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Running Home

Since the culmination of our adventure in Tahiti Brad and I have spent hours brainstorming where we’d run to next. We know that wherever we go we want to run there. The journey of sweating out every hard-earned dollar to get to Tahiti made the payoff so palpable—so visceral—so fun. We’re searching for the next destination and getting our sneakers and savings account prepped.

For awhile we’ve gazed further west toward New Zealand. You see there is simply no good reason not to go to New Zealand. Whatever your preference of climate, you’ll find it somewhere in NZ. And let’s all cut to the chase with five words—Lord of the Rings tour.

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You can actually visit The Shire.

Do you like snow-capped mountains?

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Or bucolic countrysides?

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Did you know the human population of NZ is 4 million and the sheep population is 40 million?

Maybe you’re a big city kinda gal.

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Auckland at night.

New Zealand fulfills the scuba diving requirement.

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And, I mean, look at their national symbol of pride?

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It’s like the coolest, cutest, weirdest thing ever. Can we all agree that a kiwi bird is basically a real-life Muppet? A bird without wings. Of course. Why would anyone need wings in New Zealand? There’s no reason to ever fly away.

And now you think I’m going to tell you the mileage from Tahiti to New Zealand and our plan to get there.

Wrong. We’re not going to New Zealand.

That’s not entirely true. I have every confidence that one day Brad and I will get there and have an incredible Kiwi adventure. But like every epic hero’s journey, ours too leads back home.

Don’t let the sunshine and palm trees fool you—Los Angeles does not always make living easy. Rent prices continue to rise. Home values continue to rise. The sprawling landscape demands significant travel and mileage. Cars break down faster because of said mileage. Of course, there are so many benefits to living here as well. Rent may be high but I’m still living in an apartment with only one building separating me from the beach. And I can get a helluva deal on fresh avocados year round. The value of delicious and fresh produce all year long can’t be understated actually.

The sunshine is in fact quite amazing. Palm trees are iconic. Most of all, things are happening here. There’s a feeling in the air that Los Angeles is evolving into a creative epicenter of this country. There’s a museum for just about everything, incredible theatre, great food, music. Every industry is represented here in varying degrees. When I changed my focus from acting to writing I didn’t have to relocate to get a hands-on look at the publishing industry. It’s still not New York, but publishing is here too. Publishing, film, television, finance, academia, science, technology. Innovation surrounds us.

For Brad and I, perhaps the biggest draw is the outdoors. Oh the outdoors. I can wake up tomorrow and toss a coin as to whether I’d prefer to hike along an ocean-side ridge, or up in the mountains where at some points in the year you’d hike through snow. It would take years to hit up all the campgrounds near enough to trek to on the weekends, not to mention the outlying wilderness that may require more of a three-day weekend. We can scuba dive, surf, hike, run, camp, bike, and more—all barely leaving our neighborhood. I can drive home to Sacramento for a long weekend. We can steal away to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Big Sur—if we need to get out of the city for a day or two.

I think you get my meaning. We love Los Angeles. I love Los Angeles more than I truly ever thought possible. But we have a conundrum. We want to plant roots but the price of the soil is so unwelcome. What will happen, then? Are we doomed to the renter’s market for the rest of our days, paying someone else’s mortgage without putting a cent away for ourselves? Should we put a pint-size amount of money down on a small condo in the valley and walk around with the elephant of a mortgage and HOA fees on our backs for the foreseeable future. Neither seem like great options. We don’t want to be house poor. So what then?

My mom visited last weekend to help us with direction on our fringe show, The Designated Mourner. She started looking around our teeny apartment and telling us about the ways they economize space on Tiny House Nation. A revelation followed.

Our apartment is about 500 square feet. Living space is probably closer to 400. Essentially, we live in a tiny. As my mom told us about the clever tiny tricks she’d heard about, a light bulb went off. Brad came home from a run while Mom showed me an episode of Tiny House Hunters and I quickly announced to him, “We’re buying a tiny.” He did not object.

Our little apartment reverberated with excitement in the ensuing conversation. This idea was a real possibility. It felt like opening a door after pulling on locked doorknobs for months. Yes, a very tiny door, but ornately carved with love and care—full of magic. We could break our backs for the next four years saving for a down payment on a house that would subsequently shackle us with a mortgage for the next thirty years, or we could spend four years saving for a tiny and once we’d done it be free from rent, free from a mortgage.

Free.

Free to run to New Zealand. Free to save for our future child’s education. Free to pay off my student loans before I die. Free to go to grad school. Free to save for retirement, or a car, or a boat, or a rainy day. Free to not work quite so many hours giving us more time to pursue our artistic dreams. Free! Free! Free!

