Stress, Boxing and Granola

Posted May 31, 2015 by elizabethruns
Categories: Food and Recipes, Training

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There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:



Nuts and Seeds Granola


1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)


Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!



Catching Up, Eagle Sighting and Raw Cashew Cream

Posted November 4, 2014 by elizabethruns
Categories: Food and Recipes, Run notes that run into life, Training

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Blogging has taken a backseat these days—there have been a myriad of changes in my life and I have been busy focused on adjusting to divorce, moving, a new relationship, and a significantly greater workload.  No complaints here, though.  Life is good.  My ex and I have remained friends, my new relationship is a blessing I was not expecting, and work is physical and fun.  I am still teaching vegan cooking in a group setting on a monthly basis, as well as in private settings for individuals.  I am still running!  Definitely not the 50+ miles each week like last year, as I am doing a lot more personal training and wellness coaching for work, as well as teaching group fitness three times each week for the Recreation Department of my town.

This morning I had the opportunity for a long run.  My early client cancelled last minute and I found myself racing through Halibut Point State Park, enjoying the late fall scenery with it’s nearly-bare trees, glass-surfaced quarry and vast expanse of ocean view.  With the hours of cross-training I have been logging with work, running feels easier than ever.  This was one of those days where breath, legs and mind were all on board from the moment I stepped out the door.  I felt as though my feet barely touched the ground and I don’t think I heard a single song on my playlist after the first mile.  Running is meditation just as much as it is physical exercise, maybe even more than ever before. I did get to see an eagle perched on a treetop as I ran home. Not that I noticed it myself—a pram-pushing mama pointed it out for me. Magnificent.


Teaching vegan cooking is a joyful experience.  The people who come to my classes are enthusiastic, open-minded, and excited to learn each month.  My amazing photographer has been recovering from a broken ankle, so I am sorry to say I have none of her beautiful pictures to share in this post.  She is coming along nicely in her healing so am hoping to she will be back soon to take photos and notes for me.  It makes me realize how fortunate I am. It’s amazing how good people are to me and how much I depend on the kindness, generosity and skills of those around me to help me get through and be successful in this life.

In the meantime, I want to share a very easy cashew cream recipe.  I posted earlier about cashew cream and the recipe called for roasting the cashews first.  That recipe is delicious!  This recipe is even creamier than the first, and without the roasted flavor, it is even more versatile.  Used in vegan chowders, cream soups and cream sauces, the rich, thick texture lends a sensual mouth-feel and no one ever misses the dairy.

Raw Cashew Cream


1 c whole raw cashews

filtered water


Rinse the cashews in cold filtered water and drain.  Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl and cover with filtered water.  Soak for at least 20 minutes, but overnight is a great choice.  Without soaking, the cashew cream will not be as creamy.

Drain and rinse the cashews after they have soaked.  Place in high-powered blender and add 1 c filtered water.  Blend on low until the cashews start to move around easily.  Turn blender speed to high and blend until completely smooth.

I always double this recipe and freeze what I don’t use.  It’s great to have a stock of some basics ready to go when I find myself standing in the kitchen, pondering what to make for dinner.  Consider pasta primavera, pasta al invierno, sweet potato and corn chowder, creamy tomato soup, creamed spinach with cumin, cayenne and cubed tofu—bring it on, winter!  Hearty food awaits!  More to come…

Spring City Run

Posted March 21, 2014 by elizabethruns
Categories: Run notes that run into life

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Howie and I hit the pavement together early this morning.  I have driven to Somerville to run on my day off—a small concession to be able to train with my friend.  Howie starts to sweat almost immediately and I am envious of the water dripping from his hair and face. It’s much colder than I anticipated, and I find myself shivering as we start off and for the first few miles.  Although I wear gloves, my fingers are an ugly blue-yellow from the cold.

Howie leads me from his house through a labyrinth of sides streets.  We run through Porter Square, Harvard Square, Central Square and Inman Square.  He cuts through parking lots and down driveways like rivers whose mouths narrowly spill onto more tiny roads.  He points out the many places he has lived in Cambridge and tells me the story behind each lovely old house—the trees he planted, the skylights he put in to let in the light he so loves in his living space.  As he talks while we run, I find myself grateful for his friendship and understanding of the world. We are both in the same place in a lot of ways, but right now mostly we share being a bit stuck in our respective areas of creativity.  It is good to talk to him, and even better to listen to his thoughts about life and where we stand in it.

