Friday, September 5, 2008

10 Miles of Memories

Labor Day weekend is a family holiday for the Gasper Family. I mean it! It is the ONLY time when me and my sisters are all in the same place for a Holiday. I mean it – not Easter, not Thanksgiving, not CHRISTMAS. NADA. But Labor Day, which is a bit odd. I don’t think any of my family really knows the history behind Labor Day. And I must admit, as I’ve gotten older I do feel a more than a twinge of guilt that I’m not out at some Labor action on that day. Usually, I’m stuffing my face with fair fries.

But that weekend has so many memories for my family and me. Our County Fair, The Canfield Fair – is that same weekend and we all end up there at some point. All of us girls used to show horses. And it isn’t as if my parents shelled out thousands of dollars for horses, tack, riding lesions, etc. This was something that we all took on ourselves. We bought our own horses, trained them and bought our own tack – which was usually used.

You could say we kind of looked like misfits – but somehow, it all came together.

Sometimes that is how I feel about my running…I have no formal training, I know my form must look funny, but somehow…it all comes together. But, no grand championships are in my future with running!

On Saturday, I had to go out and run 10 miles in the morning if I was going to spend the rest of the day eating fried food. I got up a bit later than what I wanted to, since I got in late the night before. By time I was out on my run, it was 8:30 am and the morning fog was almost completely burned off.

I like to run down Washingtonville Road by my parents’ house. It is a pretty road with gently rolling hills. But those hills can seem a bit rough running up them. It has one of my favorite scenes from home – a big, beautiful old barn in a state of decay. I don’t know why I find it so beautiful and sad, but I do – especially when it is surrounded by the morning light and dew still soaks the ground. Then, the road connects to the bike trail, which is the old converted RR tracks where my family used to hike and pick black raspberries when I was a kid. On Saturday, I was surprised to find a bike race happening on the road. I asked one of the volunteers how far they were going and they said 8 miles, which seemed really odd to me – but whatever, I just kept going.

The bike trail takes me past the fairgrounds and I cannot help but think about my youth when I showed horses there, being there with my sisters and the friendships I forged during the early mornings at the barn. And I MEAN early – like 5 am. There was always something different about the late summer early mornings – when you could feel the chill of fall in the air.

We used to ride our horses back into the fair parking lot (which dubs as a hay field in the early summer) the parking lot opens up into a wooded area. I always found these morning rides very peaceful and were probably one of my favorite things about the fair.

I also had my adopted family at the fair – all the parents who helped me out. They made sure I had a ride up in the morning, helped me tack up my horse when I was too small to do it myself – gave me pointers when I rode, shared a hug with me when Alex (my horse) and I knocked down a cone or a pole, and made sure I got home at night. My parents were always too busy with the farm to fill those duties themselves. I love all those people like family and it makes me so happy to run into them when I am back at the fair as an adult.

On my way back on my run, I thought about someone I’ve started seeing again…he was running an ironman that weekend. I can never get over how incredible that is – and he can do several of them in one year – unbelievable. All that being said, both of our busy lives make it difficult for us to see each other. And I have a hard time working through that.

As I continued running, I ran into more bikers and asked another volunteer about the race – he said it was an 8 mile loop – and they were doing it 8 times. That sounded more like it. The bike race just made me think of the changing times and how peoples’ recreation is changing – even in the valley. I never would have imagined a bike race there 20 years ago. Some farmers would have been up in arms about it for some reason I’m sure. That is the same reason by the bike trail doesn’t extend through the rest of the old RR track – too many old farmers unwilling to let some yuppies run a bike path through their property.

But, many of those old farmers have had no choice but to sell more of their land to those yuppies riding the bikes.

At the end of my run, I talked with a knowledgeable volunteer for several minutes. He was interested in how far I ran and I was interested more about the bike race. We talked about the different races we had both ran. He tried to convince me to run the Army 10 miler in a couple of weeks in DC – and I had to explain that I have this little thing called an election going on. But, it made me smile – thinking of how I used to live in DC and how my friend Kamden always runs that race.

It was a weird run – a lot of jumbled up memories from different parts of my life coming together in 10 miles.

But, the one constant was that I could eat my fair fries and have my lemon shake, too without any guilt. And if that isn’t a holiday – I don’t know what is!

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Has Been Awhile…

It has been a while since I’ve blogged. Some of you know I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff that I just don’t feel like putting up on the Internet. A lot of it seems to be either dying down or at a stand still, so I I’m feeling a little like talking – or typing as it was.

Some of you may be wondering if I ran the half marathon in Parkersburg…and I did!

My friend Lauren and I trekked to WV for the big race. I was excited to celebrate my 30th in this way. Very different from past birthdays of over indulging in alcohol and waking up the next day wishing I didn’t have to go to work.

Maybe this is growing up? Who knows?

Parkersburg has some pretty parts of town, but it is depressing to see parts of it. I would like to see a census count of evangelical churches and strip clubs in the town. It seemed that no matter where you turned you saw a church and 9 times out of 10 – there was a strip joint across the street.

Lauren and I got there on Friday (8.15.08). The race was on Saturday. We didn’t want to eat dinner at the hotel that night so we sent out to dinner and found a local Italian joint that could have been in Salem, Ohio (near where I grew up.). The owner had photos up on the wall of famous people who had visited the restaurant – my favorite was of course of Boom Boom Mancini.

Unfortunately…the food was pretty buttery and didn’t sit to well with us, so we both had some problems in the morning. Ugh. You can tell from our photos!

The race course was very scenic and the crowd was awesome. It seemed like the whole town came out for the race. And I’m pretty sure there were some late night bets (the race has same day registration) that got some Parkersburg citizens to gear up for the race last minute judging from their running attire.

Parkersburg sits on the confluence Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers – which makes the vista pretty unique. The course initially takes you through the Julianne St. Historical District with the stately old homes and then down toward the river bottom to the decaying industrial flats. Once you get out of the town proper you spend most of your time running through rolling hills. Everyone seems to come out to cheer on this race in the area – it is great.

Folks were dressed up in costumes, local cheer leaders were out, as well as bands. There were more race volunteers than at other larger races I’ve been at and we had – 17 water stops!