Can you tell I’m excited?

Brad and I spent a year in the early part of our relationship living together in the teeniest studio. It couldn’t have been more than 300 square feet. I think back to that little room with only the fondest memories. Sometimes I think we bicker more now than we did back then. When you don’t have an actual door to close between you, you’re more or less forced to address whatever it is that’s compelling you to retreat. So you do. You address it. And you’re patient. And you’re flexible. And you compromise. At least we did. These are all requirements of tiny living and Brad and I passed that test years ago. In fact, now that I think about, I think we have that studio to thank for our ability to argue with an even temper, and thus the success of our relationship, really. There’s no reason not to join this movement. There’s every reason to stop paying for someone else’s future and start investing in our own.

We’d all but given up on the dream of home ownership as residents of Los Angeles. Our only hope, we thought, was a windfall of success as writers or actors and you don’t have to remind us that that’s not something to be banked on. We didn’t need to give up. There was a very big American dream waiting for us in a tiny package. We’re putting our sneakers back on, and we’re running toward it.

We looked further west and considered more travel adventures, but for now it’s time to go home. We’re running home—from Tahiti back to Los Angeles. All with the very exciting promise of a future that will foster our travel dreams, maybe even with a bit less running required.

This time we’ve upped the mileage to $10 per mile (maybe $20/mile once we get used to saving so aggressively), and we’re both running back ALL the miles. If you recall, the journey to Tahiti was more of a relay race. We ran a cumulative 4,109 miles. Running home is going to be harder. We have to run a total of 8,218 miles. Time to get going. This is real. This is happening.

There’s a huge future waiting for us in a tiny home.

 

Some tiny inspiration:

 

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Have you ever thought about going tiny? What freedoms do you think it would give you? What would be your greatest fears of downsizing?

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Run at Disneyland—it’s for the Children!

As most of my lovely readers know by now, this blogging adventure began all thanks to the Disneyland Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon and the endeavor spurred the creation of my first blog. The blog bug bit hard and I haven’t stopped writing since. You might say that this whole blogging thing reignited my love of writing in general, which has led to my pursuit of writing children’s literature, which will lead to the many books I am one day bound to publish. (Bound to publish! That’s pretty good). I guess you could say, therefore, the Disneyland Half Marathon is responsible for all of my dreams coming true. The race—it’s that good.

It’s that time of year, we are registered for the 2016 half marathon and getting ready to plan out our training schedule. This year’s costumes involve a mandatory 20 lb trim down, so the stakes are high! More on that later.

If you are considering registering for the half marathon or Dumbo Double Dare (miraculously they are not yet sold out), you might consider putting your registration money to a worthy cause instead of in the pocket of runDisney. If you would like to run the 5k or 10k, they ARE in fact sold out, but you can still sign up another way!

Several charity groups participate in the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. I was recently contacted by the Children’s Bureau to help promote their team, and as soon as I read about their mission it took me about two seconds to say yes. Children’s Bureau helps children lead happy, healthy, productive lives through a combination of prevention, treatment, research and advocacy. Children’s Bureau is committed to providing vulnerable children—especially in the early years—the foundation necessary to become caring and productive adults by:

  • Preventing child abuse and neglect both at home and in the community;
  • Protecting, nurturing and treating abused children;
  • Enhancing the potential of families and communities to meet the needs of their children by bringing them together to create safe and secure environments;
  • Advancing the welfare of children and families through superior programs in foster care, adoptions, child development, parent education, mental health, research and advocacy.

There is a small fundraising obligation, but trust me, as someone who has raised money through running events several times, it’s easier than you might imagine. Especially if this is one of your first forays into running—your friends and family will be eager to support you knowing that you are running not only for yourself, but for a worthy cause.

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It will make your training easier. A 10 mile training run can be hard. A 10 mile training run in honor of a child in need is exponentially easier. Also, a big full generous heart pumps more blood to your tired muscles. True story.

To join Team all4kids just click on over to the Children’s Bureau website. Like I said, the 5k and 10k are both sold out through runDisney so an opportunity like this may be your only chance to participate in one of these incredible race events. Just look how the Disneyland Half Marathon changed my life. It can change yours, with the added bonus of changing the lives of children in need.

I know the fundraising component can feel daunting. If you sign up with this team be sure to comment and let me know so I can help promote your fundraising efforts. I will even make a donation to the first three readers to join the Children’s Bureau team! Run for change. Run for the kids.

Happy running!

