Friday, November 30, 2007

My Favorite Things

Oprah has her "Favorite Things," which she famously gives away on her annual Favorite Things show. I looked at her list, and while some of them are pretty great (e.g. the refrigerator!), others are perhaps a bit ho-hum, or at least not my cup of tea.

So as a lark, I came up with my own list of Favorite Things, gifts which I would like to receive or give (if money were no object)—the best of the best, in my opinion. Have a look.

Food Stuff

  • Peppermint bark candy—I didn't think I would put a food item on the list, but this chocolate and peppermint treat is pretty delish.
  • And while I am on the food list, I think olive oil makes a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates food. A fancy oil in a lovely bottle makes a nice change from wine as a hostess gift. (If you're giving it as a birthday gift, be sure to point out that olive oil is anti-aging! You can put it on your salad or even on your skin or hair....) I am intrigued by the Colonna orange-infused olive oil from Williams Sonoma. I have enjoyed their Meyer lemon-infused oil, which has gotten harder to find these days.
  • Santoku Knife. This is a cross between a cleaver and a chef's knife, and it is a chopper's dream. It cuts up vegetables like butter! There are many different manufacturers of this knife, available in kitchen stores. I use mine several times each day, chopping my vast quantities of vegetables and fruits!

Big ticket item—

Really big ticket items—

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eating to Run

I'll admit it—sometimes I run to eat. I count on my running to burn calories so that I can continue to eat well—though prudently—every day. And a post-run breakfast or brunch, where I indulge in some kind of a treat, is an important prize after every race. (I used to require a half-marathon to allow myself to indulge in a cinnamon roll, but I will admit I have also had cinnamon rolls—shared with others—after a couple of recent 10K's.)

But obviously, food is fuel, and what you eat plays an important role in your running ability, aiding in recovery and tissue repair after you beat your body up in a race or just day to day running.

I'm not a huge carb-eater, saving my carb-loading for pre-race dinners and breakfasts. I was pleased to read, in this article from, that many of the foods I eat regularly are ideal for post-run eating.

These foods include red bell pepper (which I eat daily except when it's too too expensive), salmon (a staple in my diet) and other proteins such as turkey and egg whites (also staples), carrots (which I don't eat much, but I do eat the alternatives of sweet potatoes and spinach), cereals fortified with zinc (okay, I don't eat cereal, but shellfish, sesame seeds and pumpkin seed are on my menu), and almonds (plus nut butter, avocado), another favorite.

The carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach have vitamin A, which helps produce white blood cells to fight infection. The zinc helps proteins and fats with healing, and the almonds provide vitamin E. The salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids (a significant anti-inflammatory), as well as protein (for building new cells and repairing bones, ligaments, and tissue). Finally, vitamin C (in the bell peppers), is crucial for repairing connective tissues and cartilage.

So by eating my normal low-glycemic, anti-aging, hopefully weight-loss-promoting diet, I am also helping my body repair itself from running, and prepare itself for the runs to come!

Run-a-Muk—August 26, 2006

A week after the Dog Day Dash, I headed over to Mukilteo for the Run-a-Muk 10K. It’s part of Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Days festival, although it is held before the actual festival. It starts and finishes in Old Town Mukilteo, and follows a primarily out and back course.

Although this was only my second 10K, although the course was exceedingly hilly, although it was a warm summer’s day, I finished this 10K with my fastest 10K time ever, 52:54. (I’ve never yet beat it in a 10K, though I’ve run a similar pace in a couple of five mile races.)

I think that my incline work on the treadmill, plus the hills in Everett, helped me with the hills here. I know when I see people running on the treadmills at the Y they hardly ever have an incline, while I always kept it at 5 to 6. I found myself passing people on the hills—though sometimes they passed me back on the way down!

I did not, however, win a prize.

Dog Day Dash—August 19, 2006

As I searched the online running calendars for future races to participate in, I was excited to see a 5K in Burlington on my birthday, August 19. This was a race for runners and walkers, humans and dogs. For my birthday, I asked my sister Gretchen to bring her dog Nissa and walk the 5K while I ran it. Because it was my birthday, and because Nissa was included, she agreed.

