OBX Marathon Weekend

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Thoughts of last year’s OBX Marathon and Half Marathon sent me to my Shutterfly book of photographs and text that I put together afterwards. The above picture was taken at Jockey Ridge, the largest sand dune on the east coast, and is on the cover of the book. I’m lifting the words below from the last page, hoping to get my family and friends energized and motivated for next year.

What an awesome day. I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe November 11, the day of the OBX Half Marathon.

From the moment I heard “God Bless America” at the start until I watched my brother Mike and his wife Lisa dance in Big Als’s afterwards, sights and experiences too many to describe took place. A second cousin, Emily, also participated in the event. Wait, no, she did more than participate. She ran like the wind. John David, my nephew managed to whiz by her at some point, and my brothers weren’t too far behind. Me? I walked along like an automaton, pausing long enough to take some pictures.

Along the way, I saw some interesting sights. There were women of all ages wearing tutus and colorful skirts, and I thought, “Maybe next near for the skirt, not the tutu.” As I reached the top of the bridge leaving Nag’s Head, I passed an older man in a wheelchair giving it all he had. Loved his indomitable spirit! I also saw and appreciated hundreds of people along the route who gave water, Gatorade, and plain old encouragement.

In Manteo, we reconvened for some photo ops, including one inside of a ship in the harbor. We then headed to Big Al’s for lunch, something that’s become a tradition. The sweet potato fires and the ambience keep bringing us back. Mike and Lisa danced on the dance floor, but Chris, Becky, and I confined our dancing to table dancing…or as Chris called it, “Shoulder dancing.” We also sang along to a couple of songs on the juke box before going to back to Big Bird, the house we had rented, for some R & R. Later, four of us walked down to Jennette’s Pier before going to see Argo.

Monday morning we all arose early to have breakfast at The Dunes before parting company, a delicious way to say farewell.

Put November 9, 2014 on your calendars, Y’all (appropriate for a Southerner to say). It’d be great to have more family and friends there next year.

More Path Crossing

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about seizing the special moments in life with the realization that you “may never walk this way together again.” A couple of things have reemphasized the truth of that statement, one being a wonderful conversation with my friend June last night and the other this picture hanging on the wall of one of our bathrooms. It’s a half bath right off the kitchen, and I find myself darting in and out of there often for scissors, cotton balls, or quick mirror checks

This photograph ALWAYS makes me smile when I walk into the caramel colored little bath. It was taken on a pier in Manteo, NC on November 13, 2011. My brothers, Mike and David, and I had just completed a half-marathon and were happy to be finished! The two young women, Elizabeth and Sarah Beth, had participated in an 8K the day before, and the handsome young man is my nephew Chris. He had arrived just that morning to cheer us on and was the first family member I saw as I neared the end. With a charming smile, he said, “Looking good, Aunt Jayne! The others are right around the corner.” The two other women in the photograph are my sisters-in-law, Lisa and Becky, our biggest supporters and the ones who kept all of us straight. That morning they had arisen at the crack of dawn to take us to the race start a couple of miles away.

Introductions and background complete, there are dozens of things that looking at this picture brings to mind. When I see it, I remember so many of the things we shared and did together in the Outer Banks that weekend. While we all have our individual memories, we have our shared ones too. In no certain order, here are some of mine:

