But What If I’m The Last One To Cross The Finish Line?

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last.  You can say, ‘I have finished.’  There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” – Fred Lebow (Founder of the New York City Marathon) –  A Runner’s World post on Facebook on January 12th, 2014.

As a slow runner, I have often faced the fear of being the last one to cross the finish line.  My first half-marathon, I agonized over the possibility.  I obsessively checked the finishing times of the participants of the previous year to see if there were people who crossed the line after my projected time.  During the race, I just about permanently tweaked my neck from looking over my shoulder to see if there were people still behind me.

As I’ve completed more races, I’ve grown less fearful.  The idea still crosses my mind, especially in the smaller, home-town races with fewer participants.  And standing in the last corral waiting to start, I hear my fears echoed by the runners surrounding me.  The biggest fear of all – being picked up by the busses or vans sweeping up those who will not finish in the allotted time.

However, I also take comfort in the wisdom of Bart Yasso, Runner’s World Chief Running Officer: although someone needs to be the last to cross the finish line, the chances are that it probably won’t be you.  And if you are, so what!  Even Ryan Hall, two-time Olympian, has crossed the finish line in last place.

In spite of knowing this, here are a few tips to help you feel more confident in your race and to help alleviate your fears.

  1. Pick your races carefully.  Check the course schedule for pacing restrictions before signing up. I usually try to participate in women-centric events that attract racers for many reasons other than personal time records.  These course limits are usually a bit more generous than others such as Boston Qualifying events.  As an added bonus, the camaraderie is incredible.
  2. Stay in the corral to which you were assigned but work your way to the head of the corral.  If the race has many participants, the clock countdown often starts with the last person crossing the start line.  You can give yourself  some spare minutes by being in front of the group.
  3. I’m a huge fan of taking a kazillion photos along the way.  Gotta document the journey! But as my husband observed while waiting for me to cross the finish line during my last race, “You could have saved two minutes by not stopping to take pictures”.  I just didn’t realize how long I was taking.   Particularly during the runDisney races that may have so many opportunities for character photos (with so many lines that eat up your time), I found I’m more comfortable only taking photos towards the end of the course when I know those sweepers are not going to get me!

But, if I did come in last, I would hope that I could celebrate the way that Jenna did when she was the last to cross the finish line in the runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon in 2013 (even if the celebration was just my imagination going wild, I believe every race should end like this – truly inspiring!).

Finishing Last is Finishing First at a runDisney Race

So, just get out there and have fun!  Happy running!  Marji


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runDisney Celebrity Runners!

Virtual Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

With the popularity of the runDisney races, the emphasis on fun, and Disney’s access to celebrities, you are likely to bump into a few well-known faces during your race weekend.  Keep your eyes open and your camera ready!

These are a few runDisney celebrity athletes who have completed runDisney half and full marathons:

Megyn Price participated in the Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon in 2011.  She promoted the race during the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo with Drew Carey.  Drew Carey ran the Disneyland Half to celebrate his journey to weightless through running.

Ali Vincent, host of Living Big with Ali Vincent and the first female winner on the Biggest Loser, has provided inspiration to participants in several runDisney events.

Sean Astin has also been a participant and inspirational speaker during runDisney races.  He has created a twitter movement that promotes #run3rd, running for a cause, an idea, or a loved one (after running 1st for yourself and 2nd for your family). 


This year, Margaret Kerry, the Original Tinker Bell, will be sharing her thoughts on Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust at the Tinker Bell Expo!

In addition to television and movie celebrities, runDisney has cultivated an Official RunDisney team of those well-known within the running community.  Jeff Galloway, a former olympian, is the Official runDisney Training Consultant offering training tips and promoting the run-walk-run method to ensure a safe and healthy finish to all participants.  Diet Diva Tara Gidus is the Official runDisney Nutritionist offering tips to keep you fueled properly during your endurance runs.  The Luna Pace Team provides a panel of professional endurance athletes providing pacing tips.  Another Mother Runner Bloggers Dimity McDowell Davis and Sarah Bowen Shea round out a panel of experts providing tips on having your most magical race day.  And Rudy Novotny, the Voice of America’s Marathons, presides over the finish line.

disney staff

And , of course, Disney provides ample opportunities to take photos with the well-known Disney characters!

character collage


Enjoy your race and have a magical weekend! Marji

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Don’t Forget These Extra runDisney Perks!