The race is a kick off to the weekend festivities in Parkersburg – it is their homecoming weekend. After the race concludes a large parade snakes through the town – some folks we talked to boosted that it was the largest parade in WV. It seemed as if every pageant winner in the state was there to wave on her loyal subjects from Miss WV down to Little Miss Christmas.

There was also the largest contingent of Shriners I’ve ever seen – IN MY LIFE.

The rest of the weekend Lauren and I relaxed at the hotel, lamented at the fact that the hotel lied on their website about having a hot tub, sauna and Olympic pool and checked out the town. (The hotel had free passes to the local YMCA that had these amenities – but wasn’t on site.)

We also got a massage from a local masseuse who commuted from Bellsville Ohio to Parkersburg for work. A pretty depressing scenario that the only place an Ohioan can find work is an hour and a half away in WV.

And while we were still high off the adrenaline from the half marathon…Lauren and I crazily talked about running half at the Columbus Marathon – which is 3 weeks before the election. Yes, we both need to have our heads examined! And yes, we both registered for the race on Friday!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Patterns Become Ruling Routines

You know, the older we get I think the harder it is to let go of our routines. I wonder if that is what helps provide us with more stability in a crazy, hectic life. You know what time you are getting up, when you are going home and what you are doing when you get there. If something upsets that routine – it can affect your whole mood.

It is one of those things that I’ve noticed about myself and about my friends. I used to be a lot more spontaneous. Where did that go? I can remember a conversation with a friend not that long ago reminding me of how I just picked up and moved to Chile or how I just decided to move to Ohio – because of my idealism.

We were talking about me moving back to DC and well, that decision is harder. Is it because of routine? It is crazy to think that I’ve been in Columbus for MORE than 3 years and have had the same job for almost 3 years and have lived in the same place. This is the first time in my life I’ve had that type of stability. Is routine what makes us less risk adverse? Is it age? Maturity?

I don’t know where this is going, but I guess it came up because I was at work for 12 hours today and before I went in…I told myself I was working 8 to 8 and no more. I get done, what I get done. I came home, was playing phone tag with several different friends. One who I haven’t talked to in a while….and we spoke briefly before she went to bed at 10. It was a little awkward, because we both were unwilling to change our routine to talk to another.

When I got home from work – I did my usual. Took Ariel for a walk and then went to the gym. Then, came home and tried to call my friend and finally reached her. This was at 10 pm.

You know…I think we got to do more. Routine isn’t an excuse for not talking to people. I know I fall into this all the time and my friends do as well. But, we gotta do better.

Sometimes I think we let routine and our “daily life” be an excuse for not connecting, not being spontaneous and living a life that is well, full of comfortable patterns but with little real adventure.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

6 Weeks Out!

Well, started training for the half marathon…and boy a month of lightly hitting the gym, doing fun runs with my dog and well, probably drinking a little too much doesn’t do much to help you keep up your stamina!

I logged 22 miles this week, and they were all rough runs.

But, each one was better than the last one, which is good. I am hoping I can regain my speed quickly by doing tempo runs. These are a first for me and I’m sure the people at walking around the park that I run at think there is something wrong with this manic who is running like crazy then jogging slowly, then running like crazy again.

But, I logged 7 miles yesterday and didn’t need to stop to walk, stretch or anything. I ran three miles at a harder pace and 4 miles at an easier pace.

6 weeks to go until the half marathon in Parkersburg WV and until I turn 30:) -- looking forward to both. I think I am ready to close the chapter of my 20s in my life.

Over the past month work has been a lot of stress. New staff starting, traveling around the state and making time for exercise, family and friends hasn’t been easy. My balancing act is better than in the past – but I could really feel the drain in June.

I really think training will help with balancing. I know it sounds crazy that it would, but it gives me more structure to my day.

Well, I’ll hopefully be writing more over the next several weeks while my training is going on for the half marathon. Feel free to comment.

And, a shout out to Josiette whose birthday is Tuesday. How does it feel to be 30, J-Dawg?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Self Debate

So, I need a race. I need to register, make the commitment to run and create a plan. Work is getting BUSY and I need something to help bring me some sanity. After the Cleveland Marathon I took a week off running/exercising period. Now, I’ve been running and going to the gym, but nothing longer than 3 miles.

I will say it has been nice to enjoy seeing my friends and not have such a strict schedule...but now work is filling that free time more and I need a plan to create some balance.

I am considering the half marathon in Parkersburg WV. It will be a good excuse to get outta town for my 30th birthday. Damn, 30. You know, I don’t feel 30…I thought 30 would feel old. But, I don’t feel old at all.

I would say I’m just a little more mature, which is a good thing. I handle things better than I used to -- if I do say so myself -- stress, friendships and family. I guess…in a lot of ways those things can at times be intertwined.

Oh, and we did reach the Joliba Trust Goal! I received a few late contributions that put us over the top. So thank you!

Tune back in later…I promise to write more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If you don’t like the weather in Cleveland, wait 5 minutes.

That is a saying in Cleveland and on May 18th – it was so true. When Micah and I started out in the morning at 7 am, it was pouring down rain. But, I was optimistic that the Cleveland saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Cleveland, wait 5 minutes,” would ring true and I wore my sunglasses in spite of the rain.

Even with the miserable weather, friends and family came out to cheer on Micah and me. It was fantastic! But, the sad news of the day was that my parents and sister only made it to one mile marker before getting caught up in a fender bender! Thankfully, everyone is okay.

The Cleveland Marathon takes you from downtown Cleveland across the shoreway to Lakewood. It is pretty amazing running across the bridges in Cleveland. Too bad it was raining in the morning and the view across the lake wasn’t that clear. Nonetheless, the beginning of the race is very exciting! You feel great and there is an amazing energy throughout the participants and the crowd. Plus, you have the bonus of having the half marathoners with you – so there are a lot more people.

By time we got into Lakewood, Micah and I had our eyes open for our friends and family. As we rounded the bend onto W. 117th, we saw them jumping and shouting in the rain. It was fabulous. Shortly there after, Micah and I saw this family that seemed to follow our pace throughout the race. There were 3 kids, a mom and a grandpa – and they were awesome. I saw them about every five miles and they had such great energy and were always giving people high fives as they ran by. I’ll tell you at mile 21 – their high fives helped me get up a wicked hill while I was running into the wind off of Lake Erie.

