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Once upon a time there was a runner.

She ran week after week.
Month after month.
Spring, summer, fall and winter.

The winter months were the hardest of all.
Winds.
Rains.
Sleet.
Snowfall
And darkness.

She went months without sunshine.
Without those warm rays.
Her skin became whiter.
More isolated each day.

But she ran and ran.
And counted down.
For the sun to return again.

March arrived and spring peeked around the bend.
A few days of sun.
Temperatures rising.
Exciting times for this runner!
A preview of what was soon to come.

A weekend away in Florida.

She flew to her family in West Palm Beach.
Arrived to a blanket of warmth.
She missed week after week.

Day one of the trip had her giddy to run.
Shorts, a tank top and a morning of sun!

The run was her fastest in weeks.
She was elated.
More joyful yet was the afternoon to come.

Off to a spring training game, her first.
Seats in the bleachers? The perfect spot for some.
Close to her team. Bathing in the rays.
Good thing she'd put on her sunblock.
To protect her delicate skin, from face to legs.

But a spot would be missed.
An important spot she'd learn.
A lesson she'd get from an unwanted burn.

One hour, two hour, three hour, four.
The time ticked by.
Sitting in the bleachers.
Wrapped in warmth.
Leaning back to face those rays.

Inning 9, a message would be received.
Her shoulder spoke.
And made its first plea.

"Eh hem," it said in it's shoulderly way.
"I'm over here and beginning to smolder."
"Do you not care about your delicate shoulder?"

Oh no.

The part soaking up the most sun.
Hours earlier winter white as a sheet.
Now red as a beet.
And the weekend was young.

Her ponytail loosened.
She attempted to cover.
The part her family would say looks asunder.

They noticed, oh yes, and cringed they did.
She brushed it off.
A simple oversight.
But regret it later she would.

Lotion with aloe!
At least that was at home.
When she returned she lathered.
Lathered again.
And hoped for the best.
Maybe it would tan?

The next morning arrived.
The burn gave no rest.

With a 17 mile run scheduled.
Only tank tops to wear.
She took her chances
Back out in the sun.
Shoulders totally bare.

But the problem would not be the sun this day.
The problem would be the shoulder straps she must wear.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Every swing of the arms.
Ouch.

But nothing could be done.

17 miles later.
The burn even rarer.
Lotion it up. Lotion it up.
Wait and hope.
How long will she pay for this error?

The next day arrives.
No relief in sight.

The redness now radiant.
The skin painful to touch.
Sleeves barely tolerable.
Jackets proved too much.

But at least it was raining.

She headed back to Boston, the land of less sun.
Another day or two.
And the burn would be gone.

But, oh, not the case.

The peeling began.
Layers of skin? See you later.
The red no fainter.
Still painful to touch.
Her shoulder still raw.
Unable to heal.
No thanks to the sports bra.

Skip a run? Impossible.
Just weeks till her marathon.

Delicate skin will be gone.
With every step taken.
But the healing must happen.
So it doesn't look like bacon!

Still she runs and runs and risks her poor shoulder.
Parts are redder than ever.
But at least some spots have healed over.

Tomorrow's a rest day.
A day to lotion up.
She hopes hope this burn eases.
So she doesn't have to be tough.

How this tale ends?
She must wait and see.
But a lesson exists here for you and for me.

Runners awaiting those delightfully warm rays.
Before you head out for your first spring weather days.
Remember to SPF from your head to your toes.
Or you'll feel the burn that only forgotten shoulders know.

 
 
Do you ever spot a race promotion and immediately want to sign up? At first you may not think about anything else on your plate, or if you're even free that day, but you'll want to Run That Race.

I love races. They keep my training in check and ultimately make me a faster runner. They also provide a welcome change of scenery. (Running along the Charles can get boring to those who do it often.) Every so often, though, I regret signing up for a race. This happens when I register for an event that:

a) Does not fit into my regular routine
b) Doesn't coincide at all with my training
c) Falls on a day when I'd rather be resting

For instance, I walked into my apartment building one day after a 6+ mile run and spotted a mailer for the Boston Marine Corps Honor Run 5K on May 8. Immediate reaction: Sign up! Thoughts to follow on my train ride into work: That's 6 days after my marathon. It's also during a month when I've already signed up for the Run to Home Base 9K on May 23 and the Hyannis Half Marathon on May 30.

I think I have one too many races already planned for May. Must skip Honor Run, but I'm tempted!

Another example: I recently ran the Ras na hEireann 5K on a day when I knew I'd have to run 20 miles for my marathon training. Why would I run a 5K on the day of a scheduled 20 miler? I  decided to compromise by running the 5K followed by a 17 mile run. Not a bad plan, right? Well, I did terrible at both and beat myself up over the decision for days after. I  won't do that again, though I wouldn't be surprised if I did it anyway. If a race sounds fun to me it's hard to resist.

