Courtney's Countdown

Pittsburgh Marathon - Dick's - Animal Rescue LeagueCourtney's Countdown to Marathon Day

Something strange happens 2 days after your 40th birthday. You realize you are going to have to be proactive in your lifestyle choices if you want the next 40 years to be full of health and laughter. As someone who enjoys laughter a whole lot more than running, here is my story.

The Epilogue
Monday, April 7, 2012

Sunday morning I got dropped off at Market Square and then I was on my own to find "Corral E". I am not sure if Corral E was designated for people running for charity because there were many people in Corral E running for charity, or it was the corral for slow folks. The two may not be mutually exclusive. Anyway, I was happy to see a woman in a purple sequined skort, another in striped knee socks and pigtails, two girls pinky promising each other that they would not out-pace the other, and a fellow dressed head to toe in a Denver Broncos outfit. Truth be told, I was more concerned about that guy than actually happy. I just don't think it's safe to run 13.1 miles in a helmet. But I felt like I was with my people.

Well the gun was shot and off we went! It took about 15 minutes of very slow walking to get to the starting line, but then we were off! I felt good. I was very happy with my playlist. When I got to the turn that puts you onto the Strip, the guy with the Broncos outfit blew right by me. I gotta admit I was a bit bummed.

Somewhere shy of the bridge that takes you to the North Side, my run became a walk and then run. This didn't surprise me and that bridge has a decent incline. On the North Side, we passed the gospel chorus who were out last year too. I love them. I think I would have made better time if they followed me the whole way. I was very impressed and thankful for all the folks who came out. They were so enthusiastic. And I don't know about you, but people running hardly moves me to enthusiasm, but there they were in the 1,000s along the route. And while I am on the subject, when your first name is on your bib people will cheer for you by name. This took me a bit to get used to. I just thought a lot of people knew me for a while there.

At mile 6 I felt like I was going to cry. Don't know why. I just think I wanted to stop.

Then the West End Bridge. Before Sunday I had no particular feeling for it, but on Sunday I hated it. I hated it like it was a person! I was losing steam, walking more than running, and wanting to cry. And then a final indignity: a man, I'd say 70ish and his friend passed me, and the man was holding a travel coffee mug! I was passed by a 70 year old man drinking coffee. A man in a helmet is one thing, but My God I needed to pick up the pace.

Which I did, until 9.5 miles in when I began to feel faint. This was unacceptable. I come from proper East Coast Folks; making a scene, like fainting, was not an option. So I stopped. Hung out for a bit, then vomited behind a pillar. And off I went again.

By mile 11, I was just mad. Nobody mentioned to me that the band on a sports bra can become a weapon of torture and that armpits can chafe. Seriously, did you know that? Armpits can feel like they are on fire. By the time I got to the Boulevard of the Allies, people were starting to have problems. I was in pain, but I did not stop. Come hell or high water, I wasn't going to stop. I crossed the finish line walking, but I crossed it. And I did not faint.

The best part for me was seeing how excited and proud my friends and family were of me. It truly touched me. I doubt I will ever do it again so I will have to find some other endeavor to make them proud. I am open to suggestions!


T minus 48 hours and counting
May 3, 2012

Cute new running outfit.  Check

Ride to the race secured.  Check

Awesome upbeat new play list downloaded.  Check

All that’s left to say……

“This is it!”

(Thanks to Kenny Loggins)


The End….well almost
April 22, 2012

This is going to be one of my last entries before the marathon. Um, the marathon is in less than 2 weeks. I am not sure how that happened so quickly. You will all have to forgive my journey into the sentimental as I reflect on the last 6 months.

I feel like I have learned so much over the last 6 months. I now know how to do a flip turn in the pool. A big shout out to Steven in aquatics for that one! I learned that although I don’t really enjoy endurance activities, I actually don’t have a physical quirk that prevents me from doing them. I feel like I can accept support and encouragement like a civilized adult and not like a sullen teenager. I learned how to eat like an athlete….well an athlete that likes pizza and beer. I think Deborah would be okay with that….in moderation of course.

