Neighborhood Running

Originally posted on http://www.thememoryjogger.com.au/neighborhood-running/ on 29 Nov 2014.

Even though I have had the opportunity to run in some amazing locations and gaze over spectacular scenery – there have been plenty more runs that are not exotic, but my local neighborhood. Hey, I’m not complaining, just observing.

A few of the places I have run...

A few of the places I have run…

I’m pretty lucky though (other than living in a very hilly area) as I have some interesting runs that I have created that give me a mix of road, footpath, track and trail – and of course – hills!

I’d hate to add up the exact number of kilometres I have racked up around my local area – but I suspect it is hundreds and hundreds and probably well over a thousand. The circuits have become so familiar to me that I can calculate how far I am from home (or any other key geographic point for that matter) by both time and distance.

I can tell you the gradients of each hill; points that you can get water – be it a tap at a service station, a front yard tap or a properly serviced water station; points where traffic can be dangerous; the best place to cross the road to avoid traffic congestion so you don’t need to stop running; areas where the footpath is uneven and needs to be traversed with care; and even which houses have a dog that will start barking as you trundle by.

When I drive up to the shops or around the local area I find myself noting areas I have run (sometimes out loud) and estimating how long it would take me to run home from those points! Or keeping an eye out for hidden trails tracks that I’ve yet to explore.   Don’t shake your head as if it’s weird – if you’re a runner you do it too I’m sure – yes you do – admit it!

From my house, I have devised 5km, 6km, 9km, 10km, 14km, 17km, 20km and 40km circuits that I run regularly – and some longer ones for my big outings. The familiarity can be good as I know exactly how far I have to go and how far I have gone and if I develop an injury know how and where I can shorten the circuit.

On the flip side, sometimes familiarity can breed contempt and I fail to take in my surrounds letting my mind wander or start daydreaming – not respecting or appreciating where I am and what I am doing.

Every day I run is a special day. I’m very lucky that I can run when many cannot – and one day (hopefully a very, very long time from today!) I know I also will not be able to run – or at least not like I can today.

So today’s run was my local run – 14.5kms at a reasonable clip averaging 5 minutes 22 seconds per km.  I’ve got a marathon to run in a few days so no need to get too carried away – but it was a nice run along road, trails, tracks and paths – through beautiful bush-land, beside a babbling creek, with magpies warbling and in wonderful sunshine.

Next time you pull on your runners for a local training run – open your eyes and take in the sights, breath in the air and enjoy your run wherever it maybe – embrace your run.

 

Mullum Mullum Creek in my neighborhood.

Mullum Mullum Creek in my neighborhood.

 

Happy Running!

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Rest Day Benefits

Originally posted on http://www.thememoryjogger.com.au/rest-day-benefits/ on 28 Nov 2014.

rest+day

A day off training is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Not getting up in the dark to head out for training and punishing the body can be nice – but at the same time, you wonder if you are undoing all your hard work by taking a break. The simple answer is, “Of course not.”

That is of course, as long as you aren’t binging on junk food, knocking back half a dozen beers and generally abusing your body.

Rest days are important and they should be appreciated. A day of rest is just as important as a training day as it allows the muscles time to repair and recover.

It is not uncommon for professional training plans (even for Olympic athletes and other elite sports people) in order to allow the body time to recuperate. Workouts place greater strain on our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints. Our body’s immune system is activated when there are muscle tears or joint strains, but if the body doesn’t have a break between training events, the system doesn’t have enough time to catch up and start repairing the body.

Deciding not to have a rest day raises the risk of injury. If you are like me and a large part of your life is high-impact sport such as running – you need to know that running can place stress on your joints and lower extremities to a level that has the ability to crack bones and tighten muscles. Without the occasional a day off here and there, calf muscles can tighten, tendons of the feet can lead to bone spurs, shin splints can develop, muscle tears and strain can occur and there is so much more.

Now of course, rest days will vary in frequency and type depending on the individual, the intensity of workouts and style of exercise. Bodybuilders may only want to take a day off from lifting, but still do cardio or work different muscle groups. Runners may opt for Pilates or Yoga with a focus on different parts of the body.