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The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done: Running the LA Marathon

It’s official. Running is a mental illness. I’m counting down the days until marathon running is entered into the DSM. It’s only a matter of time. Four days ago I finished the LA Marathon—however reluctantly. Nothing in my life has challenged me physically and mentally like those 26.2 miles. The experience was leaps and bounds more difficult than my first marathon.

Let me get the bummer stuff out of the way. The LA Marathon just isn’t for me. As much as I love Los Angeles (and I do, deeply), running across it did nothing for me. I thought the experience of bipedally moving from the east side to the west, unencumbered by traffic and a vehicle, would instill a great deal of civic pride in my heart. It did not. The first six miles were great. Brad was still running with me. We trotted through the streets of downtown Los Angeles discovering little gazebos and walkways that you just don’t notice when you’re in a car. I felt fresh and strong, and the city looked great. Once the race got really hard (which I’ll get to in a minute) the city lost its luster and no amount of drag performers in WeHo or palm trees on Rodeo Drive could cheer me up.

I wanted to run the Walt Disney World Marathon because I knew that no matter how hard the running got or how bad I felt physically, I would be in my happy place. I thought the environment would act as a stimulant when my legs wanted to give out, and I was right. My old pal Mickey got me through. I loved running through the world of Disney because the whole place made me happy. I love Los Angeles but my associations with the city are not that pure. There are certain neighborhoods and streets that feel like happy places and others that feel like haunts. I’d pass down a street near where I used to live years ago and think, “Oh that was a tough time in my life.” Who wants to be reminded of such chapters of one’s life when doing the hardest thing you’ve ever attempted to do? Total bummer. No, LA has way too many complex emotional associations to make for a good marathon environment.

Another benefit to Walt Disney World was that I did not know the geography. I had no idea how far it was from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios so I couldn’t think about the many miles from point A to point B. Not knowing the terrain forced me into the moment and the mile at hand. Very beneficial. In Los Angeles, however, I am all too acutely aware of how far it is from Hollywood to Brentwood and so when running down Sunset Blvd I felt completely crushed by the thought of making it allllll the way to Wilshire. Are you kidding me? I have to run to Crescent Heights? I’m only at Sunset Junction! Not possible! When it comes to running those kinds of distances, ignorance is bliss.

I live in Venice and I work in Glassell Park. For those of you who don’t know LA geography, Venice is as far west as you can go, and Glassell Park is about as far east as you can go and still say you’re in Los Angeles. In short, I traverse the entire city from west to east and back again—every—single—day. Why did I think going from the “Stadium to the Sea” would hold any novelty for me? It felt like my commute.

My last beef with the LA Marathon is logistical. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO ORDER ENOUGH BATHROOMS TO ACCOMMODATE 26,000 PEOPLE? I swear. It seems that every race I do skimps on the port-0-potties and I seriously don’t understand it. There’s no way to irritate a runner faster than a) run out of water or b) not provide enough bathrooms thus causing said runner to have to wait in line when she should be running. This is exactly what happened. I may have had one too many garlic knots the night before at C&O Trattoria but I had to make two bathroom stops during the marathon. Guess how long I waited in line? Go ahead. Guess.

20 minutes.

What?! That is unacceptable. I was already having a painfully slow race but to add an extra 20 minutes to my time, and then another 10 minutes for the second bathroom stop, that is heartrendingly significant. We all paid a lot of money to run this thing. Can’t we go to the bathroom in a timely manner? Oh and the first john I used ran out of toilet paper. Not cool. I mean there just aren’t a lot of options in that scenario.

So those are the reasons both personal and logistical that I won’t be running the LA Marathon, specifically, again anytime soon. I’m glad I did it. I was curious. But now I know.

More bummer stuff—I’m ashamed of my time. Listen, I never ever judge anyone else’s running pace. I don’t believe there is a certain speed at which you become a real runner. It’s personal. A 10 minute mile may be slow to one runner and unattainably fast for another. To Meb, an 8 minute mile is a very gentle jog. I can’t even imagine. We run to discover our capabilities and ranges, and learn to perform within them. Me? At my best, I’m a 10 minute mile runner on a 5k, an 11 on 10k, and an 11:00-11:30 on a half marathon. Knowing that range I believe in my heart of hearts that I should be able to do a marathon between a 12:00-13:00 minute mile. I believe I can do that.