I also have had so many positive experiences and met a bunch of folks at the JCC who I think are really awesome. Beth H. is a great cooking resource. Beth B., something is wonderfully off with that one. She enjoys kicking your ass more than anyone I have ever met. Taking no responsibility for how sore your tush will be after, may I suggest taking her Kettlebell class. Craig always makes me laugh and Erica can Spin like nobody’s business. Karen, Patti, Marsha, and Laurie have been wonderful supports. I always knew I would be greeted by Karen as I came in for my Wednesday workout. It was very reassuring.

And where would I be without Jules? We have developed a friendship over the last 6 months that is unlike any other I have. Mostly, because none of my other friends make me run up and down stairs. Also because no other friend wanted me to succeed more than he did. These personal relationships are as valuable to me as the health benefits I got from the training.

So why am I doing this 13 miles two Sundays from now, when I’d prefer just to go to brunch. If you kept up with my blog you may know the answer. I am running for dogs like Edgar, who were abandoned and needed a caring place in order to find a permanent home. I am running to be as active as my grandfather at age 90. I am running for women of a certain age, like my mother, who did not know sports were an option for them. My mother always said Prom was her sport. I am running because tragedy can strike at any time and it is a gift to be able to run. I am running so I can continue to laugh and enjoy my life for a long time to come.


Being in a "Snit"
April 17, 2012

This is what my mother calls “Being in a snit.”

There is not a part of my body that does not hurt. Seriously, my left second toe, first joint; it hurts. Are you reading this barefoot? Look at how tiny that joint is. That joint can cause a world of pain. Left ankle, right knee, low back (only at times) and oddly my neck….all hurt. I don’t know how exactly this happens, but any run over 5 miles hurts my neck. What’s that about?

Runner high? Nope, haven’t felt it.

Eating to fuel my body? Well if pizza and beer fit into that category, sure. I mean sometimes I do okay. But I really thought I’d be turning into a person who says things like “Whew, I just worked out hard! I need a kale-protein smoothie, cause that’s what my body wants.”

I was listening to an interview with Dara Torres, a woman about my age. She was talking about being able to tune everything out and go into her “zone.” I apparently have the training attention of a puppy. I like to stop and pet dogs, talk to people and fuss with my Mp3. No zone. About my Mp3; I am sick of my play list. I need suggestions, people!

I am disappointed in myself. I had hoped by this point in my training I somehow would be a completely different person than who I was when I started out. I envisioned it like a John Hughs movie with a music montage. Hasn’t been like that……admittedly, that may have been a delusion on my part. Other life events have changed me over these months, but running? No. I am exactly the same person. I don’t know why I find this fact a bitter pill, but I do.

Whew, I feel better getting that out. I am not going to quit. I will keep on with this. Maybe on May 6th I will wake up an athlete, in the zone, drinking kale smoothies and rocking out to a great play list. More likely I will wake up my self, feel really nervous, not want to get out of bed, but will, and will run the ½ and begrudgingly feel proud of myself. (But swear if there are dogs on the sidelines during the run I will stop to pet them!)


Back on Track
April 2, 2012

Okay, I am officially off my couch and back on track.  Incidentally this is not before I mastered a very laborious Moussaka recipe and a fantastic Kung Pao Chicken dish. .  Also, as I mentioned, my running back-slid during March.   No joke, I went to see a psychic and she told me I needed to run more.  You know you have fallen off course when the spirits communicate to a psychic, “Get your ass in gear.”  

Jules had obligations last week that kept us from meeting up, so I promised I would get to the gym and do something daily.  I took a Group Power class, which I had not been to in a while. If you can’t budget personal training, I suggest that class.  Ouch, but a good ouch. I did pick up my running again however my Achilles started to ache (a bad ouch).  So to cross train I took some Spinning classes.  I love bike riding.  It’s my primary means of transportation in the real world.  If you haven’t taken a Spinning class, do so.  It may sound loud with lots of yelling when you’re outside the room but it really isn’t intimating when you’re in there.

