mother’s Day, at the age of 39.  He had been on a waiting list to receive his 2ndkidney transplant at the time of his passing.  We terribly miss him and will always cherish the fun and fond memories of our dear Tony. He lit up the room with his smile, positive attitude and personality!

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Do you have a “Tony” in your life?  Someone who lights up the room with a smile, positive attitude, and personality?  Those of you who knew Tony – what are your favorite memories?  

Monday Motivation: From weakness comes strength

I discovered a paradoxical truth the first time I trained for and ran a marathon:  Nothing makes you feel stronger than running a marathon.  Also this: Nothing makes you feel weaker than running a marathon. I know – Huh?? I’ve been working on unpacking that little gem for awhile.

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When I started running, I was discouraged by how hard it was.  How awful it made me feel about myself.  It hurt.  I was always gasping for breath.  My lungs burned.  Everything jiggled uncomfortably. I felt weak, inadequate, like I was trying to do something that I wasn’t meant to do or be someone who I had no business being.  I have vivid memories of training for my first race (a sprint triathlon, inspired by my niece Johanna who can talk me into pretty much anything) – and stumbling back into the house, red-faced and gasping for breath – vehemently telling my husband that I would NEVER run farther than the 3ish miles I had to do for this silly triathlon.  But I kept running, I kept training, because I had a goal…and anyone who knows anything about me knows I am pathologically goal-driven.

You know what?  I was wrong about SO many things.

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I was meant to run. Sure – the learning curve was kind of steep, and it’s always harder to learn new things, and to really try to become good at them, the older you get.  And I started running in my late 30s. I’ve had my share of aches and pains (turns out I’m a little injury prone – let me tell you about sacroiliitis, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, peroneal tendinitis, piriformis syndrome, hamstrings tendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, metatarsal stress fracture…). But as I looked to turn what felt like weakness (whether we’re talking physical or mental weaknesses – this applies to both!) into strength, I noticed something.

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I am meant to be a runner.  The endorphins are real, my friends.  I just can’t explain, and you just can’t beat that feeling of working hard and seeing results.  Setting goals and registering for races gives me an incentive to work hard and be accountable so I don’t let myself slip into bad habits of inactivity and poor nutrition (I have to CONSTANTLY work at this one…I love to eat all the things – especially carbs – and drink all the things – especially fermented beverages).  The feeling of crossing a finish line when it’s something you’ve worked hard for is amazing.  And in running, I’ve found my people.  I have met the most amazing, positive, strong, inspirational, kind, and wonderful humans over the last few years as my network of running buddies has expanded.  These are my people, my tribe.

Having dreams and goals is just fine, as far as vices go.  Whereas I have many weaknesses (as a runner, parent, teacher, friend…), I also have many strengths.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between weaknesses and strengths when it comes to chasing goals and dreams.  That’s a constant, narrow, path I tread very carefully, especially with my family.

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But I am 100% certain about one thing.  I AM A RUNNER.  It is in working on my physical weaknesses by doing the physical work of running AND working on my mental weaknesses by sorting through my thoughts and pushing through my perceived limits that I grow as an individual.  It is by working towards goals and doing things that I didn’t think were possible (I can run a marathon?!  I can run trails in the mountains?!  I can run 50 miles in ONE DAY?!) that I find my strength.  It is by surrounding myself with people who motivate, challenge, and inspire me on a daily basis that I can become the best version of myself.

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When I started running, I found my weakness.  Turns out I also found my strength.

My current goal is to take on the 2019 Boston Marathon – and fundraise for Team BIDMC in support of kidney disease research.  I’m running for this charity team in memory of my Mom, my friend Tony, and my dear Aunt Irma.  Please read my story and consider a donation for kidney disease research:

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/bidmc-boston2019/kristengenet

Why do I run? Because it’s FUN!!

I haven’t taken time to actually comprise a list of the reasons why I run, but it would be a long one.  There are so many reasons why I run.  Some are for me.  Some are for my family.  Some are for others.  Some are just because.  But one thing is definitely clear – running is FUN!

