Sunday, September 13, 2015

The "Twofer" - It CAN be done!

Who says you can’t do two races in one day? Not this girl, because I actually DID do two races in one day! That’s right, made it through #19 and #20 yesterday, and it was AMAZING!

How did this come to be? Well, it just so happened that two very important purposes were represented in two different races on the same day. Luckily, those two different races were at two very different times of day, making it logistically possible for me (crazy as I am) to do both. The races were also in two very different locations (Richmond and DC). I am so fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive family who did what they needed to do this weekend to help me manage the logistics of this “twofer” day!

The first race was the Speak Up 5K in support of the CKG Memorial Foundation. ( Their mission: To fulfill Cameron’s dream and legacy by being a positive force that works to cultivate awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety. Cameron Gallagher was a young woman who lost her life much too soon when she died from an unknown heart condition during a half marathon. She also struggled with teenage depression and anxiety. Given that this race was in support of depression awareness, I felt it was critical that I participate.

It was pouring rain on my way to the race. I was tempted to not even leave my hotel room given how dreary it was. My number one cheerleader husband, however, encouraged me to still go, to at least show up. They might cancel the race, but at least I will have made the effort. Well, sure enough, I show up to Byrd Park in Richmond, the clouds parted, and the sun shown through – it’s funny how those things happen, isn’t it? There was a great crowd, lots of positive energy flowing, and the rain had helped to cool things off a bit.

I attended this race alone. I didn’t know anyone there. There was no one there to cheer me on. There was no external motivation to push me forward. Sure, there were wonderful volunteers and a great crowd in attendance, but no one there just for me. At first, I was a little bummed I was by myself. But then, as I started the race, I realized, it was kind of fitting that I was alone for this race. Why? When the race started to get tough, it was up to me to dig deep and find the motivation to keep going, just like it’s up to me to dig deep every day and not let my depression get me down. Granted, in my everyday life, I do have so many amazing cheerleaders and supporters there by my side, but even then, it’s always still up to me. Ultimately, it’s MY choice to say I matter, to say today is important, to say “I got this”. So I found my experience at the Speak Up 5K tremendously symbolic and inspiring – I got this, I really do.

After a shower and quick respite at the hotel, it was time to head north on 95 to the Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K Run. None of us will ever forgot Sept. 11, 2001, and so many of us were closely affected. My father was in the Pentagon that day, and the terrible darkness and fear that entered my mind when the Pentagon was hit still haunts me sometimes. By the grace of God, through all the crazy phone issues that day, Dad was able to get through to my mom at the same time I was on the phone with her, so we found out together that he was OK. We’ve all been changed by that dreadful day, but one thing’s for sure – for every bit of evil out there, there is still plenty of good, plenty of beauty, plenty of love, and that is worth fighting for, every day.

So, needless to say, the purpose behind this race was also very significant and meaningful. You can see why I had to do both races, right?? And did I mention this race course went around the Pentagon??? And, there were bag pipes??? And a marching band??? And giant American flags everywhere??? And tons of free beer afterward??  I could barely contain my warm and tingly “proud to be an American” feelings!! It really was an awesome race, a great way to celebrate and honor those we lost that day, those who helped people survive, those who continue to fight to keep our communities and our country safe. And, it felt great to run again, even after doing another race that morning! Surprisingly, no pain, good energy, perfect mentality.

So here I am, having crossed into the 20s now. Pretty unbelievable. I can’t say thank you enough to all those who continue to help make this project possible. From logistics to costs to time to mental support, there are so many in my life who continue to lift me up, who genuinely want to see me succeed, and that, by far, is the greatest inspiration of all. I see you, and I thank you for allowing me to see me…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Halfway Point - Girls Definitely Run The World

So, did I mention I'm a terrible blogger? Here I had high hopes of posting after each race, sharing insightful lessons learned in relation to my personal growth along this journey, partly to help me track my experience, but more importantly, to help others who might also need the support through a similar battle. Yet, here I am, over TEN RACES since my last post, with nothing to show over the last few months - my apologies for being a terrible blogger - just not one of my strengths...That said, this whole thing is about taking care of me, so I guess I should stop beating myself up, right?

Let's catch up...

I believe the last time I posted was around Race #5. Since then, I've kept busy over the summer, getting all the way to Race #18 just this past weekend. I'd like to catch you up on all the fun the last 13 races have been, and I hope to do so in an upcoming post (don't hold your breath, based on my historical record). But what I'd like to focus on tonight is my most recent race experience, #18.