The more experienced you are and the greater level of fitness, the greater tolerance you will have for continuing to do some light activity during a rest day.  However, if you are a just getting started in developing your fitness your rest day should probably be a real rest day in which you do little or no activity at all.

My simple philosophy is listen to your body – know your body and let it guide you. If you are genuinely sore from a workout and still fatigued then rest is probably just what you need. If, on the other hand, your body just wants to bludge, get out there!

Important to note, your nutritional requirements on a rest day should be different to a training day or an event day. Just remember, you won’t be burning anywhere near as many calories off on a rest day, and, the fuel you would need for an intense workout or long run is markedly different to a day of chilling and relaxing.

Stick to your nutrition plan, but make it a light day – eat well, eat right, eat on time and drink lots of water and again – listen to your body.

On the days you are giving your body a rest, spend the time exercising your brain = healthy body and healthy mind are both keys to reducing the risk of dementia. Any activity that involves thinking and learning can improve your brain health and help protect against dementia.

Recent evidence suggests that greater benefit comes from more complex and challenging mental activities. The more brain activities you do, the more frequently you do them and the more complex the activity, the lower your risk of dementia is likely to be, as with keeping a healthy body and monitoring your nutrition.

Your body is a temple and should be given the love and attention it needs to enable you to achieve your fitness goals and set you up for a long and happy life. Don’t let it become the “temple of doom” – give it rest when it needs it and don’t abuse the rest days – but use them to make your training days and competing days the best they can be.

Relax and Happy Running!

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Gym for Core

Originally posted at http://www.thememoryjogger.com.au/gym-for-core/ on 27 Nov 2o14

My fund raising activities have been slow due to work, but I am progressively getting my schedule in order. Taking on a new job as a CEO a couple of months back has demanded my time and attention. It’s going well, but there is plenty to do and I’m still learning the business.

That said, no job is worth sacrificing your well-being so I know I need to commit time to training, family, friend and interests other than just work.

An important part of my training regime is regular gym work with a major emphasis on core as well as endurance. Having lived with arthritis for nearly 15 years, I’ve had to manage my body and be careful with the amount of impact activity such as running that I undertake.

Also, you might think you run with your legs, but a strong core is a major benefit for running endurance events.  When you start to fatigue, a strong core will help maintain form even when it is hurting. Breaking form is one sure way to bring a run undone and create pain and suffering in places you didn’t even know you had!

Why? Well, when you’re absolutely knackered nearing the end of a long run, your coordination and posture can suffer, causing you to slow down and break form.  A strong core developed through a variety of core-strengthening workouts will improve your coordination and posture throughout a run, even in the latter part of a marathon or ultra marathon when you will undoubtedly need it most.  Afterall, the strength in your limbs are intimately tied to the strength in your torso.

Core strength training is key to reinforcing the way that your pelvis, abs, hips and lower back work together.  When you are fit, well-toned core muscles work in sync and ensure that when your foot hits the ground, your trunk remains solid.  A good core prevents any wobbling in your torso and keeps you from deflecting energy.

Core strength training also improves stability and balance, two qualities that you’ll lose without practice, and when you are running trails and different terrain, this is even more important.  A strong core and good balance help you recover from missteps and stumbles – and if you’re anything like me you have a few of these on a big outing!

Supplementing any core work, I try to spend some time on the elliptical machine (cross trainer) and the stair master (I hate this machine).  Working on the running muscles with as little impact as possible.

Given my dodgy hips, I also work hard on my hip adductors and abductors.  I figure the stronger they are, the less I’ll hurt and less trouble they’ll give me.

photo 1

So well I may not have ripped abs and an awesome six-pack, my core is pretty good – but it could be better.  More planking (side and front), more supermans, more crunches, more bosu and more medicine ball ab twists combined with a weights session designed to build strength not bulk.

photo 2

MDS looms closer everyday and I know that any shortcuts in training will catch me out later on – and I don’t want that to be while I’m trekking across the Sahara Desert in 50 degree heat!

Crunch, crunch – Happy Running!

 

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Fueling the Engine

Orginally posted at http://www.thememoryjogger.com.au/fueling-the-engine/  26 Nov 14

With a pretty busy schedule at work at the moment it’s been hard to squeeze any longish runs in during the week.  Preparing for a trip overseas, managing the day to day at work and juggling a few other balls at the same time has meant that training time as been compromised.

