Attention

As we’re approximately three-quarters of the way through 2017, I’m already getting ahead of myself by looking back at what has happened so far in this past year.

I think that most of us can agree that 2017 has been quite an eventful year to say that least (I’m primarily referencing the United States). Even today is a noteworthy one in history, being that it’s the first time in twenty years where North America is able to witness the Solar Eclipse.

Though I refrain from individually listing events one-by-one, I will say that it’s been a huge eye-opener in many ways.

Looking in on my own personal life, I’m solely comparing 2017 to 2016 and I already see such significant differences.

This is the first time in a while where I’ve had a steady enough year that I didn’t have to put 100% focus on myself, but rather, I was able to focus on other people instead.

Last year, I had started a new job and moved into a new apartment. All of my energy was honed in on how to settle in at work and at home. I was able to be a little more selfish than usual. I was in year of grounding.

Last year, I didn’t have much time to pay attention to what was happening with the people in my life. And fortunate enough, it was a year where I didn’t really have to.

This year, now that my life is steady and I’m firmly rooted at home, at work, and even in my relationship, I can shift the attention towards the people and things in my life that actually need my full attention.

Two years ago, I had written about how one of my best friends was getting married. Well, this year, another one of my best friends is getting married and a decent amount of my time has been put aside towards making sure that my undivided attention was being placed on the events leading up to the big day.

In addition to that, I can also point out other major milestones my friends’ lives.

One friend gave birth to her first child, another friend is expecting her first child, two friends moved across the globe, another friend experienced the loss of a loved one, and the list goes on.

For me, I fell in love all over again.

It’s amazing the things that you can celebrate for others when you’re life doesn’t revolve around yourself.

It seems as though the years that I provide the least amount of time to others is when I am able to provide the most time to myself. Similarly, the years that I can provide the most amount of time to others is when I provide the least time to myself.

I’m thankful that I am finally grounded and able to be present for other people’s big moments. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to miss anything.

It’s funny how when we shift the focus away from ourselves, we’re able to witness other people’s joy, hurt, struggles, or big moments. When we take the attention off of ourselves, we’re able to give it to others. When we can’t give it to others, we need it for ourselves.

It always balances out and that’s the beauty of life. It’s one big balancing act.

A Reason to Run

One of the things that I find most incredible about being a runner is the unwavering support that comes from the running community. Through the years, it’s never ceased to amaze me of how much the running community truly gives back.

As a former employee of Runner’s World Magazine, I’ve had the honor of being directly involved with many large races, such as the New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, and many more, where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting dozens upon dozens of people who have a story to tell behind the reasons why they run.

For me personally, it’s always been something that I did just for myself, but when I’ve spoken to many others, it’s always been about so much more. It’s for a cause.

Aside from working at Runner’s World, I’ve also been a runner for nearly my entire life. I’ve ran enough 5K’s to lose count and eventually made my way up to long-distance races such as as half-marathons and full-marathons. It was only recently that I realized how many people ran for causes instead of just for fun. Those causes have been a pivotal driving force in the fruition of the thousands of non-profit organizations and non-profit races that are in existence today.

In complete honesty, running (especially long distance running) is not for the faint of heart. It’s a love-hate relationship that people often try to shy away from. Not everyone enjoys it or is motivated by the act of running alone, which is why running for a cause is a much more compelling reason to start.

I’ve had many friends and colleagues ask me suggestions for races to sign up for and I can recommend many that I’ve run, but I’ve always found that it’s more meaningful to sign up for races that actually hold a place close to your heart.

At the end of the day, after the miles are completed and you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it, you can pat yourself on the back and move on with your life. But knowing that you’ve ran those miles to affect change, to make a difference – That is something to show for.

And that is why I’d encourage anyone to become involved in running for a reason.

With Spring underway and half-marathon and marathon training right around the corner for the Fall season, try to see if you can find it in yourself to run for something that matters; or even just try to get more involved with a non-profit that means something to you.

For more ways to get involved, check out websites like Eventbrite.com for opportunities. They have great resources for fundraising.

The Golden Rule

Regardless of your ethnicity, your religion, the country you live in, or the language you speak, most people are familiar with the golden rule, which goes “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.” This verse is rooted from the bible, but still stands as a common law of morality across cultures. That’s because, as humans, we essentially want to be treated fairly.

Yet, why is it that this basic foundation of human nature tends to lack on a daily basis?

