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The long road to 26.2


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The Importance of Dignity for the Homeless

As a country we have worked hard to confront many of the challenges faced by others, but one which remains largely taboo is homelessness. Much like mental illness (which, coincidentally, is not terribly uncommon among the homeless population), everyone acknowledges that homelessness is a problem, but it has not yet reached the level of being a sexy topic which people don shirts or ribbons for.

Along with the loss of a home, many homeless people also lose their dignity. Sleeping out in the elements is not how most people envision their life. Not showering for days (or weeks) on end does not inspire self esteem. Having to scour for food is enough to beat down even the most proud of people.

One restaurant here in Baltimore is taking one small step to try and change that. Every July, Baltimore Restaurant Week takes place. Instead of participating in this annual tradition, Tabrizi’s is taking its show on the road to local homeless shelters. They will be serving “elegant” meals to Baltimore’s homeless. No, this won’t save anyone from homelessness, but perhaps giving someone just a few minutes of dignity, a few minutes to relax, by giving them a good meal like they’d receive at a restaurant just might help brighten their day, will make it easier for them to make their next decision or remind them that they are a worthy human being.

I’ve heard of “soup kitchen cafes” in the past, where soup kitchens or other similar providers serve their visitors at the table and provide them with metal flatware and real plates and bowls, and I think the idea is brilliant. Some of these places even hire homeless or disadvantaged people, giving them the opportunity to contribute and feel better about themselves, all while earning a paycheck. Bringing some sense of normalcy to the lives of those who have been displaced, showing them just a few moments of dignity, really can turn around someone’s mindset – and ultimately, maybe even their life.

This is why I run for Back on My Feet. No, they’re not going to solve the homeless crisis this country faces overnight, but they’re doing what they can to change one person’s life at a time. Dignity has no price, but a lack of dignity can be costly. Treating someone with dignity costs you nothing, but it can make the world of difference.

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BOMF Baltimore

Since 2012 I have been an ardent supporter of Back on My Feet (BOMF) Baltimore. It is an organization that seeks to build up those experiencing homelessness, and often times unemployment, addiction, and/or mental health issues as well, through running.

In light of all that has happened in Baltimore these last few days, an organization such as BOMF is even more vital to the well-being of our city. Those who BOMF helps could easily be defined by what is being seen on the national media – and many have been in the past – but they have chosen to take the steps to improve their lives and build a community. 

No, this is not a claim that running alone is the solution to the systemic, deep rooted and overarching issues that plague our city. But the community that is formed in coming together, the impact that is created in speaking with one unified voice, and the change that we can affect in ‘changing the things we can’ is vital to our effort to rebuild, redefine and rejuvenate this place we call home.

As I prepare for my first marathon, Baltimore faces a marathon of another variety entirely. I may not be able to solve Baltimore’s problems, but I can certainly do my part in helping those Baltimore residents who have chosen to take on their own personal and socioeconomic challenges head-first. A cultural shift won’t happen over night, but affecting one person, who has the opportunity to affect another, starts moving us all in the right direction.

Please help me to help those who have decided that status quo is no longer satisfactory. Please help me to help those who have decided to help themselves.


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Race Report: Oldfields School Half Marathon, Powered by Back on My Feet

Late last year I decided that I wasn’t going to run any early spring races – a wonky winter can totally throw your training off and I had bigger goals for the year. Well, that all went out the door when I heard that Back on My Feet was hosting a half marathon at the end of March. 🙂

When you think of running in the end of March, you think of warm(ish) weather, daffodils, sun, and birds chirping, right? Ha! Nice try. I woke up to snow. Snow! The meteorologist on the morning news assured her viewers it would only be intermittent and pass pretty quickly. Ha! Right.

Knowing it was going to be a cold race, I wore the same kit that I wore for the Father Time Frolic on New Year’s Day, as the temperatures were forecasted to be pretty similar.

Yeah, I don’t care what the thermostat said – it felt way colder than the New Year’s Day race. It was a damp, bone chilling 32 with snow and about a 10-15 mph wind. Even standing around the snow blew right into your eyes and the wind just cut right through whatever you were wearing.

I got there pretty early and only left my car for the portapot and the BOMF pre-race circle.

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The race started at 8:30, and I finally crawled out of my car at about 8:20 to do some quick dynamic flexibility warmups, run a quick bit to see how everything felt, and then joined my friends at the starting line. One of the women from my summer and winter training groups was there, as was an old friend of mine from high school.

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It was as cold as we all look.

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The first .63 mi of the race was downhill, from the school to the trail. In an effort to warm up and keep up with my high school friend, I (surprise, surprise) went out a bit too fast. My first mile was 9:15, and the second wasn’t too much slower. At around 1.5 miles I decided to try and pull back the pace, but I had a really hard time with pacing for some reason. I honestly don’t know if it’s from the cold or from the wonky winter training season, but I just couldn’t get it under control. It didn’t matter if I went by feel or by Garmin.