This marathon clocked in at a 15:00. Part of that was due to the half hour I wasted using the loo, but even taking that out of consideration I generally clocked about a 14:00 on my Garmin. Here’s the thing. I’m not a 15 minute mile runner. I’m not a 14 minute mile runner. I’m just not. So even though I finished the race and got my medal, I feel beat. I feel like the course and the day got the best of me. Even though my mom keeps telling me I should feel proud, I don’t feel proud. Two in and I’ve yet to perform a marathon at my potential.

There was a litany of reasons specific to where I’m at right now as a runner that made this race so slow and painful. The greatest challenge I faced going in was that I was injured for about 50% of my training. By the time I hit the double digit training runs I was almost crippled by shin splints. Even on 3 mile runs I could barely get my time below a 12:30 minute mile. Brutal. I was this close to skipping the marathon after I barely finished a 16 mile run. It was an “oh what the hell” attitude that got me to sign up, not any kind of belief in my strength.

I was injured, and I was overweight. Look, I like myself. I like my body. Maybe if I were a bit more dissatisfied on an emotional level it would be easier to lay off the calories that have put this extra weight on my frame. But alas, I’m fairly confident in my skin and didn’t feel all that motivated to slim down for this race that I wasn’t even that enthusiastic about running in the first place. To be overweight as a runner is tough stuff. It makes your job ten times harder. It is precisely the same thing as a fit person with no body fat trying to run 26.2 miles wearing a forty pound lead suit. It would slow anyone down. I don’t need to lose forty pounds but I could stand to lose twenty-five. I think if I did that, that might be the only missing link to my elusive 5:30 marathon.

So what was it like to run a marathon with all of those things working against me? As I said on Instagram, I can’t imagine anything in the world—short of torture and maybe childbirth—harder than running that race. (I’ve actually heard several women tell me that giving birth was easier for them than running a marathon, so there you go). I hit a wall at mile thirteen. THIRTEEN. It’s normal and expected to hit a wall at some point but usually it’s around 18. Then you work through it until about mile 21, and you’ve got the last 5 miles on adrenaline. I hit it with HALF OF THE RACE LEFT TO RUN. Besides a few brief and fleeting runner’s high moments, I pushed against that wall for the entire rest of the race.

What does it mean to hit a wall? I think the best way to imagine it is literally. Imagine running in place, now push up against a wall. Now don’t stop. Now keep doing that for five hours. Now imagine there are thousands of people around you running right through the wall but you still have to push against it. Now imagine the feeling like you’re not getting anywhere even though your feet are moving in a manner that would suggest forward motion. Now imagine that this is your fate for all time. Like Sisyphus, you are to push against this wall for eternity. Now imagine you feel more alone than you’ve ever felt in your life. Now imagine the time you felt like the biggest failure in the entire universe. Now feel like that. Now magnify that feeling by ten. Keep pushing against that wall. Now imagine you’re nauseous. Now imagine your mouth is on fire but no matter how much water you drink your mouth is still thirsty, but you can’t drink more because then your stomach will be even more nauseous. Now imagine a car just rolled over your feet.

It’s kind of like that.

It is so difficult to put the struggle into words because I don’t actually remember any of it. I remember it intellectually, but I don’t remember the pain. Nature does this as a defense mechanism so we’ll repeat painful things like childbirth without hesitation, but I’m not sure Mother Nature anticipated the effect on marathon runners. I imagine her looking down on us from some celestial treehouse shouting “You guys! Stop it! I wiped the pain memory for making babies! Not for this! This is ridiculous!” Runners don’t listen though. I don’t remember the pain. Which is what has led me to my next question…

Which marathon should I run next?

At mile 20 I promised myself I would draft a document and have it notarized stating that I was not allowed to run another marathon. Ever. Three hours after I’d finished I started doing the math in my head to figure out how much I’d have to save to do Walt Disney World in 2018. I’m telling you. It’s a certifiable mental disorder. Despite the tears running down my face (there were many), despite the pain, the doubt, the struggle—I want to do it again. I understand masochism now. Something about pain and struggle brings us closer to our potential and a divine truth.

Can you tell I’m Catholic?

In all honesty, this race was a spiritual experience. Perhaps it’s the season of Lent that has me meditating deeply on the concept of struggle. When I ran up against that wall I wasn’t running on strength. I had none. I wasn’t running on willpower. I had none. I wasn’t running on grit. I had none. I had nothing. Nothing left. I had to pull from something higher than myself. And whether or not you believe that’s a real thing or just a mind trick, it doesn’t really matter and I don’t really care. It only mattered that it worked. And that higher power—that pull on a force of energy beyond myself—was absolutely the only thing that got me across that finish line. Oh and this song by The Killers.

