Monday, December 2, 2013

GER vs. Gobble Gobble Gobble

Ok, time to update after a long lapse.  I probably should have named this blog "Barbara's Non-Ethiopian fundraising running adventure".  Self Help Africa decided at the last minute to cancel our group trip to run in the Great Ethiopian Run.  In some ways I'm glad they made the decision for me.  If after all the discussions about terrorist threats they had decided to go, I would have had to decide whether I was still comfortable with the risk, and would have been uncomfortable with either decision I could have made.  When SHA decided to pull out of the run, they did offer us runners an alternate trip to a project site that they have in Malawi.  I opted instead to negotiate to be able to accompany them on a routine project trip they make to Ethiopia later this year.  Malawi would have been interesting. Ethiopia is where my heart is.  And a much smaller group trip will in many ways be more rewarding.

As the cancellation of the Great Ethiopian Run was becoming clear, I ran into a neighbor on my way back from dinner out.  He works for the Somerville Police and was in the news recently for receiving a check from Lyndell's Bakery for the Sean Collier Scholarship Fund.  (For those not in the know, Sean was the MIT Police officer killed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.)  He mentioned that the Thanksgiving Day Somerville road race was also going to contribute some of their proceeds to this scholarship fund.  Ahh, how everything in my life is connected...

So last Thursday morning, while most were either sleeping in or preparing feasts, I ran a 4-miler through the streets of Somerville in frigid cold temperatures, alongside lots of people dressed as turkeys. Roughly 3,000 runners.  I came in 662nd, doing miles averaging 8:24 each.  As I crossed the finish line and became fascinated with a man dressed in nothing but a full Native American headdress and loin cloth, my friend Oliver tapped me on the shoulder in congratulations and I felt good.

While waiting for the race to start, I noticed a familiar face in the crowd.  Kaleen had been my son Marcus' teacher in his combined 3-4 classroom.  Back then I remember her mentioning running in a race on Thanksgiving.  She's been doing these races every year since except last year when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  It was a wonderful, bittersweet reconnection.  So today I signed up for my next run - a 5K on January 4 in Lexington to raise money for cancer research.

Let the training resume!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Another interesting observation:

My husband texts me earlier today to tell me that my son is worried about the potential of my travel to Ethiopia at this dangerous time.

Last night my son tells me that my husband is worried and would prefer I not travel to Ethiopia right now.

Why is it that neither of them can take ownership of their own set of worries?

Ah, the men in my life...

What's wrong with this world?!

So eight months into raising money, raising awareness, raising my physical capacity to endure a 10K at 8K feet, and now waiting in limbo to find out whether I will actually get to Ethiopia.  Apparently there are significant concerns about credible terrorist threats on Addis Ababa.  The 10K road race course would be pretty difficult to secure and the Great Ethiopian Run, GER for short, is a very largely attended public event, making it in some ways a perfect target.  So Self Help Africa has been scrambling to figure out what to do with 15 American runners and 15 Irish runners all set to travel to Ethiopia a week from today, and to run on the 24th.  Kind of a nightmare.

Last I heard from Self Help Africa was that they were exploring possibilities to take the same group of runners to another African country in which they work, Zambia or Malawi, and come up with some sort of challenge event while there.  I love to travel, especially to culturally different places.  However, my motive for signing up to run in the GER was to get back to Ethiopia, the wonderful country that gave us Aregash, and to see first hand the work that Self Help Africa does there.

So last night, after finishing one of my best runs yet, I decided to counter propose.  I explained my motives, and asked whether I could instead be invited along on some future trip that Self Help Africa staff take to check in on their Ethiopia project sites.  In many ways this would be even more exciting to me - not being part of a large group of runners, but just along with the SHA staff, and possibly able to engage much more closely with their work and the Ethiopians they are working with.

Let's hope this counter proposal did not fall on the floor.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tears run faster than my feet

This is about as much action as my running shoes have seen recently, though I hope to take them on an outing today.  I love my new running shoes and I am sorry to neglect them.

My father passed away on October 12.  He was 90, living in a nursing home, and in many ways his death was not a surprise. Grief has been the surprising part.  Somewhere in my subconscious I must have been holding onto the magical thought that so long as my father was alive, he might someday "get better" and return to being the father I had known and loved for so many years.  (If you've not read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, I highly recommend it. I need to go re-read it.)

In the days right after his death, the only time the tears would come was when I was out running.  That was both a relief and a challenge for me, so my runs were shorter, and sometimes the sobbing would require I stop to catch my breath.  That was excuse number 1 for avoiding running. Then there was all the busy-ness that comes with preparing for and carrying out all the ceremony of saying goodbye. Excuse number two. Finally, there were a couple of days of unbearable anger at the world.  Excuse number three, and the feeblest of them all.