Today I hit my standard 5km circuit near home. It has a few hills to test the legs and doesn’t cross any roads that will cause undue delays. Normally it’s a good run to take Missy and Bella on as it’s in Missy’s range before she starts to tire. Not a startling quick time but a reasonable hit out to get the motor running for the day.

It’s always a challenge balancing training, work, home life and any other activities that are happening.  Personally I seem to be struggling more than usual.  I’m behind in my studies for my PT course and have been delinquent in getting all my fundraising activities happening.  No matter how hard I work, there’s always more to be done.

That said – no use complaining. Plenty others in worse situations than mine who seem to manage ok.  And when it all boils down, all of my busyness is pretty much of my own doing.  I think I just need to be a little more judicious in how I allocate my time so as not to waste any.

One thing I have done is to start testing the freeze-dried food I am planning to take with me on MDS.  The initial thought is that it will taste like garbage and I’ll all but starve as I trek across the desert burning up calories at a ridiculous speed every day.  Pleased to say that I don’t think this will be the case!

Nutrition and hydration are the keys to making it through any endurance event.  All the training in the world can leave you short if you fail to plan your calorie intake correctly.  For MDS – the organisers are very, very specific on the minimum requirements.   I know I’ll drop a few kilograms across the journey but that’s to be expected.  However, being unable to fuel my body adequately could be catastrophic.

To my surprise, the meals taste really good. I’ve decided to try the range from Back Country Cuisine from New Zealand.  I bought a vegetarian selection from the range to try that includes Vegetarian Stirfry; Chana Masala; and Nasi Goreng.  So far haven’t hit a bad one – although the Chana Masala was a little on the spicy/hot side – so may give it a rest.

BC_NASI_GORENG_1serveWhen I’m on an endurance event I consume so much sweet stuff to provide energy, all I want at end of the event is something savoury and salty to eat. I’m yet to try out the flameless heater packs but hoping they work as well as they say (and that I can take them into Morocco).  Best thing about these meals – they weigh only 90 grams each :)

Still need to sort out my running snacks and other nutritional requirements, but I’m feeling like I’ve got the main meals just about sorted!

Bon appétit and Happy Running!

Website: https://thememoryjogger.com.au

Twitter: @memoryjogger

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thememoryjogger

 

 

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The Memory Jogger: Running for a cause

Today, the 25th of November is an important day.

The 25th of November commemorates some memorable historic events such as:

  • In 1487 Elizabeth of York was Queen of England.
  • In 1783 the last British soldiers left New York three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolution.
  • In 1947 the future Queen Elizabeth married Prince Phillip in Westminster Abbey.
  • In 1963 the world watched on as John F Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery following his brutal assassination.
  • In 1966 The Jimi Hendrix Experience debuted in London at the Bag O’ Nails club.
  • In 1984 one of the most successful global fundraising events incorporating 44 artists from around the world as Band Aid recorded “Do they know it’s Christmas”.

There’s no doubt that the 25th of November is marked in the historical archives as a significant date. However, it is also important for another event that won’t appear in the history books and is only remembered by a few. On the 25th of November 2013 my mum passed away.

It’s already been a year that has at times gone quick, and others, gone slowly.   It reinforces that no matter what happens, the sun will come up and set again tomorrow. Time waits for no-one.

Reflecting back over the year, I can recall numerous times when things have occurred that reminded me of mum and I’ve had the urge to call home to talk to her. Special family days have come and gone and she hasn’t been there to share them. Which is a bit strange, as mum had been in permanent care for a couple of years fighting dementia, and had missed many family gatherings.

It wasn’t possible just to pick up the phone and call mum for a chat and share my news. When Alzheimer’s was really starting to effect mum she didn’t like talking on the phone, but when she was well you couldn’t get her off!

When I did pop in to see her at the nursing home in Benalla, conversation was difficult as mum didn’t always make a lot of sense and then struggled to understand the news I was sharing.

Often it was easier just to walk together and look at the garden, or just have a hug. And sometime listen to her conspiracy stories about the people at the nursing home. The hardest thing about the nursing home (other than the depressing environment she was forced to live) was leaving her at the end of a visit.

