Running, charity and all that laces them together.

Running, charity and all that laces them together.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Row for the Hungry by Heather M.

     My brother and I were two of my father's indentured servants.  My dad grew up on a farm. Even though he had a different day job as an adult, he never gave up the farming life, and of course, we had to help him with his 'hobby' any time he needed help. In return, he fed us. (a minor understatement, but you get the point.) We grew what we ate, and we ate what we grew, and so did everyone else in my small town. I don't think that I realized that people actually bought vegetables in the grocery store until I was in about third grade.  I remember my mother always turning up her nose at the tomatoes wrapped in cellophane that we had to buy during the winter. She was right - they did taste like cardboard. My mother canned or froze whatever my dad brought back from his farm/garden - corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and cauliflower were some of his favorites. - We also managed to grow or buy locally a lot of fruit that she canned or froze - peaches, pears, and apples. Oh, and I'll never forget the summer of 'swampers,' or wild blueberries. Robert Frost wrote a poem named "Blueberries" that I decided my daughter would memorize in seventh grade, 

". . .How we used to pick berries: we took one look round, 
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground, 
And saw nothing more of each other, or heard, . . ."

The words reminded me of the summer my father took me to pick blueberries. These were wild blueberries, very sweet, and found out in the woods, so we really did sink "out of sight like trolls underground" as we entered the woods and hoped we didn't get lost.

     And don't even get me started about the strawberry patch we planted on a former cow pasture. Just think FERTILIZER!

     What is funny about my childhood on the farm is that I really thought that that's what I had to do when I got married - plant a huge garden, pick the stuff and then preserve a lot of it so my family could have the produce in the winter. I couldn't figure out how I was going to do that and be a lawyer too. I was convinced that nothing was better than Dad's corn and mom's applesauce, and that being a good wife and mom would entail giving that same corn and applesauce to my family.
    Well, that may be true, but when I got married and had my daughter and proceeded to finish law school, I learned how to buy food at the grocery store, and luckily, I could afford it. As with most young couples, times were often a little tight, but we did fine. And, my parents always brought along some corn, tomatoes and whatever else my dad had just picked whenever they visited. My mom brought whatever she had canned and frozen, and life was, and still is, good.
     While I learned to "buy things at the store," a lot of America's hungry can't afford to buy vegetables and fruit fresh at the market. It's really a shame, because produce is what makes people healthy, and many people really would change their diets and incorporate fresh produce if they could afford it. I hate when I do this, but the other night, I was watching a show on WETA about food banks distributing fresh produce. (What I hate is that I didn't write down the name of the show or any of the names of the people featured.)  Both families that were featured received produce at their local food banks. One lived right in New York City, and the daughter remarked that it was easy to find cheap junk food as soon as she went out her door, but healthy foods were simply ultra-expensive or unavailable. As her mother began to receive produce from the local food bank, she spent a lot of time preparing healthier meals with her daughter, and she noted that their relationship improved and they both had more energy as they ate better. The families who benefited from this produce were just wonderful examples of how charity multiplies. As the families featured began to get back on their feet, they also began to commit time to their local food banks and soup kitchens. It was amazing to see people who had so little, turn around and give back as soon as they could. It also showed their commitment to helping others eat as healthily as possible.
     Susan Evans and Peter Clarke deserve most of the credit for convincing and helping food banks to distribute fresh produce. (Weise, Elizabeth, "More Food Banks Offer Fresh Fruits, Vegetables," USA Today, 1-31-2011.) In 1991, these California professors met a produce wholesaler who had set up a program four years earlier in LA getting produce distributors to send excess produce to food banks. The couple wondered why this program hadn't been duplicated. They spent years finding ways to get other foodbanks to replicate the program. They ran into a lot of obstacles, but handled them one by one. Large grants from Kraft foods totaling $26 million helped the food banks purchase walk-in cooler and cooler blankets.(Ibid.) They also confronted cultural issues when distributors thought they received rotten bananas which were really ripe plantains and when clients boiled the kiwis they thought were potatoes. (Ibid.) Profs. Evans and Clarke learned so much about promoting new programs from their work with the food banks that they included an extensive description of their work in a recent article they published in The Stanford Social Innovation Review ("Disseminating Orphan Innovations," SSIR, Winter 2011). In the past few decades, food banks have had tremendous success getting excess produce to those in need. Evans and Clarke are continuing to help these food banks 'push the produce' by encouraging the food banks to give out recipes which incorporate the produce currently available. These two professors are wonderful examples of people who see a problem and are willing to tackle it head on. 
     A 2008 study done by the USDA have shown that people below 130% of the poverty line(the threshold for receiving food stamps) are not able to budget for fruits and vegetables. (Stewart, Hayden, and Noel Blisard. Are Lower Income Households Willing and Able To Budget for Fruits and Vegetables? U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, ERR-54, January 2008.) The same study notes ". . ., a household’s income does not need to rise much further before the household is also willing and able to allocate additional resources to fruits and vegetables, on average." (Ibid.) The question remains, how do we help those who have no place in their budget for produce (and who don't grow up with my parents)????
    It seems that we have to do our best to make sure that produce gets to the food banks and ultimately to those in need. Right now, I am not certain if any of RunningBrooke's beneficiaries take part in such programs, but I would love for some of them to follow laces and let us know. I have researched organizations which donate produce to feed the hungry and here's one interesting group I stumbled upon - Plant a Row for the Hungry. - In their words, this is what Plant a Row Does, "PAR provides focus, direction and support to volunteer committees that promote herb, vegetable and community gardening at the local level. Then we provide training and direction to enable the committee to reach out into the community. Finally, we assist in coordinating the local food collection systems and monitor the volume of donations being conveyed to food agencies." - I really encourage you to follow this link and see what you can do to plant a row for those in need next year: Plant a Row Their website has great info on local Plant a Row organizations, including one in Manassas, VA. 
     Just so you know, all of the beautiful pictures in today's post come from Brooke's garden. (I don't have the space or the sunshine.) Maybe we can get Brooke to "plant a row" next spring. I better watch out. I may be creating another job for myself. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Live Free or Die" by Brooke