And now I feel ready, I hope, to start putting one running foot in front of the other, and restart my training.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013



47 Days until the Great Ethiopian Run
47 Donations collected
Exceeding my goal:  $5,125 collected!!!

Monday, October 7, 2013


I've been reading some blog posts by Joel Peterson, CEO of JetBlue.  The topic was work life balance. Since adding a running regimen into my already overbooked life this, topic was of interest to me.  It seems that the only way I can make time to run is to beg out of other activities.  In order for me to run this morning, I begged out of an early morning coffee with a dear friend. I knew once I got to the office I would not get out of the office for a midday run.  And I had to run today because my normal late afternoon run tomorrow is being superseded by a BSO concert with another dear friend.  Forget work life balance; I have something more like a sliding tile puzzle.  Move one piece and suddenly you have to move many more...

Back to the point.  Peterson's post was capturing some of his advice to recent business school alums. He advised them to think of life as a marathon not a sprint.  How about thinking of life as a 10K crawl at 7,500 feet?

And as I sit here with my aching muscles, missing the coffee that could have been, I read another line in his blog that seemed to snap me out of it.  He wrote, "It's a never-say-die resilience that allows people to move forward through life's inevitable setbacks".  I'd like to think I have some of that resilience. Maybe that is what will keep this old aching body training.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Recipe for a "Crazy Lady"

The most recent contributor to my fundraising effort, referred to me as a "crazy lady".  While I might want to take offense, it is a bit hard to argue with his assessment.  So instead, I thought I'd share my secret recipe.

1 psycho-emotional itch that needed scratching.  Best described as a need to do good in the world
54 years of life experience
1 accommodating employer
1 family willing to muddle through a week without me
1 pair of new ASICS running shoes to keep me moving
1 decision to spend Thanksgiving in NYC recovering from 18 hours returning flight time
1 friend to act as family chauffeur in my absence
1 neighbor onboard with board games to keep the 17 year old occupied
1 nanny taking on extra childcare hours
1 website that made it all too easy to sign up
1 website tool that made it all too easy to set up a fundraising page
1 little girl whose joyful spirit reminds me daily why I'm the happiest crazy person on earth

1. Click "sign up" button on Self Help Africa's website.
2. Then try not to panic.
2. Create quick fundraising page using
3. Go through contacts to find people who might think you're crazy, but not too crazy to support.
4. Start running.  Moan and groan.  Run some more.
5. Remember to capture thoughts and experiences along the way so that you can tell the story.

Voila - one "crazy lady".

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Government shutdown not going to slow me down...

Renewed Passport before the federal government shutdown - check
Travel arrangements made to NYC to connect with flight to Ethiopia - check
Fundraising completed - almost.  At 96%
Training - getting there

Ran a great 5-miler this morning in the fog.  It was hauntingly beautiful. My wonky hip cooperated.  It seems to do better when I run more frequently, and I had just run a 3+ miler on Friday evening so it was good today.

In response to those who comment that maybe I am a bit old to be taking on such an adventure, what can I say.  I'm a late bloomer?  Slow and steady wins the race?  I didn't have my first child until late into my 30's.  I adopted my second at 50.  And now I'm running a race at the over-ripe age of 54, in the land that gave me my daughter .  It all makes perfect sense to me.

I may need to curb my desire to spend on gear.  I find myself looking online at all the great running shoes, capris, tanks, jackets, etc.  Then I stop before I pull out my credit card. And I put on all my old ratty stuff and head out.  And while I'm out running I pass the Marathon Sports on Mass Ave. and if I had my credit card on me I would interrupt my run, go in and shop, shop, shop.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

55, 41, 92, 3

55 Days to go before I leave for Ethiopia, 41 donations totaling $4,610, 92% of my $5,000 goal, averaging 3 runs per week, 12 miles per week.  Obviously I need to keep increasing my distance if I am to meet my goal of finishing the 10K Great Ethiopian Run without passing out or vomiting.  It would help if my wonky hip would get with the program.

Then there's the passport.  I knew as of last spring that my passport expires at the end of November.  Why, you might ask, did I wait until last Friday to submit an expedited renewal? Details, details.  Keep fingers crossed that the government does not shut down before I get my renewed passport back!  

Let's also hope that the very scary, very sad insanity in Kenya this past week does not spread nor impact our ability to do this fundraising run for Self Help Africa.  Nothing posted on Self Help Africa's site.  No word from them.  Just worries on my part.