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” You see this quote a lot in the running world. You’ll see it written on people’s bibs, printed on people’s shirts. Meb has it listed as the only thing on his Twitter bio. The first time I saw a runner with this passage printed on her running shirt I scoffed. Pfft. I’m a Catholic but I’m not really on board with the whole divinity of Jesus thing. It’s confusing. I’m a bad Catholic. I just don’t believe all the magic miracle stuff, but I do believe that Jesus was an amazing figure with an absolutely incredible story. I love all the rituals, and I love good stories. So what does that passage really mean? It doesn’t have to mean that the magic of Jesus helps win races. It can mean that if you want it to. If you need it to. If it does to you. To me it is the story of the universe—that there is a force which unites all of us. This thing—this energy—is there for us to call on when we need to endure. It is pure goodness and grit. It is mystery and it is power. It is outside us and within us. It never runs out. It never hits a wall. Whether you call it Christ or God or The Force or the Universe, I think the important point is that it is something eternally strong that exists outside of you, but flies like a kite with its string tethered directly to your own heart. And to the heart of every human walking the earth. I accessed that magic on Sunday. I let myself fly that kite, and it is the only reason I finished.

So what were the upsides to running the LA Marathon? Oh of course there were many. That divine revelation thing was pretty cool. Seeing so many friends on course made my heart explode. (Seriously guys, you have no idea how much you helped). I learned a ton. You can’t go halfway on something that hard and expect satisfying results. I didn’t— couldn’t—go all in on my training and I should have adjusted my expectations accordingly for finishing the race. Manage your expectations. Always a good life lesson.

I’m fired up for next time. I may have thrown out the contract prohibiting me from running again, but I left a few provisions. I won’t sign up for another marathon until I’ve dropped 20 pounds. And I won’t sign up for another marathon until I’ve found one that I’m really excited about. I may only have one marathon left in me and if that’s the case I have to see what I’m capable of. Where I run is just as important as how I run. Unfortunately I have top shelf taste. I’d love to run Rome more than anything. Hmm.

It was a true treat to run this race with my husband and Neiman. Even though we didn’t run it together, we were together, you know? Neiman finally broke his 4 hour marathon goal (see what I mean about relativity with pace? that is crazy fast), and Brad made his goal of running the entire race without any walk breaks and he made a great time too. Good job boys.

I learned about struggle. I’m a very laid back and casual person. I’m not Type A. I don’t like things to be hard. This serves me in that I’m a very happy person most of the time. What I learned about myself in this race is that I associate struggle with failure. When things got hard running this race the negative thoughts FLOODED in. I couldn’t keep them out. A true athlete encounters physical struggle, but they win the race by winning the game between their ears. I didn’t lose this marathon with my shin splinty legs. I lost it with my mind.

If running marathons were easy everyone would do it. Everyone doesn’t do it so the struggle makes the difference. If getting a book published were easy everyone would do it. Getting my book published is, as it turns out, very much in the not easy category, so I have to embrace the struggle as a sign pointing me toward success. Insert any dream or goal and the same is true. Struggle is the stuff. It’s the troll guarding the bridge that you either have to fight, escape, or trick into letting you pass. Rejoice when you encounter the struggle troll. Then kick his ass.

Oh and my skirt was really cute.

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There’s more to share but I think it’s time to move on. On to the next race. I’ll take a break from marathon running for a couple of years, but marathon—I’m coming for you. We don’t get to break up like that.

Some photos.

 

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Lovers getting married at Mile 11.

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Completely unappreciative.

Happy running friends!

Giving You Free Stuff (and Helping Me a Little Too)

Hi friends. Several months ago I alluded to hosting some raffles here on my blog. I wasn’t lying! It just took a while for me to get my act together. I really do have something fun to give away.

I think my favorite thing about running besides the actual running, races, and health benefits, are the toys. Runners get way into their gear. It’s crucial to find the right stuff that works for you because discomfort can lead to a serious distaste for the sport. The right gear can make you feel like a superhero.

Few things in the running community are more contentious than earphones. Second perhaps only to the discussion of proper running shoes, earphones are suggested, requested, and maligned almost on a daily basis in the running Facebook groups to which I belong. Wireless, wired, buds, beats, everyone has a preference. There is a brand that I discovered at the Disneyland Half Marathon expo several years ago and have since been a loyal customer — Yurbuds. They are specifically designed for active use, and the unique contour and locking technology is guaranteed to prevent them from falling out of your ears while running. That sounds like sales babble but here’s the bottom line. They totally work. I’ve always had earbuds fall out while running. It’s been a source of great frustration in my life, searching for the holy grail of buds. I’ve been wearing Yurbuds for three years and I can honestly tell you they have never once fallen out of my ears while running. Pretty badass.