Virtual Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Be sure to take advantage of the extra race perks that runDisney offers to help you celebrate and commemorate your race weekend!

Prior to the expo, sign up for a free Art Card from Lasting Commemoratives that features the beautiful 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Artwork.  You can sign up now by logging in to your Final Race Instruction Weekend email.  Click the Tinker Bell Coupon icon for the Art Card sign-up in your iGiftbag.  In past races, the runDisney Facebook account has also offered links to the Art Card a week or two prior to the expo.race art card

Visit the iGiftbag for other coupons offered by runDisney sponsors.

Read through the Official Event Guide.  In addition to important race information, this booklet is filled with coaching tips that will guide you to a safe and healthy finish line celebration.  Endurance event experts provide nutritional information, medical information, race safety information, tips on race etiquette, and even tips on how to stay motivated.  runDisney takes good care of their runners!

race guide

Sign up for runner tracking.  Unlike other large race events, runDisney offers this service at no cost.  Let your chEAR squad know where you are so they can better cheer you on.  You can post your split and final times via texts and email.  I always send an email to my personal  account so I have a record of my event on file!  You can sign-up on-line at runDisney.com about a week prior to race day.  You will also be able to sign up at the expo.

About two weeks after your race weekend, login to MyDisneyMarathon.com.  Once you choose your event, you will be able to download a customized finisher’s certificate that is perfect for scrapbooking or framing; the ideal reminder of a day that you will never forget!  Print on glossy paper for a little extra pizazz!race certificate

Run happy and healthy! Marji

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

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Tips for Enjoying the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

Virtual Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Blog Hop

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Disney knows how to put on an event.  And, yes, we do pay top dollar to run in their races….but if you are after an occasion and not just a race in which to PR, you will be sure to get your money’s worth. Don’t wait for race day to start collecting the value of your investment.  The exposition is much more than a place to sign your waiver and pick up your bib and timing tag.  It offers many opportunities to enjoy the Disney experience!  Disney makes good on its promise that the expo is a three day celebration!

This year’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo will be held in the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall from 2:00 p.m – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday (January 16, 2014), from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Friday (January 17, 2014), and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday (January 18, 2014).  At times, the lines for entering the expo can make you feel as if you are waiting to ride one of Disney’s most popular attractions on a busy day.  Give yourself plenty of time to attend, take a deep breath, and enjoy the process rather than considering packet pick-up to be just another chore before the race.

expo crowd

You will begin your experience by being corralled into the Lower Exhibit Hall.


Take a moment to enjoy a sprinkle of pixie dust as you work your way down through the tunnel.

pixie dust

Packet pick-up will run smoothly if you take a moment to sign your waiver ahead of time and if you know your bib number (printed on your waiver form).  There is a link to the waiver in the final race instructions that were emailed to you.   Or, you can print your waiver on rundisney.com.  However, don’t panic if you forget your waiver; there are blank ones available in the expo hall.  It may take a few extra minutes to get through the process, though.

Although the crowds are large, booths are plentiful and clearly marked with the bib numbers that each booth services.  There is usually plenty of staff available to help with questions or concerns.  And according to Disney, over 1,200 volunteers will be assisting during the expo packet pick-up this year.  Thank you, volunteers!

Don’t forget to keep an eye open for photo opportunities while attending to business!

photo op lower level

Before heading back to the Upper Level, and after you pick up your bib and timing tag (be sure to have your ID easily available; yes, they do check), you will also collect any race-weekend commemorative items that were pre-ordered such as the Tinker Bell Necklaces, Disney pins, ChEAR Squad Packages, Pasta Party Packages, and Mickey Ears.