The sidewalks are upthrust and askew with frost heaves in a lot of places; brick and pavement reach sharp edges up to trip me.  I pay extra-close attention so that I don’t fall.  I jump over a lot of the big bumps, exhilarated by the cold air and the joy of running with my friend.  We run close together on the narrow paths, sometimes turning ourselves out onto the streets, the thought unspoken that it might be safer as long as we don’t get run over.

We pass some runners, others pass us as we press against the cold, fresh spring wind.  We run along the Charles River for a while, keeping to the soft dirt paths, that softness protecting our joints, ligaments and tendons.  Crews are out rowing on the river and we watch them as we run by.  Running here today gets me thinking about the long runs we did last summer, miles and miles and miles along the river in the heat. I  already anticipate with excitement more of the same coming soon.

I breathe in the smells of the city—car exhaust, oil, the slightly funky smell of the Charles River, a thousand different food smells from all of the restaurants we pass.  The mingled scents bring on a slew of memories of other times, but I keep them to myself today, wanting only to enjoy the quiet sound of our sneakers touching the pavement or dirt, and the sound of our breathing as we run in step along the route.

We cross streets without waiting for the lights to change and sometimes far from the crosswalks, even Memorial Drive.  I let Howie assess the safety factor in that today; I feel like he will take better care of me that I will myself.  As we approach a small intersection near Inman Square, a car stalls as the light turns green.  Without even looking to each other, we both scoot behind the car, indicating to the driver that we will push her out of the way.  I take the left and Howie takes the right and it is easy for us to move the little gray sedan out of the intersection and up the road.  The driver steers her car into a parking spot along the side of the road and gets out to tell us she can call AAA.  We wave and run on.  When we reach Central Square, we cut around the back of the busiest street.  A delivery man spills his cart of milk, eggs and sour cream on the sidewalk.  Once again, we stop together and immediately begin to help, grabbing cartons that have not ruptured.  The delivery man takes one look at us and says, “Hey!  You guys are getting your exercise.  Keep going.  Don’t interrupt your run to do this.  I got it!”  His face breaks into a warm smile as we ask if he really doesn’t need help.  “No, no.  You two go on.  Have a good run!”

By the time we are finished, we have logged close to nine miles.  I am still cold, but feeling pleased.  Pleased with our distance, the camaraderie  we share for running and also for stopping to do the things we both know are the right things to do.  Mostly, though, I am pleased that I have Howie for a running partner and a friend.

Bringing Vegan Wherever I Go

Posted March 10, 2014 by elizabethruns
Categories: Food and Recipes, Vegan Stories

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It’s 8:00 sharp on Saturday morning.  I am standing in the big, bright kitchen of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Gloucester, MA.  The talented author Janet Ruth Young happens to be on the board of this church, and I happen to know her.   When she asked me to be a guest speaker at her church as part of their green initiative lecture series, I readily agreed.  I cannot imagine passing up a chance to share my knowledge about vegan nutrition, food and recipes.   I am to give a winter root vegetable cooking demonstration and talk.  I know it’s not specifically a vegan topic, but I am going to make it one.  A good one.  No one will notice that they are eating vegan.  They are only going to notice that what they are eating is delicious.

My partner Bill and I weave in and out and around each other and the giant ten burner gas stove, double oven and two-sided sink.  We wash, scrub and peel vegetables at the big sink, then move them over to the chopping area.  Bill is far more diligent and focused than I, and so while I move my knives, bottles of spices and jars of hemp oil, ginger Nama Shoyu salad dressing and equipment I have brought from home, he makes fast work of the vegetable prep.  We have no idea how many people to expect, but I am as prepared as I can be with enough ingredients to feed 30 people.

IMG_1408   Bill and I prepping.  I am a blur…he is steady!