  • Getting in a little fender bender on the way back from the Expo that first night. My brother David was driving, and when the light changed to green, he inched forward. Unfortunately, the car in front of us didn’t move, and he gently bumped it. Being honest and upright and all that other good stuff, we pulled over to a parking lot and called the police. There were no nicks or scratches on either car, and yet the woman driving the other car claimed that the incident had shattered the glass in her back of their small station wagon. Mysteriously, there was no sign of glass anywhere…not even in the window! Although the police report said there was no sign of damage, the couple filed a claim. David and Elizabeth and I were in the car at the time, and we all decided that it WOULD NOT spoil our weekend. There are fraudulent people everywhere, and we just happened upon two of them.
  • The delicious meal that Becky prepared on Friday night. Six months later, I can still see and taste the salad that she prepared for us. And the spaghetti was delicious too! During the scrumptious meal, we talked and laughed around the table, and afterwards we adjourned to the living room for more conviviality (Mike will love that I used that word).
  • The shell covered horse statue at the school where Elizabeth and Sarah Beth began and ended the 8K.
  • Our excitement as the girls crossed the finish line and had their picture made with a pirate.
  • Lunch at Big Al’s. Loved the food and atmosphere.
  • The afternoon spent shopping, browsing, and sightseeing in Manteo.
  • Trips down to the beach to collect shells and marvel at the majesty of the ocean.
  • Standing in her bedroom while Becky showed me her collection of shells.
  • The lights on the pier seen from the strand.
  • Thinking of parents and feeling their influence on us. Seeing their DNA reflected in my brothers, daughter, niece, and nephew.
  • Missing my sis and wishing she could be with us.
  • David preparing a small pre-race breakfast on marathon morning.
  • The sights and sounds along the marathon route, including a crazy looking lady cheering us along. She was really a man dressed like a woman.
  • Finishing the half marathon and seeing Elizabeth at the finish.
  • Aching feet. In fact, in the picture my shoes are unlaced, and I’m standing on the backs of them. I remembered that when I looked at the picture and wondered why my legs looked so misshapen.
  • Watching people get beer from a beer truck. Kind of funny.
  • Chowing down on a free barbecue sandwich.
  • Laughing and chatting with my family as we got caught up in the post-race excitement around us.
  • Stopping for the brief shining moment (above) on the pier before leaving Manteo. We loved the flags, especially the American one that was blowing so beautifully in the breeze that day.
  • Topping the weekend off with lunch at Big Al’s.
  • Packing up and bidding everyone farewell.
  • Driving/riding down that long, long, long road back to civilization and taking in the coastal, marshy scenes.

Since that day, there have been changes both large and small. Nothing ever stays the same, right? I began a grandmother again with the birth of Ethan Paul Crolley on March 4, and Chris graduated from law school on May 6. It’s nice having a new baby and a new lawyer in the family!

I’m so glad the eight of us were together for these moments in time. I can’t speak for the younger set, but I’m pretty sure that my brothers and their wives and I will be on that pier for yet another photograph this November. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even convince my husband that it’s worth the seven hour drive.

Laps around the Couch

I love the two young women in this picture. I love their joie de vivre too. And then there’s their “just do it” attitude that prompts them to try new things regardless of what other people might say.

This photo was taken just a few moments after we’d enjoyed a nice lunch with various family members in Manteo, NC. The lunch was to celebrate five of us completing events related to the Outer Banks Marathon, Half Marathon, 8K, 5K, and Fun Run.  My brothers and I completed the half marathon, and Elizabeth and Sarah Beth ran/walked the 8K. It was a picture perfect day (trite but true expression), especially in terms of the weather. The Outer Banks setting added to the awesomeness too. What’s not to savor about briskly moving along beside the Atlantic Ocean and catching glimpses of pirates, Jockey Ridge, sea birds, and gorgeous homes along the sound?

I’ve been participating in events such as this for over 30 years, and I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m so happy with my time!” It’s more likely that I’ll hear excuses for failure to go the distance in record time. “I didn’t’ sleep well last night,” is a frequent one. So are the following:

*“I’ve been sick this week.”
*“I really  haven’t had a chance to train.”
*“I’m not used to running on this terrain.”
*“I’m used to cooler temperatures.”
*“I do my best running later in the day.”

Regardless of their truth or originality, they’re all excuses.

Although my niece Sarah Beth did exceptionally well in the 8K, she wasn’t completely happy with her time. But then, a few minutes after her finish this is what she said, “If anyone dares to say anything about my time, I’m going to say something about their laps around the couch!” When I chuckled at this, she continued, “I mean really. How can anyone say anything about my time when their only exercise is pressing the remote?” That’s my girl, SB!

The family talked about this concept the rest of the weekend. Why is it that people criticize others when they haven’t done anything of merit themselves? And why does it bother the “just do it” folks to hear putdowns? As another example, I often hear people making fun of the people on American Idol, and although I don’t watch that show, I know enough about it to know that the performers sing a heck of a lot better than their critics.

As I told my daughter and niece, it doesn’t matter what your time is, how your performance stacks up to others, or whether you win a prize. What matters is that you get into the fray and give it a shot. It’s better to “just do it” than it is to run laps around your sofa and poke fun at the ones who are going the distance.  Plus, the girls had their picture made with a pirate, earned a cool medal, and enjoyed the post-race ambience at the track.