I must admit, that some of the euphoria of the race can wear off by time you reach mile 13. The half marathoners are heading towards the finish line and you are wondering to yourself...“um…why didn’t I just do the half? I still have 13.2 more miles to go!” The other issue at mile 13 is that the crowd REALLY starts to thin out. There are a ton of people cheering for the first half and it dwindles at the second half. So for those marathon spectators reading out there – trust me – your marathoners will love to see you later in the race. It is when they’ll need you most.

The second half of the marathon goes through midtown and then over to MLK Blvd, which takes you through one of my favorite parts of Cleveland – the ethnic gardens. We were lucky and the sun came out, but it didn’t get too hot in the second half. Heck, it was even starting to rain again as I finished mile 26.

At mile 15, it was great to see some friendly faces from back in Youngstown…the Haus family came out in full force and was cheering me on – and it was so great to see them there. At mile 16, there was this guy who was struggling…and I gave him an extra Gu that I had…I hope that it gave him the energy needed to keep moving on.

At Mile 18, I saw Rachel and Marilyn again. Plus, I got to see my friend Susan, who came with her baby Cole. It was fantastic that they were able to make it out.

My pace was great…until mile 20. Damn, the wind off the lake hit me and I went from running perfectly on pace to having my time go up by 1 to 2 minutes per mile. What a bummer…and it was so rough to have the view of downtown Cleveland in front of you, but feel so far away. During this time, I really concentrated on the Joliba Trust. I thought about their work and what hopefully they’d be able to do with the donations we’ve all raised. This helped to push me through to the end.

Then, while nearing the home stretch, I saw my friends Jed and Sarah – cheering me on. How Sarah had the energy…I don’t know considering she had already finished the race!

Crossing the finish line was great. I was happy at taking nearly 20 minutes off my old time. Even if I didn’t reach my goal of a 4 hr and 30 minute marathon – I guess that gives me a goal for next time!

I am also happy to say that we came close to reaching the goal for the Joliba Trust – we raised nearly $2,000. We feel short of the $2,000 goal by just $83. So, if you haven’t given yet – please do so – you can make the difference!

I also want to give a special Congrats to Micah and Rachel – not only did Micah have a great first marathon – he also got married a week later!

So, that is it for now…just resting, walking and hitting the elliptical at the gym. I plan on running two half marathons this summer. I’ll keep you all posted!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WHOA! 5 Days to go!

At 4:30 pm today….

I don’t know where to start…so I’ll give you my final fundraising pitch. We’ve raised $1,100 so far – which is awesome! But, we are still $900 short of the $2,000 goal. I know you all should have received your tax refunds AND now you should be getting your nice stimulus check. Instead of spending that money on that flatscreen TV you’ve been wanting – how about giving it to a good cause – AND a cause that won’t help stimulate the George Bush Economy!? And for those of you who haven’t given yet – and you know who you are – I will do call time. Oh yeah, you’ll be getting a call and I’ll be hitting you up for a donation.

As for the running update…I did my long run on Saturday evening this past week, which wasn’t that long – only 8 miles. It was great to get outside, since I was inside all day at a staff training for work that went pretty well. The weather was beautiful. I could not have asked for a more perfect night – other than the gnats. Lots of gnats – I am pretty sure I got some extra protein while running;). The allergies were still bothering me – but I just concentrated at running at my marathon pace, so I wouldn’t be pushing it too hard. I was still running about 30 seconds a mile too fast – but significantly slower from my past 8 milers.

I am actually excited that it is supposed to rain like all week in Cleveland. I am hoping it will wash more of the pollen away and my allergies will be less severe. I am feeling pretty good right now and I’m looking forward to my short 3 mile run tonight – AND seeing Ariel…

At 9 pm today….

I am back! Anyways sorry for the switch on my train of thought…I was at the DC airport when I was writing the three paragraphs above and had to board my flight.

It was great to get into Columbus, get to the office, pick up Ariel and go home and run. It was a really weird feeling being super elated to be back. I can truthfully say that is the first time that has ever happened. Usually, I am pretty melancholy when I get back from DC. Most of you know that the transition from DC to Columbus has been difficult for me. It has been harder to make friends – and ironically enough – more of them are involved in politics than my friends in DC.

I am not putting all the burden on Columbus – because that would be the easy thing to do – a lot of it is because of how much I chose/choose to work and the odd fact that I’ve become more of an introvert as I’ve become older . (or I could just be reverting back to my true self…I was very much an introvert as a child) I lost touch with many people in 06, since I was working like an insane woman. Case and point … after the 06 election, I finally called my friend, Susan to find out that she was 6 months pregnant! Yes, I was an asshole. I should have made time to call.

I also think the visit to DC jogged my thought process on what am I going to do after this election. Stay in Ohio, move back to DC, move somewhere else – like out West? I’ve given myself an August deadline to figure out what I want to do. Why August? I don’t know…maybe because that is the last month before election stuff becomes really crazy, maybe because I’m turning 30, or it is just completely arbitrary. August could come and go without me making a decision.

I know that if I move back to DC, my life would not go back to how it was before I left. People are in different points in their lives now. I would no longer have the party pad where everyone would hang out before heading out in Adams Morgan or U Street. Nor do I have a strong desire to go out and party it up in AdMo. My alcohol tolerance is pathetically low and I tend to be in bed by 10 pm. I never quite regained my party-all-night stamina after my lung surgery. If I stayed here…would I still work for America Votes? Would I do something else? What about Chicago? Montana? Northern California?

Is this one of those decisions when I have to make a list?

When I moved back to Ohio in 04 – it was a gut decision. I had to move back – it was for my country, my state, my family. I had to work for change. The consequences of that decision didn’t matter to me – a significant paycut, leaving my friends and network in DC, moving to a city where I knew practically no one. And, those consequences have been frequent reminders of the fact that my personal – NOT professional – transition to Ohio has been very difficult.

My current decision is different, less idealistic and a little selfish.

My whole thought process on this blog is weird…too much thinking about too much stuff. I should be writing about the marathon this weekend, which I am really excited about – but scared at the same time. I have been pretty consumed with it this week. I freak out about the taper – since I worry about my stamina, etc. I am more worried about it this time since I had to cut my last long run in half because of my allergies.