Folks start trickling in early.  Some of my friends come, and there are lots of new faces, too.  I am not nervous doing this any longer, so it is with joy and excitement that I begin.  There are about 20 people, a small enough group that they can all fit into the kitchen and watch everything.  I talk and talk, answer questions, and demonstrate how to cut Brussels sprouts.  I give a brief lesson on massaging kale.  When I explain that I use hemp oil as much as possible because it is easy to digest and filled with nutrients, everyone laughs when I confess that I have it on auto-ship from Amazon. I use a spiral slicer to make noodles from raw carrots, sweet potatoes and beets.  I invite a couple of volunteers to try, too. IMG_1405

While I chatter away, Bill mans the ovens and the stove, roasting a giant baking sheet of the sprouts and another of chopped root vegetables in preparation for a creamy, roasted vegetable soup, toasting pecans in a dry skillet so that I can teach the group how to toast and spice nuts.

The time flies by and soon everyone is digging into the massaged kale and spiral sliced raw vegetable salad.  They barely finish their full plates when I present the warm Brussels sprouts salad served over baby mixed greens, garnished with blackberries, avocado, raw pumpkin seeds and toasted spiced pecans.  I show how to make a balsamic reduction, using Blackberry Ginger infused balsamic from the Cape Ann Olive Oil Co.

IMG_1413   Toasting and Spicing Pecans

IMG_1416    Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Spiced Pecans

The final tasting is of the roasted vegetable soup.  We have roasted garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots.  Bill pulls the hot baking sheet from the oven and we manage to scrape all those lovely, browned vegetables into the stock pot.  We add water, vegan bouillon, black pepper and minced fresh sage to the pot, bring it to a boil, then Bill turns off the heat, purees the giant potful with an immersion blender and it’s ready.  He moves the pot to a serving table and I ladle out hot mugs of the soup to everyone.  It’s hard to ladle soup into tiny blue Willow ware cups, but I pull it off without spilling much.  IMG_1436The group raves and raves about the food.  I answer more questions.  And here I must mention how grateful I am to my friend Krissi, who takes notes for me sometimes and today, hands me a legible list of topics and reminders of what I have promised to give attention to when I email the recipes to the group.  After the event is over, the first thing I do I look for leftovers.  There are none.  Every bite has been consumed.  With enthusiasm!

Clean up today means I wander around, packing up the knives, bottles, jars and other gear while Bill and a woman from the church wash the dishes, pots and pans.  We are finished by 12:45 and I leave tired and happy, knowing I have shared food, recipes, and a lot of what I know about eating a healthy vegan diet with a receptive audience.  I know that those who came today learned enough to make changes in their eating habits—for their health and for their environment.

The recipes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Spiced Pecans


Brussels sprouts
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c pecan halves and pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 T maple syrup

6 cups mixed baby greens or 1 bunch kale*, washed, torn into bite-sized pieces and massaged with 1 T olive oil until volume is reduced by about half
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 bulb fennel
1 avocado
1 orange
balsamic vinegar—I use blackberry-ginger balsamic from the Cape Ann Olive Oil Co. Main St. Gloucester
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half.  Put them on a large baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.  Turn all the Brussels sprouts so that they are cut-side down on the baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on center rack in oven and roast for 18-20 minutes.  The bottoms of the Brussels sprouts should be nice and brown, some of the tops should be dark, too.  Remove from oven, liberally sprinkle with the balsamic, toss to coat, add salt and pepper to taste.

While Brussels sprouts are roasting, heat a small skillet over medium heat on the stove.  Add the pecans to dry pan and toast until they become aromatic, flipping them occasionally to prevent burning.  When pecans are toasted, add olive oil, cinnamon, cayenne and maple syrup.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until maple syrup bubbles. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Wash the rest of the vegetables and fruit. Thinly slice fennel, open the avocado, remove the seed, and slice the avocado across and down.  Use a tablespoon to scoop out the avocado flesh.  Use a paring knife to remove skin from the orange.  Chop the orange into bite-sized chunks.  Reserve juice.

Assemble the salad:  In a large salad bowl, add the mixed baby greens or kale.  Add the orange juice, if any.  Arrange the Brussels sprouts, sliced fennel, avocado chunks, orange chunks and berries on top of the greens.  Sprinkle with 1/4 c more of the balsamic.  Add the nuts to the top of the salad and serve immediately.
*If using kale, massage with a couple of tsp oil until tender before assembling the rest of the salad.