That’s the sales pitch. Here are the details. I want you to have a pair. Yurbuds has kindly donated a pair of their INSPIRE buds to Running to Tahiti for use in a raffle! Why am I doing this you may ask? Well, truly, the number one reason is because raffles and giveaways are fun. They’re fun to do, they’re fun to win. They’re just fun. BUT, it also does help me to promote my little blog here. To enter the raffle just click on over to my primary website here, or go directly to Rafflecopter here. You can enter by either following me on Twitter, tweeting about Running to Tahiti, leaving a blog comment or liking Running to Tahiti on Facebook. The more of these you do, the more times you are entered into the giveaway and the more likely you are to win.

I do hope my lovely readers will enter so that this raffle is wildly successful. That way other running toy/gear companies will go, oh, look at that cool place. Let’s give her some of our stuff to spread into the world. It’s a win-win for everyone really.

Enter today! The raffle ends on Monday. Good luck!

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The Gift of Falling Flat on Your Face

Not too long ago I was having a great day. Like a really great day. A great week actually. Felt like I could conquer the world. Then I did something stupid. I won’t provide specifics surrounding the series of awesomeness followed by humiliation. Sorry, I know you’re dying to know but the truth is I’m not interested in reliving it in perpetuity on my blog. Let’s just boil it down to feelings, which is what matters here. I was devastated. Then I was pissed. What the hell! How can the universe be so kind and in the blink of an eye so incredibly cruel? I felt like this:

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This is a still from a video I posted on Facebook yesterday. As you might have guessed, this runner falls down. It’s rather devastating, as you may also have guessed. This is not what’s appealing about the video. It is, in fact, one of the most incredible visual metaphors I’ve ever come across. Watch the whole thing:

What is incredible about this event is not that the runner fell down and got back up and won the race (which is kind of mind-blowing btw). What is really incredible about the message here is that she won BECAUSE she fell down. Now, before you draft an argumentative comment, of course I don’t know that for sure. Would she have won without falling down? Maybe. But probably not. You can see it happen. Falling down gave her the jolt of adrenaline, of anger, of determination to win, that she otherwise would not have felt had she kept with the pack. The girl that clipped her in the foot probably felt so thrown off and embarrassed that it threw off HER game and allowed fallen girl to get up and gain a lead. The other runners probably assumed she was out when she went down, and didn’t in a million years see her coming to dominate at the last minute. This chain of events that started with her falling flat on her face provided a series of gifts that allowed her to win. It’s incredible. She had to fall down to win.

That’s the narrative I see in this video. You might take away something different but isn’t that the incredible thing about a story? Good stories contain layers of meaning that we get to peel off, try on, and see what fits best on our souls and minds. This video arrived on my Facebook feed with the utmost synchronicity. I had metaphorically fallen flat on my face a mere 48 hours prior, and I needed to see this. Failure will come to all of us and we must recognize it as a gift — an opportunity to reap just the exact emotions and motivation we need to win.

After I “fell” I sat in my car and cried. I didn’t want my wonderful week to end this way. It wasn’t fair. Someone! Somewhere! Change this! Much to my chagrin, no deus ex machina came down from above to change my circumstances. I was on my own. So I turned on my voice recorder app on my phone. I talked it out. I purged everything I was feeling. I needed to record it because talking to myself wouldn’t get it out fully. There has to be someone listening, even if that someone is an electronic chip in my smartphone. It makes a difference.  My fall gave me humility, determination, anger, and empowerment. Invaluable gifts made worthless if I remain face down on the ground. I stand up, and I keep running. I want to use these gifts. I know that life isn’t really a competition, but I still hope that I win.

What Running Taught Me About Body Positivity… It’s All In the Mind

The prompt for National Running Day was “I run to _____.” I actually just had a little wave of anxiety as I typed, thinking about sharing the reasons that I run. The reasons are deeply personal, however publicly I talk about running. Personal, and innumerable, so maybe I’ll try to distill it all down to one basic idea. I run to connect my body to my soul.

I grew up an incredibly confident girl on the inside, with incredible self-loathing for her outsides. I hated my body. Hate is a strong word. Not strong enough. I developed at a young age in all the wrong ways according to a hormonal pre-teen. Big butt, thick thighs, flat chest. Boys didn’t like me, girls didn’t relate to me. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t skinny. I wasn’t necessarily fat either. I was the word I’ve come to hate more than almost any in the English language – chubby. I was chubby. And it’s not cool to be chubby as a kid.