The run started at the Skagit Airport just off Josh Wilson Road near Bayview. We parked at the Bayview School and walked over to the race course. It was already a warm and sunny day, and I did not make the mistake of wearing a jacket this time!

By now running a 5K was old hat (after all, this was my second). It’s not hard, but it’s not especially fast for me either. It takes almost three miles to really get me going, and the second half of a 10K is usually faster than the first half for me. So although I finished red-faced and sweaty, my time was only okay—around 28 minutes, I think.

Mother and I hovered with the camera near the finish line waiting for Gretchen and Nissa. They came in running—Gretchen had chosen to run portions of the route to get done faster—and I ran through the finish line with them.

I wasn’t going to win any prizes here, but I did win a raffle prize which I collected. The post-race goodies here included home-made cookies, and I’m afraid I helped myself to several frosted cookies shaped like a doggy bone. I can’t resist a frosted cookie!

We had hoped to do the Dog Day Dash again this summer (2007)—Gretchen was even planning to run, or so she said—but unfortunately it was not held this year. Maybe next year.

Yankee Doodle Dash—July 4, 2006

Having successfully navigated a 5K race, I was ready for the next step—a 10K. Luckily, there was one staring me in the face, the Yankee Doodle Dash at the Everett YMCA. So one evening at the Y, I handed over my registration form and check and signed on for a 6.2 mile race.

By now I had traded in my treadmill runs for outdoor morning runs before work. I headed out around 6:00—or so—and ran a 5½ to 6 mile loop through town. Luckily the summer weather made the early mornings a little lighter and easier to tolerate. And I know I did not have a miserable running face!

On weekends, for the summer, I was going to the beach at my parent’s house at least one day on the weekend and running on the beach when the tide was out. During the summer the tides are far more conducive to running and walking. Almost every weekend had a super-low tide either in the morning or early afternoon. When the tide was low enough, I could run all the way past Mission Head and out a spit into Tulalip Bay. Including my return trip, the distance was more than five miles.

Of course the running surface was more challenging than my typical roads and sidewalks. Between Potlatch and Mission the beach was pretty sandy, and I could usually find a good firm running surface. But approaching Mission Head the grounds gets more rocky, and barnacly, and seaweedy. At times I would find myself hopping from rock to rock, or onto the sandy patches between rocks. In the most perilous spots I chose to walk instead of run, fearing the triple thread of slipping, tripping, and bashing up my legs on the barnacles! I never did take a bad spill, though.

As the tide came in later in the afternoon, we would haul out a kayak and I would spend an hour or so paddling to Mission and back. The trick was to go against the current on the way out, then let the currents help me out on the return trip!

Fourth of July morning was rather cool and cloudy, not a bad situation for a race. I had yet to become a good judge of how hot or cold I might be when running, so I wore a jacket which I really did not need. But it wasn’t so warm that I suffered or anything.

I live less than a mile from the Y, so instead of fighting for parking, I just walked from my house. Taking my race shirt, I went into the locker room to change. Then I gathered with the other runners at the start line. The crowd was far smaller than the Race for the Cure, of course, and there were a number of serious runners in the front. As I headed into the first blocks, I felt clumsily slow compared to the fast runners ahead of me!

I tried my technique of following a pace runner. My designee was helpful for a while, but after two or three miles she picked up her pace and left me behind. After that I was pretty much running on my own—this was a much smaller race field than the Race for the Cure. Somewhere around four miles I noticed two people running in my wake. One was a 14-year-old boy, who ran along for a while then dropped back. He was probably one of those kids who is a naturally fast runner but maybe not trained enough to sustain his pace for the entire race.

The other follower was a man who was apparently using me as a pace person, as he followed me steadily until we got to the last blocks approaching the finish line. Then he suddenly sprinted ahead of me—faster than I could ever catch up to—and sailed ahead of me across the finish line. I was amazed because I had no ability at that point to run any faster than I was already going! (I have since worked on my ability to sprint across the finish line and I am a lot better at it now.)