Race #18 was the Charlottesville Women's Four-Miler on Saturday, Sept. 5. If you don't know, this race is an all-female race in support of breast cancer research. I used to work with the people who coordinate the race when I was with the UVA Health System Development Office, so I thought it would be a good race to add to the list. Little did I know the tremendous impact this race would have on me and my journey.

Given the "all female" bit, I decided to throw out an invitation to some of the female runners in my life to see if anyone would be interested in joining me. SEVEN ladies signed up!!  I thought I might get one or two, but SEVEN - how awesome is that! And, it was a steep registration fee, not to mention traveling to Charlottesville (some people have that whole "I don't go over the mountain" thing), so to get seven amazing women to join me, I was deeply touched. Plus, the women who signed up with me came from all different parts of my little Harrisonburg world, so it was a perfectly diverse group of women supporting me, and doing something good for themselves as well.

I was so excited and grateful to have this group, so I made shirts. Why not, right? My dear sister helped me come up with the best and most appropriate slogan ever - "Girls Run the World"! (You see what she did there? A little Beyonce reference/pun? Get it??) And while I tend to stay quiet when it comes to feminism or female power, I will say, this experience might be cause for me to get a little louder on the subject. Why? Turns out, when a group of women come together to do something for good, it's quite powerful, super human, in fact. I kind of already knew this from other experiences I've had, but this race was the perfect reminder to help me focus on all my sisters out there, and that, when women come together, there's NOTHING we can't handle!

This world is a pretty crappy place, and it's hard, especially when battling depression, to not let the darkness consume you. The race was all about breast cancer, for crying out loud - talk about one of the crappiest diseases EVER, that has taken too many good people from this world. That said, the light that I felt shining on race day, surrounded by seven truly inspiring women, was just what I needed to remember that the world isn't all that crappy all the time, and when it is, I'm never alone.

I think God provides us with opportunities to find strength in each other. It's up to us, though, to allow others in, to let that support shine through. So often in my darkest days, I would push people away. I even stopped going to church after my husband shared our struggles with a few people there. Whether it was embarrassment, cynicism, social anxiety, or just plain exhaustion, I was constantly pushing people away - still do sometimes.

But I'm learning, little by little - the more good people I surround myself with, the better life gets. And the seven women that joined me on Race #18, well, they're some of the best of the best. If I'm half the woman that these seven are, I'm doing alright. Girls rule, that's just all there is to it.

So here I am, over the halfway point. I might actually finish this thing - WHAT?!?! Whether or not I blog about it, well, we'll see...I'll try again before my next 13, deal?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Disappointment is part of the battle...

I experienced my first moment of disappointment related to my running project. I had hopes of adding one of the Disney 5Ks to my list, and the one I wanted to run is in January. I signed up for the email reminders, put an alert on my calendar, tried to do everything I could think of to make sure the day registration opened I would be ready! Alas, the day registration opened also happened to be a day of back-to-back meetings, random happenings, and the other usual unexpected occurrences of everyday life, and I MISSED REGISTRATION – all full!  I immediately sent an email to the Disney customer service people, explaining my story, sharing my blog, in the hopes they would put me on a waiting list or slide me in or something. The answer came back – no. So I had a moment, a big “don’t talk to me for a minute” kind of moment, and for that moment, I had a fleeting thought of “hmm…is this project really going to work? I don’t know if I can handle disappointment…”

Then, something amazing happened – I got through the moment, and it was just a moment. Suddenly this setback seemed like no big deal, just a little bump in the road. I was able to see past it and realize that it will be OK, there are other races.

Now, for some of you reading this, you might be thinking, “well, it’s NOT a big deal, so what’s the big deal about this not being a big deal?” Here’s the thing – at least for me, with my experiences with depression thus far, disappointment can be a HUGE problem. Even the tiniest of hiccups can turn my world upside down; send me spiraling into the black again. One thing will go wrong, and all of a sudden I’m cataloging all the other unrelated things that might be even remotely out of whack, and the big, black cloud starts to roll in and I can’t come up for air. So for me to be disappointed over this Disney race and then move on – big breakthrough for me. Shows me that I AM getting stronger, I AM gaining some control. It’s a good feeling.

There’s another piece to the disappointment puzzle that has haunted me through this journey – that somehow, I may have disappointed those closest to me, that by me struggling to fight my depression and not always winning, that I am letting my loved ones down.

My siblings and I always joke about how we don’t know how our parents did it, but somehow, they instilled this fear of disappointing them in us, and it’s that fear that has always driven us to make the right choice, stay out of trouble. It’s the worst feeling in the world to think I’ve disappointed my parents – I can remember a few times growing up where I know I disappointed them, and man, it sucked!

