Don't wait for it.

There are pictures of me, my brother, and my two cousins, as high school kids, where you can easily tell which of these things is not like the other. We were pretty close to each other growing up, and I burned with shame when we were all together with our parents in the room and the talk turned to sports. Specifically, their achievements, which were honestly impressive as hell. Whatever gene was involved in producing all this athletic talent must have missed me. I played on teams that didn’t cut anyone, and only because it was not optional. Every sports practice I attended in high school filled me with anxiety, so strong was my sense that I did not belong there. No one in my family was ever anything but kind to me about my figurative participation trophies, but I always assumed they thought less of me, or worse, pitied me. Was I wrong to hope that running a marathon might impress them?

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To me, you are the CITGO sign

It’s easy to miss the things that only get big when you’re right up close to them. If you need a reminder of how big and bright you really are, then listen to today’s episode of today’s Morning Mantra podcast by Coach MK, featuring me, you and the CITGO sign. You do a lot of things that no one else notices (call it an educated guess). You don’t want to make a big deal out of all the things you do or make them hugely visible from far away, because you don’t want to come across as self-congratulatory, self-indulgent, or any of those other terms that begin with “self-“ that we use in judgment of others. But sometimes you think to yourself, does anyone see this work I do? Will anyone care? Does it still matter if I am the only one who really knows what went into it?

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I just want to.

This is running at its best, for me. It is the thing that I don’t really even need to think about that hard because I just want to do it, so I do. At a time in my life when I feel somewhat less than free to prioritize myself over the needs of my family, particularly my three-year-old who still needs the kind of constant parenting that takes over one’s life, I spend most of my parenting chits on running because it is what I want to do. A long run with my coach tomorrow morning at 5 AM is my spa day.

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5 days till Saturday

The key to the success of the Saturday morning snuggle, of course, is the quality of a given week’s library stack, and the key to a good library stack is a good, leisurely library visit, preferably one which allows plenty of time to choose some non-tiresome books to go along with the inevitable Pete The Cat and Disney garbage that we can’t go home without. I am not saying that all the Disney princesses are necessarily garbage - that’s a whole other not-uncomplicated conversation - but the books that feature them are basically pretty-princess-picture-delivery devices rather than actual works of prose where anyone gave any thought to readability or efficiency of language. If I’m going to read Princess Elena and the Secret of Avalor (which frankly needs to drop at least 500 words) over and over again, I better have some goddamn Mo Willems to chase it with.

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A goal without a goal

When nothing has to mean anything, it feels like there are no limits. Would it be fun to run to the top of Arlington Heights? Would it be unbearable? Would I have to walk? How steep would it be, really? I used to look up at Gray Street from Pleasant Street, if I were ever running in that direction, and think to myself, “Nope.” From the bottom, Gray Street looks like a straight shot to the sky. You can’t see the top; you can barely see the top of the first huge rise (and there are three, of which the first is the smallest). Even in times of peak fitness, hills that steep used to scare me. On the many occasions that I’ve gone running in my parents’ neighborhood, in nearby Belmont, I’ve avoided Arlington Heights like it was Mordor. Heart rate cap or no heart rate cap, I have never been fit enough to approach those hills with anything resembling calm. It wasn’t that I was calm about them this time, either; they are objectively scary, and I knew there was no way they wouldn’t be challenging to climb. The feeling-in-chief, though, was one of curiosity. How was this going to go?

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You nailed it. I said so.

My run coach asked me to guest-host today’s episode of her podcast, the Morning Mantra. This is her conduit to her athletes and to everyone who relies on her in some way for support, courage, love, and affirmation. She records it every day, which is nothing short of amazing. Recording yourself is really hard and triggering and cringe-inducing, and even on a technical level it takes some skill (note that you can hear the difference between my sound quality and hers when they’re spliced side by side), but she makes it seem easy. And though she is a really good run coach, and though most of her audience is composed of athletes, her podcast isn’t about running. As she likes to say, even the running we do isn’t really about the running. It’s about a need for something that’s usually much, much deeper.

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Letting my lizard brain drive the bus

The thing about racing a 5K is that it’s terrifying for a control freak like me. If I feel like I’m in control, I’m probably being too conservative. If I feel comfortable at any point, I’m probably not going fast enough. When I got to the start line on Super Sunday to race the 5K instead of the much more approachable 5-miler, I was about to test whether I really had what it took to let go and not grab on again.

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The Caganer: may help, um, clear some things out

My coach named this month’s key workout “The Caganer,” which my autocorrect already hates no matter how many times I assure it that yes, this is what I meant. A Caganer, according to Wikipedia, is “a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighboring areas with Catalan culture.” That’s right: the workout is named after shitting your pants at Christmas.

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