This time I did watch the clock, as well as check the board after the finish, and my time was 53:46 (or 54:46? I cannot remember clearly and the results are no longer available online.). I had really not expected to finish under an hour, so I was quite thrilled. This time put me second in my age group (women 40-49), although due to mistakes by the people calculating the winners, I was omitted and didn’t get a ribbon. (The YMCA website and posted finish list later did show me in the correct place.) I noticed that there must have been a shortage of women in the 20-29 age group, because had I put myself in that group, I would have been an easy first place!

After watching the awards (which did not include me), I picked myself up and walked home, to head out to the beach for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Race for the Cure 2006

I ran my first 5K on a whim. A whim which took several days to decide upon, but a whim nonetheless. It came about when I saw a flyer for the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure in a Starbuck’s shop. I picked it up with a fleeting thought—“maybe I should do this.” After all, 5K is only 3.1 miles and I had been running six or more miles regularly on the treadmill, not to mention my running stints in Bath and London.

At first I tried to talk my sister into running with me, on the theory that “it’s only 3.1 miles.” But she wasn’t really interested in running. So, after a few days of carrying the brochure around, I bit the bullet and signed myself up.

Of course, the Race for the Cure doesn’t just involve running—it is also a fundraiser for breast cancer. Asking for donations was actually far more of a traumatic concept to me than running the race! But I wanted to do it right, so as well as obtaining generous contributions from myself, my mother, and my sister, I put some effort into soliciting donations from friends and coworkers. In the end, I think I raised about $500, maybe more.

On the day of the race, a Saturday in June, my mother drove me down to Seattle for the run. It started and ended at Safeco Field. We parked in a nearby pay lot (no free parking in Seattle), and since neither my mother nor I were yet indoctrinated into the race mentality, she waited for me in the car while I went to check in and run the race.

Race for the Cure has several different race categories—survivors, women only, co-ed, and walking. I had signed up for the co-ed race, which I think is the most popular, except for the walking. Many of the runners and walkers wore not only the race t-shirt, but various costumes and accessories, such as pink boas or team shirts. The whole area was swarming with people, buzzing with the adrenaline of the race.

The starting area was divided up with pace signs to help the faster runners take off without the slower ones interfering. I positioned myself somewhere been the nine and ten minute mile signs. I really had no idea how long it would take me to run the race, but I was hoping to be somewhere around 30 minutes. After all, I could average a ten-minute mile on the treadmill even with a mile of walking!

The race course took us northward and through the viaduct, turning halfway and following a similar route back. Despite a few setbacks (such as dropping my ipod), I struck a good pace and selected a runner a bit ahead of me as a pace person to follow. Before I knew it (a mile and a half later) we were making the turn and heading south again. Then I crossed the finish line and ripped the tag off my race number to hand it in.

Since I was a novice, I had neglected to watch the time clock as I finished, so I had no idea of my official time. From my watch, I was pretty sure that it was no more than 30 or 31 minutes. Later, when the results were available on the website, I was happy to learn that I was actually under 30 minutes, at 29:19.

I also experienced my first encounter with post-race food. Actually, this race is one of the more lavish. In addition to the de rigeur bottles of water, there were trays of cookies, muffins, bagels and other yummy treats. (At my next race, I would search in vain for the cookies amongst the bananas and apples offered!) I ate a frosted cookie, then took two more (one for me and one for mother) and headed back to the car.

After all the hoopla of the race, I sort of regretted letting mother sit in the car instead of coming in to watch. So we tried to make up for it a little bit by picking up the camera at home and taking “race photos” on the porch!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Seattle Marathon (in spirit only)

Today is the Seattle Marathon, and I am so happy for all the runners that it is a bright, beautiful sunny day. Cold, certainly—at least it was early in the morning—but that's not necessarily a bad thing for running. Although it does take longer to warm up and get a good pace going, if that is what you're after.

I didn't run in the Seattle Marathon—obviously—but I do know several people who were doing the half marathon. And I was thinking of them this morning when I went out running. In fact, I purposely took a long run this morning as an homage to the runners in the marathon and half marathon.

I spent the night at my parents' last night, so I could take another late night trip to the beach to see the very low tide. This wasn't a spontaneous decision—I came armed with pajamas and a bag of clothes, including several choices of running wear (depending on the weather this morning) and a carefully planned route to take me on a ten mile run ending up at Starbuck's.

