Take this word out of your vocabulary

First off, I know this blog has been idle for quite some time, so I appreciate if you’re still with me.

Second, although the primary topic of this post is not a happy one, I hope that the message has an impact.

My circle of marathoning/walking friends has sadly suffered another loss. Our friend Beth K. died after an accident late last year. Beth was with the Team Prevention program from very early on. (In this program, run by Prevention magazine from 2005 to 2009, the magazine helped readers train to walk half and full marathons, with many measures of support and information.)

One of the best facets of the program was our group of mentors. These were women who were pretty new to the walk-a-marathon thing, too. They shared their learnings and advice on online message boards for our participants, and they came to our races to inspire, coach, and meet participants.


I last raced with (and saw) Beth (left) in Pittsburgh in 2015. It was a Team Prevention mentor reunion of sorts, as two of the other women in this photo (and another with whom we gathered that weekend) were mentors as well.

Beth was one of those mentors.

We’d have a team dinner the night before a given race, at which our mentors usually said a few words to the group. The messages differed — some mentors would explain why they chose to walk races, some would offer words of wisdom for first-timers, and so on.

Beth had a particular message she’d share. I’m sure I won’t do it justice, and I’m sure it won’t be as motivating as it would be if she were the one giving it, but the message was strong and simple.

“You’re not just walking,” she’d declare.

Our group of participants were mostly first-time racers. They were not usually the most athletic bunch of folks. Maybe once upon a time they ran, but age or joint problems or other factors ended their time as a runner. And here they were, about to embark on a pretty big and, for many, daunting goal — to do a full or half marathon. When people would learn they were doing a race, many of them would tend to say, “Well, I’m just walking,” in an almost apologetic tone.

“You’re not just walking,” Beth would emphasize. “You’ve trained for several months and you are doing a marathon.”

She made it clear that no one who embarked on the goal to complete a half or full marathon was just doing anything.

Own it, she was saying.

With one sentence, one correction to a statement, she motivated participants to feel even stronger, to feel even more motivated, to feel even more proud.

We all cross the same finish line, whether it’s with a pace of 7-minute miles or 15-minute miles. Don’t apologize for how you got there.

Thanks, Beth.

A solemn walk

Tomorrow, I’ll be doing the Outer Banks Half Marathon in, well, the Outer Banks, NC, with a group of friends. This will be my second time doing this race and my 17th half marathon overall. (Whew!)


Most of our gang after the OBX race in 2012

Generally I don’t make a habit of returning to races. I’ve only done so for certain reasons: to revisit the site of my first race or to help support other walkers. There are far too many races out there and new places to explore via their courses to want to repeat any.

But this weekend marks my second trip to the OBX race, and it’s in honor of a friend. About a year ago, I wrote about Lana, how her determination helped her tackle a race course and how she motivated so many people.

When our group gathered in NC in 2012 to do the race together the first time, North Carolina native Lana signed up too, doing the 8K. I spent some time with her on the course (the two routes merged at one point). I remember feeling happy to spot her ahead of me and know that I’d be able to cheer her on — and get energy from her as well.

After Lana died late last year, our group decided to return to the race this fall and participate in her honor. That purpose is definitely worth a repeat trip to a race, in my book. We’ll celebrate Lana and remember her with love.

In the past few weeks, though, our mission has grown. Among those planning to join us were our dear friends J and G. To our heartbreak, G has recently and suddenly been diagnosed with a very serious illness, preventing the couple from joining us while they fight this medical battle.

Like Lana, both J and G are incredible sources of inspiration; two people more full of life and light you would be hard-pressed to find. I walked alongside them for most of the course in 2012, in fact (and have shared other race course with them, too).

So we will fondly remember Lana as we walk those 13.1 miles on Sunday. And now, we will send healing wishes and love to G (and J) with each step along the way, emphasizing our good hopes for them in every footfall and our wishes that they’ll be striding alongside us again soon.

What’s your sign?

When you do a half marathon or full marathon, any motivation along the way is welcome. One form of motivation that I always look forward to is the signs held by spectators along the course.

Some are simple: “Go, Joelle!”

Others are inspirational: “You are a rock star!”

Then there are the funny ones — and they are the ones that give me the biggest boost. In fact, I vividly remember a sign I spotted in my very first race, back in 2005. A young woman held it high, and it read: “Hurry up, Rob — the game’s on at 1!”

Here are other memorable ones I’ve seen:

  • Look alive — there’s a funeral home in the next block!
  • Run like there’s a hot guy in front of you and a creepy one behind you
  • Worst parade ever
  • Pain is temporary. Race results are forever!
  • Run like you stole something
  • Run like [insert dreamy celebrity of choice] is waiting at the finish line
  • 13.1 miles — you’re only half crazy!
  • Your feet hurt because you’re kicking butt
  • Run, Forrest, Run!
  • This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago!

And here are two I spotted at a race in Atlantic City a few years ago:


Share your favorite examples in the comments!