But my reasons for this entry are not necessarily to give you an update of my comings and goings, but I would like to share another research finding with you that I find inspiring.  Have I mentioned that I am a total medical geek?

Our cells are in constant cycles of breaking down and creating cellular debris.  Most of this takes place in a part of our cells called the mitochondria.  The mitochondria makes energy for us to live. Without the process going on in those little guys, we could not exist. We have other parts of our cells that sweep all this mitochondrial debris away.  I like to imagine them in jumpsuits with big wide brooms.

All sorts of bad behavior, like smoking or eating high fat food or not being active, can increase the need to autophagy (this process).  And the process can become overwhelmed.  The relationship of the slowed process of autophagy to some disease processes, including accelerated aging, is being studied in many different fields.

Anything that causes physiological stress on the body can increase autophagy. But wait, exercise is a stressor on the body.  The really exciting and good news is that exercise has been found to make the mitochondria more efficient which in turn, makes the cells with jumpsuits and brooms more efficient in all cells. Long story short: What was found in mice was that exercise actually increased and made the process of autophagy more effective.

I suspect that’s why when you see folks who have been exercising at a high level their entire life, they look great.  I’m talking to you Jack LaLane (okay I know he died, but come on he looked great until the bitter end).  But this also gives support to moderate and mild activity.  Our mitochondria like to be used, so use them.


Life is precious, let’s get through together
March 20, 2012

My last few posts were mostly me tooting my own horn. I was finally turning this train around and getting strong.... eating well...becoming a runner....... nothing could stop me!

Then March 8th happened. You see, I work at Western Psych.

Sure, some people process stress and grief by getting out and being more active. Apparently, I do not. I retreat inward. And by inward I mean, to my couch and, oddly, to hamburgers. Seriously, I think I ate more hamburgers in the last week than I have in the last 5 years. Weird. Anyway my training rhythm took a serious hit.

I did not want to do any of it. I wanted to sit on my couch, hug friends, think about the fragility of life and cry. I did not want to run. I did not want to eat well and I did not want to push a sled back and forth.

For anyone going through tough times, let me gently and with love tell you, heartbreak will soften and you don't want to come out of it with a cholesterol of 300 and an ass imprint on your couch.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to my thoughts for this entry. Nobody is in this life alone. My goal of running the 1/2 marathon could not be possible without the support of friends who laugh with me, my family who thinks this goal is fantastic and cheer me on, my friends who said "enough is enough! Get back to your training," and Jules, who alternately plays good cop, bad cop. Let me say something about Jules; on the day of the shooting he texted to make sure I was okay and then recommended I do planks as I was locked in a bathroom for 3 hours. Never happened, but it was good comedy.

When we strive for any goal, we don't do it by ourselves. We don't reach physical or academic goals by ourselves. People cheer us on, co-workers pick up the slack, our families are excited for us. People love us, care for us and cheer us on. There is no doubt we are more successful for the people in our lives. And the people in your life are more successful for your presence.

Maybe, you see someone at the gym doing their thing. Maybe they lost some weight, maybe they started to run on the treadmill instead of walk. Absolutely no one doesn't like hearing "good job," "you look great,” "good to see you.” You can be a support to someone by just saying "good job.” It goes a long way. I think it would only add to the quality of our lives if we each made just one positive, affirming comment to someone. Cheer someone who is just doing their thing to make their life better.

Life is precious, let’s get through together.


Ability + Confidence = Choice
March 8, 2012

Some of you may have seen Jules making me do cruel and somewhat questionable exercises such as whipping a rope, pulling a punching bag, pushing a cart or just chasing a ball. Some of you are even generous enough to cheer me on with good humor. Let me say now, I appreciate that.

These exercises, though, blech. I used to hate them. Really. Hate. Near as I was able to tell the two skills I was developing were; how to save someone from a burning building and how to drive a chuckwagon. I have managed this far in life without having to do either so I was unable to see why I would need these skills now. But Jules, he made (and continues to make) me do them with assurance that I will appreciate it in due time. Due time has come!