When I initially started sinking into the darkness of depression, I felt like somehow, by me having depression, and then especially when I had to start taking medication, that I would be disappointing my parents. I’ve grown strong enough now to realize this is so not true, and this battle is NOT the kind of thing that would disappoint my parents. In fact, they’ve been everything BUT disappointed… my parents have always been a tremendous support system, and I know it’s been hard for them to know I’m dealing with depression. Sometimes I worry that they think it is somehow their fault that I’m sick, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. That’s the thing with depression, even with all the support and positive influence in the world, it can still show its ugly face.

But it’s that support and positive influence that can also help wipe that ugly face away. I’m VERY lucky to have Mom and Dad. I know many others who fight this same battle WITHOUT this support – I pray every day that God lifts these people up, gives them strength to battle on, helps the light shine through.

Speaking of letting the light shine through, I’ve checked off two more races since my last post, and I’d like to share a quick recap:

Race #5 – May 2, 2015
Fluvanna SPCA 5K
Lake Monticello Golf Course, Palmyra, VA
Time: 37:something (can’t access my running app right now)

This race was the first race my husband was able to run with me.  It was also the first race that was VERY early (well, at least for me). That said, the race course was set on the Lake Monticello Golf Course, and I’ve always found golf courses to be peaceful and inspiring. I’m not particularly good at golf, but for some reason, I’ve always enjoyed the golf course environment. Every golf tournament I’ve planned or participated in, every round of golf I’ve ever played, I find myself taking a deep breath on the course, enjoying the peaceful surroundings. This race brought that same feeling back – watching the sun rise and burn off the dewy morning fog, smelling the clean grass, watching the few other early birds on the driving range, getting ready for their game.

Now, as peaceful as the surroundings were, I’m not going to lie – it was a tough run, much hillier than I thought, and I think the early shotgun slowed me down as well. Wasn’t my best race thus far, but I made it. JR tried his best to stay with me, although he prefers to run much faster than I do. I let him go the last half-mile ahead, because he deserves the kind of workout he wants just as much as I do. Just him being there was supportive, even if he wasn’t always right next to me along the course.

Race #6 – May 8, 2015
Rockfish Red 4 Miler
Cardinal Point Vineyard, Afton, VA
Time: 49:11

So when I first started researching races to sign up for, much to my wine-loving delight, there are races out there that end with WINE!  Who knew?! Race #6 was my first opportunity to indulge in this race/wine combo thing and it did not disappoint! The people at Cardinal Point Vineyard are super nice and accommodating, very good hosts. The race was well organized, and the course, albeit my first four-miler, was a relatively easy to manage course, and the evening ended with a wine tasting – cheers!

JR was supposed to run with me but he came down with a nasty virus of some kind, so I was all set to run by myself, when much to my surprise, I ran into two awesome mamas from back in Harrisonburg. They were kind enough to let me tag along with them along the way, even though it had been a while since any of us had talked. Off we went, and wouldn’t you know, we ran about the same pace, so it was a great match from the start! I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them, pushing each other along the course, sharing my journey with them, hearing their own struggles. It’s amazing what kind of power and support starts to build when you get other women together to lift each other up – we all have our own “stuff” that we are dealing with, but together, we can get through anything. And with women, it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since last we spoke, we will lift each other up no matter what. Pretty amazing. Pretty inspiring. They may have even talked me into a half marathon – wait, what?!

As I prepare for Race #7 next weekend, I am glad to know that disappointment CAN be overcome, that I CAN rise above it, that it doesn’t have to take me down. There’s always another answer, another tomorrow, a better solution, a new plan. And even though I’ve always known deep down that my depression and my being is NOT a disappointment to my loved ones, I’m happy to be in a place where I can recognize and honor that discovery, feel confident in the love and support around me. I hope that if any of you are ever in the same situation, you’ll find your own place where you can rest comfortably in the love and strength of those who care about you – YOU are never a disappointment – NEVER.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gratitude, on and off the course...

The initial support I have received for this project has been tremendous, filling my soul with strength and inspiration. From the “likes” on Facebook, to personal emails, to running beside me, I am humbled and grateful. I’ve taken for granted all the amazing cheerleaders I have in my life, but I am glad I am now given this opportunity to reconnect with gratitude – learn how to truly be gracious and express appreciation, a lesson that’s never too late to learn.