Anything like this ever happen to you or am I the only one who gets sucked up in the excitement of race registration? My nonrunning friends will probably think I'm nuts for even asking that. :)
 
 
I just returned from a short trip to Florida, where my husband and I spent some down time with family. We enjoyed a spring training game, a couple of meals out, swimming for me, golfing for my husband and a movie - all within two days - plus I ran 26+ miles in that time. Not sure that qualifies as down time, but it felt like vacation and I came to realize just how much I needed it.

I've been a runner for many years. However, I hadn't attempted to run 40-50 miles per week until this winter. Now I think of a 30 mile week as light - a week when I failed to meet my minimum mileage for one reason or another.

And there are lots of reasons.

Working, of course, 9-10+ hours each day.
Keeping up with my friends and their new babies!
Recently helping my family overcome some challenging times.
Keeping the house clean.
Getting groceries and making dinners.
Doing the laundry (a never ending task for any active person).
Going to the usual doctor appointments.
Mixing in things like writing blogs and raising money for Home Base Program.

Not much on that list is unique to me, but it makes me a particularly tired girl when you add in the fact that I'm a newlywed who wants more *awake* time with my husband and I'm running 40-50 miles/week, most of which I have to fit in on the weekends or before work on the weekdays.

I'll be the first to tell you that I'm happy and lucky to have such a full life. When one of my goals, however, is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I wonder if I'm  focused enough on my running to do it. This weekend helped me realize that I may just be ready after all.

I went into the short vacation disappointed in my training because I either cut out or cut short a few runs. I was tying up loose ends around the house rather than out on the pavement. The break it turns out did a body good.

On Saturday I ran 9 miles at 7:39 pace. That's just slightly lower than my 10K pace and I felt like I could have kept it up for miles more. It felt effortless.

On Sunday I ran 17 miles at 8:21 pace. That's faster than my goal marathon pace and it actually felt easy! I intentionally kept the pace in the 8:30s to start, expecting to be laboring by the end, but I sped up instead. I finished it feeling tired, but completely confident in my running abilities.

These runs could not have come at a better time. Not only am I just 40 days away from my marathon, at a point in time when I need all the confidence I can get to achieve a Boston qualifying time, but they proved to me that all my hard work this winter has paid off. Even though I missed a few miles of running last week, my body knew what it needed to do, and it even surprised me.

I know I have done what I need to do to achieve Boston qualifying time on May 2. I'm thankful that this weekend's mini break from the usual routine helped me realize that. My training is by no means finished, but I'm ready and so excited! Now to start a new week of work tomorrow... right after I wake up bright and early to hit the pavement.
 
 
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Climbing the Great Wall of China!
I am not one to turn down an amazing new experience. Run Big Sur, one of the hardest marathons in the world, as my first. Take a solo road trip of northeast ballparks - just cause. Head to Tibet and China for our honeymoon, during a time when we could have been quarantined at any moment for being near someone with swine flu. The list goes on but you get the picture.

I love an adventure. So when I saw the Run to Home Base 9K, I realized immediately that I had stumbled upon my next

The 9K is not a difficult distance for me. It's actually about the length of one of my recovery runs. The adventure comes with the bigger picture. In order to run this race, I will raise money for the Home Base Program, a new partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital to aid veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. As the granddaughter of a WWII vet, who still tells his old war stories, it couldn't make me more proud to run for such a cause.

I've always said I would not involve myself in running to fundraise (or run-raising!) - at least not now. It's not that I haven't wanted to help, but I feared losing sight of my own personal running goals in the process. I am committed to attaining a 3:40 marathon time in just 45 short days at the Providence Marathon. Nothing will diminish that drive at this point. It's what got me out the door this past Saturday and Sunday, running a combined 29 miles in some of the worst weather I've seen in a year! And, honestly, if I don't meet the goal on May 2, I'll be out there all hitting the pavement until I do - then I'll just keep on running from there.

I want to support this cause now because it does touch my heart. It does make me feel grateful to have a healthy and happy family. It does remind me of how much our military men and women do to help us - and of how much they often lose in the process. That extra motivation will be welcome company on my 26.2M and 9K runs, which is why I'm dedicating both efforts to this cause.

If you'd like to help me 'reach home base,' I would love your support! I have listed some suggested donations on my fundraising page but any and all donations are welcome - even a buck.

To anyone who makes a donation, I'll also enter you into a drawing to receive a pair of tickets to watch the end of the Run to Home Base 9K, which finishes - where else - but on home plate at Fenway Park on May 23. The concession stands will be open, so you can get your dog and a beer!

I have to admit, that is a really cool finish line. It's the icing on the cake if (when) I reach my fundraising goal.

Thanks for reading and happy running!