I woke up at about a quarter of eight, a little late to achieve my planned departure time of 8:00. (Well, it would not be too late if I just jumped out of bed and got dressed. Then it would be just the right time. But I did not do that. I turned on the Food Network and watched the end of Everyday Italian. Then I started watching Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. I got up at the beginning of Tyler's Ultimate—though I like that show too—and by the time I was actually dressed and out the door it was 8:51. Not quite an hour later than planned. Pretty much par for the course on a weekend.)

Even at almost 9 a.m., it was cold out—32.5 degrees according to the home weather station. But I was warm enough with a high necked Hind top (like this, even though it's a different manufacturer) and a jacket, plus gloves and my new black Nike cap, and sunglasses for the glare. Actually, with the head to toe black and sunglasses, I looked a little like a member of the SWAT team or Secret Service.

The first part of any run is the hardest, before I'm warmed up or in the zone at all, and that was the four-mile stretch along Marine View Drive from Potlatch into town. By the time I got to McDonald's for my (first) bathroom break, I was feeling pretty good, though (after the bathroom break).

Running in town is always nice, because the division of blocks makes distances seem shorter to me. There is the nuisance of stoplights, but they are a double-edged sword—on the one hand they do slow you down, but on the other, they offer a little rest period. (I don't know that double-edged sword is the right metaphor. What I mean is, they are both good and bad.)

I had a little longer stop at the light near the railroad crossing on 4th, when the lights started flashing for the Amtrak train to pass through. While I stood there, I had the opportunity to view the amazingly risky way Marysville drivers deal with the railroad crossing, as I watched several cars continue to cross the tracks as the lights flashed and bells clanged, and one car even crossed while the guardrails were dropping!

Once the train had safely passed and I was allowed to cross the railroad tracks, I proceeded east on 4th Street to 47th, where I turned left and then veered right off of 47th onto Armar Road towards the church (that is, Bethlehem Lutheran Church). Then left on Grove, and right on 47th (again) past the Assembly of God church. I stayed on 47th until I got to 80th, then headed back out to State Street. From there I just kept going north, past Fred Meyer's toward the high school, until I got to the roundabout by the fire station. I took a loop around the roundabout then headed back into town.

Now if that sounds like a piece of cake, it wasn't quite. For one thing, I was stressing a lot about the time. I had started out at least half an hour later than I had said I was going to, and I knew (thanks to my cell phone) that my mother was already at Haggens by the time I passed the church, and then done with her grocery shopping by the time I was passing Fred Meyer's. And from there it was a good mile until my turnaround.

Additionally, at some point in there I hit the seven mile slump, which is kind of a minor version of hitting the wall. Plus I had to go to the bathroom, and was debating whether to make a stop or wait till I got back to Starbuck's.

But by the time I got to the roundabout I had passed out of the seven mile slump (after all, I had to put on a good show as I ran by the firefighters at the station). (I did consider asking to use the bathroom there, and I'm sure they would have let me—and probably taken my blood pressure too—but I wasn't in an emergency state, so decided against it.)

The good thing was, once I got back to State Street I came to a McDonald's on my side of the street, and a good potty stop is always cheering (and energizing). And at that point I was literally only blocks from 88th Street, and the turn into Haggens. So I ran the last few blocks like I was finishing a 15K (plus an extra .7 mile, but who's counting?) (and slower).

Second only to the relief of a much needed restroom stop is the joy at reaching my final destination, especially when that is Starbuck's and a quad grande nonfat latte with 4 1/2 pumps of sugarfree caramel (extra hot, in a double cup) (because the double cup holds the heat longer than a single cup in a sleeve).

When we got back to my parents' house I made us all a hearty midday breakfast of Scottish Oat Pancakes. But this time I tweaked the recipe by adding wheat bran, which pumped up the fiber and made them even heartier than before. I like them topped with thawed blueberries and raspberries (sweetened with a little Splenda), but I am sure they would also be extremely delicious with maple syrup.

Each pancake has about 3 grams of fiber with the wheat bran, and 2 grams of fiber if you omit the wheat bran.

Here is the recipe (now retitled Brancakes).