They’re always naysayers, critics, and bullies, but you have to ignore them and their negativity. Their comments don’t matter, not one iota. And I think this applies to just about any endeavor in life. Whether you take pictures, write poetry, or bake wedding cakes, you just can’t let the critics hold you back.

Untied Shoes and Barbeque Sandwiches

It’s time to write  something about Sunday’s OBX half marathon. As I sit here thinking about it this afternoon, I keep thinking of the lessons inherent in such an event. Is that the school teacher part of me? Can’t I ever just enjoy something without trying to turn it into a lesson? Apparently not!

Lisa, one of my sisters-in-law, drove us to the race start. She’s a trooper, a stalwart supporter, and had gotten up and dressed to make sure that we arrived before the 7:00 a.m. gun sounded. Once we got out of the car and sauntered (yep, we were taking it easy then) to the start, we were inundated with the noises that accompany pre-race excitement. And the music. Wow! It was loud and energizing. Plus, there was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our right. What a feast for the senses!

Almost immediately, the three of us separated, and I went to the back of the pack with the other slow folks (walkers).Interestingly, it was called “F.” While that didn’t make me too happy, I came up with lesson #1. It’s crazy to start in a category for which you are unprepared. You’ll soon find yourself out of your league and floundering as you realize that you’re being passed by those with more experience.

That brings me to lesson #2. It’s closely aligned with the first one and has to do with preparation. A person who doesn’t put in the time and miles is not going to make it. Sure, he or she might finish the course but will suffer consequences of serious soreness, all over fatigue, strained muscles, and so forth. Preparation is key in most life events.

The gun sounded for us, and people took off running. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be walkers in Category F! I jogged along beside them, letting the crowd surge push me forward. That was another important lesson, #3. Sometimes, for better or worse, the crowd mentality can get a person stoked and involved. I slowed down after about a mile, however, because I knew I’d be in trouble otherwise.

After a few miles on the highway, we branched off into a nice neighborhood, and I took a few pictures. Soon I saw a child wrapped up in a sleeping bag in a driveway. He had a pot over his face and head, and his father reminded him that he was supposed to be making noise with it. All along the route, people were ringing cow bells, playing music, shouting encouragement, and blowing horns.  I could hear all this despite the fact that I was listening to Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life on my iPhone. It was awesome to walk/jog in this beautiful setting and listen to a great Southern author read his book about the effect that reading had on his life.

We rounded a curve, and there I saw a person dressed like an old lady who kept running out in the street yelling at people. I think she was shouting good stuff, but I’m not sure. It was a little bizarre. I also saw some water in the bay and some beautiful homes. Breathtaking. Lesson # 4 There are always some unexpected treats along the way of a journey. It might be something like the bubble gum that a woman was offering the walkers and runners or it might be some of the beauties of nature.

We walked and jogged on the highway some more and then through another neighborhood. I’d like to say, “THANKS!” to all of the people who came out of their homes to cheer us on that morning. It’s amazing how much difference encouragement and an occasional, “You can do it!” can make. Oh, and the people providing water and Gatorade were wonderful too. That was some of the coldest, most refreshing water that I’ve ever tasted. Some tables offered power gel, but I relied on my power bar for energy bursts. Lesson # 5. People need people.

Soon I found myself looking at the bridge signaling that I was about to leave Nag’s Head and enter Manteo. One of my brothers had told me that the bridge was the ten mile mark so I was feeling encouraged. Hmmm. Did he say that the beginning of the bridge marked ten miles or was it the end? This was a major question because that bridge was daunting! Long, steep, and noisy (because of the cars passing and the wind from the sound), I just had to know. There was no sign, however, so I just basically took off thinking, “I can do it…I can, I can, I can, I will, I will….”

People on all sides seemed to be struggling just as much as I was. Some were in even worse shape. Still, I trudged on, knowing that it was the only way to Manteo and the race finish. Lesson # 6. Crossing a bridge will take you from one destination to another, in “real life” and in a half marathon.

