Running into Christmas. What songs are on your playlist?

Holiday music. I love it.

I load it on my shuffle the night before Thanksgiving and the next morning I run the Atlanta Half marathon to Christmas music. One of my odd little traditions that make life wonderful.

Tomorrow is the 33th annual Madison Christmas Rush, Fun Run, 5K and 8K. I try to run it every year – and so I’m charging up the old shuffle.

 

 

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Here’s my top five holiday running songs. The songs I can’t help but repeat a few times before moving on to the next tune. Do me a favor and leave your favorite in the comments. I’m ready to add some new kick to my stride back up Dixie Highway toward the finish line.

 

    1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  Andrea Bocelli

Honorable mention:  Jackson Five, Justin Bieber

 

4. Little Drummer Boy.  Justin Bieber and Busta Rhymes.

I love this. Call me the eternal teenybopper. Guilty as charged.

“Playin’ for the king. Playin’ for the title. I’m surprised you didn’t hear this in the bible.”

 

Honorable mention:  Josh Groban. Well, anything Josh Groban

 

 

3.  Step Into Christmas. Elton John

How cute is he in this?

 

 

2.   Holly Jolly Christmas — Burl Ives.

Maybe it jettisons my subconscious back to sitting in pjs watching Rudolph and all the old Christmas shows. I love everything about this song. His voice. The jingling bells. The 60s Holiday Special back up singers. The lyrics . . .

 

 

“Have a holly jolly Christmas

And when you walk down the street,

Say hello to friends you know,

And everyone you meet.”

 

1.  Merry Christmas Baby — Bruce Springsteen

Bruce and saxophone. Miss Clarence 🙁 but he’s rockin in this video.

 

 

I didn’t know till googling this video that Otis Redding sang a cover of this in 1967.

 

Appendix — Joy to the World, Mariah Carey

These two women can belt out a song.

Honorable Mention:  Natalie Grant.

 

 

Other tunes I love to run to around Christmas  . . . .

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa ClausJohn Mellencamp.

It’s Christmas All Over Again — Tom Petty

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen — Barenaked Ladies

 

So many more.

I’d love to hear your favorites.

Happy Holidays and happy running.

 

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Lake Lanier Under the Lights 5K. Worth breaking “the rules.”

Our youngest is 11 years old. I’ve written before how he’s my last holdout, my last buddy. I realize that time is quickly (and probably already has) slipping away.

Okay. That’s not clear. He’s my last child I can talk into hanging out with mom and participating in organized fun.

For example, he and I are a team for the Ronald McDonald House race. And I often procrastinate enthusiastically scan the internet for local 5Ks we can do together. That’s how I happened upon Lanier Under the Lights 5K.

Lake Lanier is a resort 30 minutes north of Atlanta. For us, that meant a 90 minute drive. But what’s an hour and a half of riding in a car for a chance to run through holiday lights?

They hold this race the Saturday and Sunday before the park opens the light show to car traffic.

Joe and I headed that was last Sunday afternoon.

This was at the start. Notice the castle in the background. Oz-ian I think.

 

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It was misty and chilly, which added to the cheery winter mood.

Cheery winter mood?

Yes. I got caught up in the lights and the little whiff of Santa in the air.

This required suspending my long and fast rule: NO Christmas before Thanksgiving. I surprised myself how easy it was to drift into that mum-of-a-little-child-at-Christmas haze.

 

The official start.

They had waves which was a good thing. Lots and lots of children. Serious runners were up front followed by mid-pace runners, joggers, walkers and entire young families pushing toddlers in strollers.

 

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A few photos.

 

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These pics aren’t conveying the excited children chatting to parents. Parents encouraging their child to run to the next reindeer. The young 20-somethings running in packs.  I knew that when I was snapping away. But I had to try.

My partner never likes me to stop and take a pic.

Notice the green glow-stick stuck in his curls.

 

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The course is hilly. I knew that from a ZOOMA half marathon my friends and I ran there.

We ran; we walked with hundreds of other peeps in search of a pre-holiday buzz.

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And had a great time.

The lake is down there somewhere.

 

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A thumb way up!

Don’t know what I’ll do next year if my then 12 year old won’t do this race with me.

:/   <– Mommy angst.