She would try to come with us when it was time to leave (and was successful at escaping on more than one occasion) and when told she couldn’t, you could see the disappointment and sadness in her eyes. It still makes me sad today.

On one visit to mum she seemed particularly morose and I commented that she seemed very sad. She responded in one of those moments of lucidness that sometimes comes to the fore of someone fighting dementia and replied, “Well it’s a pretty miserable existence I have, isn’t it?”

It hurt. Still hurts.

Why? Because it was true. She didn’t want to be there. We didn’t want her to be there. Due to her having Alzheimer’s there wasn’t anything that anyone could do about it.

So while mum was taken from not only me, but also family and friends, she was stolen from us long before her passing.

Since mum was diagnosed I’ve become more actively involved with Alzheimer’s Australia. My first effort was to run a marathon to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Australia and I was successful in raising a few thousand dollars. I was fortunate enough to complete this while Mum was alive and still remembered me.

Maintaining fitness and healthy lifestyle is important in preventing dementia – so I’m kind of helping myself while fighting for a cause. Fund raising for a cause is very humbling experience and I was amazed at just how generous and supportive people can be. That was when I realised how far reaching into the community were people affected by someone close to them living with dementia. This time I’m going for something much BIGGER!!

The anniversary of mum’s death seemed like the opportunity to launch my next fund raising adventure in her memory – the biggest personal challenge I have ever attempted.

In 129 days I will be in Morocco about to tackle the “toughest footrace on earth” – Marathon Des Sables.

morocco-sahara-deserthttp://www.marathondessables.com/

Known simply as the MDS, the race is a grueling multi-stage adventure through a formidable landscape in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates – the Sahara desert. The rules require that I will be self-sufficient, to carry with me on my back everything except water that I need to survive. I will be given a place in a tent to sleep at night, but any other equipment and food must be carried.

Over six to seven days I will traverse the Sahara desert with nothing but rolling sand dunes for miles around. There is sand, mountains, rocky terrain and some of the toughest conditions in the world. They say you can’t feel the sweat dripping down your face because it’s evaporating in the baking heat. With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees centigrade) this is an endurance event like no other.

When I complete the final stage of the Marathon des Sables, I will have run the equivalent of five and a half marathons in six days, a total distance of some 251 km – 156 miles, depending on the final route.  You only find out the route the day before it starts and then each leg is advised the night prior to heading off.

I have been keeping a diary of my training, my thoughts and my experiences since the 6th of June 2014 – the day after I registered for MDS.  At the time I signed up I was unable to run as a consequence of some hip surgery in the preceding April.  My plan is to publish this journey when it’s all done and dusted – 301 Days – A journey from crutches to the toughest footrace in the world.

From now on though, I’ll be publishing a daily blog sharing my story and looking for support as I embark on this challenge – not the run – raising awareness about Dementia and hopefully some much needed funding.

There is a saying that I heard a long time ago about human beings that I use every day.

There are three types of people in the world.

  • Those that make things happen.
  • Those that watch things happen.
  • And those that say “Huh, what happened?”

I’ve decided that I want to be someone that makes things happen!

I’ve been each type of person at one time or another. Even now, some days I sit back and watch what happens – a spectator on life. But more often than not I do my utmost to be different. To not accept the ways things are. To challenge the world and more importantly myself.

Life is short….. too short. When it is over I would like to think that I have made a positive contribution to my family, my friends, my clients and to those less advantaged than me.

In reality I am not a very remarkable person – your typical Joe Average.  I did ok at school; I’ve been reasonably successful at work; I’ve got a great family and an amazing network of friends, colleagues and clients.

When it comes to running – I’m not very fast; my technique is ok – but nothing to write home about – but I can push myself to run for a long time. Sometimes a very long time.

Although I am still recovering from the hip surgery which forced me to stop running for 12 weeks, and I have rheumatoid arthritis (I’m also only 14 months from turning 50), I am determined to complete MDS2015 – to raise funds for research into the prevention and potential treatments of dementia.

Hopefully at the end of my run I will have reached my fundraising goal and raised awareness for Alzheimer’s Australia and the plight of so many that fight dementia everyday. I hope you will join me on my adventure with a cause.