Now comes the fun part!  Head for the Upper Level Exhibit Hall to pick up your Tinker Bell Half Race Weekend tech-shirts and gEAR bag.  As you first enter the Exhibit Hall, take the time to have your picture taken at the race-weekend photo op in the Center Lounge before you enter the Grand Ballroom.  You may have to wait a bit, but the line does move fairly quickly.  And having a photo while holding your bib in front of the beautifully designed set is worth the wait!

photo op

The Center Lounge has also been the location of a bank of computers that allows you to sign-up for runner tracking.  It looks as if it may have moved this year to the North Lounge (a smaller room to the right easily accessible during the expo).  You can have your split times at the 5K, 10K, 15K and Finish Line sent to family and friends via emails, text accounts or Facebook.  A worthy time investment, particularly if you have a chEAR squad finding locations to cheer you on!  Or save time at the expo by signing up on runDisney.com beginning about a week before race weekend.

Now, pass through those large doors into the Upper Level Exhibit Hall!  Immediately in front of you is the Inspiration Station, a good place to sit and rest those legs for a moment as you receive some last minute race tips, advice and inspiration from the runDisney Speakers.  An added bonus – your ChEAR Squad is supplied with the makings for runDisney signs to cheer you on!

sean astin inspiration

To the left of the Inspiration Station is the runDisney Official Merchandise Store where you can purchase all of your Tinker Bell Half Marathon gear: commemorative shirts, hats, glasses, magnets, headbands, and more!  Look for the Disney Pixie Dust Beauty Booth where you can get pixie dusted for the race.

To the right of the Inspiration Station you will find a variety of vendors with “the latest in fitness apparel, footwear, high tech gadgets and nutritional products”.  Pass through to the very far right of the hall to pick up your tech shirts, gEAR Bag, and, if you scrapbook, your official race guides.  Once again, plenty of staff, volunteers and well-marked signs have always made shirt pick-up an easy process.  As you enjoy all of the expo offerings, make sure to stay hydrated.  Disney thoughtfully provides water stations throughout the hall.

Enjoy and have a magical weekend! Marji

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory
Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

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Just When I Thought I Couldn’t Run Slower…

Today I had my best run ever! And it was because I ran slower than even I thought was possible.

I thought I was already going as slow as I (or anyone) could. I tried to heed the advice of maintaining a conversational pace on longer runs to build endurance. And yet I would still get winded and tired. After 3 years of running, I continued to have a difficult time completing even a full mile without interspersing walking. In frustration, I consulted physicians who ran tests to clear my asthma of blame, to check my lungs and my hearts for anomalies. All came back clear (thank goodness). So, sadly, I had just decided that I needed to come to terms with the fact that my endurance would always be poor. (I don’t mind being slow, but I would like to build endurance).

And then, on Wednesday, the breakthrough! My husband decided to honor his commitment to run the New Year’s Resolution 5K with me in spite of being ill. He hoped it would shake out a few cobwebs. Unfortunately, his body did not cooperate, so he shuffled along walking as I shuffle-ran beside him (slow jogging, almost prancercising if you must label it!). But, somewhere around mile 2, I realized that the urge to see how much longer I could keep running was much greater than the urge to walk. So I kept going ….right to the finish line! My first 5K ever without walk breaks!

Today, during my long run, I decided to see if this had just been a fluke. I committed to shuffle-jogging a minimum of 3 miles out of a scheduled 8 mile run. And I made it to 7 with stops only for lights and a brief rest half-way through! 7 miles of essentially continuous running! Unthought of just a week ago!

So ….longer running through slower running which will hopefully lead to faster running……I’m not sure where this will go…. but I’ve decided to run with it!

Hope 2014 brings breakthroughs, epiphanies and PRs to all!