We passed by the first relay point at about 3.3 miles – and surprisingly there was a really big crowd! That was a much needed mental boost. The rest of the outbound trip was pretty quiet, as there’s really no where for spectators to stand, but I was well with the pack. The leaders started passing back on their return trip somewhere around mile 5. En route I managed to tie my 5k PR and set a new unofficial 5 mile PR (48:42). Awesome, but not good. This wasn’t a short race.

I hit the turn around point, which was a cone with ridiculously, but much welcomed, large smily face ballon in about 1:03:45 – which kinda shocked me. I’m not sure what happened at this point, but I kind of got into a dark place. My achilles was starting to hurt, my piriformis, which I admittedly have gotten lazy about, was tightening up, and my legs were just feeling heavy. And I was cold. Really cold.

As I watched my pace plummet on my Garmin, that place just got darker. I stopped to stretch two or three times, walked through the remaining water stops, and watched as the pack in front of me got thinner and thinner; and then I got passed, by more than a few people. I presume some of them were relay runners, fresher than I, gunning to get to the exchange, but the sting is still the same. The wind never ceased, the snow kept falling, and it felt like the temperatures were mimicking my pace. I high-fived the racers that were still heading out to the turn-around, but I’m not sure if I was doing that more for them or for me.

I had hoped to see a big crowd again at the relay exchange point, to get that little bolt of energy, but it was pretty quiet. Not that I can blame them – it was #$)@(ing cold. I wouldn’t want to stand around either.

The last 3.3 miles were very quiet. The snow had started to lay on the adjacent fields, and parts of the trail, which had been perfectly clear just an hour or two ago, were now covered. I tried to take a picture, but even my phone gave up – the cold sapped the battery and I was left with a shiny paperweight.

It turned out to be a good and a bad thing that I knew this part of the trail well. Good, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. Bad, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. But being this close, I couldn’t let that dark place bully me in to slowing down.

In order to distract myself I kept taking sips of water, “in preparation for the hill.” Yeah. That hill that I sped down at the beginning? It’s an out-and-back course.

As I got closer, I could see the other smily-faced balloon bobbing in the wind like some deranged bobblehead, telling me it was time to climb the hill. I swung wide and transitioned from packed stone to pavement, reminding myself that there was only .63 mi to go. Trying not to look too far ahead, I focused on the snowdrops which were blooming next to the road – the only sign that spring might actually still consider happening. As I slowed down, the cold only got more pronounced, so I tried to push harder and faster, making an extra effort to run the tangents, just to get to the finish sooner.

When I came upon the last bend in the road, I could hear the crowd at the finish line cheering people through and I kicked it into over drive. It didn’t matter how much my achilles, my piriformis, or my pride hurt, the finish line was mine. As I turned the corner and hit that slight downhill, I broke out into a sprint – and then I was done.

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I didn’t even stop when I crossed the line – I made a beeline for my car, where fresh clothes and a warm second layer awaited. Once dressed for the weather, I went back to the finish area, grabbed some food and drink and chatted for a bit before heading home with dreams of a blisteringly hot shower dancing in my head.

The less-than-stellar winter training definitely took a toll on a few of us, but we had our first half of the year in the books, a good baseline for the rest of the year.

I should be much more ecstatic than I am. I got an awesome new PR – 2:11:21, officially – but for some reason I just feel kind of deflated. That feeling from the second half of the race just took over the joy of the PR. Even today, I just can’t shake it and still don’t feel pride in the PR.


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Amazingness

So the blogosphere has totally put my real-life friends to shame. 

As you know, I’m fundracing for Back on My Feet. My first (amazing) donation came from someone whom I have never even met in real life – Judith over at soveryslightlymad.com!! She puts out some really great blog posts (and is way more timely with her posting than I…) – if you’ve never read her site, definitely pop on over and show her some love! ❤ 

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So I did a little thinking…

After careful consideration and lots of advice from family, friends, and the amazing online running community (and, let’s face it, a smidgeon of peer pressure from my running group), I’ve decided to run the Baltimore Half again this year!

I really do think my legs can handle it this year, I just have to be extra vigilant in my training – I’m looking at you, Blerch.

But rather than just running the half (ha, right?) I’ve decided to give it extra meaning. This year I am running the Baltimore Half Marathon in honor of Back on My Feet. I fundraced with them back in 2012 and had a great experience – plus I truly do believe in their mission and work. It’s easy to get annoyed by the homeless people asking for money on the streets or think that they’re just lazy, but let’s face it – many of these people were are just like us. We all have setbacks, sometimes we bounce back from them and sometimes we don’t; sometimes they pile up and seem impossible to overcome. Some of these people never had  the support mechanisms in place to build them up while others have lost sight of that; regardless, the people who come to Back on My Feet want to change themselves and I believe that we should all support those who want to better themselves.

Please consider helping me in my mission to raise $1,800 for Back on My Feet by October – this is what it costs for them to not only clothe the resident members and get them running, but helps pay for housing, education, and job training. This isn’t a free handout – the residential members are expected to show up, be accountable, and maintain a positive attitude. More importantly, though, it’s a means to self-esteem and self-worth, and that’s invaluable.