Tag Archives: smile

Smiles for Miles: The Time I Ran a Marathon

Approximately 18 weeks and 500 or so miles ago, I lost my shit.

Lost it.

I was at an all time low. Drowning in grief and self-pity, slipping further and further away from my family, my friends, my self and into a deep dark place that I didn’t honestly want to leave. Not really. It was easier to cry myself to sleep and keep my eyes closed. To sleepwalk when I had to and disengage at every possible opportunity.

It’s better to lose your shit, though. Better than depression. Because losing it means action… and even crazy action is better than complete apathy.

The crazy thing I did? I signed up for a marathon. Not a half-marathon. The whole shebang — 26.2 miles. In Washington, DC. On March 12th. I didn’t even pay the couple extra bucks to make it refundable. I was all in.

I ran 5 times a week for 18 weeks. Mostly outside. Mostly in Wisconsin. Almost entirely in the winter. There were some amazing days and some awful days. Some big blisters and some seriously raw patches of skin. I listened to many books on tape and consumed an inordinate number of Gu gels. I cried, I felt my lips turn blue and then watched them become pink again, I learned that cotton can be both lovely and the fabric of Satan.

Training montage. (Not picture: blisters, chafing.)
Training montage. (Not picture: blisters, chafing.)

Running became my sole focus. The marathon was what I lived for. And in doing so, I looked forward. I moved forward, physically. And because of that, I couldn’t stay stuck in that hole, in that dark place. It became impossible.


I don’t even know where to begin talking about the actual marathon. I had five and a half hours to think real hard about it and I’m pretty sure that during that time I had about five and a half million blog-worthy thoughts… but they must have been expelled with all the vomiting or something (it was intense) and now I’m left with all the feelings and none of the words.

The running was of course a huge and important part of it — I trained for the marathon and I finished it — but it was, for me, about a lot more than just the miles and the motion. My heart was in that race and along the course. My heart was almost literally on my sleeve, perhaps rather on my arm. And it was my heart that got me through it. It was what happened to my heart that made it all worth it.

My arm, my dedications by mile, the morning of.
The people I ran with, mile by mile.

I wrote the names of friends and family, people who inspire me and fill my heart to bursting with love, all down my arm. A dedication for every mile. But not really a dedication, exactly. I didn’t run for those people… rather, I ran with those people. For a mile at a time, my thoughts were completely focused. Completely positive.

And then, over and over and over again, I’d see a bright blue shirt, a blonde buzz cut, and I’d suddenly know it was my husband on the course. And my dear friend Jess. And I couldn’t help but beam.

Mile 14

Then a blur of green on two wheels, a crazy beard, and my friend Rob was there on his bike — sherpa-ing, willing me on, mile after mile. (And oh my goodness, he saved me in those last 5 or so miles.)

Mile 25

And then at the end. I’m starting to cry now even thinking about it. I heard my name, I saw the smiles, the cheers. My friends, my beautiful, beautiful friends were there waiting for me, five and a half hours after the start — Seth and Jess and Ellen and Rob and Erika and Stephen. Bright pink shirts that screamed that I rock… And I smiled and smiled and smiled. Have I ever in my life felt that loved? That supported? I’m honestly not sure that I have.

Marathon Photo

Not because I haven’t been that loved and supported in my life. I know that I have. I come from loving stock, there’s no denying that. But I think maybe it took a marathon to really believe it. To believe that I could be worth it, to recognize that all those names scrawled down my arm (and so many others) had always been there for me in exactly this way, on other courses, at other times, through other struggles and to celebrate different victories.


Why did it take a marathon? Why wasn’t the miscarriage enough? Grad school? Depression? Anything else? I’ve been supported in a way that no one could possibly deserve through all of that. So why not that?

I don’t know. But it was the marathon that did it.


Conveniently, I had a therapy appointment the Thursday after I returned from DC. In the hall, before we even got to his office, Dr. C’s first question was: soooo… how was the marathon?

I sat down and told him that it was the most amazing experience. That I’d never in my life felt so loved and supported.

He told me that was a totally weird answer and asked about my legs.