Love this post from Slow Is The New Fast

Happy running! Marji


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Reasons To Run: Santa To The Sea (My Photo-Journal)

Santa to the Sea is a community-based, non-profit racing event in Ventura County.   It’s stated mission is to provide all participants with a fun, healthy and safe run­ning event while sup­port­ing and show-cas­ing the local community.  Although it is a small event, this race delivers.   The participants in this race bring Christ­mas gifts and toys for under­priv­i­leged chil­dren in Ven­tura County. The funds raised pro­vide local schol­ar­ships.


Parking at the start line is very limited.  Race participants park in the large Ventura County Government Center parking lot and are bussed the 10 miles or so to the Santa Start in Nyland Acres.  It’s an early morning start but the process runs smoothly.


The iconic Santa was commissioned in 1948 to be built by a store owner on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria.  He presided over the small row of beach stores until 2003 when a new shop owner decided to dismantle the statue.  Santa was saved and moved to Nyland Acres off the 101 freeway in South Oxnard.  Since 2008, Santa has presided over the start line of the annual Santa to the Sea Half Marathon.


Every race participant brings a gift that is piled high at Santa’s base.


The start line is festive with many photo opportunities.  The annual costume contest guarantees a relaxed and fun start.  There are no official corral starts but areas are designated for line-up by race pace.


And off we go!


Because Santa to the Sea gives back so much to the community, the community is out in full-support of runners.


Five  neigh­bor­hoods along our route and their schools compete for an additional cash prize by creating “a fes­ti­val type cel­e­bra­tion in their “hood” to cheer and enter­tain the runners”.  Runners have the chance to vote for the best of the best!.  (But let me be honest here…I couldn’t choose just one….so I didn’t vote.  They were all so deserving!)


I just love, love, love this miniature Mariachi band!


The half-way point at Oxnard’s Plaza Park is the half-marathon relay hand-off as well as a beautiful photo stop.  And the chance to grab a quick, tasty treat.  Brownies, pretzels.  Oh, those pretzels!  Something magical about them!



Running through Oxnard Shores gives the opportunity to observe first hand how this beach community celebrates the holidays!  So many houses done up to the nines!


And the whimsical mile marker signs! (You know I love those mile markers as I record my running journey).  By mile 12, we have run from santa to the sea!  Beautiful landscapes.


And a finish-line festival at the harbor!


Then, back on the bus for our round-trip return to Ventura.  Time for a well-deserved rest!  But, for some reason, I feel like finishing my Christmas shopping!


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Today I Felt Like a Runner…

It’s not often that I feel like a runner.  Yes, I’ve participated in a series of half-marathons, 5Ks and 10Ks.  Yes, I average about 3 days of training a week.  Yes, I always like to have a race on the schedule to motivate that training.  And, yes, I’ve got a drawer full of shiny bling.  But, when I’m talking with people, and I mention my last or my next race, I often feel like a fake.  I qualify my response of “yes, I run” with …. “but I’m very slow”;  or with …”but I walk a lot”. 

Sometimes I wonder what it would take to feel like a “real” runner.  Would it be running a faster mile than my average of 15 minutes?  Would it be completing a 5K without taking a single walking break?  Would it be owning more pairs of running shoes or sparkly skirts or compression garments?  Would it be fitting into smaller size running clothes?  Every now and then I think I have a glimpse of the answer… but it usually fades quickly.  In fact,  there probably isn’t any one answer.  It is likely different for each person out there tying the laces on their running shoes.  And certainly the answer would be different for the professional runners vs. the recreational runners vs. the charity runners.

But, today I felt like a runner.  And all it took was one text – my husband informing me, after I had just launched my lunch run, that my mother-in-law had had a bad reaction to her first session of chemotherapy.  Suddenly, the obligation of fitting in a training run became the need to run.  I needed the exertion.  I needed the loud music playing in my headphones.  I needed to focus on hearing my raspy breathing.  I needed to run, to turn off my mind, to obliterate reality for a few moments.  And I just wanted to run and run and run.  And I resented the obligation of having to return to work without completely exhausting myself.  

