Tag Archives: running

Corn People vs. Coffee People

Every time I go running in my neighborhood I play a little game called “The Smile Game.”  The rules are simple and anyone can play.

Whenever I’m approaching someone who is facing me, I smile.  Usually I go for teeth, but not every time.   I do this as a social experiment,  and because I like to cheer people up.   It’s really the only time I’m an unbridled optimist.

Sometimes I go a little crazy and actually speak to these strangers, but it’s rare.  About a month ago I was just cresting a steep hill that left me winded and exhausted.  On my way day down, I passed a man who was gasping for breath but still running up the hill, and I smiled at him.  He smiled back through asthmatic heaves, and I felt a burst of camaraderie with him so I said, “Good work!”  He didn’t breathe any easier because of my encouragement, but he did manage to say thanks, and for a moment it was like we were on the same team.

I’m working up my courage to put my hand out for a high-five, but the rejection from that would be too much to recover from.  Can you imagine a stranger jogging toward you and suddenly her hand is raised to eye-level and she’s smiling at you?  It would either be awesome or terrifying.  Or it could completely backfire, and make men believe I’m using the high-five as a conversation starter.  Shudder.

I have learned a myriad of things about humanity through this game.

1.  Unless I smile first, no one will smile at me.  This is fact.  I think I have recorded maybe two unsolicited smiles and they were on particularly sunny days, so they really can’t count because good weather warps Seattleites’ mental states.

2.  In general, women my age are the worst.  They almost always fall into the non-eye-contact category.  The fierceness with which they refuse to look at me makes me feel like we’re competitors in the national running championships.  It always boggles my mind, so I continue to smile.

3.  Those who appear too shocked to react before I pass are people who are jaded and used to being overlooked in life.  They want to smile at strangers, but they are sick of being rejected and therefore never do.

4.  Those who never make eye contact, and therefore have no idea that I am grinning like an idiot, I forget quickly.  These people are clearly on their own road and do not need a cheerful encounter with me.

5.  Those who smile back are fantastic, wonderful people who make me feel like I’m a unicorn riding a rainbow.

6.  Those who obviously see me and yet do not give even a hint of a smile are jerks.  Period.

Sometimes I wonder if Kirkland’s lack of friendliness is really just geography.  Mike’s grandparents, who live in Iowa, sent us a subscription to their favorite local magazine, “Our Iowa.”  Its pages are bursting with state-wide pride about their friendliness, with little quotes from cartooned farmers scattered over the pages that say, “There are no strangers in Iowa, just friends you haven’t met yet!”   They have little inside jokes like “You know you’re an Iowan if you wave to people in other cars that you don’t even know.”

Seattleites don’t do this.  We don’t wave from cars.  You’re lucky to get a wave even if we do know you.

I think that’s part of why people don’t smile on the street here.  We already know no one is going to throw any love our way, so we just stick to our mission and move on.  If Iowa has t-shirts that say “Iowa — America’s Front Porch,” Seattle should have t-shirts that say, “Seattle — America’s Closed Front Door.”

But that doesn’t mean I have to pull my cap down around my eyes and stare at the concrete.  I’m going to keep grinning, not to give the impression that running is effortless, but to give the impression that acknowledging people is.  The Seattle rain is chilly enough; we don’t need countenances to match.

If all else fails I can always purchase one of the many bumper stickers available in this month’s Our Iowa.  I’m leaning toward the one that says, “Iowa Rocks!” with the giant ear of corn furiously strumming a guitar.  When you think about it, it’s really no odder than a manic redhead running down the street accosting strangers (who are just friends I haven’t met yet).


Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Rephs 1, Carbs 0

As cliché as it is to write this in the month of January, I am on a diet.

Mike and I decided to eat healthier and lose a little weight in the process, and we just happen to have a trip to Cabo on the horizon for that extra hit of motivation.  Nothing like exposed flesh to make you reach for that proverbial carrot (or in this case, a literal carrot).

We have always been very active, running about three times a week and doing yoga once a week.  But the more we researched, the more we realized that food and exercise fall into that most classic of rules: 80/20.  It turns out that working out like a fiend while eating whatever one wants isn’t as effective as eating really well and working out moderately. 

And let’s face it: any excuse to work out less is music to one’s ears, am I right?

So, after a few Bing searches for easy-to-follow diets, we decided on the 4 Hour Body.  It’s written by the same man who wrote 4 Hour Workweek, which is a major bestseller, but from what I’ve heard infuriates a lot of people (the concept is so simple, yet almost impossible to apply).

We didn’t even bother to buy the book, since all of the rules were listed online.  It really is quite simple:

1.  No white carbs (we had to resist hosting a funeral to pay our respects to our favorite foods: rice, pasta, and bread).

2.  No fruit (ouch.  I usually eat two pieces of fruit a day).

3.  Don’t drink your calories (sayanara, beer.  Though you are allowed two glasses of red wine per day…clearly this is the life raft we cling to).