How about you? Will you join me?

 

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Chickamauga Battlefield Half Marathon. 13.1 Miles of History.

13. 1 miles of history . . . Or so says the back of our dri-fit shirts.

Every fall my running buddy Kim says we need to do this race. So this year, I signed up and when Kim couldn’t join me — I talked my husband into going with me. He walks for exercise.

Like really fast walk.

He’s secure in his maleness to walk 13.1 miles. Which is cool with me because the main thang is to have him walking his little heart out getting cardio exercise.

The man is into history as in would-have-loved-to-have-been a history professor into history, so I thought this was perfect for him. So after I begged and pleaded and promised things I’ll never follow through with, he agreed to go with me.

It’s ironic that recently, we stumbled upon a PBS show about Chickamauga. Okay, I happened to walk in the bedroom while he was watching — remember he is the history nut in the family.

According to the show, Chickamauga is a Native American word meaning river of death. The river there was so named when the Cherokee contracted smallpox. The sick would go to the river seeking relief from their fever  and many of them died while at the water.

Ironically, the battle fought at this river of death was the second deadliest of the Civil War. Second only to Gettysburg. Very sobering and hard to imagine, in a place that today is the epitome of bucolic beauty and tranquility.

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Here we sat last Saturday morning.

Let’s cover why this race is great from a runner’s perspective. You can wait in your car with the heater on. Which is awesome said anyone who has stood around for an hour in cold weather before a race.

 

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As far as the race size — it wasn’t too small; it wasn’t too big. It was just right. The marathon and half folks started together. I was reading about how the first place woman in the marathon was disqualified when her split times didn’t make sense. I think she probably got confused and didn’t run some of the course. Who knows?

Alls I know is that I covered every inch. And then some.

My time was where I seem to be stuck these days — 2:30. Well, 2:31:something. Which is 15 minutes slower than I did consistently a few years ago. But considering the wear and tear on my joints, I’m just happy to be participating in these things.

As much as I enjoyed this race, I encountered technical difficulties.

And since this is my blog and not an official race report, I will bore share them with you.

—  The race started. I turn on my iPod shuffle. No sound. For about the first half a mile I fiddled with the shuffle. I fiddled with the ear buds. Never got the blasted thing to work. So I quickly changed expectations — 13 miles. No music. No problem. Said no one ever.

—  Between Mile 7 and 8 my RunKeeper died. Well, my phone did. So instead of carrying a dead phone in my hand, I stuck it in my tights. Before long, my phone would fall down my leg and end up at my knee. Which caused me to stop and reach down into my tights to retrieve dead phone. I did this off and on for a few miles till I thought — this is maddening and carried my phone in my hand the rest of the way.

 

So even with no music or time, I’d have to say this was one of my top three half marathons. And I’ve run a ton.

A beautiful spot. Race day conditions were perfect. In the 30s. No wind. Blue sky.

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I took this because I thought the steam rising off the runners was cool.

 

 

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Yes, we were running through a battlefield. One where many, many young men lost their lives.

I have no notions to romanticize The Civil War.  It was a horrific thing. A horrific thing that had to be.

Slavery was a way of life in the plantation South — an inhumanity unthinkable in our culture today.

History proved war the heinous solution to end an even greater evil.

That was 151 years ago.

I kept having to remind myself that thousands of men died here.

Thousands.

Sixteen thousand, two hundred Union casualties and 18,500 recorded for the Confederate.

I can only shake my head as I type that.

 

 

 

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We did it.

 

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Thanks Johnny for coming with me.

So with no music and no timekeeper to neurotically check, I still give this race a must do.

Thoughts?

 

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Ronald McDonald House of Central Georgia. I’ll supersize that.

There’s been something I’ve wanted to share with y’all.

Last Sunday, my RMHC running buddy and I went to Macon to visit the Ronald McDonald House of Central Georgia. The one where the funds from our Miles of Miles TeamRMHC RunDisney efforts are headed.

I guess it’s the journalist buried deep, deep within my can’t-we-just-all-get-along facade that needs to understand things.

More than a surface explanation, if possible. Since this was possible for us, only an 75 minute drive — if you don’t get stuck behind a logging truck on Hwy 129 — we scheduled a visit.