Now – it wasn’t always fun.  I have very vivid memories of the first training runs I had when I was training for my first race (a sprint triathlon of all things – you’d think I’d start with a 5K, but…go big or go home, right?).  It was HARD.  It HURT.  Lots of things jiggled.  I was always sore.  I had to listen to music (very loudly) so that I could drown out the sound of my desperate gasping for air.  I really didn’t like it.  Funny thing is…when I did that first triathlon, I really liked the swimming and the biking better than the running.  Funny how things change…

Just because it’s kind of funny…here are a few photos from that first race event…a sprint triathlon in my tiny little hometown in southern Minnesota, where the water quality of the lake I swam in is definitely questionable, and my niece Johanna (who has always been on my list of inspirations and reasons why I run) shared a memorable event, even if it wasn’t terribly “fun”.  Here’s a post where I talked about that, and there are a few pictures from that first event as well: Looking back…looking ahead…

Suffice it to say that even though I didn’t start out liking the run…funny things happen on the way to marathon training and before you know it, you realize that you love the run.  And it just becomes part of who you are.

Yesterday I got to participate in a SUPER FUN 5k in the Halloween capital of the world – Anoka, MN.  Don’t believe me?  Google it.  The Gray Ghost 5k is an all ages, all abilities, costumes HIGHLY encouraged (and they give out more costume awards than time/place awards).  And I LOVE Halloween.  I LOVE dressing up.  So when my son was volunteering at the finish line handing out drinks and snacks to finishers and I had the opportunityto participate – YES PLEASE!!

I didn’t know what costume I’d wear until shortly before the race.  I met up with my tribe for a workout first thing Saturday morning (love to start my Saturday mornings off with my Moms on the Run running buddies.  I solicited costume suggestions.  I raided our costume bag in the basement.  Best I could come up with was Cat in the Hat.  But as one of my friends asked…How in the world do you run with that hat on?!  Turns out, it fits perfectly on my childishly small head, and it was no problem to run a 5K (and an additional 1.3 miles beforehand when I had to get from my parking spot to the starting line!).  AND – it turns out that when you dress as Cat in the Hat, random strangers dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 ask to get their picture taken with you.  Now I know how the celebrities feel – HA!

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There was all kinds of craziness in the costumes for the 5K.  There were monsters, animals, robots, penguins, pumpkins, lions, tigers, and bears (OH MY!).  My favorite costumes were from my Moms on the Run peeps – this is such a great group of fun, strong, and amazing women!

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It was a great morning for a run!  I wasn’t in shape to run a PR, but I did get caught up in the excitement, and it’s no secret that I like to push myself whenever I can, so I gave it the best I had.  Considering I haven’t run fast, far, or frequently since the 50 mile trail race I did in early September, and that I’m nursing a slight piriformis/hamstring injury, I can’t really complain.  I just enjoyed every step.  I smiled and high fived every kid who head excitedly say – “It’s the Cat in the Hat!!” as I ran by.  The 5K follows the Halloween parade route, and parade watchers are all set up and ready, so we had plenty of spectators for the run!

It wasn’t a PR – but it felt great (despite the fact that my nagging piriformis/hamstring hurt).  It was a super fun event, and I’d love to make it an annual event.  It was FUN!  That’s definitely one of the adjectives that I frequently use to describe my relationship with running, and it’s one that often gets eye rolls and head scratches from those who perhaps may not have the same relationship with running.  But I challenge you to put on a costume and participate in an event like this and NOT have fun.  Just try.  I bet it’s not possible!

It’s no secret that my body is built for endurance, not speed, but it might be fun to actually train for and race a 5K someday.  We’ll see.  One goal at a time, and I’ve got a different goal in the next few months.  I’ve got about a month to really take it easy.  Heal up that injury.  Run easy – run for fun.  Then the work begins.

I have a goal – actually I have a couple.  I want to raise $10,000 for kidney disease research – something that will help me make a difference in the lives of so many people living with kidney disease, and I want to do that in memory of my Mom and my friend Tony, and in honor of my Aunt Irma.  I also want to make it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon injury free, with a heart full of love for the experience I’ll have there, and I want to be able to soak it all in with no regrets!

Thank you for being part of my journey – and for helping get me to the starting line AND across the finish line!  Please consider a donation to my charity team if you’re able, and please share my story and my fundraising link far and wide – together we can make a BIG DIFFERENCE!!

Kristen’s Fundraising Site for Kidney Disease Research

The road to 26.2 is thousands of miles long…

It’s time to dust off the blog.  Lest you be concerned that I haven’t been running…or living…in the last three years since I published a post (has it REALLY been that long?!  Unfortunately, yes.)…I am very much alive.  And I still love to run.  It’s always a journey – sometimes I’m not 100% sure where it’s leading, but at this moment, I’m very sure of my direction.