4.  Eat the same meals over and over (well, when you can only have certain foods, you tend to repeat them).

5.  Take one day off a week  (sweet Moses Saturdays!! Sign me up!!).

We started on Jan 3, so it’s been three weeks.  We’ve each lost a pound per week, which supposedly is the healthiest way to lose.   We haven’t changed our exercise routine, though if we miss a workout we feel far less guilt, because we can easily turn to each other and say, “Who cares?  We’re eating so well!”

Not that eating well is easy. 

The two of us at a restaurant is not a pretty sight.  A mere three seconds after opening the menu one of us says, “But, OK, like what if we traded this meal for one meal on our day off?  That would work, right?  I mean, really, what’s the difference?” 

That’s when the other one of us has to turn into a drill sergeant and yell, “Pull yourself together, Reph!  You’ll order a salad and YOU’LL LIKE IT.”

But honestly, it wasn’t until this diet that we realized how carb-heavy restaurants really are.  If we’re looking for anything more interesting than a salad, we may be looking for a very long time.

Last week we ate out with another couple at a Thai restaurant (read: noodle universe) and Mike found the only way he could be satisfied is if he ordered half of a chicken.  Nothing else.  It was the strangest looking plate. 

I ordered stir fry.

Waiter:  And white or brown rice?

Me:  (Gritting teeth, barely able to get the words out) Ahhhhhh, no rice.

Waiter:  (Eyebrows raised higher than the ceiling) Um, Okaaaaaaay.

It’s reactions like this that motivate us to invite people to our house rather than accept their invitations to eat out.  If we plan ahead, it’s really easy to cook according to this diet at home.   

And even though it’s gotten easier (I no longer fantasize about a French baguette dipped in olive oil), it’s still not something I could continue indefinitely.  We’re only planning on doing it for a month, and that’s because life without pasta, rice and bread is not a life I want to live forever.

…though since I do want to live as long as possible, I’m going to scale back the consumption of carbs even after the middle of February.  I’m going to try to see them as treats, rather than the incomparable force of nature that they are.


Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

How to Run a Race

You never know where life’s lessons might pop up.

Take running a race, for instance.

Start line.  Finish line.  It’s the same everywhere.  But it’s what happens in-between that matters most.

Last weekend we ran our fourth Bloomsday race in Spokane, WA.  Mike’s sister, her husband and three kids live in Cheney, so we have made it an annual event to visit them and run the race together.

This year my father-in-law joined the ranks of the finishers.

He had me and Rachel (you may remember her from our Olympic adventures) as coaches and partners in making it across the finish line.

But just like in life, you do not go from Point A to Point B straightaway.  There are roadblocks.  Oddities.  Humors.

A few of life’s lessons, from Bloomsday 2010:

Rule #1:  Find a team for the journey.

Rule #2:  It’s not the beginning of the race that counts  (a direct quote from my grandfather, Roger Berger).

Rule #3:  Expect to encounter a few looney tunes.

Rule #4:  When all else fails, keep moving.

Rule #5:  If someone with an accordion and a banjo out of the back of a trailer wants to cheer you on, let them.

Rule #6:  Remember that you are only free to run your race because others are standing watch.

Rule #7:  If you’re going to dress as Raggedy Ann and Andy, go all out.

Rule #8:  It’s always acceptable to be inappropriate for a good cause.  Especially boobs.

Rule #9:  Obstacles are inevitable.  Keep going.

Rule #10:  Laugh in the face of adversity.  Or vultures.

Rule #11:  Don’t look down.

Rule #12:  Count all of the mile-markers as victories.

Running a race is a lot like life:  it’s hard, funny, long (if you’re lucky), and totally worth the sweat it takes to get there.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

Finishing the Race Together

In early August I emailed several close friends and family inviting them to join me in my third half-marathon.  I had an irresistible urge to invite specifically those who would otherwise never pursue such an endeavor on their own.  In particular, I desperately hoped that my two sisters would accept the challenge — both because I wanted us to experience this thrill together, and because I knew beyond a doubt they could do it, even if they didn’t think they could.  Happily for me, perhaps begrudgingly for them, they accepted.  In their own words, here are their stories.

Erin, 28, Ballard resident, Mars Hill Church Wedding Ministry Director and Biblical Families Administrator:


I have never been particularly athletic; in fact, one of my favorite things to say regarding myself is that “I’m built for comfort, not speed.” 

Throughout my formative years and into my early twenties I was overweight in varying degrees, at most when I was 14 and about 170lbs.  I used to fake ankle injuries and asthma in order not to run the mile in PE.  I simply couldn’t do it, and had no desire to.  I’ve grown up a lot since I was 14 and now take care of my health and myself.  Thankfully I weigh quite a bit less than I once did.

When Abby invited me to do the half-marathon with her, I thought it should be pretty easy because I “run” three miles on the elliptical three times a week at the gym.  So I put my sneakers on and ran a mile near my house.  I didn’t get a quarter mile before I had to walk.  “What the junk!” I thought.  “It’s supposed to be just like the elliptical machine, what is going on?”  It took me over 20 minutes to do that first mile.  I was ashamed.  “There’s no way I can do this,” I thought.  “Forget it – I’m going back to my routine.” 