You can follow my blog and get more information about my efforts on a website I have established to record my adventure as well as Twitter and Facebook.

Website: https://thememoryjogger.com.au

Twitter: @memoryjogger

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thememoryjogger

Happy Running!

GP@MARYSVILLE

 

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I hate my crutches…

A lot has happened since my last blog – I’ve been busy on the work front, have commenced by Personal Training Course, completed quite a few trail running events (locally and overseas) and been in for surgery to get a troublesome hip injury sorted.

But I’m back and looking forward to getting back to my writing – some big plans this year, which I’ll be blogging about in the next few weeks.

Just over two weeks ago I had an arthroscopy on my hip to shave off some errant spurs on the ball of my hip and inspect and damage to the labrum. Apparently I have a congenital problem being hip dysplasia which means the socket of my hip joint isn’t fully formed and predisposes me to hip problems – including development of spurs.

I was experiencing some serious pain when running up hill and down hill (which as you can imagine is a fair amount of any trail run) but couldn’t work out why.  X-rays and an MRI later Dr. George found the problem and referred me on to an Orthopedic surgeon (Dr. Manny) to sort me out.

After some discussions, Dr. George said I was ok to compete in the runs before my surgery that I had signed up for, as long as I could put up with the pain and accepted that I wouldn’t be particularly quick. Since every ultra has an element of pain and I’m a long way from being quick anyway, it didn’t sound like much of a change from the norm!

To be totally honest, there were a few runs when the hip caused me a fair bit of discomfort, but each and every time it was worth it.  Being out of commission at the moment is no fun at all!!!

The surgery went well and I felt pretty good afterwards all things considered.  There was a bit of cartilage damage and I’ve got arthritis in my hip.  As a consequence of all these things I’ll be looking at a hip replacement down the track – c’est la vie.

I guess in some ways I’m quite lucky – If I was a golden retriever or a Labrador with hip dysplasia, I would have been been prevented from breeding by neutering!

Bella

Our Labrador Bella who has a weird way of lying!

Now I know I might sound like a bit of a sook BUT even thought it hasn’t even been three weeks, I have already come to hate my crutches.

  • Yes – I know I need to use them to ensure I heal properly.
  •  No – I don’t want to delay my recovery by not using them and doing more damage.
  • Yes – I know 4 weeks isn’t really that long.

But I still hate them. I miss running. I miss driving the car. I miss being able to just move at will to do what I want. And if I’ve dropped them once, I’ve dropped them a hundred times!

So it got me thinking – I’ve only got a week and a bit to go on crutches… what else are crutches good for?

crutches-dude

Here’s a few ideas that come to mind…

  • Martial arts fighting sticks –that you can swing around like your Jackie Chan with a “Heeyaah”.

jc-sticks

  • Awesome pointer for highlighting things you want given to you.

finger_pointing_027

  • Multiple purpose sports equipment – putter, hockey stick or pool cue!
  •  With a few minor adjustments maybe a fishing rod.
  • Garden stake for holding up freshly planted shrubs.

garden

  • Whack a brush or cleaning cloth on the end and use it for taking down cobwebs on the ceiling.
  • A javelin that I can hurl into the distance once I’ve done my time. (On second thoughts, might need to hold that one as it looks like I may have a few extra rounds of hip surgery ahead!)

Javelin_thrower

I’ve gone from running at least 40+ kms a week with a few gym sessions on top to doing practically nothing but hobble around on crutches. My physio is pleased and thinks mine will be one of the fastest rehabs she has seen from this type of surgery – but not quick enough for me.

I’m on the bike now – albeit on the wind trainer and only for 5 minutes at a time with little or no resistance – but it ramps up next week. Today I started the hydrotherapy and within a week or two I hope to be running in the pool.

 warm-pool crutches-pool gp-pool

I was the youngest one in the heated exercise pool by a fair number of years. My crutches were kept company by a walking stick and I felt silly as I was doing little more than walking, stretching and balancing. At the end of the day I don’t care what it looks like – I know that there is little value in pushing things too hard and doing more damage.

