New Year, more organized me!

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As 2015 enters in full swing, I welcome this spurt of unseasonably warm weather even if it is accompanied by a bit of rain! Today’s run was my first back in Philadelphia and my first of my 30 day running … Continue reading

Skyline Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The past week, I have been mesmerized by the Philadelphia Skyline. The varying heights of the buildings, the hustle and bustle down below, and the lovely views of where I call home.

 

Let’s review my week in pictures of said skyline:

 

Flying into the city Last Saturday: (Taken from the Plane)

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Driving Back from the Airport last Saturday: (Taken on Broad Street)

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A Beautiful Easter Afternoon: (Taken from my window)

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A blue-skied Tuesday: (taken from my window)

 

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Tuesday once the clouds rolled in: (Taken from 30th and South Street)

 

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A beautiful Wednesday run to Old City: (Taken from Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River)

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Another Shiny Thursday: (Taken from my window)

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A beautiful Friday morning run: (Taken from the park off the Schuylkill River Trail)

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Another view from the Friday Morning Run: (Taken over South Street Bridge as the train was coming down the tracks)

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This was my week in review. These pictures have nothing to do with me, yet somehow I find them having everything to do with me. I love this city.

Matthew 5:14 “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

 

Sleep Soundly Dear City Through the Eyes of a Runner.

My cup of coffee steams against the chilled window leaving traces of the life within the heat. My body seems to radiate heat in this same manner, as I begin to cool from a hot bath. Ah coffee, bath, nightgown, sleepy eyes. Taking time for me is so nice. It’s only 7:00 pm and I am already winding down for bed. Tonight proves to be a wonderful, relaxing, restful one.

As I smile at the world below being covered in white pixie dust.

My dear city, I pray you can sleep soundly tonight.

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Lights Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The lights twinkle in the distance. They look so close yet as I reach out my hand to touch them, I cannot reach. It is as if they are just beyond my extended hand’s welcome. For now, I am just an observer. Contemplating their beauty. Seeking their meaning. I am not meant to reach these lights now. But be patient, “in time, you will touch me” they whisper. 

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Trinkyi Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The sound of smiles resonate in a deafening roar around me. As the bitter cold chills my bones, I stop to look up at the white sky. How can such menial precipitation mixed with the finality of a semester bring so much joy?

It amazes me every year, around this time how the world becomes superficially pure. The soft blanket that covers this filthy world brings such peace for a moment. Even the talk and giggles as friends jaunt through the aput[1] seem like soft reverent whispers, insulated murmurs.

Eskimos have over 50 words for this phenomenon and blessing. Something so simple can bring such joy.

Yet we let this feeling fade as the chill sets in, as we step in that unwelcoming shlim[2].

This serenity flees our all too hardened hearts. This elegant attla[3] become naklin[4].

We let this happen. The murmurs have turned into distressing shouts. We argue it is our nature. We just settle that life isn’t beautiful nor could ever be.

But it is. Oh so beautiful.

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Definitions of Eskimo Words:

Trinkyi- first snow of the year

[1]aput-snow on the ground

[2] shlim-slush

[3] attla- snow that as it falls creates nice pictures in the air

[4] naklin-forgotten snow

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The Urban Jungle Called Philadelphia Through the Eyes of a Runner.

As my feet pound the paved earth below me mile after mile, I know I am home. This beautiful city in the past two years has become my comfort, my friend, and my home.

The boisterous noises of sirens, people shouting to their neighbors, and the rushing masses to and fro are not as lively today. The peace of winter and the cold seems to have calmed this beautiful, exciting city, if only for just this morning.

This time of day is magical, as the chill of the dark morning breaks into the warmth of sunlight as it peeks over the buildings that tower stories above my presence.

These buildings make me feel so small yet so powerful. The power comes from the hopes that one day I will have office in one of these high rise buildings. One day I will be the person running to and from work with my briefcase. But for now, as a student, Philadelphia has a way of humbling you.  At least it has humbled me.

