Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I run to be...

I read this post from "I <3 to run" on Facebook last week:
Never underestimate the strength of a woman.
Never f#@K with one who runs 26.2 miles for fun.
My apologies for the colourful language but I love the sentiment. After all, one of the main reasons I run is to be stronger - physically, mentally and emotionally.

We still live in a world where violence against women is so commonplace we scarcely notice it. But, over the past few weeks, heart-wrenching reminders have come from close to home - a murder/suicide not far from where I grew up in PEI, the body of a murdered woman found on a serene wooded path where I run regularly, a teenaged girl from the north shore who disappeared on her way to meet her boyfriend. 

Though I refuse to let fear keep me from running, such stories remind me that violence has a gender. The great majority of perpetrators are men and far too often the victims are women and childen.

The slogan for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco last month was "I run to be."  But at various points in the race, runner were invited to take it a step further and ask themselves what running helped them to be. It was inspiring to see so many say that they ran to be "fierce", "fearless" and "strong".

There were other inspiring things about the race:  Kara Goucher and Joan Benoit Samuelson - two iconic marathoners - stepping up to the start line in solidarity with us average runners. Mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, of all ages, shapes and sizes who've made running the race an annual tradition. And the awesome sight of thousands of Team in Training runners proudly displaying the names and pictures of loved ones on their t-shirts. 

I've just hung this poster from the race on my office wall in hopes it will inspire me - not just to run more - but to work harder at being the person I've always wanted to be - fierce, fearless, compassionate and committed to making the world a better place.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running Lessons: To be or not to be ... present

A moment of quiet reflection in Peace Park

Many runners I know wouldn't dream of heading out the door without their ipods. They like the distraction and motivation of listening to high energy music while they run. Others tell me they use their running time to organize their day or solve complex problems. Still others say they "zone out" when they run. One acquaintance even told me he often got lost because he became so disconnected from reality that he no longer had any idea where he was or how to got there.

From the beginning, I've taken a different approach. I never listen to music. Instead, I listen to - well, whatever's around me - birds singing, waves pounding the shoreline, the wind in the trees, cars swooshing past, the soles of my shoes crunching on gravel beneath my feet, or the sound of my own breathing.  And, when I run, I don't solve problems or strategize about the future. I simply try to pay attention to the moment I'm in, to feel every sensation and to experience the wonder of being alive in such a beautiful world.

When I first started running, I sometimes dreaded going for a run - telling myself I just had "to get it over with."  Nine and a half years later, I try to begin every run grateful that I "get" to be out there, attentive to how my body's feeling on that particular day, and excited by another opportunity to explore my physical and psychological limits. 

It's why I like having my smart phone with me. Looking for images to capture helps me focus on the now, rather than zoning out or getting too caught up in my thoughts.  

Here's a link to a few of the pictures I've taken on my runs this fall.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on being present while you run. Or not.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First winter run

Winter was a long time coming this year but, when it arrived, it came with a vengeance.  The scene above awaited me as I stepped off the ferry last night.  By morning, things had improved considerably but roads and sidewalks remained treacherous. Fortunately, warmer temperatures cleaned up the worst of the mess by this afternoon so I looked forward to joining my friend Sue for a mellow 10km run home this evening.

As it turned out, it was a lovely first run of the winter season.  Temperatures dropped quickly as darkness fell but the skies were clear and there was little wind. We ran a long loop into the south end of the city before turning to head towards Dartmouth and across the old MacDonald Bridge - swapping stories, laughing and offering advice and support the whole way.

I'm very grateful to have Sue in my life. She's a wonderfully kind and gentle person, full of good humour, wisdom and common sense. Born and raised in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, she's worked incredibly hard her whole life and raised two great kids pretty much on her own. Best of all, she's at least as passionate about running as I am - passionate enough to run no matter how tired she feels or how bad the weather.

Over the years, we've completed some tough training runs together - through sleet and freezing rain, on ice-covered sidewalks, over waist-high snowbanks, and against miserable northeast winds that threatened to blow us off our feet. Fortunately, tonight's run wasn't one of those.

Tonight was crisp and starry-skied. The roads and sidewalks were mostly clear and dry. And the fresh snow shone brightly making the world feel new and everything seem possible.
Sue is headed for Las Vegas next week to run another marathon which she hopes to complete in a "personal best" time of just under 4:30. I feel sure she's up to the challenge. After training hard all year and completing several half marathons, she tackled the many hills on our route home tonight with ease and was still fresh and energetic as we said goodnight.

Thank you, Sue - for sharing the first run of this winter season with me, and for being such a terrific friend and running companion over the years.  And good luck in Vegas! I look forward to hearing all about it when you get back.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

One of those days...

Actually, more like "one of those weeks - when nothing mechanical seemed to want to work properly. On Monday, my microwave gave up the ghost without warning. Last night, it was a DVD player I got secondhand from a friend. Tonight, a fuse blew in the car which prevented the brakelights from working and I wasn't able to fix it in time to drive Husband to the airport. It was frustrating because it meant an expensive taxi fare and - more importantly - that we lost thirty precious minutes together. (Of course, I could have fixed the fuse IF I'd had a bit more time and IF I'd had a flashlight that worked - but it was dead too. sigh.)

I intended to blog tonight about my two runs this weekend (an 8k and 12.5k) - both of which were spectacular - and how much I enjoyed running along the river and through my favourite park.  But I find I don't feel much like it now so here are a few photos instead.

Looking back across the river towards home

On the way through Peace Park

Peace Park bridge
The view down river

A tempting spot to rest - though I didn't

The last of autumn leaves

Thursday, November 10, 2011


My dad was born just as World War II began and his dad served overseas for the first five or six years of his life.

He says his first memory of his father is of a man in a long black coat limping towards him up the road.  When he saw the man, he turned to him mom and asked "Who is that?" To which she replied, "Your father."

It breaks my heart to think of that little boy.

And it makes me grateful for all the sacrifices that were made - by those who stayed home and by those who went overseas.

And it's reason enough to make my way to the local cenotaph tomorrow - however bad the weather - to listen once again to "In Flanders Fields", pay tribute to those who gave so much, and pray that some day, somehow, we will put an end to war.

Monday, November 7, 2011

O'Hare International Airport - Chicago

I recently travelled through Chicago en route to San Francisco. The airport was large, busy and a little overwhelming but I had the good fortune of walking from one concourse to another via this pedestrian tunnel. I loved its futuristic design so grabbed a few quick shots as I rushed to catch my connecting flight.

The other wonderful thing was the music - soft, soothing, new agey - occasionally interrupted by a pleasant voice telling me to watch my step as I approached the end of a moving walkway.

It all seemed designed to make me forget - for a few minutes at least - that I was travelling through one of America's biggest, busiest airports.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I took this photo near the end of my long slow run today. It's a new condominium in downtown Halifax.  I loved the way the late afternoon sun shone through the red balconies.

Here's the image flipped the "right" way up.  I don't think I like it as well - though the building's a lot more recognizable.

Here's the same building straight on.

It was the red light spilling to off the balconies I tried to catch with this last pic.

I feel like I should be able to draw some analogy to life from this series but, after a busy weekend - including a 15km run this afternoon - I can't seem to manage it.  Can you?