So I grew up hating my outsides and wishing for new ones, while simultaneously loving life, being social, feeling creative and insightful, and in general enjoying the human soul that was developing as Becky Sigl. I was very conscious of this strange dichotomy. How could I be so confident and so insecure at the same time? Mind-body disconnect. You’ve all felt it.

Along came running. I began running as early as 6th grade but didn’t stick with it in earnest until my college years. During that time I felt more pressure than ever to somehow achieve the body that I THOUGHT would match my awesome inside self (don’t believe everything you think). Safe in my college incubation bubble, I knew that once thrust into the “real world” the clock began. It’s tough for women in Hollywood and if you don’t jump in the Hollywood Double Dutch game when you’re a kid, then you better be ready again when you’re a young twenty-something still young enough to play high school and college. If you miss THAT turnoff and you’re not “smokin’ hot” or super charactery then you may as well wait around until you’re old enough to play the Mom. I realize I sound very cynical and no one is obligated to subscribe to these silly rules. You can pave your own way and you should! But the pressure. It’s brutal.

So there I was, 21, getting ready for the real world, and I thought to myself constantly “I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” The only time I didn’t think these thoughts was on the running trail. Interesting. I didn’t all of a sudden feel satisfied with my body. I just didn’t give a crap. I was running.

Along comes the real world and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t magically transform into a 5’10” lithe supermodel or a cute little pixie girl in a size zero. Huh. Go figure. The real world arrived nonetheless and I started to realize how much I truly disliked this game of Hollywood Double Dutch. But I thought I’d still play anyway. I’d still attempt to achieve a body that would match my awesome, spunky, confident, inner self – still repeating the mantra “I have to lose weight” – I started running more consistently.

A funny and unexpected thing happened. I fell in love with my body. The body that in the past 10 years has run 13 half marathons, one marathon, and 2,000 miles to Tahiti. That body. The body that is actually 15 pounds HEAVIER than it was 10 years ago when I started running to lose weight! I love that body. I love it so fiercely. Sure I get a little itchy when I feel a few pounds of new jiggle after the holidays or if I haven’t run for awhile, but I still love the jiggle, however unwelcome. I love it deeply because I’m grateful for it. I know what it can do.

In college I took a philosophy course that focused heavily on the ideas of Iris Murdoch. One of our textbooks was “The Sovereignty of Good.” (I highly recommend it). It is the act of focusing on the Good – art, service, love – that effectuates transcendence. This focusing and taking action lures us outside ourselves. You can’t simply try to be grateful as effectively as when you focus on giving to others which results in a sense of gratitude. You can’t try to understand humanity as well as seeing a great play – the pathos of which evokes an understanding of humanity as a result. A focus on good things brings about Good. The actions make us Good. It’s not so easy to be good for Goodness’ sake. Someone alert Santa.

I couldn’t try to love my body in a vacuum. I just couldn’t. I did try. Hard! I simply did not love it. 10 years of running consistently – focusing my mind on something healthy and active instead of the outcome on my appearance – changed me. It works this way in acting. You want to get out of your own head? Focus on your scene partner. What are you doing to him? Do it. Voila! No more in your head. So too with body positivity as it turns out. You want to love your body? Focus on doing things with it. Be active. Put your body to work. You’ll discover that it’s Good, EXACTLY as it is.

I started running because my 6th grade teacher told me to. I stuck with it in high school and college to try and lose weight, when I suddenly realized it had this potent by-product of making me feel sane. I keep running today not to love my body, but because I love my body. Running, as it turns out, is the bridge between my sparkly, glitter-spackled, spunky, soulful, introspective, confident, awesome, self and the physical vessel I was given to get through life – my body. You get one boat to sail the ocean. Don’t scuttle it. Name it. Take care of it. Decorate it. Love it. Have fun sailing.
I run to connect my soul to my body. I run because it’s spiritual. I run because it’s physical. I run to get out of my head. I run to focus on the Good.

Why do you run?

sparkly self

What Running a Marathon Taught Me About Coping

Yesterday I had a panic attack. My heart raced. I broke into a sweat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. The attack hit me out of nowhere. Pretty sure I actually muttered to myself “Oh my, what’s this? What’s happening to me?”