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“Sorry folks. We’re closed. Clown out front should have told you.”

 

 

No sillies.

“Clark, they don’t close the Ronald McDonald House.”

Of course they weren’t closed.

So I walked up to the intercom, rang the buzzer and a very nice male voice answered.

I explained who we were and why the heck we were there.

And Chuck buzzed us on in.

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Chuck Kent and his wife Jennifer were the volunteer resident managers last weekend. And that nice fellow Clark — er, I mean Chuck — gave us the tour.

The lower two floors are the common areas with the guest rooms on the upper floors.

A few photos.

 

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The main living room.

 

 

More of the kitchen.

 

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They have quite a large kitchen equipped with everything you need to whip up an ice cream sundae or a hamburger with a little of that special sauce.

Chuck explained volunteers provide dinners most nights and brunch on many days. But anytime, day or night, residents can raid the pantry for a PB & Honey. My new personal favorite. Or find the fixins’ for whatever vittles might bring you some comfort.

Every drawer was labeled and the larder full. Chuck said the only rule is “clean up after yourself, just like at home.” At this remark I might have cast a sideways glance at my 10 year old.

 

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The rooms upstairs were just like you’d find in any nice hotel. With the exception of no television. The T.V.s are all downstairs. Which honestly, sounds wonderful.

There was a child’s playroom. A teen cave. A laundry.

I learned today that this very playroom is Charlie’s room. The wonderful Jana Anthoine is the reason I was introduced to running for this wonderful cause. This room is named for her infant son who most tragically died from Group B Strep complications.

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I don’t do the “ask for money” thing very well. But after seeing and hearing about RMH firsthand, I’m excited to have an opportunity to help.

Chuck said that they only ask families for $15 a day compensation. But no one is ever asked to leave or turned away because of inability to pay. They money that we are raising goes directly to helping fund a day’s rest for weary, worried parents and siblings.

The Children’s Hospital is right next door. A preemie easily can stay up to 90 days at a medical center. If your home is 64 miles away — what do you do? Leave the bitty love behind?

Chuck said their granddaughter needed surgery at Egleston in Atlanta. Their family was able to stay at the RMH at Emory. “Once you have ever had any experience with a Ronald McDonald House — you feel compelled to volunteer and donate your time.”

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When leaving, I felt compelled to take a photo with Ronald. My son was not so sure. After taking this pic, I realized I should have let my son hold the camera out, so he would have been in the frame.

But good luck getting a self-conscious 10 year old to retake a photo sitting on a bench in a public area with a plastic clown.

No. I had one take — and this was it.

 

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Not much else to report about our visit, other than heaven forbid — something happens to a child you love. I now know of the all the good the clown in the yellow jumpsuit does.

Any donation is so very appreciated. Fifteen dollars is all it takes to house a family for a night.

Have you ever wanted a selfie with Ronald McDonald?

Question is my feeble attempt to engage comments with readers of this blog. pooh.

 

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My Ten Things Thankful: Exploding Great Expectations edition.

Expectations. I  try hard not to have them but riddle me this?

How does a gal have goals — either for the next 10 years or the next 10 minutes — without setting expectations?

My Ten Things Thankful —  My 4th of July, Peachtree Road Race exploding great expectations edition.

 

*   *   *

Yesterday, the Fourth of July.

My son and I in Piedmont Park for the customary hold-a-shirt-up pic after the Peachtree Road Race.

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10.   Wait. There was supposed to be three in this photo.

For three months my 10 year old and I had trained to run this race together. It was to be his first 10K.

 

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Our last official training workout on July 2.

 

 

 

9.   I am so thankful for my dog. Who loves to sleep on the cool bathroom tile in the summer.

 

At 5 a.m. on Friday, I wake the boys up to head into Atlanta. Joe stumbles into the bathroom to take a quick shower.

Here’s where everyone must swear not to mention I shared this to Joe.

Half asleep he trips over the sleeping dog and crashes onto our 1925 cast iron bathtub.

I know this has happened because I hear a crash the likes of two-ton meteorite hitting the bathroom tile.

 

See. The dog is always here.

See. The dog is always here.

 

 

Joe knocks the wind out of himself. And becomes hysterical.