Raw Root Vegetable Noodle Salad

1 bunch kale, washed, removed from stems and torn into bite-sized pieces
2-3 T hemp oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1-2 medium sized beets, washed and peeled
1 large carrot, scrubbed
1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
1 avocado, halved, pitted and cut into bite-sized chunks
raw pumpkin seeds and toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing (recipe below)

Place the kale in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the hemp oil and massage the kale for about 3-5 minutes, or until kale is slightly wilted and softened and reduced in volume by half.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and set aside.

*Spiral slice the sweet potatoes, carrot and beets.  Slice the beets last because they are the messiest and will juice on the other vegetables.  If the beets are very juicy, you can rinse them under cold water to keep their juice from spreading too much.  Use kitchen scissors to cut the vegetable noodles into manageable lengths.  Add the vegetable noodles to the kale and dress generously with Ginger Nama Shoyu dressing.  Toss to coat and distribute vegetables.  Arrange the avocado chunks on top of the salad.  Sprinkle the top of the salad with the seeds.  Drizzle a small amount of dressing on top and serve.

Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing (adapted from Life Alive Restaurants)
fresh garlic cloves, peeled and pressed to fill a 1/4 c measure
1/2 c plus a little more fresh ginger, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 T Nama Shoyu
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
1 c olive oil, or a mixture of hemp and olive oil

In a powerful blender, add the garlic cloves, the ginger, the Nama Shoyu, and the sea salt.  Add 1/3 c of the oil.  Blend on medium-low until everything starts to move around. Turn off blender and scrape down sides if necessary.
Turn the blender back on medium speed, then to high and blend until smooth.  Take the little inner cap off of the blender cover and slowly drizzle in the remaining oil.  Turn blender on high and blend only long enough to emulsify the dressing.  Transfer dressing to glass jar or bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.  Keeps at least two weeks in the refrigerator.
*If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can grate the vegetables instead.  It tastes just as good!

Creamy Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
2-3 ribs celery, washed and cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bunch parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
3 double sized cubes vegan bouillon, mix of salted and salt-free
1/4 c fresh sage leaves, washed and minced, or 2 tsp dried sage leaves
1 c orange juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place prepared garlic and vegetables on one or two large baking sheets so that they are in a single layer.  Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat.  Roast in oven 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and slightly browned.

When vegetables are done, remove from oven and transfer to a large soup pot.  Add the bouillon cubes and cinnamon.  Add water to about and inch below the vegetables.  Heat over high heat until steaming.  Remove from heat and puree with immersion blender.  Alternatively, allow soup to cool slightly and puree in batches in a blender or food processor.  Return soup to pot.  Add the orange juice,, sage leaves and black pepper to taste.  Heat until steaming hot, being careful not to let the soup boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve with hearty bread and salad for a delicious meal.  This soup freezes well.


Posted December 29, 2013 by elizabethruns
Categories: Run notes that run into life

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Here I am, still standing after my first official marathon.

Here I am, still standing after my first official marathon.

It’s a clear, cool, sunny day in October.  I am in Hartford CT, as ready as I am ever going to be for my first official marathon.  I stand in line to pee one more time, although I know damn right well this will not be the last, and pray that there are lots of chances to go again on the route. I also pray that there will not be lines like this one, which is ridiculously long.  I notice there are tons of people not dressed to run but waiting to go and I wish that there were separate bathrooms for the runners.  I am nervous.  Not nervous about the race, but about reaching the start line on time.  I have just a few minutes left before the race begins and my support team, Bill, stands steadfast and strong beside me, knowing just how itchy I am to run.

I carry a water bottle in my right hand.  It’s the kind of bottle that has a strap so that my hand does not have to do any actual work while I run.  I am dressed in my favorite capri running bottoms and a soft, comfy long sleeved tech shirt.  On my feet I wear the oldest sneakers I own—Nike Free 3.  The pair I was planning to wear became saturated on my final long training run and changed shape so much that they are unfit for running.  These sneakers are worn on the bottom to the point where I can almost see my socks through the soles under the balls of my feet, and my toes poke out of the tops like tiny, sharp gophers in a prairie.  They fit, though, and I feel great.  I could do this barefoot.  I think.