Bridge behind me, I turned right towards Manteo. I needed a potty break, and since I hadn’t heeded Lisa’s warning about the perils of wearing new shoes on race day, my feet were hurting. I was tired and running out of “juice.” Then Elizabeth called asking for my location and told me that my brother Dave and his son Chris were stationed along the way looking for me. That was something to look forward to.  I soon spotted them, sights for sore eyes, and a signal that I was within a half mile of the finish.

Lesson #7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By this time, my left shoe had come untied, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross that line!! I rounded the corner of the last leg and spotted Becky, my other sister-in-law, smiling and waving me on. Just before crossing the finish, I saw the rest of my support group: Elizabeth, Sarah Beth, Lisa, and Mike. Someone put a medal around my neck, and then off I went in search of my free barbeque sandwich.

The eight of us walked around gawking at the sights and taking pictures. It had been an arduous trek, but the sights, sounds, and feelings afterwards made it worthwhile. Will I do it again? No doubt about it! Lesson #8: Setting a difficult and then accomplishing it is sweet.

Lessons and Lavender Flowers

The grown-ups were sitting in Dunkin Donuts at the Outer Banks when I got the text from Elizabeth that she’d just passed the halfway mark of her first 8K. Since she was walking, and her cousin Sarah Beth was jogging, I knew that SB would soon be nearing the finish line.

“Let’s go Y’all,” I said, wrapping my pumpkin muffin and heading for the door. “If Lib’s halfway through, then Sarah Beth is probably getting close to the finish line, and we don’t want to miss that!.” 

We hustled to the car and rushed back to the school where the 8K had begun 30 minutes prior. Jumping out of my Highlander, we scattered in different directions: David to the race course to spot his nieces along the route, Becky and I to the inside gate of the track, and Mike and Lisa to the finish line to see Sarah Beth cross it.

I loved waiting there with Becky. We were both charged with the happy anticipation of seeing the girls come into view, feelings intensified by the gorgeous day. With temps in the 60’s, a gentle breeze, the sunshine on our arms and faces, we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day. Then too, there was music, laughter, squeals from children, and the smell of popcorn wafting across the center of the track.

My phone rang. It was David. “Elizabeth sighted,” he said in his best military officer tone. Then he added, “She’s looking good. Strong pace.”

A few minutes later, Becky and I spotted her in the distance, and I couldn’t help but feel a mother’s pride. She had done it! She had stayed the course and completed what she had set out to do. As Elizabeth came through the open gate and onto the track, she asked me to join her in walking towards the finish line. LOVED doing that!

Earlier that morning, I had reminded both girls of one of my favorite terms in psychology, self-efficacy. Loosely defined as one’s ability to make something happen despite challenges and difficulties, I told them that self-efficacy was actually more important than ability. There are plenty of folks out there of average intellect and ability who believe in themselves and their goals so much that they work like crazy to achieve them. The moment someone decides, “I can’t,” she’s right.

As Elizabeth and I walked that last lap together, I asked, “So, was there ever a moment that you let doubt creep in? Did you ever find yourself wondering if you could do it or not?”

“No Ma’am. I knew I could do it. A couple of times, I just thought, ‘I don’t really want to.’”

I had to chuckle a little. Isn’t that often the case? We know we can. We just don’t want to. We’re tired or stressed or bored. We’d rather be stretched out in a hammock somewhere. We’d rather be doing anything than what we’re doing. And yet, there are times when quitting is not an option. We all have to do things that we don’t want to do whether it’s performing our jobs, getting up with a crying baby, paying bills, doing our homework, or completing an 8K.

At the finish line, we saw Sarah Beth with her parents. Happy and sad at the same time, she had achieved a personal best and yet there had been no one there to witness it. Since no one knew what a little speedster she had become, we misjudged her estimated time of completion. We all hated that, and I hope that she doesn’t let our poor judgment detract from her accomplishment.

Although they don’t know it, Elizabeth and Sarah Beth provided examples of some important life lessons:  belief in oneself, going the distance, and doing what’s required whether there’s anyone there to take note of it or not. Sometimes those private, inner victories can be sweet.

And here’s another lesson from Elizabeth. Along the course, a little girl ran up to her and gave her a tiny lavender flower. It was one of those unexpected treats that made the journey a little more enjoyable. Lavender flowers are everywhere. We just have to look for them.