Coming into Wharton, I was the big dog: the one person from my small rural town who was going to an Ivy League school, the girl who did everything and everyone knew, the smart one, the overachiever.

Getting to Wharton, I was the smallest possible fish: the girl from small rural town, the girl who wasn’t about to raise her hand and speak in class because she was terrified of being considered dumb, the unsure one, the outsider.

I felt like I was on top of the world when I got into Wharton, but once here I found myself being challenged in ways that were difficult, wonderful and often very stressful. I knew I needed to find an outlet for the days my challenges were difficult or too stressful for me to merely study away.

I had always been told, “the four years of college are the best years of your life.” But for me it has been very stressful. It was the spring semester of my freshman year that I decided to embrace the fact that college is not only about classes and learning, but fun and exploration too. So I sought out an outlet to release some of the stresses from the challenges I was facing in classes: I would begin running.

This outlet commenced as just that, an outlet, but has transformed into so much more than that; running has become a passion. Most people run for health or training for a race; for me, I run to explore. 

And wow! Exploring Philadelphia has been such a joy and excitement! With miles and miles under my feet and on my sneakers, I have seen countless weddings and historical reenactments in the beautiful district of Old City, run by the Schuylkill river along Boathouse Row as the brave souls brace the 8 degree windy mornings preparing for their crew regattas, experienced many street fairs thrown by local artists or neighborhoods, seen the children at play in elementary schools in West Philadelphia, watched as tourists take on the great Rocky Steps, been in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Center City as Market Street employees come back from their lunches, experienced the lively, celebratory atmosphere of South Street as the street performers begin their nightly acts, been shown the homey towns of Mannyunk, East Falls, and Fishtown by residents of these towns, said hello to the animals while passing the Philadelphia Zoo, and on and on.

But my personal favorite thing I’ve been to say I’ve done in my exploration is this: I’ve come to the point where I can say “I know this city. This is my city. I belong here. I’m a resident of the city not just a temporary student in this city.”

Exploring Philadelphia has been one of the best parts of my time at Wharton and Penn. My fellow students will sometimes tell me they haven’t been off campus all year and I question them, why? Being at Wharton and at the University of Pennsylvania we are being given the best opportunities a student could have, academically, socially, and for our careers. But that is not all we are given. We are given the city. Philadelphia is at our fingertips. We are given wonderful culture, amazing people with unique stories, breathtaking views, and places that are just waiting to be explored.

As my feet pound against the cobblestone brick of Locust Walk, I see Hunstman Hall and my dorm in the distance. As I pass a friend I take comfort, I am home on this campus and in this city. At least for these four short years…

Here I can be me: I can be Melanie Smith, the small town girl who is finding herself in the City of Brotherly Love.

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Weak but Strong Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The alarm goes off: it’s 3:30am. My body tells me no, it’s not time to wake up; as my fuzzy head is drifting back into REM, my mind kicks in. Luckily, this happens before my body has a chance to convince itself to return to my comfortable resting state. It’s the day. I’m ready. It’s time to get up and shake off the grogginess and get pumped!

This is the day that I’ve been training for since the middle of August. It’s time for the Philadelphia Half- Marathon!

My mind starts racing every which way. How will I do? Will security be intense? Which color should I wear? I wonder how I will find Ally? Will my dad get there in time? And on and on and on it runs (hehe slight pun intended).

As I munch on my dry bagel and down my last bottle of water before the race I have time to pray and reflect on what I’m feeling, where I’m feeling it in my body, and on God’s will for the day. It’s all up to him anyways on how I will do, no reason to stress it.

Next step: showering to wake me up completely and getting dressed in the most comfortable, warm but breathable running clothes I have.  Once that has been checked off my list, it’s time to put on then good old faithful running shoes. The ones that have carried me the 350 plus miles it took to train to where I am.

