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 РI partly hold Chris responsible for getting me to move back to Ohio. He appealed to my young, liberal naivet̩ 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.