And I suddenly realized that for me, today, feeling like a “real” runner was not about shoes or speed or endurance.  It was as simple as needing the run.  

Be healthy, friends.  Marji

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The “Couch Potato Gene” vs. The Courage to Start

On my jog this morning, I listened to the Competitor Radio podcast interview with David Epstein.  David is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated whose latest book release is titled “The Sports Gene”.  During the interview, he surmises that some gifted athlete’s have a natural talent that no amount of training, dedication or willpower can ever equal.  And then he jokingly discusses the “couch potato gene”.  It’s not that couch potatoes can not be athletes; it’s just that, because of the way they are genetically programmed, they will need to work harder than everyone else to be in shape.

As a back-of-the-packer, this makes so much sense!  No matter how good I feel after I work out, no matter how I desire to be in shape, no matter how much I can quote the benefits of exercise…getting out the door remains a constant struggle.  If I don’t have a half-marathon that I’m training for, life intervenes and exercise is shoved down on the priority list.  It is a constant, frustrating battle.

Exercise has not been, nor will it ever be, easy for me. I find it immensely frustrating when new runners and non-runners leave me in the dust in spite of my being fairly dedicated to training for several years now.  And… I won’t even mention my reaction to the young business man in the suit, tie and dress shoes that passed me by in a blur, not even breaking a sweat, while I huffed and puffed at a turtle’s pace.

One of the tricks that keeps me going is keeping the John Bingham quote handy: “The miracle is not that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”  Three years ago, months before I actually took the first physical step, I had been reading about running, wanting to run, preparing myself to run – but too self-conscious to jog out the door.  I discovered John Bingham through his Penguin Chronicles in Runner’s World Magazine.  Then I received his book, The Courage to Start”, as a Christmas present.  The John Bingham quote was one of the things that got me started on my journey.  For us couch potatoes, this book is truly inspirational and should be required reading for every new, recreational and slow runner.

I still rely on the Penguin’s quote when I am feeling overwhelmed and tired, when I’m feeling as if I’m a running fraud (“well, I’m really slow” or “I take a lot of walk breaks”), If I’m feeling that my slow pace should exempt me from belonging to the running community, or if I’m feeling as if I’m starting to come up with too many excuses as to why I can’t run (“darn, too busy”).  

The quote got this non-athlete out the door.  It pushed me to download the Couch to 5K app.  It gave me the courage to press the “proceed to check out” button as my finger hovered uncertainly while I was registering for my first half-marathon.

Keep looking for me at the back-of-the-pack! I’ll be the one doing battle with the “couch potato gene”.   But watch out!  It may get ugly.  

Keep (slow) running! – Marji


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Back to the Basics – Couch to 5K

3 years ago, after standing on the street corner watching waves of marathoners go by while cheering on an acquaintance, I was so caught up in the moment that I decided I would try to run.  I initially didn’t tell a soul (…not even my supportive husband).  I felt self-conscious about not having a runner’s body and did not have faith in my ability to follow through.

The thing is, I’ve never been athletic.  Thoughts of running dredged up the old middle and high school feelings of always being picked last on the team, never being able to keep up with the crowd.  But, for some reason, I felt an almost embarrassed compulsion to start.  Must have been the shiny bling fogging up my brain!

Now, it’s been said that running is the easiest and least expensive of all sports – just throw on a pair of tennis shoes and shorts and head out the door.  (Ha….LOL….But that’s the subject for another blog!)  But I did invest in one product – the Couch to 5K App.  Truthfully, I don’t know if I would still be on this journey 3 years later if it wasn’t for my iPhone and gadgetry!  

For those who don’t know, the Couch to 5K (and now the 10K and Half-Marathon options as well) are a good introduction to running.  The app guides you through alternating sessions of walking and running with a warm-up and cool-down included.  Each week gradually increases the time spent running and reduces the time of the walk breaks.  This is a nice, gentle introduction to running that builds up tolerance slowly and reduces the risk of injury from starting too fast.