It’s time to hit the road (again and again for 13.1 miles….. pun intended again) and make my way over to the starting line at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The second I step out into the chilled darkness that is still encompassing the city at 4:50 am, I regret not adding gloves and a pull over to throw off once the race begins to my attire for the day. But nevertheless it’s time to trek on and suck it up! I know I won’t be cold a couple miles in. As the museum comes into view, the excitement spikes and the nervous bladder begins!

I locate Ally and we create the plan of attack for the next 45 minutes before the race begins. First stop, the ridiculously long lines for the porta potties.

50 porta potties prove to not be nearly enough for the 30,000 runners who all want to relieve themselves before their race. After waiting for 25 minutes in the line we make it to the front! Perfect timing! The second we step out of the bathrooms the announcer comes on the loudspeakers asking all 30,000 runners to find their respective corrals associated with their expected finish times.

Ally and I spend 15 minutes finding our grey corral, with all the other runners expecting to race a 2 hour half-marathon or a 4 hour marathon. We introduce ourselves to those around us, wish everyone luck and then listen to the announcers’ kind words of encouragement.

At 6:57 the wheeled runners are off! And thus commences the Philadelphia Marathon! Excitement and nerves grow as everyone is fidgeting to stay warm and warm their muscles for the long race ahead.

The black corral is the next to be released right at 7:00am. Followed by the green corral at 7:07. Next comes the grey, me! As we inch closer and closer to the starting line you can feel the excitement growing.

I am so ready. The grey corral has been called! Slowly as the pack of 7,000 begins to thin, jogging is possible for us in the middle of the pack.

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The second Ally and I step over that starting line at 7:15:32am the legs start working in that perfectly beautiful rhythm that I love!

The noise around me is exhilarating as people are screaming, cheering, and fist pumping! Our starting pace feels great! I don’t even notice I am running! But as Ally informs me we are running a 8:00 minute mile pace!

Rounding the first mile I spot a face out of the crowd that I know! My dad! As we pass I am feeling good and strong.

The entire first 5 miles feel great as we travel from the museum down through old city and along the Delaware river, into Fishtown, and up through South Street! There are people lining every part of these  5 miles dressed up in ridiculous clothes, offering ridiculous things (like snickers, beer, and mimosas), and screaming at the top of their lungs. The feeling is like none other. Pure adrenaline.

As Ally and I weave in and out of the thousands of runners around us finding their paces, we do the same. At one point she informs me we are running a 6:00 minute mile! What?! That’s crazy! But we make it through the crowd around mile 5.5.

Then we enter back into the tighter streets of Downtown Center City the pack tightens again and it’s a weaving game again. But the cheering fans packed into the city’s center make up for the extra energy I am expending by starting, stopping type motions. They (including my dad at mile 6) give me that energy!

Coming up on mile 7, the inclines begin. Whoo Chestnut Street is not fun after running a race pace on mile 7. Man the slow gradual incline is killer! But as the road flattens out we enter into my campus! I have fellow Penn students cheering me on and yelling my name! It is great!

As we round into miles 7-9 the uphills start to get to me. I am keeping up with Ally but starting to feel the burn! But I will not give up. This is what I trained for! These miles right here! I can do it! As Ally slowly started getting further and further in front of me it is getting difficult to have those spurts of sprints to catch up to her.

I’m on my own now. At mile 10 I realized this but at the same time I realized I was done with the hills! Everything else in this race was familiar. This part of the race is what I run each Saturday with my running group. This was not going to get the best of me!

I could come in strong in the next 3 miles. This was the goal. I could do this. As I begin to crave water and my mind starts taking over it gets more and more difficult to not do the runner’s countdown of how many miles and minutes I have left in this race.

There is a lady in front of me in pink. I will keep up with her. The signs are starting for the half and whole marathon splits and I know the end is near. However, it is not in sight yet. I cannot see boathouse row across the river, nor can I see the Museum coming up in the distance. It’s a battle with my mind. It’s my body against my mind, I can do this, but my mind is playing the games telling me to walk.

I will not walk. I will not listen and give into what I’m desiring. I will run. I will not stop. I will not slow. As the museum comes into view I get this small boost of energy from nowhere which led me to put aside that dumb little voice in my head saying I couldn’t do it.