I am strong, really strong. Probably the strongest I have ever been. I love it!! Anybody would enjoy feeling that they are physically strong, so I don’t want discount those folks but I would like to talk a bit about why being physically strong is an important goal for women. (I am writing this on International Women’s Day.)

I was raised, as many women about my age and younger have been, that it is important to be able to financially keep yourself safe if the need happens. Having no means to be able to support yourself leaves anybody, man or woman, in a precarious position.

But being physically strong--this was nothing that was even thought to be an option when I was growing up. I see young women pushing their bodies to a place I did not even think was possible when I was in high school, that would never have even crossed my mind.

What an internal sense of power I now have, knowing that I can move something in my home if I wanted. I don’t think I could win in a bar fight but I think I could protect myself pretty well if needed. I think if I had an injury or illness I could get myself to safety. I feel confident in my ability to physically care for myself and my home. This may not seem like a big deal, but think about it.

What does it mean about the choices you make in life if you feel unable to keep yourself safe? I have been having really inspiring conversations lately with some pretty strong ladies who are doing amazing things, because they can. Their bodies can take them to the top of mountains, to working the night shift at a café, to thinking “I really should renovate my kitchen.” Ability equals choices. If you are uncertain you can do something, chances are you are not going to try.

So ladies let me throw down a challenge. I have got this ½ marathon in 8 weeks. Pick one strength goal for yourself and go for it. You have 8 weeks.


What’s so hard about lunch?
February 28, 2012

Historically, these were my thoughts around feeding myself:

“Blerg, I am hungry. I will eat”
“Oooh is that a cheese casserole? I think I will eat that.”
“Offt, all that running makes me a bit nauseous. I won’t eat”…….8 hours later “Oh my God if I don’t eat I will die!!!!”

Running and working out are almost never taken into consideration when I am planning my next meal. This has resulted in near vomiting (if a workout comes within 1 hour of a meal) or near passing out (if I can’t remember when my last meal was). I am not a strong runner to begin with; I can’t afford vomiting or passing out. If you had asked me, I would have said that eating was a very important component of training. However, I was not paying the slightest bit of attention to it, much to the frustration of Jules. For what it’s worth, never tell Jules you once ate bacon, only bacon, lots of bacon, for breakfast. He doesn’t forget easily.

I finally asked for professional help.

Last Friday I met with Deborah, the Registered Dietician at the JCC, with a very simple request. “Please tell me how to eat so I can get the most out of my training.” I love a plan. I respond well to a plan. I get excited about a plan. And Deborah gave me a plan! I have a strategy for eating throughout the day. She told me how and when to eat before a run or workout. And she told me how to eat to recover from a long run. She didn’t tell me what I had to eat, which I appreciate. We worked with categories of food like protein, carbohydrates and fats so the decision in the moment is up to me. Heck, I like a plan, but I don’t like being boxed in.

It has only been two days but I am feeling pretty good. I ran on Sunday without any fear of distress and I am working on a recipe for the perfect post long run smoothie. My post long run recovery period will be a lot more productive by making and drinking a power smoothie than what it had been- lying on the living room floor.


So I am not getting any younger. Heck, neither are you.
February 22, 2012

I have recently found myself in a repeated conversation about 40 being the new 30. My position; it’s not. Sure, we have better face cream and we avoid the sun more so our skin looks nice longer, but aging is still going on. I know this kind of sounds depressing. It’s not intended to, it’s reality. There is research going on every day looking at the internal workings of aging and exercise on our bodies.

Case in point.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Physiology looks at how exercise fuels our brains. Our hungry, hungry brains gobble up lots of energy (i.e calories) just sitting there. It takes much more mental effort to move. Say, run in a marathon. It is believed that the action of moving is mental exercise for the brain. This is thought to be one mechanism in which exercise might keep the brain healthy.

Some folks in Japan wondered how much the energy demands changed during and after exercise. Long story short, our brains carbo load after exercise. Specifically in the front of our brain where our executive function takes place. Basically, executive function allows us not to have to relearn after we have learned something. You only have to learn once that the stove is hot. The train of thought being, more energy = more mental stamina = less mental decline. The excess carbohydrates sucked in by the brain go down after 24 hours. The hypothesis then being, you need to exercise a bit every day.