I’m on the road to 26.2.  Again.  You’d think this would feel familiar.  Old hat. Nope. Not this time.  There’s a tingling and anticipation that is completely foreign and exciting, and truth be told…unsettling.  Let me tell you where I’m going, and a little bit about the thousands of miles that it took to get me on that road.

First – the big news – I’M GOING TO BOSTON!!!  You heard me. The Boston Marathon. Me.  I’ll be running from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.  Somebody pinch me please.  This still doesn’t feel real.

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I ran my first marathon seven years ago (Twin Cities Marathon, 2011).  It was the hardest, most painful, and most inspiring thing I had ever done.  The feeling of not knowing it was possible to run that far when I crossed the starting line to the feelings of exhausted elation when I crossed the finish line are indescribable, and probably only understandable to those who have shared that experience.  Most people can’t fathom why I would choose to run that far.  On purpose.  Without a top predator chasing me.  AND I paid a registration fee to do it.  And I’ll do it again (and again and again until I’m no longer physically able – please don’t let that be for a LONG LONG time).

Then I had to take a break.  I had foot surgery in 2012, and my orthopedic surgeon told me I’d never run another marathon. And that I shouldn’t plan to run more than 10 miles in a week.  In case you’re wondering, yes I did cry all the way home from that appointment.  But what my surgeon didn’t know about me (or maybe he did) was that he had hit upon a very powerful motivational tactic that works almost unfailingly for me.

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So then I trained for (and ran) my second marathon in 2013 (also Twin Cities Marathon.  It might be my favorite race.).  After finishing my first marathon, I was hooked.  I started paying attention.  I learned all the Boston lore.  Katherine Switzer is one of my heroines.  And then on April 15, 2013 – the Boston Marathon bombing shook every runner to the core.  I wrote about it five years ago (Hits too close to home.) and a dream was born – and a REALLY lofty (quite possibly out of reach) goal was set.  I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon and earn my spot at the starting line.  I wanted to see what I was capable.  I wanted to push myself to get the best out of myself.  I wanted to run in honor of – and in memory of – those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

You see, Boston is different.  Boston is special.  You can’t just sign up and pay a registration fee like any old marathon.  You have to qualify.  You have to earn your bib and your spot on the starting line.  A BQ (Boston Qualifying) time is one of the ultimate goals of a recreational runner.  The BQ times are age and gender specific, and they’re tough to hit.  Trust me, I know – I tried three times (and in two different age groups).

So I trained hard.  I worked hard.  I got faster, tougher, and stronger.  I registered for the 2014 Grandma’s Marathon (my other favorite marathon).  I had a coach. I had a dream, a goal, and a plan.  It was a near perfect race day, but I was nervous and anxious.  Despite having a fantastic pacer (my much younger nephew) – the wheels fell off the bus somewhere around mile 21, I think.  The talk about “The Wall”…and I hit it.  I finished, and actually – it’s still my marathon PR (personal record), but the last several miles were a painful ride on the struggle bus.  I missed my BQ time by 6 minutes, and I was disappointed – and I beat myself up over it – which in hindsight I realize was completely ridiculous. Live and learn. Good thing I don’t give up easily.  Or at all.

2015 brought another marathon experience (back to Twin Cities Marathon).  This time the goal was to have the best possible time on a run with my BRFs (best running friends).  I am fortunate to have two amazing, strong, and beautiful inside and out women to run with.  There was no goal of running a fast BQ – the goal was to enjoy the journey.  Mission accomplished – and I’ve written about that one before too (Post-Marathon Reflections on Running).

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In 2016, I was ready for another crack at my BQ, and I had unfinished business in the last few miles of the Grandma’s Marathon course – so back I went for more.  I had a coach.  I had a dream, a goal, and a plan.  I trained my tail off (my coach was a tough one – who only wanted to bring out the best in me – and she knew just how to do that) and I saw results.  I was indeed getting stronger, tougher, and faster.  I also tore my plantar fascia on my right foot 12 weeks before race day – and I spent about a month in a boot and not running.  I figured out some creative ways to train (hello, pool!), and I healed up, picked up the training, and hit the starting line at about 90%.  Unfortunately, 90 was also the temperature and humidity on race day, and I had to let go of my BQ goal about halfway through, when I realized it was much more important to finish and stay out of the medical tent.  Despite finishing WAY slower than my goal (but I stayed out of the med tent!), I knew I was in fantastic shape, and that if the weather had cooperated – that BQ time would have been mine.  Sigh.  Take two. And I STILL have unfinished business along the Grandma’s Marathon course.