Wouldn’t you think that we all share the same feelings of wanting to be treated as human beings alike despite our differences?

Unfortunately, this tends to slip our minds with some people more often than others.

This past Thursday evening, I had the privilege of speaking to a class of college students from my Alma Mater, which was comprised mostly of Seniors who were graduating in only a few short months.

First, I began with introducing myself, giving them my background on how I graduated from the University five years ago, and then continued by explaining what I do for a living and how I got to this point since graduation.

After all was said and done, I gave them one piece of life advice, and it was this: Be kind to every single person you meet – Because you never know who that person is, where they came from, or how they could be a part of your life down the road.

Through the variety of experiences that I’ve had, I’ve learned that people will not always be kind or treat you fairly, but the best thing that you can do for someone is to simply show them kindness no matter the circumstance.

You never know how badly someone else could be struggling. Sometimes, we all just get too caught up in our own personal battles. Life gets hard and we all go through difficult times, but that doesn’t give anyone the excuse to treat someone poorly due to their own frustrations.

This past Friday evening, I was at a bar with my sister and our friend. At one point, we started having a conversation with the bartender, asking him what it’s like to constantly be serving people who really only care about ordering drinks, cutting loose, and getting drunk

He then began telling us a story about a guy who got upset just because he wasn’t able to order his drink from the bar since he was already seated at a table with his friends. The guy later proceeded to giving him a hard time because of this.

Immediately, I remembered what I had told those college students on Thursday evening.

If someone is treating you poorly, don’t let your first reaction be to throw it back in their face. If you do, the cycle will never end. Every tiny action has a ripple effect even if you don’t think it does. And the chain has to be broken at some point.

Be the one who starts it new and changes things.

One act of kindness will lead to another, which leads to another, which will ultimately make for a much better world down the road.

Long Strides

For someone who was, and still is, as impatient as me, I often find myself waiting. I find myself waiting for things to happen as if I already know something will happen soon. It’s like I’m always anticipating the next move.

But the thing about me is that sometimes, I don’t wait long enough. I wait just long enough until I can’t wait any longer and then I make my move. The irony is that my move usually happens just before a move is made by some other force of nature. It’s like I’m taking a half-step too soon or coming in a beat too early.

And that is my biggest downfall.

I wait, but speak to soon. I wait, but act too soon. I wait, but react too soon. I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I don’t, then nothing will happen.

I think it’s because I don’t trust that the stars will align as they rightfully should. But, as I have learned in the past, the stars have never let me down.

The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life were due to my own impatience. My own pre-emptive actions. My unwillingness to wait just a little longer for a breakthrough. But lo and behold, that breakthrough always happen. I just end up taking a step forward and two steps back in the process.

When I look back at the past five years since I’ve graduated college, I feel as though I’ve come a long way, but still haven’t gone very far. And I know that I still have a long way to go, but that’s where my impatience kicks in. And I know that this continuous solo dance of one step forward and two steps back will just tire me in the long run.

One of my greatest fears is not fulfilling myself with the life that I dream of. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Actually, I know that I’m not alone in that.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It seems like such a silly thing to be afraid of. But if you think about it, it really is a bit scary and slightly overwhelming to think that we are actually capable of the things that we set our mind to. It all just depends on our willingness to do what it takes to get there.

For me, I always thought that my preemptive actions were shortcuts, but they’re really detours. And the times where I have found the most peace and clarity was when I was able to really sit and think about what I wanted in life. Though I’m still figuring it out, the picture is much clearer now. I’ve learned that by taking fewer short quick steps, I’ve been able to take longer strides.

A Year in a Life

Not everyone is big on birthdays. Some people like to go all out, invite a hundred friends, drink until they can’t remember anything, and celebrate like it’s their last.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Frankly, I used to do the same. But on the flip side of things, when it comes down acknowledging to yourself that another year of life has passed, I tend to also enjoy being alone to really think about what I’ve accomplished in that past year of life.

My birthday isn’t for another 3 days, but this exact day last year in particular was of extreme significance to me.

A year ago today was one of my biggest failures to-date. I’d say that it was a turning point in my life. (Certainly not my last and most certainly one of many to come in the future, or so I hope.)

A year ago, I was let go from a job for the first time in my life. I never thought I’d have to experience that. At the moment, it really defined me and I’m grateful for it.

After that failure, the things that I thought about myself could have been the end of me, it could have been the end of my future successes.