Well, I should cut this off. I’ve been writing this at Northstar – the cafĂ© across from my house where I eat WAY TOO OFTEN! I need to get home and unpack and mentally prepare myself for tomorrow – and yes, that usually entails making a list.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

That Just Blows

This past Sunday I was planning to run half of the Flying Pig Marathon with my friend, Lauren. It was a perfect day for a race. It was cool in the early morning -- it was just in the 40s and the sun was shining. I drove to downtown Cincinnati right at 6:30 am to meet my friend’s parents and her girlfriend at mile 5. We all kept looking for Lauren but didn’t see her. We then all piled in the car to drive to mile 12 where I was planning on jumping in the race with Lauren. While we were driving to mile 12, we received a call from Lauren. She fell at mile 4 and that is why we didn’t see her. We spent the next hour and a half trying to get to first aid to collect Lauren.

I felt so bad for her – to train for that long and to have something like that happen just sucks. And, of course you tell a lot of people that you are running the marathon, and when you head back into work the next day – people are going to ask you how it went – so you have to relive it.

There are no marathons or even half-marathons in the tristate area this weekend – which is just kind of crazy. Lauren cannot run Cleveland, since she is going to France for a wedding. But, she’s already come up with a new goal – running a half marathon while running 9 minute miles, which is fantastic and ironic.

While running 12 miles on Sunday night, I had a great run – I ran 12 miles in 1 hour and 54 minutes. I was pumped by that time! So, I came up with my own goal to run a half marathon in less than two hours!

Lauren and my goal are very similar – so we are considering running the half together. I’ll keep you posted on when this may happen!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

On the Juice

Just five miles tonight, the first time I’ve run since Sunday. I took it easy and had my favorite running partner with me – sorry Micah. We had plenty of stops to pee, to sniff things out and to of course – chase squirrels.

And I have good news – I’m not sick – I just have CRAZY allergies.

And pardon me while I rant about my health insurance company. So, I’ve had allergies since I was a kid – like 9 years old, which really sucked while growing up on a farm – but it did get me out of picking tomatoes. Yes, I am allergic to tomato plants – my hands break out in blisters – the same thing with cats if I pet them and don’t wash my hands right afterwards.

I used to get allergy shots as a kid and they really helped. But, as an adult, I really don’t have the time to take 3 hours out of my day once a week to go get a shot. I’ve relied on medication to help control my allergies – which mostly works well. BUT, now that my work has switched health care companies – to United Health Care – they won’t cover my allergy medicine – Allegra D. They say, take something over the counter, like Claritin D, but that doesn’t work for me.

I had United Health Care when I worked in DC for Democracy Data & Communications. I went through the same thing, but they finally did relent and cover my Allegra D. About 6 weeks ago, I finally went back into my doctor to deal with my chronic cough and runny nose and she sad it was allergies and tried to prescribe me the Allegra D – but my insurance company again refused to cover it. So, without a choice I tried a different over-the-counter medication, which has yet to work any wonders.

Last week, when I was at my parents I started sneezing, nasal drip and a cough. I thought for sure I was getting sick again. I mean – I was taking two different allergy medications – couldn’t be allergies.

Finally, yesterday I relented and went to the doctors because how I’ve been feeling has made it impossible to run and barely possible for me to even go to work. My co-workers thought I had the “plague” again. My doctor said I was not sick – it was allergies. I explained to him that I was running in the Cincinnati Marathon this weekend and needed to feel better. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m running half of the Flying Pig Marathon with my friend, Lauren). And he was great about it and gave me a steroid shot (aka the juice as I’m calling it) and I feel like a new woman today. Plus, he gave me some more Allegra D samples…which should last me 5 days.

This whole process if very frustrating…I’m wondering how much it cost my insurance company for me to go to the doctor, get the shot, etc. They could have avoided this – and the initial doctor’s appointment if they just would cover my damn Allegra D.

Now, I know I’m lucky that I even have insurance. But, the last time I checked – insurance companies aren’t doctors and they shouldn’t be making decisions that have an ill affect on my health – but they are. All for some crazy bottom line that someone believes is there by telling people to buy their allergy medication over-the-counter. Medications react differently with different people. Anyone with a little common sense can tell you that. Okay – enough of my rant. I’ll be back on the phone tomorrow with United Health Care trying to get coverage for my Allegra D.

And if not, I'll be asking folks for a Canadian hook up.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

10 Instead of 20

I am fighting a head cold – it sucks. I was trying to convince myself that it is just allergies – but I don’t think so. Allergies are probably contributing to how I am feeling, but I definitely have a head cold. That is okay – as long as it doesn’t go to my lungs. I was supposed to do 20 miles today, but when I got up at 6 am – I knew that wasn’t possible. So I called Micah and told him he was on his own for his 20 mile run. I felt bad, but I cannot mess around with my health.

After talking to a few people about my cold and long distance runs, I decided that I’d do 10 miles this evening. I was able to run the whole time – and was pretty happy with that fact. On Friday, I ran 8 miles near my parents’ house and it was a big struggle – that was when I was coming down with the cold. I ran 10 miles tonight in less time it took me to run 8 miles on Friday.

Today was a BEAUTIFUL day in Columbus – the leaves are finally out, everything is in bloom and there was no humidity. Other than all the allergens in the air – it was perfect running weather.

I think that everything in the past week was just wearing on me and ran down my system, but, better now than right before the Marathon. I just need to make sure I push myself on the long runs moving forward – even though they will be shorter.

Next weekend, I am running half of the Cincinnati Marathon with my friend Lauren. She ran half of the Columbus Marathon with me last year – so time for me to repay the favor. I may run a little more than just half – depending on how I am feeling to make up for not running 20 miles today.

As for an update on Joliba Trust – I am pretty sure we are close to raising $1,000 from the tracking I’ve received from Caroline and the updates from you all about what you’ve given. I want to thank you all for your generosity. With 3 weeks to go – we need to raise $1,000. So, for those of you who haven’t given – and you know who you are – be expecting me to personally hit you up:)

Monday, April 21, 2008

One Hard 18-Miler

Well, last weekend’s 18 miler seemed like a sweet day dream compared to this weekend’s run – mentally and physically I was not ready for the run.

