See Jane walk really fast

Jane and me having fun along the Myrtle Beach Diva Half Marathon course in 2014

Jane and me having fun along the Myrtle Beach Diva Half Marathon course in 2014, where she helped me keep a speedy pace

This is my friend Jane (right). Jane is vivacious, engaging, caring and determined. She’s a mom, a wife, a nurse and a dog lover. She is a joy to know and is a great cheerleader to have in your corner.

Jane is also a very fast walker who has completed many marathons and half marathons. I know she’s fast because I have managed to (and, other times, tried and not managed to!) keep up with her on the race course.

She is training for her next race and posted recently on Facebook about some people she encountered along the way.

“Over the last few weeks,” she shared, “I have been taunted by rude remarks from some women…. One said I didn’t look like marathon material…. Another felt I wasn’t ‘skinny enough’ to complete a marathon! Little did they know I completed a lot of them.”

Jane’s reaction: to call for more positivity and kindness rather than the alternative, and I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve been on the scene for many marathons and half marathons, both as a participant and on the sidelines/finish line as a team coach. I’ve seen people of ALL shapes and sizes on race courses and coming across the finish line. (I’ve previously written about my friend Lana, who, yes, was obese but defied judging a book by its cover.) All of that has left me with the knowledge that we do not know someone’s capabilities, their strength, their stamina by simply looking at them.

Why doesn’t Jane look like marathon material to the observer who said so? Because she doesn’t fit a predetermined stereotype about marathoners? Who’s to say what a marathoner should look like? Believe me, they look like any random cross-section of the population.

Many people are surprised to learn that you can walk a marathon instead of run — I’ve mentioned this several times in several posts — and sometimes we walkers find ourselves on the defensive when other racers (read: runners) imply that we don’t belong.

Anyone who trains and prepares is qualified to participate in a race. If you reach that benchmark, more power to you! Why anyone would seek to tear down someone who is working hard to achieve a physical goal is a mystery. I’m not sure why someone would seek to denigrate a stranger based on surface assumptions. Let’s seek to lift each other up and celebrate others’ accomplishments rather than belittle and assume that someone can’t or shouldn’t.

It’s easy to look at someone and think, “How could she possibly run/walk 13.1 miles? She doesn’t look fast/strong/dedicated enough.”

But look deeper.

(And then, for fun — with a warning in advance for some strong language — read this.)

Adventures in European exercising

Please forgive the radio silence for the past few weeks — I was out of the country and respecting my travel partner’s request that I not publicize it on social media. And after all, there is something to be said for occupying yourself more with your surroundings and being in the moment instead of sharing it with everyone the moment it’s happening.

That said, I was in Scotland and Ireland. While there, I did — big surprise! — quite a bit of walking.

Just a few of the 287 steps in the Scott Monument in Edinburgh

Just a few of the 287 steps in the Scott Monument in Edinburgh

One day in particular in Edinburgh, Scotland, I got in some great leg work by (after a day of sightseeing on foot) climbing to the top of the Scott Monument: 287 steps to the top (and back down, for a grand total of … 574). From there I went to Calton Hill, a park on a bluff overlooking the city. I definitely worked the hamstrings and quads that day.

When our trip landed us in Dublin, Ireland, for a few days, I took some early morning walks. It was a great way to see some neighborhoods in quieter moments before the hubbub of people and traffic. (It’s always important to look both ways before crossing the street, but walking in Europe gives it extra importance, as the cars aren’t coming from the direction you expect!)

On the Eastern edge of Sandymount Village: Dublin Bay

On the Eastern edge of Sandymount Village: Dublin Bay in the early morning

One day, I took a route that brought me to a wide beach. Another day, I happened upon a long, canopied street, with ambassador residences behind ivy-covered walls.

One of several embassies or ambassador residences I encountered on my walk

One of several embassies or ambassador residences I encountered on my walk

Our hotel in Galway, Ireland, had a gym. Woo-hoo! I was ready for some bonafide strength-training. Early that morning, I hit the gym, going first to the treadmill for a quick warm-up. I punched the speed numbers up to my usual, mid-3 mph starting range, but the treadmill seemed awfully sluggish. “Did I choose a bum machine?” I wondered. I kept jabbing the speed button until I was at a pace that would normally have me starting to jog: mid-4 mph range, now 5 mph… Aha! I realized that the treadmill speed must be set at kilometers per hour, not miles per hour! That woke me up.

After my treadmill warm-up, I moved over to the weight area to do some dumbbell work. The dumbbells were in kilograms, not pounds. So, as a starting point, I had to eye them for approximate size compared to weights at home.

Same story with the weight machines. Just where to put the pin? That involved a bit more trial and error to find the right weight.

What can I say? We Americans have gotten away with not really learning the metric system! I know a 5K = 3.1 miles, and I know about how much a liter of soda is, but ask me to convert kilograms to pounds or kilometers to miles and I’m gonna need a cheat sheet. (I did get a silly thrill out of driving 100 and being under the speed limit!)

A couple more observations about exercising in the Emerald Isle vs. the U.S. of A.: The majority of people I saw walking along roads were wearing neon green safety vests with reflective strips. They weren’t always walking against traffic, which is advised in most cases, but at least they were highly visible.

Motorcyclists and bicyclists wore the vests, too, for the most part. Smart.

I worked out in two hotel gyms (one of which was open to the public) and did some walking in city neighborhoods, and very few of the exercisers I saw, both indoors and out, were wearing headphones/earbuds. On the flip side, nearly every exerciser I see here at home has them.

Exercising on vacation sometimes falls by the wayside. It’s easy to feel like you want to relax as much as possible … drop the usual routines and schedules … sleep in … take it easy. But don’t miss out on the chance to really explore your destination with a walk or jog, and revel in the little differences that bring energy all on their own.

Seen on a walk

This made me do a double take. I can’t quite figure out the thought process here.

Cemetery sentiments ...?

Cemetery sentiments …?

Vengeance? “[Evil cackle…] You’re right where you belong, you jerk! Enjoy!”

A fervent belief in the afterlife? (In which case: I can’t imagine the sign’s sentiment really conveys the depth of what there is to appreciate. I mean, “Enjoy!” is what your waiter usually says upon presenting your entree.)

Either way, a long walk often presents many things to ponder.