My motivation has changed over the years as to why I want to exercise. I believe that’s the case with most everyone. You get to a point in your life that you realize you want to really be healthy, healthy for the long term, healthy mentally and physically. Although I have every intention of being insufferable with my bragging after the marathon, and I have every intention of doing it with an adorable outfit, my motivation is to be like my 90-year-old grandfather. He never needed all this research, or fancy outfits to know that moving your body will get you to being an independent 90-year-old.


Bliss in 10 Easy Steps
February 17, 2012

As you may recall I made a promise to myself that if I accomplished my goals for two week I would treat myself to something. I am proud to say I am up to running 17 miles per week and I can now do a flip turn in the pool. The former a necessary accomplishment if I want to stay on track for the marathon; the latter just something I always wanted to do. I could go on and on about my hard core training schedule but I much prefer to talk about the treats. My last gift to myself was a spa day at the JCC. And this entry is going to be about how you to, with a little planning, can be all fancy pants spa person for under a 100 dollars. You know what, it hardly even requires planning. Consider this entry your permission to look yourself in the eye and say "I am fancy pants damnit and I deserve this day!"

  1. Schedule a massage for the early afternoon on whatever day you have decided will be your spa day. The folks at the front desk can do this lickety split. There are bunches of different types massages you can get. This is the hardest step in the whole process, once you do this it's easy sailing.
  2. Tell your boss that you need such and such day off
  3. The day before your spa day go to the grocery store and buy yummy, fresh, healthy, feel good food. And download some new agey mood music to whatever listening device you use.
  4. Review the group exercise schedule. Pick one or two morning classes that fit the tone of the day you want
  5. Pack a healthy fresh breakfast, a good magazine or book ( one that encourages you to be awesome), and maybe some herbal tea bags. Head to the JCC. If you are not a Centerfit Platinum user, pay the 10 dollar day fee. Classes and locker room are yours for the day. Access to the locker room is key for this. It has amenities.
  6. Do your thing.
  7. Bask in the glory of your super fit morning as you eat the breakfast you packed, use the tea they have available or drink your own. This is the time to also put your headphones on and bliss out to whatever music you chose.
  8. Use the sauna, steam room and whirl pool until you start to feel mushy. I like to add a cool shower between each of them- it makes me feel European ( I don't know why it just does)
  9. Return to the lounge with your book or magazine and have another cup of tea
  10. Get your massage

See super easy. Already right there and kinda cheap. Enjoy!


And Then There Was the Beat
February 6, 2012

The most frightening and exhilarating sentence for adults can be argued to be “I love you” “ We’d like to offer you the job” or even, “We are going to have a baby”. May I suggest another contender?

“I want to get you into the best shape of your life,” said by your trainer.

It’s a very exciting prospect and one I am looking forward to, but I know this will be hard and probably painful. Harder for me than him (I think) and I don’t naturally gravitate to painful activities.

So obviously “being in the best shape of my life” means, in part, to being able to run the ½ marathon.

Yes, I can at this point go on some more about my training, but I would like to discuss music. When you're working out at a more moderate intensity, scientists have learned that music can divert the mind from sensations of fatigue and lowers the perception of how hard you're working. I did not make that up. It came from The Sport Journal. There has been more than one research study that supports the positive role music can play in any activity. It also provides a mental boost to get you motivated to proceed with activity. Again, the scientists say so!

So as Jules plots my super human fitness plan, I’ve taken to making a perfect running playlist.

Here is my idea of a great run. I hope you like it:

  • Immigrant Song (Trent Reznor version)
  • You Oughta Know
  • So What
  • Hollarback Girls
  • Bullet with Butterfly Wings
  • Groove is in the Heart
  • Ray of Light
  • Right Hand Man
  • Sex-o-matic Venus Freak
  • Born To Run
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Moves Like Jagger
  • Shake Your Body
  • Hey Ladies

I would love to get other people’s thoughts on the best songs to run to. Email me your running play lists and I’ll post a new one in each of my blogs!