It is less than 17 weeks until the Surfcoast Century is on – and I want to run the solo 100km race again. So while I hate my crutches – I know they are critically important to a successful recovery. So now that I have got his out of my system – it’s back to rehab and getting my body ready – do as my Doctor has told me and be guided by my Physio.

Happy Running!!

p.s. I still hate my crutches.

gp-crutches

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Life is a marathon

Today’s post has been motivated by a time of deep thought and reflection.  Yesterday my family and all our friends said goodbye to my mother who completed the ultimate endurance race of life, when she passed away earlier this week.

When I got the news that mum passed away we drove the two and half hours to my home town of Benalla to see her, and support my father as we commenced the difficult yet important task of planning her funeral.  It was a long day and to be honest, a bit of a blur.

My mum

My mum

The next day (despite an annoying hip injury I’m still trying to shake,) I got out of bed and said to my wife “I’m off for a run.”  With a cacophony of noise from the thoughts, questions and “jobs to do”, screaming for my attention inside my mind, I needed a release.

It wasn’t a long run – an easy 6km.  The hip hurt and the legs were heavy, but the steady rhythm of my footsteps and breathing, the wind in my face and the familiar sense of just being – escaping from the world into my running mindset – helped me process what had happened, think about mum and reflect on life.

As the trees and paths went by, it made me think how quickly a life seems to pass after it has ended when it is someone close to us; but when they are alive, you don’t expect, or can’t imagine, them not being there for you.  In some ways a lot like a marathon.

The distance seems insurmountable at the start of the race and at times the miles seem to click over at an interminably slow rate.  But when you cross the finish line, the race seems to have passed quickly.  A day or so later you’re even thinking that it wasn’t so bad – when in the middle of the race you might have been thinking “What idiot signed my up for this torture!” – and it was probably you.  We often forget to embrace the race when we’re in it, and only appreciate it when it’s over.

Life is a marathon.  There are times during a race when you feel that you are indestructible and could run forever.  At other times, you can find yourself counting down your footsteps to the next drink stop and cursing the next hill on the horizon as you push the limits of your body and mind.

Life is the same.  You have your good days, and your bad days.  Self doubt, fear, pain, anger and despair.  And then other days there is joy, laughter, pride, excitement and success.  The Yin and Yang of life.

During a run, it would be easy to let a blister on your foot stop you running.  Or succumb to that niggly pain in your knee telling you that a DNF is ok.  Or maybe it’s that stitch tearing at your side telling you that it’s impossible to go on.   Sure some injuries are showstoppers that mean you can’t go on – sadly this happens in life too.

But you can always gear up and go for it again in the world of running – sometimes it’s not so easy with life.  Some of the perceived obstacles are simply that, obstacles – after all, what the mind believes, the body achieves.

Life requires the same commitment that a marathon does, to not stop until you get to the finish line.  And like a marathon – there are no shortcuts.

Life is about setting goals and achieving them; overcoming obstacles; celebrating the wins; and learning from the losses; and most of all pushing yourself to be the best you can at whatever it is you want to be.

I always say, “Regret hurts more than failure.”  So I’m planning a life with no more regrets and I’ll cop whatever failures come my way.  And when I cross my life marathon finish line – I’ll be making sure that there is nothing left in the tank and I’ve given it my all, overcoming every obstacle I can along the way – it won’t be a DNF!

Because when this race is over, I can’t just sign up for another.

As those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know, part of my motivation for running only my second marathon was to raise money for Alzheimer’s Australia.  My mum has been fighting dementia from Alzheimer’s for a number of years and it was one way I thought I could help her.  She was very proud and at the same time thought I was crazy for doing it!  Here’s a picture of her wearing the finisher’s medal from the 2012 Gold Coast Marathon.

Gold Coast Marathon Medal

Gold Coast Marathon Medal

So this week I lost my biggest fan – my support crew is minus one and it’s a gap that can’t be filled.

But I won’t let the pain of losing mum leave me empty.  In her lifetime, she filled all of her friends and family with joy and showed us that being kind and generous to each other was the best way for us to express our love for each other.  It’s a lesson I try to live by everyday and am thankful I had her to teach me.

Your family and friends are your support crew on your life marathon – make sure they know you care.  Give them a hug and tell them that you love them – it will make their life marathon a wonderful one – and yours too.

Happy Running.

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