On Friday afternoon, I got the unfortunate call from my Mom telling me that my Grandmother wasn’t doing well. I wasn’t expecting this call from my Mom – I was expecting her to call to thank me for the gift I sent her for her birthday. But, my Mom didn’t even remember it was her birthday because her mother was dying.

I was in Cleveland, so I quickly got in my car to drive back to Columbus to arrange for someone to cover me for my Saturday work obligations. (A big thanks to Lauren for covering for me!) When I got to Columbus, I squared a few things away at the office and at home and got back in the car to drive another 3 hours to Youngstown. I went straight to the nursing home – to see the ghost that was left of my Grandmother. I saw her not that long ago and each time I’ve visited her over the past two years – I’ve had to deal with the shock of how much she changed since the last time I saw her.

I was always been close to my Grandma Jeanne. Some of my fondest memories from childhood were going over to her apartment in Canfield to spend the weekend – she lived close to a Dairy Queen – which is still one of my weaknesses! My Grandma was the “cool” Grandma. She was hip, classy and was an avid athlete into her 70s – she played golf and bowled. She always went to Florida with my mother and me to visit my Aunt Pat and her family. She had great taste in movies from classics to current movies – heck, this woman gave me Silence of the Lambs!

One of the things my mother’s family is NOT good at is sharing family history – that could be because their lives growing up were hard. I do remember the countless times when my mother would tell me that she walked 3 miles every morning to go to school – even in the snow and had to walk back every evening – uphill both ways (just kidding). But, she always left out the fact that my grandmother divorced my alcoholic grandfather in a time when divorces were not common and were shameful for Catholics. My mom and her 5 siblings did have a hard-knock childhood growing up in the projects in Briar Hill in Youngstown. My Grandmother worked 2 to 3 jobs to provide for the brood of 6 and ruled with an iron fist to keep them in line – which is hard to imagine being that my Grandmother was always a petite woman.

My Grandmother married my Grandfather at 19 and he was 10 years her senior. Shortly thereafter, my Grandmother gave birth to my Mother. My Grandfather was a WII Vet – who had a purple heart – but could not keep a job because of his substance abuse problem. Although it sounds like he was a charmer – he could be a very violent person at times – he stabbed my grandmother and that came very close to ending her life. My Grandmother divorced him and in her early 30s took on the task of raising 6 children on her own. Just recently I learned there was a 7th child, a little girl that was given up for adoption as an infant. I wish that she could have known the amazing, strong woman that my Grandmother was.

I look at the decision my Grandmother made and it would intimidate most women today – even after the women’s movement. My Aunts and Uncles remember a hard life – but one where they never felt deprived. This weekend my Aunt Pat fondly recalled that they never went without at Christmas and always had new bonnets and patent leather shoes at Easter. She pondered – how did she do it? It is a good question – sounds like my Grandmother was able to work small miracles on a regular basis. I cannot imagine the ridicule that my Grandmother went through being a divorced woman in the mid 50s with 6 kids – while sending most of them to Catholic school.

And it isn’t as if my Grandmother’s life was all hard knocks…in the late sixties she met the man that I’ve always known as my Grandpa – my Grandpa Chuck. They married and moved to Pittsburgh and my Grandmother became a nurse. They traveled to Europe, Mexico and the Bahamas and had a lovely home. My Grandpa Chuck died in 1987 and my Grandmother stayed in Canfield – close to several of her children. Into her 70s, she continued to work and helped my mother run our farm market. I loved the fact I got to see my Grandmother every day in the summer and during the rest of the year, she came over every Sunday for dinner.

Later in life my Grandmother continued to work small miracles…even on a fixed income she managed to give all of her grandchildren gifts at Christmas. My favorite were the chocolate covered cherries she’d buy me every year from Gorants – the local chocolate company in Youngstown. Looking back, I realize how truly amazing it was that she was able to give us all gifts. She was also talented in making crafts – she knitted, cross stitched and was very involved in her miniature club even into her 80s. She was there for all my major rites of passage in life – confirmation, graduation from HS, graduation from college and graduate school. She will be greatly missed at the next stages of my life. I am sad that she won’t be there when I get married or when I have children.

There are a lot of lessons in my Grandmother’s life but I’m not going to name off each one. AND, I’m not saying she was the perfect person – we all have our faults. But she lived one extraordinary ordinary life while up against incredible odds. She worked to have the ordinary things we all take for granted – like gifts at Christmas, vacations and to do simple things in life like golfing. She didn’t have a life partner who supported her and her children – she did it on her own in a time when being a single, divorced mother was looked down upon.

Well, now to my actual run…I did 18 miles on Sunday on the bike trail near my parents’ house. I ran from Green Township to Austintown (past Mahoning Ave) and back – kind of crazy – if you know the area. But, I didn’t have the normal elation that I have on my long runs…I really couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could get back to the nursing home to be with my family. It felt like it was uphill the first 9 miles and uphill the last 9 miles. Plus, it rained and that seemed very fitting for the day.

I cherished being with my family this weekend and listening to their stories about my Grandmother. I’ve asked that they write them down…because I know that most of us Grandchildren don’t know the stories. I am sure that what I’ve shared today is just a small part of her life…but, well…it is a start.

My Grandmother died early this morning while my Aunt Pat was reading poetry to her from a book that my sister gave her. I will miss my Grandmother very much and will think of her often. I am glad that after the last two rough years of her life that she is finally at peace. She had 6 children, 19 Grandchildren and 13 Great Grandchildren. Although she lived an ordinary life, she obtained that ordinary life while enduring extraordinary circumstances and she has had a major impact on my life. I love you Grandma and you will be missed.

I am sorry for those of you who are reading this for running updates…this really isn’t one…but an important life update nonetheless.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Post From Lauren!

Hello, this is Lauren, guest blogging on Karen’s Run Gasper, RUN! blog. Karen and I both have a great running life and a bad work habit. I ran my first marathon in Cleveland in May of 2006, right before I moved back to Ohio and shortly thereafter befriended Karen. Since that first marathon I’ve completed a 10k and half marathon and apparently the pain of Cleveland has worn off… because now I’m signed up to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon two years later this May.