I had no clue how fast I was going, how much further I had, or how the end would go. But I was going to do this. I was going to finish and finish strong.

As the last corner was rounded coming in under the bridge, I got this grandiose spurt of energy. I have never been able to act on the ending bit of energy as well as I did in this race. This includes all my 400 races in track as well as longer distances!

I strode so well and sprinted so well I felt completely dead and exhausted coming through the finish line. IT WAS AMAZING!

Coming through the finish line feeling like you just want to crumble. Knowing you gave it all! Coming in high fiving the Mayor of Philadelphia. It was wonderful! I love this feeling!

This was my first race ever at the end I felt I couldn’t have given more even if I had wanted to. It was beautiful!

As soon as I came through I was given a Heatsheet that I was like, why in the world would I need this, I am disgusting and sweaty and so hot, I don’t need something to keep me warm. However, about 10 minutes later once I had cooled down I was so glad I had this! I was shivering and really needed it!

Next I was given my medal from some very congratulatory volunteers. Afterwards I downed 6 cups of Gatorade, which typically I hate but after running that much I craved it madly. Then downed 2 water bottles. Not drinking during the race really makes you want it at the end!

I got my food bag, took my picture with my medal and then calculated my time while standing in line for some fruit. It was at this moment it sank in how well I had actually run.

During training I averaged a 9:20 mile pace. However during this race, even with my last 4 miles being slower, I averaged a 8:46 mile pace! During training my goal was to come in under 2 hours. And I did!! I came in at 1:55!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was so exciting to feel so accomplished, so proud of my physical limits, and enthused for life in that moment.

I was weak but strong, tired but exhilarated. It was wonderful!

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The rest of the day was marvelous and a bit of a blur. My dad who came up to support me made the race all that more fun, along with my wonderful roommate who was possibly more excited than I was for myself!

After stopping by Reading Terminal Market (which by the way, after a race, wear your medal there and the congratulations you get are so amazing!) we headed back to Penn for me to shower, change, and head off to buy our Christmas tree and do some shopping!

4 Hours later, my room is all decked out in its Christmas outfit, complete with the scent of a Christmas Fir! Finishing the nice, too short visit of my father, he was able to meet Tyler over dinner, which was really fun.

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All in all Sunday=Funday=Greatday=PHILADELPHIA HALF-MARATHON!

All for the love of running!

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13

Philadelphia Half Marathon Through the Eyes of a Runner.

Soooooooooooooooooo……. Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

 

I am soooooo pumped for the Philadelphia Half Marathon tomorrow! I am running it with an amazing woman and looking forward to getting my own PR! (not difficult seeing as I’ve only run one…. ha)

The feel and air about this large race is amazing! Yesterday when I went to pick up my race packet and check out the expo, you could feel the energy and excitement. It was one of those things that caused one of those giant ridiculous smiles that you can’t wipe off your face for hours and hours! The people on the subway, in the grocery store, and at work probably thought I was crazy….. But who cares! I’m ecstatic!

 

Walking into the convention center, I was greeted with a lovely sign, super pumped people, and plenty of running things! All “For the Love of Running!”

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Next stop: Packet pick up!!!

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Then off to the photobooth, and getting a bunch of free stuff from the expo! Not to mention talking with some amazing people!

Ahhhhhhhhh! I’m super exitado porque va a ser una gran carrera!

See so excited I can’t even think in english! Then this morning I woke up to this:

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And thought: “Oh goodmorning Philadelphia, I’m going to run you tomorrow!” And this is how:

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I have decided because of this race, I love big marathons and such! I must continue acting on this passion for the rest of my life!

I’m so much more physically and mentally prepared for this race than the one in August! Now off to get some homework done, babysitting, and then bed before this race! Oh and did I mention doing the last day of my training plan? It’s carbo-loading time!

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” let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1

So all my fellow runners out there, let’s go run this city!