I finally pee and we hustle over to the starting line.  I am so late that I am at the very end of the runners waiting for the start gun.  I don’t care at all; in fact I am happy to be at the end.  That means I will be able to pass lots of other runners at the beginning, which always pumps me up, even though it’s not really a competitive feeling.  It’s more of a personal challenge. I don’t care who wins or how I place.  I just want to finish.  And finish running.  26.2 miles is a long distance to run.  I am prepared.  Bill takes a couple of pre-race photos and I smile for him, and for me.  This is it.

The race begins and I find my pace early on.  The route takes us through the city for a few miles, then out into the suburbs.  I run easy, listening to my favorite playlist.  As I cross the bridge that leaves the city and leads to the bulk of the distance, I see Bill.  He is leaning precariously over the rail of the bridge, phone in hand, ready to capture the image of me on this day where one of my dreams is coming true.  I work my way over from the middle of the street so that I am almost close enough to touch his hand as I run past.  I can feel the smile spread over my face as I see his; he takes the photo as I run by him and then I am on my own.  Through the race, I periodically think of him, and how he must have hustled to reach the bridge from the start line to watch me run by.

About seven or eight miles in, a man runs up beside me and asks if he might join me for a while.  He tells me I have been his pacer for the past couple of miles, and that he chose me because I am the only runner in sight who is not breathing heavily or panting.  His name is Brian.  I smile and agree to the company, as he is smiling sweetly and seems to be at my level of fitness.  We talk and talk while we run, and I learn that he is married, has three children, and loves to run as much as I do.  I learn that this is his first marathon, too.  He asks how I know how to pace myself, and I tell him that it is easy to keep going if you run at a pace where it is easy to talk.  And so we do.

We run over the tracker that proves we have completed the 15 mile marker distance, and loop around for the last part of the race.  We drink at some of the stops; we pee at others.  Some little girl hands me a banana and my gratitude is immense—I cannot stomach gels or GU packs, or any of that special race food that is handed out freely during long races.  I hold the banana for a couple of miles, then eat the whole thing, tossing the skin into a wooded area we pass.  My new running friend Brian is getting tired, and I encourage him to keep going.  We both know that running with someone else can be salvation if the running gets tough.  I remind him that if we slow our pace a bit, we will still be able to finish in four hours, which is a pretty good time to finish.

Then, at mile 20, something happens to me.  I feel a sharp muscle spasm in my low back on the left, and my IT band on the right squeezes up tight.  My right knee feels like it is going to collapse.

“Brian.  I have to stop and stretch.  You go ahead.  I’ll catch up with you.”

“Are you kidding?  I’ll stop and stretch, too.  I’ll wait for you.”

“You don’t have to.  I’m okay.  I want you to finish.”

I know he sees the pain on my face, the wincing as I try to run again.

“I am going to finish.  With you.  You got me through all of the parts that were hard for me.  Now I am going to get you through this.”

I feel tears spring to my eyes, knowing this stranger who has become my friend while running a marathon means exactly what he says.  So I allow it.  I stop and stretch every quarter-mile or so.  The pain in my back is excruciating, making me sick to my stomach.  Because there is someone with me, I am able to keep going.  We pass the candy station that is just a couple of miles from the finish line.  I cannot imagine eating candy at this point; Brian, too , passes on the stop and we run on, steady and slow.

I can hear the finish line crowd and music, see the gate we will run through, my heart soars and at last, we cross the finish.  I turn and hug my new friend, feeling a gratitude that makes my heart swell with a love that exists only among those who experience this kind of camaraderie.  And then Bill is beside me, gathering me into his arms, congratulating me, hugging me, and Brian’s family is there, his children grinning proudly at their dad, whisking him off for photos and congratulations.  A volunteer hands me a Mylar blanket which I take and them shed immediately as the pain in my back intensifies.   Someone else hands me a bag with snacks and a medal for finishing.  Bill helps me to the side and off the finish line area and I try to bend over to remove my sneakers.  I cannot, so he kneels down to help me.  We walk—or Bill walks and I hobble—past the food tents and drink tents and trinkets—directly to the massage tent.  I am afraid someone is going to stuff me into an ambulance, but I hobble directly to the front of the line.

“How long is the wait to see someone?  I have a terrible muscle spasm and I don’t think I can wait long.”

The woman behind the make-shift desk looks at me for a few seconds, assessing me.

“Come in right now.  Come in, honey.”