Unlike Karen, I haven’t talked as much about my efforts in that first marathon or now my second. I feel moderately comfortable doing so now because I have actually completed a marathon and just last Sunday I ran my longest pre-marathon training run, 20 miles in unseasonably cold light rain and wind, up and down the hills of Cincinnati… I understand why Karen has been more public in her marathon aspirations, it can be great motivation to complete this hard task and a way to raise awareness about important issues. For me running has been a personal challenge, a time that I keep for myself and to myself. I decided to run my first marathon because I checked my Sunday mileage after developing a running habit over several years that always included a longer Sunday run. I was shocked to realize when I mapped my regular Sunday route that I was running half a marathon. It seemed like a logical step to challenge myself with the task of running a race and finishing a marathon. This time I’m hoping to improve my time a bit but the goal is still to have fun and maintain and improve fitness, both the mental and physical kind.

I hope you will consider joining me on marathon day, May 4th in Cincinnati, details at I hope you will also contribute at least $26.20 to Joliba Trust where even a small donation will help. Learn more and donate here. See Karen’s first post about why she started this blog and why she chose Joliba Trust.

Karen’s original goal was to raise $2,000 and her friends, families and coworkers are contributing and they are on their way. Let’s achieve and exceed that goal. I feel lucky and that it is a great luxury to have the health, time, support, and fancy shoes and energy bars to be a runner (even a not-so-fast one). I hope this very personal, sometimes selfish marathon training will maybe inspire someone else to complete a seemingly insane challenge and to raise awareness about the issues women in poor countries are faced with. I hope you will donate, even just a little. And I hope you are inspired to get out and run, bike, and play this spring.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Two Great Runs: 8 Miles and 18 Miles!

I had two fantastic runs this week – I completed my mid-week 8 mile run in 1 hour and 14 minutes and 33 seconds – even while running into a person I went to high school with – Columbus can be a small world! This was the fastest 8 miles I’ve ever run and I was VERY excited about it. The weather was warm – probably about 65 degrees. I just felt incredibly strong throughout the run and just concentrated on pushing myself.

On Saturday, Micah and I started out on our 18 miler at 7 am – early, I know – but we have to get into a rhythm for the Marathon since is starts at 7 am. This means getting up early, eating something and going through the same routine that you’ll go through the morning of the Marathon. Our run was a scenic run that goes though some beautiful parks and a few quaint Columbus neighborhoods. This Saturday was cooler than Wednesday when I did my 8 mile run. But spring has FINALLY come to Columbus and the trees are blooming and the grass is finally green again.

When Micah and I hit the 4 mile mark, we were running just under 10 minute miles. I was pretty pumped about that – since that was quite an improvement over our past 4-mile mark on our last long run together. We were able to keep a consistent pace throughout the run and completed 18 miles in just 3 hours! I was so pumped! The other thing that was fantastic about our Saturday run was seeing the Half Marathon Runners going through Columbus. At the midway point on mile 17, we saw the Half Marathoners running around the Horseshoe (for those of you not familiar with Columbus that is the OSU Football Stadium) and I was able to get out a “GO HALF MARATHONERS” as we crossed paths. I don’t know who I surprised more, Micah or myself by the fact I was able to get that bellow out so late in our run. But just seeing the runners got me very excited about running the Marathon in a month.

Tonight I had dinner with my Aunt and Uncle who live in Dayton and my friend Lauren joined us. (And a big thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for their generous donation!) She is running the Cincinnati Marathon and I’m running half of it with her on May 4th. She has decided to encourage her friends and family to donate to Joliba Trust, too to support her in her Marathon running! I am so excited since that means more donations to Joliba Trust! So, check out the blog in the next few days for a blog from Lauren on how her training is going.

Oh, and an update on Eric, check out this comment on his 5 k training: Run Eric Run! And it looks like I might be joining him for his Father’s Day 5k!

And finally a big congratulations to Kamden and Phillip for running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC last weekend! They both had fantastic times – 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 23 minutes respectively!

Please keep the comments and donations coming!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

16 Miles: Reconnecting and Rebuilding

For my run this week, I was in my hometown – which is outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Most of you know I grew up on a farm and my parents still live there. And my oldest sister, Michelle, lives nearby in my grandparents’ old home. With my job, I get to travel around the state, so I can try to pop in on weekends to spend time with my parents and my sister’s family. When I was home, my sister reminded me that I had not been home since Christmas, which I didn’t even realize, so it was nice to reconnect with my family and some of my friends.

On Saturday, my sister joined me on her bike for my 16 mile run. It was the first nice-weather long run I’ve had since I started training for the Cleveland Marathon. When I started out, it was about 35 degrees and then warmed up to the mid 50s. The first three miles of the run were by myself down a country road with rolling hills (my sister said I was on my own on the hills). The sun was rising and burning off the early morning fog that covered the hills. It took me just 30 minutes to get to the beginning of the bike path where I waited for my sister.

I’m not a quick runner – I am getting better, but there are no Olympic trials in my future – unless I am a spectator! I run at a comfortable pace that allows me to carry on a conversation. I cannot tell you the last time I had 2 hours to just talk to my sister – about anything and everything – completely uninterrupted except for the occasional hellos to the other people on the bike path. We talked about growing up, our parents and her two boys.

I was able to reconnect with my sister this weekend and was able to witness the rebuilding that has happened at my parents’ farm. About 9 months ago, my parents’ barn burned down. I happened to be visiting when it happened. I’ll never forget driving home from dinner with my mother and sister (driving over the hills that I ran on Saturday morning) to see an eerie light in the sky -- and knowing that there was nothing else there except for my parents’ farm. When my mom and I pulled into the driveway, I jumped out of the car and started looking and yelling for my dad because I could see that our back barn was up in flames. He -- of course -- was trying to get equipment out the barn that was completely engulfed in fire. I convinced him that we needed to focus on saving the other barn, since it was already smoldering. And unfortunately our road was closed, so it took the fire department over 30 minutes to get to my parents house and there was nothing left of the back barn to save. I will never forget that night – you just wish you could do something to give hope back to you parents’ but nothing you say can make up for all the years of work they’ve lost in just a few hours.

In just 9 months, my parents’ have been able to rebuild their barn, and with the help of their friends, they continued to farm last summer even with the loss of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies. Neighbors loaned tractors, equipment and helped clean up the fire site. It showed what can be overcome with the help of your friends and community.

So now, you might be wondering how any of this connects to my marathon training…that is a good question. I’m not sure if any of it is connected other than the fact that running gives me time to process life events and to think about relationships.