Just for funsies, I ran Twin Cities Marathon in 2016 also – and I paced one of my Moms on the Run runners to finish her first marathon under her BQ time (she was older than me, and BQ times are age graded – getting older is actually the key to making the qualifying times reasonable).  That was marathon #6.

Each marathon training cycle is about 500 miles of running.  Sometimes more, sometimes less – depending on the training plan, goal, weather, motivation, summer vacation plans…But the road is still winding, and I’m still looking off in the distance for my destination. I’m several thousand miles into my journey at this point, and I have several thousand to go.

In 2017, I took on a new challenge, which is honestly where my heart and soul is happiest – trail running.  I ran the Superior Trail Marathon on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore – my happy place.  And I shared it with my big brother. And then, 3 weeks later, I ran Twin Cities Marathon again.  Running 2 marathons in 3 weeks sounded doable on paper ahead of time.  At about Mile 17 of Twin Cities, my legs were telling me another story.  Live and learn.  And just keep running. Eight marathons under my belt at this point.  I haven’t forgotten about my dream, and that goal is still out there. I don’t give up easily.  Or at all.

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I set some monster goals for 2018.  It was going to be a big year.  In January, I was signed up for Grandma’s Marathon – this would be my 3rd BQ attempt on that course, AND I also had the Superior Trail 50 Mile ultramarathon on my calendar.  My husband doesn’t always get me.  He doesn’t understand why I have to do such crazy, extreme things.  I don’t know that I can really articulate why either – but it’s me, and I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to be unabashedly me.  So I just keep running and chasing dreams and goals.

Grandma’s Marathon in June 2018 was amazing.  The weather was perfect.  Training had gone well.  I was mentally and physically prepared.  I had a pacer to drag me along. I knew I could do it – because I had gotten older and my BQ time had gotten just a smidge more reasonable (but still hard!!).  Everything really did go really well in that race (except the unplanned, yet completely necessary portopotty stop at the halfway point – that was a precious minute added to my race time).  In the last mile – I knew I was doing it – I was going to come in under my BQ time – and I had to fight back tears, until I didn’t fight them anymore after I crossed the finish line.  I had beat my qualifying time by almost two minutes.  But months would go by (and I would train for and run a 50 mile ultramarathon in the meantime) before I would know if that time was “good enough” – fast enough – to actually make the cut and earn my Boston Marathon bib.

Spoiler alert – it wasn’t. Only runners who beat their BQ times by almost FIVE MINUTES were given bibs. Sigh. So close, but another door closed.  But – I qualified.  I earned my spot on the Boston Marathon starting line and I belong there.  AND – I’m a believer that there’s a plan and a reason behind everything – I just hadn’t figured out what it was yet.

I started researching charity teams for Boston – who provide race entries in exchange for fundraising for very important and very worthy causes.  There’s a story behind this one too (which I’ll tell in another post), but I’m extremely happy and grateful to be running and fundraising for Kidney Disease Research, sponsored by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.  My Mom died of kidney failure associate with diabetic nephropathy.  My good friend from graduate school, Tony, lived with kidney disease – he had a successful transplant, but died on his 39th birthday while waiting for a second transplant.  My dear aunt has kidney disease, but with lifestyle medicine and other therapies, has managed to reverse the symptoms and is living life to the fullest in her 80s right now.

Boston will be my 10th trip down a 26.2 mile marathon course.  That seems like a significant milestone to me.  There’s a lot of reasons for me to run – just for me – but this is bigger than just me.  I get to run for my Mom, for Tony, and for Irma.  I get to run for all the people who are impacted by kidney disease – and I’ve learned in just the last few days that I have so many friends who are affected by kidney disease.  This was my dream, and my goal – but I’m finding out it was never really about me.  And I can’t get there alone – I need your support.  I have an ambitious fundraising goal – and I know you can help.  Please take a moment to check out my fundraising page and consider a donation for Kidney Disease Research.  Thank you!!

Kristen’s Kidney Disease Research Fundraising Page

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