And then I am in a chair with an icepack on my back.  Bill paces around outside the tent. I know he is worried, but he will have to wait.  Soon, someone comes to get me and brings me to a massage table.  The masseuse is a young man, and as he listens to me telling him what is wrong, I can sense apprehension in his approach.  I allow him to work on my back for a little while, and soon realize there will be nothing he can do to help me today.  I wince as I roll off the table and stagger to my feet.

“Thank you.  Thank you so much.  I am sure this will feel better soon.”

I exit the tent and find Bill, who is still pacing around.  The concern on his face makes me glad I am not near a mirror.

We head back to the hotel, me gingerly putting one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on Bill’s arm.  At some point, he wraps his arm right around me and I rest as much of my weight on him as I can without actually letting him carry me.  We take breaks from walking and I stretch a bit.  I am grateful for the longish walk back to the hotel, knowing that if I stop moving, my muscles will seize up even more and I will be defeated by my own body after making my goal.

A couple of hours later, after a long hot shower, four or five ibuprofen and more stretching, I find myself at a table in a restaurant, eating house special miso soup with mushrooms and rolls of vegan sushi.  Plates of vegetables and noodles crowd the table in the corner and I eat and eat and eat until my belly is full.  We walk together back to the car and I fall into the front seat, spent from the run, the dinner, the excitement and the success.  I did it!

Campus Run

Posted May 4, 2013 by elizabethruns
Categories: Run notes that run into life, Training

Tags: , , , , ,

The Twin Lights Half Marathon is tomorrow and I will not be running it.  I am at UMass Amherst with my husband for his 40th (or thereabouts) reunion with his mates from way back.  Although I am supposed to be training for a marathon in October, this weekend is out of bounds for training.  That being said…

After a night of eating, drinking, and some other stuff I am not going to mention here, I managed to haul my dehydrated self out of bed by eight o’clock this morning, throw back some kombucha and about a gallon of water, and get dressed in running gear.  The campus at UMass is ginormous, spring-green, and nicely paved all around. My start and end point:  the UMass Campus Hotel.  MH says it looks like a waffle iron.  I beg to differ.


It took a mile or so to clear my head and remind my legs that I run.  I started easy, then picked up the pace as I passed dorms, science buildings, some very young runners, and a lot of construction sites.  I logged seven miles in a little over an hour, not bad considering last night’s behavioral slips.  I circled the campus a couple of times, took a few short detours through residential areas, and worked on reconciling myself with the anxiety I feel that stems from struggling with meeting and hanging out with a lot of strangers who share a serious history and know each other well.  Everyone has been nice to me, but it’s just a little weird.  It makes me wonder if I have ever done this to MH.  Probably.  He is just way more chilled than I am about this kind of stuff.  He’s a Type B.  Me?  Definitely a Type A.  Which is why I brought running gear and got up and out this morning.

There are two more days of fun planned, including a dinner tonight.  MH has built a video slide show from old slides and photographs from “back in the day” adventures from Wheeler dorm.  He has spent countless hours scanning slides and pictures, adding a soundtrack of music from the early seventies, back when I was still a little girl.  The music I know.  The adventures depicted in the slide show?  Not so much.  There may be more drinking.  Okay.  There will be more drinking.  And tomorrow, there will be more running.  Wish me luck!

The Boston Marathon Bombings

Posted April 16, 2013 by elizabethruns
Categories: Run notes that run into life

Tags: , , , , , , ,

It breaks my heart to consider the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Boston Marathon is a day that should be filled with triumph, joy, and fulfillment.  In place of that sweet goodness there is shock, disbelief and dismay.  Hot anger and  deep sadness surge through me for that tiny percentage of mankind that purposefully causes terror.  Hurt.  Death.

Boylston Street filled with heroes after the bombs went off; even runners at the end of their race stopped to help in the chaos of smoke and screaming.  My eyes were riveted to the television screen all afternoon, watching video clips of what happened.  Bloodied faces, tears, ambulances, emergency medics, wheelchairs, gurneys.  People running for their lives.   I wanted to take back the day, return to the start line and change one thing to alter the outcome.

The running community, the families and friends of the running community, and anyone else connected to this world famous race have spent the last 24 hours riveted to the news and connecting with each other, hoping for the best news for those injured, silently urging the police to find whoever is responsible for this tragedy.  Children.  Who kills children?

It breaks my heart.


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