 

 

8.   I love that the legs routinely come off our newly restored tub.

 

 

 

 

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See. We are working to figure out a better way to attach the blasted legs to the tub.

 

7.  Poor boy is very upset and says he is too sore to run. After trying 20 minutes to convince him he can do it without any luck, Jake and I leave.  Photo of the three of us in Park after race — gone.

 

 

6.  On the drive into Atlanta  (we are now 30 minutes later than I wanted to leave), I try to relax while talking to my son.

All the while the refrain from Frozen is blasting in my head.

 

 

 

 5.  Because we are late, change idea of parking at park (too crowded by now) and decide to park at start. So I turn onto I-285.

 

Soon after that I saw flashing signs: ALL LANES BLOCKED because of accident. Said prayer for those involved and decided to creep off 285 to Marta station.

 

Parking lot was packed.  I noticed all these people. All very nicely dressed.

My brain is trying to figure it out. A wedding? A family reunion? So weird. Then see a sign Jehovah’s Witness International Convention.

Please do not take this in anyway against the Jehovah’s Witness but there were a million of them.

Every stop the train picked up a handful of late runners  and 3,000 more convention goers.

Each stop took about 30 minutes.

 

4.  I was impressed with the Jehovah’s Witness. As I was crammed in the back of the car standing  by the door.

No one seemed rushed or bothered. Everyone seemed happy. Except me.

Let it go, let it go. That’s what I kept telling myself. So I talked to the nice man from Jamaica right behind me. And the old fellow from Macon in front. And the beautiful young girls in saris right beside me. One of whom was a stunning young Indian girl. The other two looked and talked like they would spill forth from the Delta Delta Delta house at any major Southern university — while wearing gorgeous colorful Hindu wear.

 

3.  Then the crazy preacher man got on the train. And stood right in front of me.

 

“The Church is in me,” he started. That sounded great. Then he latched onto my son like a piece of gum that inevitably finds the bottom of my shoe. We learned stream-of-consciousness about his playing basketball in college and then how no cop better try an illegal search and seizure on him.

 

By this time, I have given up all hopes of getting to the start of the race before 9 a.m.

I had fallen down the rabbit hole into an episode of Seinfeld.

 

 

2.   I became the crazy talking lady on the train.

 

We switched trains and headed up toward Buckhead. Gathering more runners each stop. Till Lindbergh station. The train driver told all runners to exit and wait for the Lenox train.  The Marta guys outside were telling all runners to stay on till the Buckhead station.

Crazy late runners don’t need this.

A few of us stayed on the train and headed up to Buckhead. As woman stood beside me freaking out that the train wasn’t going to stop.

Then I noticed two women in front of me. They touched and held onto each other like a couple as the train lurched.

I locked eyes with one of the woman and it all came out.

My 10-year-old was supposed to be running with us.

My sleeping dog.

The 1925 cast iron tub.

The ALL LANES BLOCKED.

The mass of sweet convention goers.

WILL THE TRAIN STOP AT THE BUCKHEAD STATION???

 

 

1.   We stopped at the Buckhead station.

The entire train heaved a sigh of relief. The couple and I offered a “have a good race” to each other and Jake and I started the mile and a half walk to the start.

 

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No, the picture at the end of the race didn’t look as I imagined — but once I LET things GO — things turned out pretty awesome.

 

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Yes — there were only two of us in the photo but to heck with expectations.

Thankfully, I’m not the best at making realistic ones.

Reality is well reality.

And pretty good.

 

 

Linking up with . . .

Ten Things of Thankful

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Peachtree Road Race. A Fourth of July tradition with 60,000 of your closest friends.

And sweatiest friends for sure.

Ran the Peachtree for the first time in about five years today. And it really was great fun.

Decided I’ve got to do this every year.

The first time I ran it was in 1988. I had just gotten in engaged two days before to John Miles.

We ran it together till Mile 5, when he thought he wouldn’t get a t-shirt (back then you had to finish in 55 minutes to get a t-shirt) and he left me.

For the record, he might have got his shirt first, but we both got the green shirt that year.

 

No idea where either of those shirts is . . .

 

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Now I was sure it was going to pour.

But it never did.

 

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Walking under that flag never gets old.