But I’m glad that it wasn’t.

Failure is a funny thing. Depending on how you receive it, it can define you for the rest of your life. It can throw you off course, shape your perception of yourself, it can bury you. But you don’t have to let it.

Failure and rejection makes you feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re not worthy. But at the same time, it can empower you. It can make you strive to be better and you can come back ten times stronger after accepting and overcoming that failure.

No matter how big or small the situation, whether it’s a failure in school, in a relationship, at a job, an apartment or house you were trying to get, whatever it may be, you’ll always gain something out of losing.

I never thought I’d end up where I am now. Had I rolled over and called it quits, I’d probably be in a much different place. A much unhappier place.

You may not recognize an opportunity when it’s actually happening, but you will. I promise you will. Because something good always happens amidst failure. You just have to push through the bad until you get there.

RACE REPORT: 2016 Marine Corps Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon which took course through our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, after running the Brooklyn Half Marathon back in May, I had my sights set on completing a full marathon by the end of 2016.

I had a devastating experience after running the 2014 New York City Marathon and had taken a bit of a break from training for any races up until this year.

It felt good to be back in a regular running routine and have that feeling of working towards an end goal.

Initially, I had no idea what marathon I would end up running. It wasn’t until June that fate stepped in and a friend was looking to transfer her Marine Corps Marathon bib to someone. The minute that I found out, I immediately reached out to her and before I knew it, I was signed up for it.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to train for a marathon. The last time that I was actually following a legitimate training plan and taking it seriously was when I ran the 2013 Big Sur Marathon (which is my marathon PR to this day.)

When I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I told myself that I really had to get back into race mentality – that I had to take it seriously instead of just “winging it.” I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training plan, which is what I typically have used in the past. It’s straightforward and easy to follow.

After 4 months of training, and a few weeks of setback due to a foot injury, I felt that I was ready as I could be. When it came to travel arrangements, however, not so much.

I booked my hotel in Alexandria, VA which was conveniently located near both the race expo, start line, and finish line. I booked my flight very close to the weekend leading up to the race. In that time, train prices from New York to DC had already drastically gone up, and the bus just didn’t seem like an appealing option.

My sister and I landed late Saturday afternoon after already experiencing some flight delays. We went straight from the airport to the expo and arrived there only half an hour before the expo closed. I picked up my race bib and hardly had time to scan the exhibitor booths. When we left, we were starving after not eating lunch, so we went right to our hotel and ended up ordering Dominos (Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. More on that to come)

That night, I laid out my race clothes, did yoga, and just tried to relax and mentally prepare for what I wanted to accomplish the next day.

I woke up at 5AM the next morning with a ton of energy and pre-race jitters. It hadn’t officially hit me that I was running a 26.2 mile race until that morning.

The hotel shuttle transported us near the start line, where we ended up walking nearly a mile to get to.

By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to rise and so were the temperatures. It was forecasted to reach near 80 degrees fahrenheit that day and surely, it did.

The race took off around 8AM.

I took the first 5K of the race very slow, knowing not to make the mistake of starting too quick too soon. I was feeling good when I started, but stopped at mile 6 to use the restroom. From that point, I already knew that I’d be behind and would have to make up for it later on. Stopping for the restroom took about 10-15 minutes off my time, so I tried to pick up the pace.

I ended up crossing the 13.1-mile mark in a time of 2:04, which I was fairly pleased (and surprised) about.

With half of the race behind me, I continued to feel good from miles 14-19. I managed to keep a steady 9:30 minute pace and had planned to really crank up the gears at mile 20.

And then, my worst fear happened.

I hit a wall at mile 21, was having stomach issues, and made the heart-breaking decision to stop, stretch, and walk a bit (which I had told myself I wouldn’t do). From there, it was a long and grueling 5.2 miles of alternating between running and walking.

At that point, I had to accept the fact that I was not going to make my goal time of finishing near or under 4 hours.

I did finish strong, using everything that I had left in the tank to stride across the finish line with a time of 4:38:44. I wasn’t ecstatic, but I wasn’t nearly as devastated as I was after the New York City Marathon.

Though I didn’t finish near my goal time, I did learn many lessons, which I’d like to pass along. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone reading.

