I’m Running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for Mamaw #ENDALZ

What better way to kick off a new year than to run three miles in softly falling snow, especially if you’re me? Well, warming up with some coffee and registering for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. That’s what.

I knew I wanted to run the half this year, hoping to set a new course PR. My previous performance on the half course was dismal thanks to the heat of the day. Even though I’m currently running very slow, I feel that’s a good goal: don’t explode at mile five. Doable!

However, as I ran through the snow in single digit temps this morning, another thought struck me which encouraged me to finalize my registration. As soon as my fingers warmed up enough to type, I opened my computer and registered as a charity runner with the Pittsburgh ALZ Stars Team.

I'm Running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for Mamaw #ENDALZ

Between now and March 1, my goal is to raise $500 for the charity which provides vital services for those struggling with Alzheimer’s, their families and their caregivers. For those who might not know, my husband and I have been providing care for his grandmother. She is currently living at home, residing in what is known as Stage 6. She receives hospice care from a wonderful local company a few days a week while my husband and I provide care in the gaps.

Mamaw’s own mother died with ALZ. Aunt Betty, Mamaw’s sister, died with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2010. We’ve watched Mamaw’s decline over the past handful of years, but 2017 seemed to speed up the process after she fell in July. A number of events outside our control put us in a position in which we felt that stepping up to the plate was not only the right thing to do but required. Family takes care of family; it’s just what you do.

ALZ is awful. It’s awful for Mamaw in so many ways. It’s awful for my husband’s grandfather, Gramps, as he watches her decline. It’s awful for my husband and I as we scramble to learn things we didn’t know and make sense of schedules and medicines and systems.

As I ran on the frozen road this morning, knowing I was starting this training with a three mile run, I started to panic a little about how I might fit all of the training in with the schedule we’re keeping right now. I wake up three days per week at five o’clock to work. I spend three days per week cleaning and providing care for Mamaw and Gramps. I have two sons involved in various activities, including baseball which eats up a lot of time from late winter into spring—right during the thick of long training runs.

Then I thought of Mamaw.

And I decided to run for her.

I'm Running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for Mamaw #ENDALZ

I’m thrilled that the Pittsburgh ALZ Stars Team is an official charity of the Pittsburgh Marathon. While we do not reside in the PGH area (though I’m a native), I love that my run will benefit other families like ours. Other families struggling to say goodbye, day after day, as the disease slowly takes their loved ones minds and, eventually, bodies. Other families trying to figure out a system that doesn’t really provide for our elderly in easy to understand ways. Other families fondly referred to as the Sandwich Generation who are caring for children and parents, or in our case, grandparents, at the same time. Other families who realize while doing so that they need to make plans for their futures in case we haven’t found a cure for ALZ.

On May 6, 2017, I’m running 13.1 miles for Mamaw. For my sons. For the two of us. For our future.

I would love if you would donate to my run for the Pittsburgh ALZ Stars Team. Any amount will help other families like mine as we navigate this path of unknowns. As always, I will be tracking my progress here. I look forward to this journey.

Let’s #ENDALZ.


The Self-Care of a RunStreak

This morning, I ran 2.10 miles in softly falling snow. I layered up, put on my YakTrax, and headed out into the blissful quiet and cold. I don’t run with music when it’s snowing. The silence is music enough to my ears.

I’ve been waiting for a day like this for 38 days now.

#rwrunstreak Day 38

I signed up for the Runner’s World RunStreak despite my life imploding in all sorts of areas. Committing to at least one mile every single day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day felt a little risky. With the schedule I’m keeping, showering every day can feel like too much some days. I figured that if I was running, I’d shower more. Two birds, one stone, all that jazz.

I’m running much slower than during my last winter runstreak in 2014. I’ve been struggling to run in general since I couldn’t run the Columbus Marathon due to a family event that took place the same day. The whole “I’m much slower than I used to be” is getting to me. I’m getting to myself. I’m trying to practice self-grace and patience, but my Type-A steps in sometimes.

Frequently, really.

So each and every day since Thanksgiving, I have laced up my shoes and hit the pavement. I believe I ran two treadmill runs, but I greatly prefer running outdoors. So I did.

#rwrunstreak 2017

Today’s run was not faster than yesterday’s run. Two inches of new snow and the anti-slippies on my feet meant picking them up and putting them down felt harder than normal. Still, I ran. I ran out the country road, knowing I’d have to come back up the hill. With conditions being what they were, I gave myself permission to walk up the hill—but I ran an extra tenth of a mile so I could have a fully run two-mile distance. A little bit of grace, a little bit of kicking my own ass.

Two days remain in this streak. I plan on running the minimum tomorrow as training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon starts on Monday, January 1 and I’ll have to put in three miles no matter the temperatures, weather, or likely present hangovers. I’ll finish the streak. I’ll rest on Tuesday, though rest is relative as the 2nd also starts a 30-day yoga program I decided to throw into the mix. I like challenges, what can I say?

After my run, I sat in the hot tub with a mimosa, the snow still falling. With everything going on, these quiet moments keep me grounded—both the running in the snow and the hot tubbing in the snow. I need these moments to breathe, to think, to meditate.

I have not yet started sharing the experience of caregiving for my husband’s grandmother, this slow process of losing her while maneuvering a system we struggle to understand with very little help. You know, while parenting two tweens, managing a marriage and household, and generally trying to function as a human being. I’ve been a horrible friend since all of this began as I’m torn in every which direction.

I’ll be ending 2017 engaging in self-care followed by some time with friends. I’ll begin 2018 by continuing the never-ending process of self-care surrounded by my family. I can’t control anything else in my life right now; it’s a series of unknowns that affect every aspect of our lives. I can, however, move my body, run and train, and sit in a hot tub with my head back, catching snowflakes on my tongue.