I guess it never really was about my legs.

It was definitely physical in that it was about proving to myself that with respect to my body, despite infertility and miscarriage and faulty brain chemistry, I can still be in control. But more than that… It was about finding my lost shit. About letting my heart feel something really effing amazing. For that, I get a medal.


And to everybody else, my eternal gratitude, appreciation, love, respect, and adoration. I hope you get a chance to feel what I felt, smile like I smiled — marathon or otherwise. Let me know how I can help!

My Smile, My Choice

I’ve been working on this post for kind of a while, but have been struggling at keeping it from turning into an angry rant. You see, I recently pinned a little saying on Pinterest that I think is so important and I have embraced it as something of a blog motto– a blotto.

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.
{The Art of Simple}

Buuuuutttt… I kind of want to talk about something that SUPER bugs me. So what’s a girl to do? Flip it, that’s what!  I did it when I talked about the 23 things a while back. And I’m going to do it again here. Get ready for this masterpiece!

When I smile, my whole entire face kind of goes with it and it always has.  When I was in high school, a friend once said, “Can you even see when you smile?”  The answer: not always.  My eyes get tiny when my cheeks go up, I can’t help it.

Smiling Eyes
Eyes… So… Tiny…

On me, not smiling when I’m happy just doesn’t look natural (seriously, I have wedding pictures to prove it).

Not smiling on my wedding day? Practically impossible.

But smiling when I’m not happy?  Don’t make me go there.

My smile is mine to give away when I please and I firmly believe that I am under no obligation to anyone to provide a smile on command.  If I’m not feeling it, I don’t have to do it.  And when people tell me to “smile” it annoys the pants off of me.

Don’t tell me to do it– give me something worth smiling about!  Then we’ll talk.  Or maybe we won’t, maybe I’ll just beam at you and we’ll call it good.

Either way, I think that the smile command has roots in the good girl, the pretty girl, the happy, compliant, silent girl.  And all of that is probably the reason for my general disdain.

A while ago, one of my coworkers was patted on the head and asked to be good (not literally, of course, but that was definitely the point) because of my “bad” behavior in the past .  I can’t help but think that if I had I been a man and behaved the way I did or had my coworker been a man attending the meeting after me, the message would have been very different… or perhaps not been conveyed at all.  She didn’t need to be told to be good or that I had acted badly. Instead, my actions should have been viewed as a product of an unfortunate situation– one that, if not repeated, would give no reason for anyone else to behave similarly.

Again: change the situation if you want a different outcome, don’t just offer up a meaningless command.

Asking our girls to smile for us is, in my mind, akin to asking my coworker to be a good girl as an adult.  That’s not really ok.  Because why would you ever want someone to be disingenuous?

Little girls need to know that it’s ok to express their feelings, even if not verbally, then at least on their own dang face. If we note a frown, perhaps we should be asking why. From there, perhaps we could work together on a solution, or maybe just offer a little bit of support.* But what good does telling someone to smile do except to suggest that whatever has caused them not to smile is somehow invalid?

So I guess what I’m promoting (because I’m promoting, not bashing, remember?) is this: the right of women everywhere to express their emotions on their face. If they’re happy, smiles are welcome! If they’re not, no one has any right to expect it, let alone ask for it. So who cares if you have “b****y resting face” as the kids are calling it these days– your face is your face, and I’m sure it’s lovely regardless.

And as Roald Dahl says: If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Perhaps we need more good thoughts of which to think!


*Or you could try a really awesome joke. Here’s one of my favorites, my sister (the blood-related one, Sister Engineer) made this one up all by herself:

What did the robot say when I asked it to clean my room?

I don’t know, what?


Good one, Ab. Pure gold 😉

Or if that doesn’t work– consider a little song, like this one my little brother made up (to the tune of You Are My Sunshine):

You are my dinosaur, my only dinosaur

You make me happy when skies are PURPLE

You’ll never know, dinosaur, how much I love you, dinosaur

So please don’t take my dinosaur away!

They both make me smile, anyway! (Literally smiling right now! And with good reason!)