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Bumped into my next door neighbor.

Who is speedy fast so he said, “hi.” Took a pic. And ran on.

We don’t look so bad for just getting up that darn Piedmont Hospital Hill.

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Finally, made the turn and headed down to the mud pit, er, Piedmont Park.

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Now I know how Seattle Slew felt on a sloppy track.

Well, if I was a gifted athlete who happened to be a horse then I would know exactly how he felt.

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Kind of like Woodstock without the music, drugs (except Ibuprofen) and nudity — for which we can all be thankful.

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Yes. After today, my childhood friend can check the Peachtree of her bucket list and I can start my streak of running them again at one.

Have you ever run the 6.2 down Peachtree?

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Getting ready for the morning. Peachtree Road Race.

I never set my clothes out.

Lord knows I should because I’m forever late.

But tonight I did.

Running the Peachtree Road Race again for the first time in a while.

It might be raining but I’ll be there.

Will you?

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This time on the run, it wasn’t about me. Or this time at the beach either.

“Isn’t Tebow coming?”

My running buddy asked me Saturday morning.

No. I hadn’t planned on taking the dog.

I was stressed and running with him pulls on my arm, which pulls on my shoulder, which starts to throb.

I don’t want anyone pulling on me for one hour — my running time. Especially an 80 pound, excited Labrador Retriever.

“No. I’m not going to bring him this morning. I just want to run in peace.”

Kim frown a bit and  drawled, “But he alwaaayyys comes. He’s just part of us.”

Ugh.

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Tebow looking for Kim the other day.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my dog. I really do. But sometimes, he is like another child clamoring for me with more responsibilities. Sometimes I want to run just with my girlfriend and my 25-year-old newly married self.

Me 25 years ago. Before kids. Before gray hair and bad knees.

My friend was right of course. The poor dog stood at the door dying to join us.

“I’ll take him,” Kim volunteered.

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There they go.

Notice who’s not looking back.

He’s so darn happy to be moving forward outside, no way he’s going to look back.

 

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Notice who’s still not looking back.

We started to run and I enjoyed not having a stegosaurus tugging on my arm.

I felt a smidgen mommyzilla. Like when I had toddlers and was so relieved when someone offered to take them from my arms and give me a break.

Talking with friends yesterday, one very busy, working outside the home single woman mentioned she was headed to the beach with her children. She wanted nothing more to plop herself on a chair in the sand with her coffee in the morning moving  only to follow the sun till five that afternoon.

But her children are not play-in-the-sand all day children. The girls want to shop the outlets and the boys want adventure. She reluctantly decided that this time at the beach it wasn’t about her. This time it was about her children. And she’s already planned a weekend trip by herself with nothing but a book, lawn chair and bathing suit.

Yes, sometimes we’ve got to leash up the dog when we’d rather go it alone. Because we love the dog, the dog needs exercise and we brought the darn creature into our home in the first place.

And a having a good friend helps.

Always.

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(I made her take this goofy shot to post with our run on RunKeeper.)

Are there days when you just can’t take the kids with you to the store? Or times when you want to run off to the beach by yourself?

 

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Maybe only a runner — even a non-qualifying runner — can understand.

I’m a runner.

Or a person who has run for 30 years.

These days when all my joints and muscles are working moderately well my body allows me do 20 miles a week.

In my mind, I do 10 a day.

If you are a runner and strike up a conversation with another runner the subject of marathons is always lurking around waiting to jump into the mix.

“I ran Chicago the year they stopped the race because of the heat” to “I have a big birthday this year and I’m determined train for my first,” 26.2 miles is the marker in the life of anyone who runs.

And Boston is sacred.

“I qualified.”

Running 26.2 miles in a time that earns you the right to enter Boston is the brass ring.

Even reaching a lifetime qualifying time in a qualifying event isn’t a guarantee of entry with the race closing out in a number of hours after registration opens.

No. With the recent lowering of times needed to qualify, I know it will never happen for me.

But I appreciate the thrill of the chase for that elusive spot for those able to compete at that level.

Friday night at a party, I enjoyed lots of small talk and smiles — but  the one conversation that engaged me was one betwixt me and two runners.

A runner who has run Boston and another with the potential to qualify.