Well, I guess that is the connection – I didn’t chose to run a marathon to win – but to do something healthy for myself and as a byproduct, I created a healthier lifestyle. This healthy lifestyle has had more benefits than what I imagined. Part of what helps me keep this life change is the support from my family and friends for my running. My running helps me stayed connected to the people I care about – because I make time to think about other things than work – which in 2006 became all consuming. It has also helped me rebuild my health. So there it is – 16 miles to reconnect and rebuild – in many different ways in my life!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Do You Think Running 16 Miles is Impressive?

It sounds impressive until I was reminded that today my friend’s father is starting a trip across the US on a bike to raise money for two great causes – Spinal Bifida and Melanoma. My friends, Lauren and Chris, were just blessed on Valentine’s Day with their second child Grace. She was born with Spinal Bifida, which is a debilitating birth defect that affects spinal development.

I owe a lot to Chris and Lauren, mostly for putting up with me for the first month I lived in Columbus at their house. And for all the support they gave me while I was in the hospital for my collapsed lung and once I was out of the hospital but still had months of recovery. But, then – I partly hold Chris responsible for getting me to move back to Ohio. He appealed to my young, liberal naivetĂ© to get me to come back to the state that I love to work for political change. Now, I may be here forever!

But, back to Lauren’s and Chris’s family’s story. Lauren’s sister is in remission from Melanoma Cancer – so her father decided to bike from San Diego CA to St. Augustine FL to raise money and awareness for Spinal Bifida and Melanoma. Pretty amazing considering he is in his late 50s and has to bike 100 miles a day to complete his goal of finishing within 45 days!

To learn more about his ride, visit his website here:

Okay, I’ll get to my long run this week. Micah (my running partner) and I decided to run on Sunday instead of our normal Saturday run. We left at 8:30 am and the wind was biting as we ran into downtown Columbus to Bexley. The first 4 miles were a bit rough considering they were mostly uphill and since Micah is recovering from the flu – yuck! I felt great after the first 4 miles, but poor Micah was feeling sick again. He hung in for another 4 miles before deciding it was better to take it easy and get completely better – so he stopped at 8 miles. I can totally understand his frustration, since I’ve been sick through most of my training for this marathon. I have another doctor’s appointment this week to find out the cause of my chronic cough.

While running, I was reminded about running “easier” from my running book (“The Non- Runner’s Marathon Trainer”) and concentrated on keeping myself loose and trying not to over do it while running. The next 4 miles were a joy – but once I got to mile 13, my body was telling me “no more!” Well, so there is it “the wall.” You just have to learn to push through it – have your body adapt and keep moving. My right leg was incredibly tight at the hip and I was having problems moving that leg – so I adjusted my running stride.

I like running with a partner, but there is something about the solace of running by yourself to help you work through what’s going on in your life, too. There are no distractions like cell phones, computers, blackberries (crackberries). It is just you and the road – with the occasional hello or nod to another runner or biker. Since starting to run, I’ve learned to turn things off in my life (electronic things) and find solace at home and I’m less distracted when spending time with family and friends. Running has enabled me to connect or reconnect to other important things in my life.

The 8 miles alone today enabled me to contemplate things going on in my life – the loss of a relationship, figuring out different strategies to get the message out about the Joliba Trust and thinking about my dear friends Chris and Lauren who have their own unique journey with their daughter, Grace and son, Lincoln. And next weekend I’ll have 16 miles to myself while running in Youngstown near my parents’ house to contemplate the things I hold close to my heart.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

134.36 Pounds?

No, that isn't how much I weigh! Well, it is close -- but that is how much we've raised in less than 24 hours for Joliba Trust -- with the great US exchange rate it is $268.72! We are well on our way to reaching the $2,000 goal. And I want to thank everyone who has contributed.

One of the great things about the web and email is how they are able to connect you to people with which you've lost touch. One of those folks emailed me last night -- Eric -- who has is own blog at You should check it out! Eric was one of the first activists I met in Central Ohio in 2005 through my work at America Votes and his story on how he became involved in politics is very inspiring...but I'll let him tell it.

It looks like I had the chance to inspire him a bit with my running and he is considering training for a 5 k – SO GO ERIC! I also pointed him towards a great book that has been my bible through the running process -- courtesy of my friend, Lauren -- "The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer."

Last night, I was running 5 miles around my neighborhood and I was thinking about how running 5 miles would have seemed like such a huge feat just 12 months ago when I started my pre-marathon training for the Columbus marathon. I was literally walk/running 3 miles at that point. Now, on my short 5 miles runs, I can run 9 1/2 minute miles --which to me is just amazing. I finished 5 miles last night in less than 48 minutes!

The biggest obstacle has been making the time to train -- no matter if it is for a 5 k or a marathon. If it is something you want to do -- you owe it to yourself to make the time and maybe the benefits can reach well beyond your personal world.

So get out there!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

14 Miles

Micah and I ran 14 miles this weekend. (Micah is my running partner who is crazily running the Cleveland Marathon one week before his wedding). I like the 14 mile point because you are more than half way there. And you can tell yourself, "Hey, I've run more than a half marathon!" Which, I think is pretty impressive.

I slept in a little on Saturday before we ran and we didn't start until 9:30 am. Plus my hips are really bothering me, so I stretched for a good hour. About halfway into our run, it started to rain and then at mile 8, it started ice raining, which is a lot of fun -- let me tell you. Then, my special technologically designed running shirt literally rubbed a mole off my neck -- lol. Who needs to pay to see a dermatologist when you can just run your moles off?

As we were running, I thought back to last August when I ran 14 miles outside of my parents' farm while preparing for the Columbus Marathon. It was during my local county fair -- the Canfield Fair -- and yes, it is the best county fair in the country -- the largest county fair East of the Mississippi.

On that run, I ran by the fair ground and all the way into Canfield proper and to the other side of Canfield township. Running this long (and I am pretty slow) gives you time to think. I was thinking about all the food I was going to eat at the fair (of course), of how crazy it was that I was running to basically to my high school boyfriend's house (and back to my parents' house) -- which was in a different school district and about what a good friend had said to me while I was in DC the weekend before.