  1. Give yourself an extra month to train just in case something happens along the way such as an injury or a cold
  2. Pick a training plan and stick to it
  3. Do NOT order fast food (especially with cheese or dairy in it) the night prior, or even 2 nights prior, to your race. Don’t even order anything out of your normal diet. The last thing you want is an upset stomach.
  4. Make sure your bowels are empty before the race
  5. Get to the expo early. If you can’t make it a day before, then try to make sure you go a few hours before it closes. It’s not worth it to rush or be stressed about whether or not you’ll get there in time
  6. Try as hard as you can to reach 20 miles for your furthest long run
  7. Look at the course map and elevation early on so that you know what to train for
  8. Incorporate speed training
  9. Even if it’s a flat course, incorporate some hill training just in case there are even the slightest of inclines
  10. Make sure to stretch A TON in the days after the race 
  11. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t the time you were hoping for. Even finishing a marathon is a huge accomplishment in itself

12 Days Until Marine Corps Marathon

I’m only 12 days away from running Marine Corps Marathon – My third marathon in the books for me.

I ran my last long run of my marathon training this past Sunday and felt quite relieved to have not been as slow or as sore as I anticipated.

In the past, I’ve always underestimated the difficulty and dedication that comes with running a 26.2-mile race.

It definitely isn’t easy.

Yet, little by little, I’m getting better with each training period because I’m understanding the weight of the consequences that come with being unprepared for a race of this distance.

Two years ago, I ran the worst race of my life – The New York City Marathon. What was supposed to be a magical and exciting race ended up being one of the most awful experiences of my life. It’s not that the race itself wasn’t magical or exciting, it was my performance in running it that made it the disaster that it was.

The reason why I’m so intrigued and so passionate about training for a race is because it truly tests a person’s character, will, and determination. It sure did test mine. It humbled me.

Running is a love-hate relationship and not everyone loves it.

The reason why I love it is because it forces you to struggle with yourself. And sometimes, the best thing you can do is face that struggle. Running is a solo act. Even with team running events like Cross Country or Track & Field, you still only have yourself. You can’t tap out or have substitute anyone in your place. It’s you, your two feet, and the ground beneath you. And I think that’s something that people always struggle with, even if they love running.

With my marathon coming up right around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing what this race will put me through; what it will do to me.

Even with the training that I have behind me, there are still those external factors that can make a difference The fun part is seeing how I how I handle it.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile

This morning, I ran the NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile race.

This race, for me, was particularly nerve-racking due to the setback that I had with my foot injury a few weeks ago. Somehow, I managed to run one of my best races in years.

I finished 10 miles with a time of 1:19:49. 

Again, I did not feel mentally or physically prepared leading up to it.

To backtrack, my weekend wasn’t off to greatest start. On Friday night, I had a stomach bug and was in bed by 9PM. The following day, I went for a short 2 mile warm up run in the morning, walked around the city all day, then hung out with my sister and a friend at night. When it came time to go to bed, I couldn’t get my head in a pre-race mentality. I ended up tossing and turning for hours and probably didn’t sleep until around 2AM (maybe even 3AM).

A few hours later, it was time to wake up. My first alarm went off at 5AM on the dot.

My sister and I left around 6AM and faced, what could have been, one of the worst journeys to a race that I have ever gone through.

The trains took forever, I had to pee entire time, and we thought we were going to be late.

Fortunately, we arrived with enough time for me to go to the bathroom, warm up, and even calm my nerves.

When the race finally started, my corral moseyed through the start line and we were finally off. The sun was shining and it was perfect race conditions with enough shade from the buildings surrounding to keep everyone from getting overheated.

My first mile was fairly quick and I only sped up from there. It wasn’t until mile 8 that I felt my speed impacting me.

The course was relatively flat with some slight elevation, but not overwhelming. It was my first time running this race and running in this particular part of New York, so I had no idea what to expect (even though they do provide you with the course info ahead of time).

The crowds were great and coming to mile 9 and 10 felt just like running during the New York City Marathon.

My sister was there to cheer me on right at the finish and I held my pace to get under 1:20, which was the unconscious goal that I placed in my head once I knew I was feeling good.

It was an amazing morning and a nice surprise. I honestly loved this race, not only because I was pleased with my performance, but the overall course, crowd, and distance. 10 miles is the perfect distance to know how much you can handle and know how to pace yourself properly. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested at trying their hand at a longer distance race.

Setback

My personality, my profession, my mentality towards life highly revolves around my perspective on time and planning. I get easily fixated, and even somewhat obsessive, when it comes to making sure that I’m prepared to meet a certain goal or deadline. And for the most part, it works out pretty well. But, then there comes the days when things don’t go according to plan and life gets in the way.