Oat Brancakes
1¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (e.g. Bob’s Red Mill)
¾ cup Scottish oatmeal (e.g. Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup wheat bran (optional)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking Soda
About 1½ cups Buttermilk (you will need to add extra buttermilk or milk if you use the bran)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup butter, melted

Mix flour, oatmeal, wheat bran, baking powder, salt, and soda. Stir in buttermilk, eggs and butter until smooth. (Stir in more buttermilk if the batter is too thick.) Makes about 18 medium-sized pancakes (with the bran, about 15 without).

(You notice that I make no representations about how many calories there are in each pancake/brancake, nor how many you should eat per serving. That is totally up to you. After all, the more you eat, the more fiber you get, and that's all good, right? Also, fiber is filling, so the more you eat, the less likely you are going to want to eat again very soon... or ever....)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Run on the Day after Thanksgiving (2007)

A couple of months ago I noticed that my running mileage (totaled weekly in my running journal) was approaching 1000 miles. I thought at the time, "maybe I can make 1000 by the end of the year." Nice goal, yes?

Well, apparently I was mathematically challenged, because I easily hit 1000 miles shortly thereafter. So then I put all my math talents to work, using both my fingers and toes, and a piece of paper and pen, and by adding, subtracting, dividing by 12, etc., determined that in fact I could get to 1200 miles by the end of the year, simply by averaging 24 miles a week for the rest of the year. (And that would take me through December 30, leaving December 31 to theoretically make up the difference, if there wasn't too much to make up!)

Better yet, of course, if I could manage more than 24 miles a week on a few occasions, that would leave me a cushion in case of bad weather, illness (heaven forbid), or the holidays somehow interfering with my running schedules. (Or if it turns out my math was wrong. But how could that happen?)

So today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, seemed like a good opportunity to log in a few extra miles. My body certainly could use it, after taking in way too much food yesterday. And with a day off from work, and no other commitments to draw on my morning, I could run as long and slow as I wanted.

The best thing about having a day off from work is that I don't have to run before the crack of dawn—I can have a bit of a lazy morning in bed before I hit the road. (Is that really the best thing about a day off? Why, yes. Not getting up at 6 a.m.—for whatever reason—is sublime. And still being able to go running is just the icing on the cake. Yes, I am slightly deranged!) Anyhow, I lounged around watching the Today show until 9 a.m., when channel 5 switched to coverage of the Seattle Macy's holiday parade. That is when I meant to get up...but a little channel surfing landed me on the Montel Williams show, and I was compelled to watch (with the doctors from TLC's show Big Medicine, and some of the people on whom they have done bariatric surgery—all positive, no horror stories or anything.)

So, at 10 a.m. I finally dragged myself out of bed (still morning, mind you), and dressed in running clothes. No need to wear my fluorescent green reflective running jacket at this time of day! Cute clothes it was, plus a hat, gloves, sunglasses, phone, ipod, and a bottle of water. After downing a pre-run breakfast of seven chocolate espresso beans and a mini breakfast cookie, I was out the door by about 10:15.

It was still briskly cool out, but amazingly sunny and bright. Just perfect. My body, however, felt a little less than perfect. The Thanksgiving workout at the Y yesterday (samplings of aerobics, cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, and spinning—all things I do not do regularly—primarily because I hate each one more than the other—) had left me stiff in the quads and a little sore in my sensitive Achilles tendon. I'm pretty sure it was the jumping jacks (part of the kickboxing routine) that did the number on my ankle. I actually felt it yesterday during the jumping, but didn't want to wimp out of the jacks since they were the one part of the kickboxing routine that I felt fairly competent doing!

But I kept it slow and easy and headed west on my usual weekday route, up to Grand Avenue Park (still undergoing work, but I ran through anyway) and north on Grand. My plan was to add at least a couple of miles to the route on either or both ends. By the time I got to where Grand turns into Alverson, I felt good enough to keep going north as far as Legion Park, and through the Arboretum (that was my first extension). Then I headed south again, veering onto Colby and following it downtown. I kept going through downtown, all the way to 41st (my second extension).