It’s not that I’ve never had a panic attack before. I’m all too familiar with the phenomenon. It’s just that for me they are almost always preceded by some direct and identifiable psychological turmoil, but lately I’ve been y’know, happy. I suppose I could connect the dots. Stressful week at work? An unfamiliar feeling of optimistic ambition relating to my writing career? (I’ve never been so pro-active about a personal goal and while it’s all very exciting, there’s a scared little girl inside me no doubt trying to shake me up out of fear of failure.) Ongoing family crisis? (Which is currently a sleeping dragon but I’m waiting for it to wake up again.) Maybe I just let my blood sugar get too low. There are truly any number of things that could trigger an anxiety attack but none of them have been front line lately so it surprised me to experience a physical manifestation of the fears. Whatever the reason, panic took hold.

I’ve never been great about dealing with these pesky attacks. I suppose that by definition they encroach your senses beyond reason, so an inability to deal sensibly is kind of the point. This has always been inconvenient as it’s forced me to rely on the support of others to get by. I’d call my mom or my step-dad and they’d talk me off the edge. These days my husband fills the role nicely, holding me and loving me until even the panic feels cozy and at home. While it’s crucial  to have people in your life who can save you in a crisis, self-reliance is something for which I always strive.

And that’s where the marathon enters the picture.

Running the Walt Disney World Marathon left me with innumerable life lessons, but perhaps the lesson that surprised me the most was a deepening of the phrase “it gets better.” Sometime around mile 14 things got really hard, and I thought to myself “Oh crap, if it’s this hard now how am I going to survive 12 more miles?” The logic being that an increase in distance should correlate to an increase in fatigue and thus difficulty. Logically speaking running a marathon would look something like this:

Marathon HillIt makes sense right? The longer you run the harder it gets? See, though, here’s the thing about endurance running. It doesn’t really make sense. Does it make sense to train for four straight months at the expense of a clean house, social life, and free time? Not really. Does it make sense to pay $200 to do something you could theoretically do on your own for free? Not really. Does it make sense to voluntarily put yourself in pain or at the very least extreme discomfort for 4-6 hours straight? Definitely not. Nothing about marathon running makes sense, including the experience of running it.

So there I am at mile 14, incredibly concerned that if it’s this hard now I simply won’t be able to finish. A funny thing happened. I just kept running, and it got better. It gets better.

Then it got hard again, and better, and really hard, then easy, then impossible, then doable, then great, then transcendent, then I finished. So running a marathon actually looks more like this:

Marathon realnessHow can mile 20 be easier than mile 14? And what kind of sense does it make for mile 5 to be harder than mile 25? No sense at all. That’s long-distance running for you. Reason #673 why running is a giant metaphor for life. It does get better. But then it gets hard again.

The It Gets Better campaign is beautiful, and important. In the darkest hour we all need someone to look in our eyes and promise that it DOES get better. It does. But let’s talk realness for a sec. It will probably get hard again. Really hard. And then it will get better. Undoubtedly. Life is not a long walk up hill. It’s a marathon. It’s the high school mile being harder than the college mile. It’s the quarter-life mile being harder than the thirty-something mile. It’s the family mile being easier than the work mile and oh, wait a minute, now the family mile is the hardest yet. Each challenge paid off with a nice stretch of joy. The joy inevitably followed by a new challenge. Somewhere there is a finish line that makes it all worth it.

Even once we’ve finished the marathon, we’ll probably do another one. We’ll get right back on the course of ups and downs. Extreme highs and lows. We’ll cope. Because it doesn’t make sense, a marathon or life. The one thing you can count on is that it will change, and for better or worse you’ll be wiser once you’ve endured.

I highly recommend running a marathon to exercise this radical unpredictability of life. It’s cathartic. Years of emotional ups and downs will be condensed for you into a 5 hour physical metaphor that you can take with you into the big, bad, beautiful, chaotic world. You will know in your muscles and bones what it feels like to cope, to endure, and to be rewarded with a strange sort of peace. (Which you will forever project onto the medal they hand you at the finish line. You will cherish that cheaply made trinket endlessly. God help the poor soul who ever tries to take my bling away!)

Last night I’m lying in bed, my husband sleeping peacefully next to me. I’m fitful, fighting the remains of this pesky panic attack. My insides feel dark blue, my thoughts are glum, my breath is shallow. I read. I watch TV. I try to breathe in calm and exhale chaos. It’s not really working. I’m in it, a tough mile. But I think back to the marathon. I think about how mile 25 was easier than mile 5. Suddenly I feel, not calm, but confident. It will get better. I will also have another panic attack someday. I will cope.

Now it’s tomorrow. You know what? This mile feels great. It’s a beautiful day with no panic in sight. It got better. For now. And that’s enough to keep me running.

Mile 25. On top of the world.

Mile 25. On top of the world.