Best Laid Plans
January 12, 2012

So what were you doing last night at 3:11 am? Me? I was coming to the conclusion that one week into my official training plan, I am already off schedule. I have come to the realization that the sense of failure one feels is directly multiplied by the number of hours before you are supposed to wake. So for me, a person who wakes at 6 am normally, my sense of failure was literally tripled.

Here is my January schedule.

You may notice Wednesday of the first week I had scheduled a colonoscopy, which in my world knocks out two (and ultimately I came to find out three) training days. You see, I am not hard core; as Jules will tell you. I am not someone who can fast for a day and do anything other than complain. And after everything was said and done I realized after a short IV of Propofol I will insist on spending the rest of my day in bed with a stack of magazines. Missing that third day, well I have no excuse, other than I am as surprised as anyone with the ease I can talk myself out of running.

Did I also mention 2 weeks ago I fell on my knees? Hard! My right knee has not been okay since. So instead of running in preparation to begin training, I have been using the elliptical. It sounded to me like a good plan at the time, though now I just feel like a slacker.

So now I am now one week off; or as my thoughts went at 3:11 am. “Oh my God!! I am supposed to be doing this training and I already screwed it up!!! I am never going to be able to pull this off. I might as well stop doing anything, and leave town.”

From this experience, I have learned:

  • Never make any final decisions at 3:11 am. I have, in the clarity of day, come to some more logical conclusions:
  • I don’t love running and I just need to get over it because I can’t beat myself up for the next 5 months. I will be thrilled when I successfully accomplish my goal and that is what I need to focus on.
  • I can talk myself out of almost anything, so I better stop paying attention to my thoughts and just focus on my calendar.
  • I respond well to incentives so I have decided for every two weeks I do what I planned on, I will treat myself to something.

I have decided to start my month off with a treat. Swim lessons! Do you think Dara Torres follows her training schedule without complaining? :)


Edgar and Me: A Love Story
December 20, 2011

I adopted Edgar, a beagle/dachshund mix, 7 years ago this February. He and I became a family at a particularly sad time in my life and, I am willing to guess, a sad time in his. He had been at the shelter for 3 months, apparently not endearing himself to many. I saw his face on, fell in love, threw caution to the wind and adopted him. Pittsburgh Marathon - Dick's - Animal Rescue LeagueThey cautioned me that he could never be held and was an all-around sour puss. I kept to myself that I knew I was probably in over my head and had no idea how to be a dog owner, let alone how to be the owner of a "bad dog." All I knew is that he and I needed each other.

In less than a half hour, and a minimal donation, we were headed home. As soon as we got home, he started running around fueled by pure joy. This, I foolishly thought, would be easy….a lady and her dog, taking on the world as a team! But as many things involving love, it was not. He was poorly socialized, probably abused, and had an unfortunate habit of attacking anybody with work boots. I was in over my head.

I had no idea what to do. How was I going to make him civilized and keep me out of being evicted? I followed my instincts. I started by taking him for long walks to tire him out. He in turn started to respect my position in the family. This, combined with a freakish amount of snuggling and making up gentle, reassuring, loving songs all the while giving doggie massages, has resulted in me having a best friend for the past 7 years.

I fully recognize that I sound a bit crazy with my dog training technique and I do not want to imply that it will have reproducible results but I am pretty sure Edgar would take a bullet for me. And I know my life would have turned out drastically poorer if I was not needed by him. We have explored Frick Park together, gone on road trips, taken many lazy naps in the sun, he has dutifully assisted in all of my cooking adventures, and he is all around good company.

If I spend any time thinking about how he was discarded and thought to be a hostile dog, unworthy of unconditional love, my heart breaks. All animals, including humans, have the potential to become good loving friends.