She asked me if I was running for something...I had decided that I was going to run for people's issues that they were concerned about -- the people that I love and who have supported me over the years. For those of you who don't know...the past couple years have been a bit rough -- to say the least. So, for the Columbus Marathon I ran for all those people's issues -- one mile dedicated to each one.

But for the Cleveland Marathon, I wanted to do more than raise awareness and that is why I am running to raise money for the Joliba Trust. There is a blog post below about what they are working on. And on my first blog post, I've written why I am supporting them, so I hope you'll read about this. I also hope you'll keep checking out this blog -- I plan to update it weekly about my training. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed for this by clicking on the orange box next to the website address above.

This is the first time I've ever written about myself in a public this is kind of weird for me. I promise I will get better. Please feel free to comment! I will try to make this funnier and more interesting!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Update From Joliba Trust

Here is a recent update on the work from Joliba Trust.....

Many, many thanks to everyone for all your support for our work. I have recently returned from Mali, and it was really inspiring to see everything that is being achieved.

There has been fantastic progress in our environmental work. More and more people are getting involved, and I was amazed that we have tripled the amount of trees grown in the agroforestry to 256,761 new trees at the January count. This will provide many more resources and increase crop production. 49.2 hectares of sand-dunes have been stabilised to protect farming land, and 62,978 saplings for income generation have been grown and planted from nurseries. Unlike many drier areas such as North Africa and the Middle East, land recovery in the Sahel is remarkably fast. Even wildlife such as hares, foxes, hyena, antelope and partridges are already returning to the planted areas.

The unprecedented floods in 2007 will have long-term effects. A lot of topsoil was washed away, and it was heart-breaking to see that many wonderful villages have lost much of their land and livelihoods. However, none of the villages with environmental schemes, dune stabilisation and erosion control measures have been affected. Many villages whose land is threatened, are now asking for help with environmental schemes. And many people in neighbouring districts, who are seeing the benefits of the planting, would like to participate in our environmental programme.

We have 9,000 volunteers for tree planting and erosion control this year, and are very anxious to raise more funds for our environmental programme. People cannot survive without soil and tree resources. The necessary seeds, transport of cuttings, and some technical training support are required. We could help communties to plant half a million trees this year, if we can raise the funds, and this would have a very big impact.

It would be very helpful if we could tackle smaller sand-dunes that are appearing, before they start damaging people’s land. The costs of stabilisation are very low in the early stages, as only deep-rooting grasses are needed, but multiply as the dunes get bigger and more complex planting is needed. We are very sorry to have been too late for many villages last year.

Our work with the wider community on female genital mutilation has been remarkably popular so far. The negative consequences have been quickly accepted by all religious and community leaders, many of whom, including 18 Imams, have taken on the issue for teaching themselves. We are working with teaching staff in schools who are interested in this work in two districts, serving 44 villages. We have trained 2 men and 2 women community workers to work in these districts. Huge numbers of people have been coming to their village meetings. We need to raise more funds for the work on female genital mutilation. We would also very much like to develop a more comprehensive ‘Maternal Health’ programme. This would work with communities on a combined programme of nutrition, family planning (as many girls are having abortions), hygiene and female genital mutilation together. It would be of very wide appeal and extremely useful.

If you are planning to support our work this year, we would be extremely grateful if you could give your support early. We are very short of funds to run our normal activites, but many of them need to take place in the current dry season. This is a year when so much could be achieved. Also, the pound is falling week by week against the euro, to which the Malian currency is tied. The pound has fallen 20% against the euro in the last year, so we need to raise more funds than before to do the same work. For higher taxpayers, as well as the 28.2p Gift Aid we receive from you, you can also claim 25p tax back for every pound you give.

We are extremely grateful for your wonderful support, and particularly to those of you who give regular donations. It is making such a big difference, and is enormously appreciated in Mali.

Please note that we have recently moved and have a new address, as below.

Caroline Hart
Joliba Trust
8 Nattadon Road
Devon TQ13 8BE
01647 432018

Why I am Blogging!

After getting one marathon under my belt, I've decided that I'd like run one each year -- for at least as long as I can. The next one is the Cleveland Marathon which is on Sunday, May 18th. While training last year for the Columbus Marathon I was always reminded of how lucky I am to have my health and the means to train for a is a disciplined, but also a bit of a selfish endeavor.

So moving forward, I've decided to use my running to raise awareness about issues and to raise money for charity. I don't know if I'll pick a different charity for each race or keep raising money for the same one. That decision is tbd.

I thought that finding a charity would be easy -- I wanted to find one working to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some of you may be asking what is that? How many people does it affect? Why should I care about this practice?

Female Genital Mutilation is the very painful rite of passage mostly practiced in Africa, but also in some Asian, Middle Eastern and even in Western Countries within new immigrant populations. It is most often conducted in an unsanitary environment with instruments such as a sharp rock, piece of glass or a razor blade. In some countries, they just excise part of the clitoris and in others they excise the entire clitoris -- which is anatomically equivalent to removing the entire penis -- or they excise the clitoris along along with all the outer female genitalia.

It is estimated that between 100 to 140 million women have undergone FGM. This practice can frequently lead to long term infection, contributes to the spread of STDs, causes cysts, long term emotional and physical pain and sometimes can lead to death. And in Mali, the common consequences of this procedure are: very slow childbirth (as scar tissue doesn't stretch), tearing at childbirth which leading to infections and problems of childbirth fever (which kills).

Many people who practice this custom do not associate the physical ailments associated with FGM to the actual procedure but assume that the girl or woman is going through them due to bad luck or to punish them for some misdeed.

Through my research on FGM, I've found very few charities that actual fund programs to prevent FGM -- and I was shocked by this. I found a small charity in Mali -- Joliba Trust -- that educates people about the harmful affects of FGM along with other development projects like helping provide clean water, food security, midwifery training and other long-term development projects.

For the Cleveland Marathon, my goal is to raise $2,000 for Joliba Trust. And giving is just an easy click on their website on their donation page. Caroline Hart, the trustee of Joliba Trust is going to help me track the donations -- since they'll be coming in from the US. I hope that you'll join me in helping this organization -- a few dollars will go a very long way in Mali -- so give what you can -- even if it is just $15 to $20. A very small percentage of this organization's fundraising goes towards administrative costs -- they do a great job at reducing overhead which enables donations to go directly to implementing programs in Mali.