I turned around at 41st and from there back it was a party, since it was pretty much downhill all the way to QFC. I let the slight downhill grade help me pick up my speed, and by the time I got to Broadway I was in the zone. As usual once I’m in the zone, I felt like I could run on forever (that feeling usually only occurs when I am about to stop—perhaps it’s psychological). But I was over eight miles at that point and I really did want to get some bananas at QFC and a latte at Starbucks! So I stopped to shop and then walked the rest of the way home. Even the walking was great, with the sun shining on me, music in my ears, and the best latte ever in my hand.

I finished off the morning with a long hot bath (trying to recuperate my quads and ankle) and a midday breakfast of oatmeal, cottage cheese, and fruit. (My special recipe: Mix together ½ cup cooked steel cut oats, ¼ cup wheat bran, about ¼ cup hot water, and ¼ apple, chopped, plus lots of cinnamon—heat in microwave 2-3 minutes until apples are tender. Stir in ½ cup or more thawed raspberries and blueberries, a packet of Splenda—because the berries are quite tart—and ½ banana, chopped up. Then stir in ½ cup cottage cheese. Top with a spoonful of ground flaxseed and a few chopped walnuts. Delicious! And tons of fiber and other good stuff.)

I had to drive my route later on so I could get an accurate mileage count. The total distance was nine miles, including the walk home from QFC. (Of course I’m going to count that! I was on my feet, wasn’t I?)

(Then I spent a couple hours lying in bed watching a marathon of What Not to Wear. Hey! I could say I did a marathon on the day after Thanksgiving! While drinking a latte! Take that, Katie Holmes!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In the Beginning

In the beginning, I was not a runner. Well, in the very beginning, when I was in middle school and junior high and high school, I ran some. I ran the mile in P.E., when I had to (with a best time of nine or ten minutes, to my great shame), and sporadically in high school and college I went through phases where I jogged regularly for exercise, maybe two or three miles at a time. In fact, when I was a senior in high school I ran/jogged about three miles a day for several months, actually improving my pace to around eight minutes, and triumphantly finished a two-mile fitness run in P.E. under 16 minutes (that means less than an eight minute mile—hurrah!).

I refer to my running back then as jogging, not because of the pace or anything about the way I did it, but because that’s what we called it in the 70’s and 80’s. Now it’s running, and although most of us aren’t running any faster than back then, we don’t jog any more. In fact, my nine to ten minute pace that was such a disgrace in junior high (the more athletically gifted kids could run a mile in six or seven minutes), is now a respectable mid-range pace for hundreds of other runners in the 5K, 10K and longer races I run these days. (As for me, I can’t break a ten minute pace in my solo training runs but usually finish faster than nine minutes in races. Go figure.)

But still, although I ran as a young person, I was not a runner. I never really enjoyed it, even when I got down to the eight minute mile. I endured it, I did it because I had to (in P.E.) or because I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, but I never did it for the love of running. When I stopped running in college (after wisdom teeth surgery), I pretty much figured I’d never run again.

My opinion always was—and still is, in many ways—that nobody has to run. There are plenty of other legitimate ways to exercise and get into and stay in shape. Walking is wonderful exercise (and according to most authorities burns as many calories per mile as running, it just takes longer), and my fitness sprees over the next 20 years pretty much involved very long walks (plus bicycling while I was still in college, and a stint of step aerobics in law school).

But unfortunately I did not engage in those fitness sprees often enough, or for sustained enough periods of time, and over those 20 years I gained a lot of weight. Actually I think most of the weight gain happened in the five years or so after I graduated from law school. That’s when I went from a relatively normal person who could lose some weight (and always wanted to lose weight) to a genuinely heavy person. Obese, by all standards, although I never really wanted to admit it to myself. Then for about eight years I fluctuated in my fatness, periodically losing some weight but eventually always gaining it back—and probably more as well.

But since this is about running, not weight loss, I’ll just say that when I was 39 I began losing weight again—successfully this time—and by the time I was 40 I was no longer an obese person, though still in the “overweight” range (that’s very hard to get out of). A big part of my weight loss was exercise, and I did that primarily with walking (plus yoga and lifting weights). I walked a lot on a treadmill, and that solved the problem that always kyboshed my past walking programs—bad weather and early darkness.