A few weeks later during our family vacation I agreed to do a mile with my sisters.  Abby promised to keep pace and not speed ahead.  Abby has the spiritual gift of encouragement and she wields it well.  I didn’t feel like a failure.  I decided to train – I wasn’t committing to the race, just training.

I diligently followed the training schedule.  The longer runs I tried to do with Abby or Sam because I’ve discovered I do much better with a buddy.  The first time I ran five miles, I thought it was going to kill me.  By the time I got to seven, I was actually handling it, dare I say enjoying it.  I even signed up for a 5K with a gal in my community group.  I pushed myself to keep pace with her and nearly, literally, passed out at the end.  I did it in 33:40, which was phenomenal for me.  I was so excited to know I could finish a race — I started to think maybe I could do the half-marathon after all. 

It occurred to me recently that I have prayed for the ability to run (albeit very few times) and God gave that to me.  My heart has totally changed toward running.  There are days when it’s hard to get up in the morning to run; and there are days that I don’t run as far as the schedule dictates, but most of the time I get up and run.  I’m now running 15 to 20 miles a week and thinking forward to a half-marathon in the summer and a few 5Ks before that. 

I have realized this is perseverance.  In the Bible, this is what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians and the Hebrews to run the race that is set before them.  Praise God for teaching me the practical example of actual running so that I could understand what that means in my spiritual life.  In both running and life, it is about discipline, choices, setting the course and reaching for the goal.  Paul says that I am striving for an imperishable wealth and therefore I do not run aimlessly.  However, I cannot simply show up and expect to achieve it – I have to build up, train, be self-controlled and disciplined.  I had no idea. 

The day of the half-marathon was a great day, but by the time it arrived it was no big deal.  I had trained well for it and knew I was ready and could do it.  Somewhere in mile eight, I looked at Abby and said, “I’d do this again, it’s kind of fun.”  Around mile 10 I got really hungry (I mean really hungry), which I’m told is a good sign but all I could think about was bacon and coffee.  My biggest takeaway has turned out to be not the medal I received, but the implications and practical expressions that running has in my spiritual walk — or run.  Praise God! 

Sam, 22 (it’s her birthday today!), Woodinville resident, graphic design student, Red Robin waitress:

If you are expecting inspiration, you can close the web page now.

This experience was…trying, to say the least.  I am not a long-distance runner.  I figured, “Alright, I can do this.  It won’t be that bad; training will be annoying, but I’ll build up and do it and lose weight and it’ll be rad.”  Wow, was I sorely mistaken.  

I did the first few training sessions and got a little better, but I couldn’t do much midweek training because of work and school overtaking my life.  Training three times a week turned into just one big run per weekend, and it was awful because I wasn’t building up the endurance I needed.  I began to look toward weekend runs with disdain and dread.  During one such run (a 10 miler with my dad) I broke down and cried as I ran, totally believing that I looked like the biggest idiot this side of Kansas, running down the insanely busy Avondale Road sobbing and telling my dad I couldn’t do it.  However, my embarrassment stopped the tears pretty quickly.

Flash forward (because all my training runs were heinous) to the race.  I had just gotten back from Arizona for Thanksgiving with my fiancé and his family, and had to wake up at 0-dark-thirty to get to the race on time.  We got there and started the race with 18,000 other people, and I found myself thinking, “Hmmm this isn’t that bad, everyone’s running and walking, so it’s alright.”  

Miles one through four were OK, five through seven were painful but manageable, eight through eleven were hilly, and twelve through 13.1 a mix of, “Please Lord, shoot me down right now,” and “OK, I might actually finish this thing.”

My goal was to survive, but my mother gave me a better goal:  to beat Abby across the finish line.  Now please realize that had this been a real life goal, it would not have happened.  Abby has done this a million times and has been a runner forever.  Erin has never run, yet picked it up with the grace of a gazelle, and my father has completed a marathon.  Needless to say, they all could have easily left me in the dust.  So as I panted and tried to die every other mile, they stayed back and walked with me so I didn’t feel so lame.  I wish you could see all the emails from Abby since August: each one was signed, “Finishing the race together.”  And finish together we did, purely by the grace of my sisters and father who sacrificed an awesome time in order for me to push myself to the finish line. 

So just after mile post 13, Erin said, “Ready Sham? Lets do it!” and I turned to Abby and said “Gotcha dude!” and took off.  I am a sprinter.  I like sprinting.  Even after 13 miles, I can sprint.  So, I blasted past her and heard Mike screaming my name from the crowd as I blazed through the stadium (yes, we had an entire cheering section) and crossed the finish line not only in front of my family, but before the first marathoner crossed as well.  After crossing, I got a piece of tinfoil (heat blanket) and got a warm welcome from not only Mike, but my mother, my fiancé, and my best friend, who surprised me by giving up a day of snowboarding to come see me finish.  

It was a cool finish, but now I am being begged by my sister Erin, my mother, and my best friend to do it all again in June.  I don’t think so, people.  Muscles I didn’t know EXISTED hurt right now.  By the way, our time? 3:09.  Rockstars.


I am so proud of my sisters!


Filed under The WORD (Faith)