I’m in the process of training for my third full marathon which is taking place in a nearly a month. Throughout my training, I always anticipate running the amount of miles that are scheduled for each week. However, it doesn’t always happen that I reach the exact number that I set my mind to which, naturally, upsets me a great deal.

With each race that I prepare for and each race that I complete, I get slightly better at managing my expectations and getting more familiar with the way that I train. I’m learning how to handle my schedule and accommodate for days that I didn’t run. I’m learning how to be more flexible. And from this, I’ve become a lot less stressed or worried about the outcome because honestly, when it comes down to it, anything can happen in the 26.2 miles during the race.

I’m writing this in lieu of a recent injury that I experienced.

About two weeks ago, I injured my foot which cost me 12 whole days of running which means 12  whole days of being behind in my training plan.

I ran for the first time in 12 days today and to my surprise, it felt great. If anything, the rest actually helped a tremendous amount. It helped me to think, to re-strategize, and even just take a break from obsessing about my marathon for a short period of time.

It always seems to me that the universe somehow always finds a way to give me rest when I need it most. I never ask for it, but I do need it.

Though not everyone may agree with my approach, that’s completely fine. But I’ve found that rest can be extremely rewarding and extremely beneficial to both the mind and the body.

Sometimes, we spend so much time running around, chasing things, and staying busy that we don’t slow down to give us the peace and relaxation that we actually need. Whether it’s training for a race, dating, working, or just constantly being on the move, we need rest.

After all, we’re only human.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR 5th Avenue Mile

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a race report.

Frankly, up until this year, I have been a little out of the game when it comes to determinedly training for a race. Now that I think about it, I’ve completely neglected to write a race report for my most recent race, the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon.

In any case, this blog post will serve solely to recap the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, which I recently ran this past Saturday, September 3rd 2016.

After having been through a wave of changes from the Fall of 2015 up until now, I was eager, more than ever, to get back into a race training mentality.

For this Fall, I signed up for the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, NYRR Bronx 10-Mile, and the Marine Corps Marathon. So far, one down, two to go.

The last marathon that I had run was the 2014 New York City Marathon in which I completely fell apart and regard as possibly the worst race of my entire life. This race taught me one valuable lesson: You get what you give. 

After the 2014 New York City Marathon, I told myself that I would never under-train or even run a race that I knew I wasn’t prepared for.

I used to think that squeaking by based on pure will and determination was enough to help me succeed – The truth is that unfortunately, it’s not.

I’m drifting off topic – Now, let’s back to what I really wanted to recap

I’m not too sure why I even signed up for a 1-mile race in the first place. The last time that I ran a timed 1-mile race was during spring track of my senior year of high school. I chose this race mainly because:

  1. I had nothing better to do on Labor Day weekend
  2. I heard good things about this race and figured I’d see how fast I can still run

I had absolutely no expectations or goals in regards to time. I had no idea where I was in terms of speed. I had not even done a single speed workout since I’ve started training for the Marathon Corps Marathon. Ultimately, I had nothing to lose with this race.

On Friday night, the night before the race, I picked out my race outfit, did yoga, and was asleep before 10PM.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6AM, ate a light breakfast, did yoga (again), changed into my race outfit, and departed for the race. I showed up well over an hour prior to my start time and had a decent amount of time to warm up.

When it came time to finally line up, all that was going through my head was “run as fast as you feel.” And just like that, the race had started.

Short distance races don’t give you enough time to think. All you can do is just go.

So, I started off strong, kept a steady pace, and by the time I realized that I had more in the tank, the race was over.

I crossed the line in a finish time of 6:08, shocked that I was even able to get that close to 6 minutes. After replaying the race in my mind, I knew I could have gone faster, but my body just didn’t know how to do it. It didn’t know how to incorporate “the kick” at the end. I replayed it over and over again in my mind, thinking of how else it could have gone until I finally came to terms with the fact that I had not trained for this distance. 

My mind has been set on Marine Corps Marathon since the minute I signed up in June and I didn’t take into account the importance of speed training.

When that realization came to mind, I thought back to my performance at the 2014 New York City Marathon again and I just kept thinking, ‘You get what you give.’

In race training, in relationships, in work, in life, it’s always the same concept: You get what you give.

The amount of time and effort that you put into anything you do will eventually reveal itself in the end.