I steered them toward that subject with the skill of a child figuring how to get her mom to turn into an ice cream shop.

Boston was Monday. What better topic than bending the ear of someone who has flown up Heartbreak Hill to the finish?

My husband doesn’t get it.

He doesn’t understand why I love to wake up well before sunrise to stand in line with a few thousand runners to run 3.1, 6.2, 13.1 or 26.2 miles.

Runners for the most part are a bit the loner. Even if you are running 17 miles with a group — you have to turn in on yourself at some point and choose to keep moving forward.

They are for the most part polite. Standing patiently in line, sometimes 50 deep — to use a stinking porta-let. They say thank yous to those handing out cups of water at Mile 8 or bananas in a tent after the finish.

When I think of the Peachtree Road Race, the image that comes to mind is tens of thousands of runners and friends covering the rolling hills of Piedmont Park after 6.2 miles.

I see a sunny July morning. Sweat and a towering American flag.

Then I think of trash cans everywhere.

Trash cans for empty water bottles, used tissues and IEDs.

Maybe it’s something only a runner can understand.

I was angry yesterday.

Now I’m just so terribly sad for us all.

 

 

 

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Coach Mom and the Pep Talk.

Every mother has it.

That little ESP where she can look about a room and size up any windfalls or downfalls her child will suffer through.

My youngest and I pulled up to the start of the Real Buckhead Road Race 5K on Saturday.

It soon became evident, there were more children his age than normal running a small race like this. Which was great. Or could be not so great.

Depending what scenario played out.

Scenario one: He races his young friends full speed till his breath fails then he good-naturedly walks and runs the rest of the race.

The second and more likely scenario: He races full speed till his breath fails and he stops right there — not moving another millimeter forward.

The competitive spirit that drove him to almost puke beating a 55-year-old woman to the finish last weekend will swamp him with anger at not keeping up with friends. Why is this the more likely scenario? Because it has happened. Leaving me stranded with an angry child who will not move. One. More. Inch.

But I’m an old pro at this mother biz. Let the slight prospect of a major meltdown bobbing on the horizon stop me?

Never.

Besides. We had already picked up our numbers.

Before the race. All was posey rosey.

Before the race. All was posey rosey.

 

The gun sounded — or maybe there was a nice man who said, “Go” — and we were off.

Sure enough. Soon enough my linebacker strained to keep up with the wideouts.

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And before too long . . .

 

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But we kept moving forward.

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Until his side-stitch-of-a-cramp paralyzed him like Botox in a midlife furrow.

He wasn’t moving.

Pooh.

This is when I called on my decades of child psychology to keep that boy stepping forward.

“Mom. Mom. I don’t want to go anymore. My side hurts.”

“Just walk it off. Keep moving. It will get better,” I said a bit too peppy for me. I’m a positive sort but not rah-rah so this came out rather like telling all my friends “so glad you made cheerleading when I didn’t because really I only tried-out to watch your triple backflips up close.”

Smile. Smile. Ugh.

We had only gone one mile of three.

Double ugh. Smile. Smile. “You can do this Joe. You got to finish the race to wear the shirt right?”

“No,” was his reply.

And then a little Christmas miracle happened at the 1.34 mile point.

A wide receiver came back to play with my linebacker who had evolved into a lineman.

Skipping and walking and trying “not to step on the road.” Then “trying not to step on the yellow,” the wideout and the lineman forged ahead.

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We all skipped along for the last few miles.

Finally, we saw the finish looming up there.

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Thank God.

Afterwards, nothing like some pancakes to really work a cramp out of your side.

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Yes, my running buddy and I hit the high school cafe for pancakes and all was better.

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You know, it was a great morning.

A sweet wide receiver came back and helped his lumbering lineman friend (and the lineman’s mama who was running out of tricks) finish the race.

And my son didn’t meltdown with disappointment. He rose to the challenge and played the ball where it lay that morning.

A raging cramp-in-the-side was a crummy lie.

Like I told the boys. “We might have been one of the last ones to finish, but we beat everyone who stayed in bed that morning.”

Not that staying in bed on a Saturday is such a bad thing. But you didn’t hear it from me.

Have you ever had to coach a child through disappointment?

Tough huh?

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