In that vein, I’d like to say thank you to my friends with VA Momentum ( VA Momentum is all about “energizing the community for good”, putting on unique and fun events to encourage health and wellness in a spirited, supportive environment. I’ve been super excited to watch my friends grow this important initiative, and whether the founders realize it or not, they have played a huge part in inspiring me to begin this project. They’ve been nothing but supportive from the start, even including me as a guest blogger on their website, allowing me to share this story with even more people in the hopes that those who really need to hear it will find it.  I’m looking forward to including a number of VA Momentum events in my 35 races.

Speaking of my races, I completed my 4th race last Friday, the perfect way to celebrate my “birthday eve”.  Here is a brief reflection:

Race #4 – Apr. 24, 2015
Grand Caverns Signature 5K
Grottoes, VA
Time: 34:27

This was my first twilight race, set in the quaint Grand Caverns park in Grottoes, VA. I must say, I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to enjoy many of these races in such beautiful surroundings – the Shenandoah Valley is quite a spectacular place to live. I take it for granted each day, but as I mentioned earlier, I am trying to find ways to be more gracious in my life, and I definitely find myself taking more notice now of the amazing scenes surrounding me when I run.

I was also joined by our good friend, Michael. He is in the military and can run a 5K in his sleep, certainly MUCH faster than 34 minutes.  But he’s also a pretty awesome friend and always finds unique ways to support us, so he ran with me, right next to me, the entire time, never once pushing me or forcing me to go faster than I could.  That said, just his presence alone encouraged me to push myself anyway, so away we went, shaving three minutes off my previous race time – woo-hoo!  I think that’s good, right?  Well, it’s good for me anyway, so, that’s good!

As my birthday month comes to a close, it’s been an incredible start to this crazy journey so far! Four races down, AMAZING support from so many, positive energy flowing through each race – I can’t wait to see what the next month brings!

Speaking of the next month, I’ve started a calendar with my race schedule. Some of you have mentioned you might want to catch a run with me – I would LOVE that!  Check out the calendar and see what works for you! Be sure to let me know! Please note – the calendar only shows out to September right now, and I’m posting both races I’m officially registered for and races I’m considering.  I’ll try to figure out a way to indicate when I’m officially registered for something so you can tell the difference.

Thanks again to everyone for your love, support and encouraging words. Even if this project had to stop tomorrow (hope not), I have already been strengthened and inspired by your love, and for that, I am most grateful.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ready, Set, Go!

So I’ve never written a blog before. I tried to start one after Olivia was born, got one post up. I went through a few diaries growing up, tried some journaling over the years. One thing I always discover – I’m not consistent. My original intention when I started this blog was to post after each race, but history does tend to repeat itself, so here I am, three races in, finally getting to my next post.  But hey, this journey is about building a happier, healthier me, so I’m not knocking myself.  I’m just managing expectations – mine, yours, whoever is listening/reading.

One of the key lessons I’ve learned in my battle with depression – MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. So often, so many of our disappointments and struggles in our lives come down to that very thing – managing expectations. If we stumble to the ground hurt, disappointed, crushed, confused, we probably set our expectations too high, too unrealistic, too strict. If we find ourselves feeling confident, settled, sure, our expectations are probably right where they need to be. Over the years, I’ve tested this out, roped JR into the concept, implemented at work, etc. It’s something that has helped tremendously.  I’m still no expert, and I am constantly having to shift expectations, give a little nudge here, a little more space there – just breath…

So here I am, shifting expectations, and eager to share some snippets of my first three races. I must say, it’s been a great start so far!

Race #1 – Apr. 11, 2015
SVAP 5K Race for Autism
EMU, Harrisonburg, VA
Time: 39:02

My first race was a well-rounded kick-off – beautiful day, mom and dad involved, one of my best friends running beside me, good cause.  Jack was a trooper, clapping along the way, waving to passers-by, and eventually falling asleep in the final stretch of the race.

I wasn’t expecting as many hills as there were along the route, but really, what was I thinking?  It’s Harrisonburg, for crying out loud – hard to go five feet without finding some sort of incline. Needless to say, I was glad to have Sarah running with me to keep pushing me up each surprising hill – I think there were at least five, maybe more. Sarah’s an awesome cheerleader!  If you ever need someone to keep you moving, she’s your girl!

Mom and Dad walked the route, coming in with a solid finish time and a good workout under their belts.  I’m so proud of them for understanding how important it is to keep exercising, keep moving – they looked great out there, and I hope they get to participate in future races with me. It meant so much to have their support for the first race.