As part of the JCC's collaboration with Animal Rescue League, I am taking donations for the 1/2 marathon. Please consider donating as you keep up with my 6 months of training. If you follow this link you can easily donate here. If donations are not in your budget, please consider volunteering for Animal Rescue League. In order to make the shelter work they rely heavily on volunteers.

You may not be aware that the ARL has been around since 1909, takes in all animals, not just those deemed adoptable, and has wildlife reserve in Verona that rehabilitates wild animals to return to their natural environment. Most of their year’s three million dollar budget comes from donation.


Of Friendship, The Pittsburgh Marathon and Jules
December 9, 2011

Last year I went for my semi regular visit to my cardiologist. Before I go any further I'd like to talk about that for a minute. I have a strong family history of heart disease so convincing myself I am a mature, responsible adult I decide I should go with preventative measures; as to avoid a situation in which I am told I need to have a catheterization. Seriously, it's ghastly look it up.

Convincing myself that I am a mature adult has also resulted in me getting a retirement account which is a whole other story of concern.

Off I go as my mature adult self wondering what happened to the girl who drank most drinks out of a red plastic cup and was happy to feel smug by listening to Radio Free Europe in my dorm room while passing around a jar of Nutella (which only added to my worldliness). Anyway, so there I am being very unsmug or worldly in my paper gown when I am instructed to get more regular cardiovascular exercise.

My train of thought went something like this. How dare you! Okay I can see where you're coming from. I may have slacked for the last few years, sure but I had other things going on. It's not that I am lazy I just really like Law and Order. Uh, I can do this, no problem. Oh yes this is a problem! What am I going to do?? Oh I am going to die from a heart attack next week!!

Enter my friends.

4 close girls friends of mine, all with their own health concerns: cancer, depression, menopause symptoms, post partum blahs and I use my increasing panic as a motivator. Without thinking much about the repercussions we sign ourselves up for the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. After we paid our 200.00 some odd dollars we looked around, stared at each other (seriously you could hear crickets), until someone said " Okay now what". A training schedule got printed out and I, in what I thought was a moment of genius, bought us all hula hoops to work on our core strength. Have you seen the " Hula Girl video"? Come on, she seems very toned. She also is in a pond wearing a Eskimo themed bikini, but whatever, I thought it would be a fun way to build core strength. Have you ever seen a 41 year old woman hula hoop? Best just to say it was ungraceful.

It was at this point Jules entered by life. He was suggested by Marsha to be my personal trainer. Marsha may have a second career as a psychic or match maker, because Jules turned out to be a perfect fit for me. When I recall the time spent training with Jules for the marathon it is usually in a "Eye of the Tiger" music montage. Suffice to say he had me do things I was sure I could never have done. In your face fear and doubt! I am doing push ups, pull ups and plyometrics. Swiss killers, Russian Twists, it didn't matter I was ready to take on the whole United Nations of exercise! My running mileage increased with no injury. I was a runner. A runner!! I had never been a runner and there I was, 41, running in no pain.

2 months passed and it was the day of the race. I had the first leg of the relay. Before I continue I should mention I hate crowds. So there I was with like 20,000 other folks, feeling anxious, very unsure of myself, fighting the urge just to turn around and go home. My friends love me, they would have forgiven me, but the thought of disappointing Jules, who seemed to really believe I could do this, was more shame than I could bear.

My memories are as follows; stranger next to me wishes me good look and tells me I can do this. She doesn't know me, this is a horrible mistake I am not a runner, Bang! the starting gun went off. And so did I. The crowds on the route were cheering! Cheering for me?! Okay I'm doing this. Oooft this is getting hard , but I am doing this. I am doing this! Oh how nice a gospel choir...I would love to stay and listen, but I am running here. What's that, the finish line for me? There's my friend, she looks happy. I must not look like I am dying, I FINISHED. The stranger who told me I could do it sees me and gives me a hug. I was hugged by a stranger and cried. I am a runner.

I returned to the cardiologist. My HDL's which are the good kind are now well above 60. They increase themselves in response to aerobic activity of high intensity. Genetics may have to defer to my running shoes.

I have signed up for the 1/2 marathon in May of 2012, gulp.