I didn’t just walk on the treadmill, I walked on an incline, and I walked fast. I made up interval programs where I increased my pace from 4 miles per hour to 4.5 in increments, up and down, and then up to 5 and back. I believe this helped a lot with losing weight. (I also walked outside when the weather allowed, but I didn’t walk as fast as on the treadmill.) But no matter what I did, walking was not getting my heart rate up past 120 beats per minute. It just wasn’t cardio enough for me.

So I started incorporating a little running into my intervals. Just a minute or two at a time, interspersed with walking. Even though I was quite fit in many ways, the running seemed hard at first because my body wasn’t used to that kind of movement. But as I got used to it, I increased the duration and speed of my running intervals, until I was up to a routine where I would walk the first mile, then turn to running, finishing six miles in sixty minutes on my fastest days, or six and a half miles in 65 minutes if it was taking a little longer. (Because of the mile walking, I really had to pump up the pace to finish with an average speed of six miles per hour!)

But still, someone who runs on a treadmill is not really a runner, and I was not yet a runner. I was a person who ran on the treadmill for exercise. Truth be told, I was afraid to run outside. A little bit afraid that I would look silly (I didn’t want to be one of those persons who look like they’re in agony while they’re running) and also a little bit afraid that I just couldn’t do it. The treadmill is very different from the road. Even with walking, I could never go as fast outside as I could make myself go on the treadmill. (I did start to experiment just a little bit with running outside during my walks, by walking on the sidewalk portions and running on the cross streets—just to see how it felt!)

The changeover came when I went to England with friends in April 2006. There would be no treadmills in England (I am sure there are treadmills in England, but not where we were going), and although I would be lots and lots of walking, my running intervals would be put on hold.

The first morning in Bath I got up early to go for a walk before breakfast. Bath is built on hills, and my bed and breakfast was about a mile (plus) outside the city center up a long hill. I walked down the road and then turned to walk up the long hill in the opposite direction from the city centre. I walked briskly about a mile to the top of Wellsway (it may not have been the actual top, but it is where the road turns into a highway—dual carriageway—and it seemed a good spot to turn around). As I started down the hill, I spontaneously broke into a jog (yes, a jog). The assistance of gravity pulling me downward made running quite easy. I passed the turn to my B&B and continued all the way down the hill (which was quite steep at this point) to the railway station where I stopped to turn around. I walked back up to the B&B to get ready for breakfast and our day, having just gone on my first run in almost 20 years.

I repeated this run the next day, this time with one of my friends who had flown in the day before, and this time ran further into the city to the centre. (My friend didn’t really like running, she just did it to keep me company, and support me in my efforts!) We were early enough for me to take her on a walking tour of Bath, all the way up to the Royal Crescent and back.

We left Bath that day for the Cotswolds, and I did run one day to Chipping Campden, but found that walking the footpaths was a more rewarding type of exercise in the Cotswolds. But after our week in the country, we headed to London, and I put on my running shoes again. (Actually, I had been putting them on all along, but using them to walk instead of run.)

Very early in the morning on our first day in London I headed down to the hotel lobby while everyone else was still asleep. The only person around was the night desk clerk, and as a courtesy I asked him where I might run around the hotel. (I actually figured I knew the area well enough to find myself a route, but he wanted to be helpful.) He suggested that I go to Regent’s Park, which it turns out was a mile or so away down (or up) Euston Road. For twenty years I had been staying in this same London hotel near Russell Square and I never knew that Regent’s Park was so nearby and easily accessible!

So I headed out on what would be my running route for our days in London—walking over to Euston Road, then down (up) Euston Road to the nearest entrance to Regent’s Park (there are many on all sides of the park), then running around the inside perimeter of the park, with forays in and around various gardens. When I left the park, I was so revved up that I ran all the way back to the hotel, and sometimes, up and down the stairs a few times (several flights from the bottom to the top of the hotel). Now I know that any time I spend in London will involve running in Regent’s Park.

Regent’s Park is where I became a runner.

Welcome all Runner Girls

I am a Runner Girl. I know I am one of thousands (millions), all of us wanting to be The Runner Girl. But I have a really cool giant refrigerator magnet that says I am the Runner Girl. So the rest of you will just have to live with it.