Race #2 – Apr. 18, 2015
3.2 Run in Remembrance
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Time: 43:45 (Slight race delay in the stadium tunnel)

When I came up with this whole “35 for 35” idea, my sister mentioned this race and we thought the timing would be perfect as a kick-off to the project.  Turns out I was able to squeeze one race in before this one, but this was an amazing race, nonetheless.

Virginia Tech puts this race on each year sometime around Apr. 16 to remember the victims of the horrific shootings that took place back in 2007. There were 32 lives lost that day, cut all too short. This race is just one of many events the university puts on in honor of the anniversary.

The quality and thoughtfulness of the event was amazing, from thorough instructions prior to race day, all the way down to the fact that they made the smart choice to NOT use a shotgun to start the race, opting for a beautifully peaceful moment of silence followed by the release of 32 white balloons, signaling the start of the race – took my breath away. There were TONS of people there, all oozing with Hokie pride and spirit. Everyone was involved, from the pep band to acapella groups, sororities to the cadets. So many little details along the way, including the opportunity to run through the tunnel into Lane Stadium – that was cool for me and I’m not even a student/alum – you should have seen how excited my sister was!

Speaking of my sister, I was so lucky to share this race with her. She ran the WHOLE THING with me!  I was so proud!  I might just turn her into a runner before this project is said and done. She did great!  She even pushed me a few times. And every time I get to see Colleen in her element at Tech, I am continually affirmed that she made the right choice and that she is HAPPY and LOVING her college experience – so important to me that she has found that for herself!


Race #3 – Apr. 19, 2015
HRock Young Life Splatter Run
Rockingham County Fair Grounds, Harrisonburg, VA
Time: 37:08

Today’s race experience was short and sweet, a color run, good times. We had a lot to do at home today, and there was rain in the forecast, so I didn’t do much else surrounding today’s race other than show up, run, take a quick photo and head out. That said, I did pick up a few little nuggets along the way.

Lessons learned today:
  1. There are varying levels of organization when it comes to putting on a race.
  2. Close your mouth when running through the color-dispensing areas.
  3. It’s not as fun to run a race where you don’t know anyone.
  4. Gravel is hard to run on, especially when the size and stability of the gravel changes along the course. 

I was glad to support the Young Life program for Harrisonburg and Rockingham. I don’t know much about the program, but I’ve learned enough to know that it can provide a space for young people to better know and understand God, and that’s never a bad thing. All in all, a good way to spend an hour of my afternoon.


As I’m writing this post, Rent is playing in the background. JR stumbled upon it on Netflix. Songs like “Seasons of Love” and “No Day but Today” fill our basement, their haunting melodies and intentional words ringing through my head. It’s a fitting soundtrack as I work to process through my first three races, the first three legs of this journey I’ve committed to. I’m measuring my next 525,600 minutes in 35 races, and if these first three races are any indication, I’ll also be able to measure my year in love, support, clarity and strength…a happier, healthier me.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's get this party started...

Hi. I'm Kelly, and I'm on a mission to a happier, healthier me. How? By running 35 races over the next year.

Huh? Why 35 races? What kind of races? How is this going to make me happier and healthier? Well, here’s a little background…

I’m turning 35 in two weeks. Just over one year ago, my husband and I welcomed our third child to this world. Jack, our son, is amazing – happy, smiley, smart, active, loving, sweet – everything a parent could hope for. Even amidst all this “amazing-ness”, this past year has still been one of the most challenging years of my life. Why? Something else was born with Jack, something called Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression is a real thing, y’all. I’m not talking “baby blues” or random hormonal imbalances. I’m talking unmotivated, can’t-get-out-of-bed, want-to-run-away kind of depression – the real deal. Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d had this experience. I’ve always struggled with seasonal depression, and I went through a nasty bout of PPD with my first child as well. But this time around, this particular depression was stronger than ever before, infiltrating my relationships and the various aspects of my life on a whole new level.

I’ll get into the nitty-gritty in due time. But long story short (for now), I came to a crossroads in my battle with this depression. One day, I had a realization that I do still have some power, some control over what happens to me, how I feel, how I can make it through the day. And then I came up with this idea – what if I ran 35 races during my 35th year? It was just random enough, and still doable, to give me some personal motivation, some small goal just for me, just the right amount of focus to help me see just a little more light.

And so, here I am, with my 35th birthday just around the corner, embarking on this journey – for real. I’m going to make it happen, one race at a time. And hopefully, with each mile I run and each finish line I cross, I’ll learn a little more, grow a little stronger, and get a little closer to a happier, healthier me.