So I put on my old shoes, the baggiest sweat pants I could find to camouflage my hips, and away I went!  Those first 90 seconds of running…. oh, my, …. I would count down every second.  Sometimes I even walked through a few of the run sessions, needing additional time to catch my breath.  I’d do the same week several times in a row until I was able to move on.  But I gradually got better.  I don’t think I ever completed the entire 8 week protocol.  But I do remember following one session, 4-5 weeks into the program, that I was able to brag at breakfast that I had just completed 15 minutes straight jogging!  This may not seem like much to most people but for me it was a definite milestone and ego booster.  That was probably the time that I seriously started thinking about signing up for my first half.  And the Couch to 5K (or C25K) fell by the wayside as I started to train in other ways.

So, now that I’ve been poked and prodded and scanned and have learned that there is no medical reason for my poor endurance (Take that, Asthma!), it is time to make a game-plan to see if I can improve my running ability.  I’ll never be fast.  But I would like to get better.  Time to get back to the basics.

Fast forward to today…. I have downloaded the C25K App once again. This morning I started back at the beginning with Week 1.  During these first weeks, I’m going to push through the running segments, almost, but not quite, sprinting.  I’m also going to really try to focus on proper  running form.  I figure it will be about Week 4 that I will need to slow down.  Week 5 or Week 6 will likely become challenging.  Seems like after 3 years of walking/running that I should be able to do more, but I’m a back-of-the-packer and will always be a back-of-the-packer.  I’m just curious to see where I can go from here.

Anyone out there up for the challenge?  Let me know!  Happy Running! Marji


(I’ve seen this posted on Twitter and Facebook multiple times.  It’s a good graphic.  Unfortunately, no source was given.)


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Endurance Questions – Unanswered

Yes, I’m a slow runner.  And I’m proud of that.  Even though it takes me awhile to cross the finish line, I’m persistent enough (or bull-headed enough, if you ask my sisters) to get there.

But, in spite of truly believing that being a slow runner is better than not being a runner at all, I’m here to tell you that it can really suck at times.  As slow runners, we experience depleted recovery refreshments; wrong size finisher’s shirts (even though we register our size early in the process); staff and volunteers showing impatience to pack up their stations.  And, honestly, I’m still upset about not receiving a tiara several years ago during the Honolulu Diva race (even though I’m not the princessy type… hey, I payed for that bling, just like everybody else!).

Although the vast majority of the running community is kind to and supportive of us slowbies, I’ve had a faster runner physically push me aside while making snarky comments about the race course being cluttered with slower participants.  And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve overheard conversations like, “I’m so slow, I’m only running 10 minute miles.”   So frustrating to hear when my all-time record is a 10 1/2 minute mile during the State Street Mile.  One Mile.  Downhill.  All out.

So, even though I’m okay with being a slow runner, I recently decided to try to figure out why I’m so slow.  Is it possible that my history of asthma is responsible?  Is there anything I should be doing differently?  I spoke with my physician who referred me to a pulmonologist.  Over the last several weeks, both my lungs and my heart have been scanned.  I’ve sat in a clear, sealed telephone-style booth and breathed into gadgets while the volume of the input and the output of my lungs was measured.  I performed one of those bicycle tests with electrodes everywhere and an oxygen meter on my finger and a mask over my face.

Got the good news today.  After a thorough and extensive (and expensive) work-up, all systems are looking great.  All the tests show I’m performing as well as others in my age group.  The pulmonologist says that he can’t give me an answer as to why my endurance is so bad.   The recommendation: if running is important to me, maybe I should hire a personal trainer and do some sprints?

So, my questions go unanswered.  Why do I poop out after running a half mile when I’ve been training for about 3 years now?  Shouldn’t I be able to run at least a mile straight?  Why do people who appear to be more out of shape than I am and who appear to be much older than I am pass me by as if I am standing still?

Although I’m thrilled that my almost 50 year-old body is holding up, I’m still at the back of the pack.  And, in spite of the earlier rant, I’m still okay with that.



So, keep on (slow) running!


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