Week 4 Training Update

Exactly one month ago I started my suicide and mental health awareness campaign as I train for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Today I passed $7,000!!! Wow! Incredible. Powerful. Touching. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support in your messages, donations, and helping share this message, as we ALL save lives.

Speaking of all the help I’ve been getting. My parents were just in town and this was my dad’s idea of how he could help me train harder.
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And here’s how I improved on his idea…
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Week 4 is done! Only 14 weeks of training to go! My back started hurting the week before Christmas (in a way that it never has before). I took it easy a few days, but I wasn’t sure if running was helping or hurting it, so…I went for an 8-mile run. Not a good idea. After that I couldn’t reach to touch my toes for days (with my legs bent even!). Nothing was helping so I decided to really rest. Tough decision when I’m supposed to be running 6 days a week. Tough decision for anyone who knows how rarely I sit still. Here were my sad stats for that week (one very slow run in seven days – yikes):

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I learned last year that the mental aspects of training for a marathon can be even more challenging than the physical demands on your body. Cutting an 18-week training plan to 17-weeks, plus not knowing when/if my back will heal, was driving me crazy. Doubts creep in. How long do I rest? Do I push it? What if I can’t do any long runs? Will I be ready for Boston? And it goes on and on. But I trust the journey. I listen to my body. While I was stretching/rolling more I started meditating each day to calm my mind. I eased back into training and slowed down my runs. I decided to only run 5 days a week going forward (back to Hal Higdon Novice 2 again). Doubts, struggles, stories we tell ourselves…they all can start downward spirals like I mentioned in my holiday letter this year. Here’s an excerpt from what I mailed out, listing some things I learned this year:

If you learn just one thing while reading this letter then I have succeeded. Neuroscience continues to advance, and many great books show that small daily changes can rewire your brain (e.g., The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, PhD and Uncovering Happiness, by Elisha Goldstein). The simplest thing you can do is listen. Listening shows that you care, and can give someone a greater sense of connection and control (especially to someone who doesn’t see other options). Small steps to create positive upward spirals include: mindfulness (practicing “nonjudgmental awareness”; making any decision reduces anxiety); exercise; sleep; long hugs (give someone a lingering hug right now!); breathing (breathe in through your nose while counting to six,  and let it out just as slowly); support networks (downward spirals are more likely when you’re alone; even movies together are a step for someone who doesn’t seem ready to talk); and gratitude (e.g., think of one thing you’re looking forward to each day when you wake up – even if that is just breakfast!).

What else have I learned? Strong support networks from family and friends are critical to get through tough times. Stigma around suicide and mental illness exists everywhere, causing people not to get help, and to feel isolated, judged, and alone. Suicide happens to “normal” families. People who commit suicide don’t want to die, but they don’t see any other way out of their current feeling of hopelessness. Mental illness is a disease like many other diseases. Depression creates physical changes in the brain, but people can get better. We’ll never get the answers we want, and we can’t fix the past, so we must move forward and honor our loved ones by living for today and helping others along the way. If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or exhibiting suicidal tendencies, get appropriate help right away. The Samaritans’ website is a great source for information.

Believe it. Share it.

My oldest daughter, Colleen, joined me on my first day back to running. We had a great 4-mile run, slipping and sliding a bit as we dodged patches of ice under the fresh snow on a beautiful winter day.
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Cool how many different tracks can be found after a new dusting of snow. Not long after this I saw four deer while on my run. I continue to add to my collection of pictures of blurry brown deer-like blobs.
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Thankfully this has still been a relatively mild Minnesota winter so far. Not a lot of snow and not any really cold temps. My new gear is making a huge difference!
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I’m so thankful for the support from those closest to me. It was great to see my parents for several days before they headed back to New Hampshire. We have all been through so much in the past four years, and we get through it all, good & bad, together. The Boston Marathon is a powerful journey for all of this year and helps us feel like we can channel energy and emotion into a great organization that touches so many lives.
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And finally, pictures from my long run in Week 4. It was supposed to be 11 miles, but I realized at mile 10 that I was missing my hood (crazy that I overdressed on a 20F day and ended up having to remove gloves and the hood). I ended up jogging back to find it and then taking a shortcut home, for 12 miles total. Funny how things work out, the last two miles after I lost my hood were the best part of my run. I ran through a wooded area around a lake, got to run through some unplowed paths, and ended up talking to a fellow runner. Plus I got the satisfaction of finding what I lost! :)
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Peace and happiness in the year ahead. Here’s to a great 2016. Happy New Year, and thanks again for all of the support!

If you missed it…I was one of three runners featured in the Samaritan’s December newsletter (scroll down in this article).

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