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

Its been an action-packed month, so I'm diverging from my normal format and pouncing chronologically.

One. IMPACT 2011, Innovation + Philanthropy.  9/28/11.
A half-day summit meeting loaded with fresh and inventive approaches for both donors and nonprofits.  I was part of the Donor to Donor panel, a special breakout session geared to answering specific questions about donor and nonprofit alliances.

Lori with the Bruhn-Morris Family Foundation
Jane with Get Out & Give Back
Brooke with The runningbrooke Fund 

Thanks ACT for Alexandria and Senator Mark Warner for getting us all together for this terrific morning of collaboraton.  Click HERE to read more.

Two.  The New Hampshire Marathon (marathon #40, state #29)  10/01/11.
New Hampshire has an extraordinary state motto:  "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils".  Written as a toast by General John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous Revolutionary War hero, this assertive declaration reveals our country's independent character!  In fact, New Hampshire was the earliest colony to declare its independence from England (by a full six months), and because of this, was given the honor to cast our new nation's first vote for freedom.

Formed in 1788 (9th state), and named after Hampshire, England, this New England state is stunning.  I was prepared for the leaves (though those weren't at peak yet), but not for the many lakes and the rushing rivers that fed them.
Thanks ACT for Alexandria and Senator Mark Warner for getting us all together for this terrific morning of collaboraton.  Click HERE to read more.

NH River
Newfound River in Bristol, NH
Raging waters and deafening sound.
The adjacent town and highway a distant memory.... 

Random Factoids (in random order) about New Hampshire:

 The first free public library in the US was opened in Peterborough in 1833.
#2:  In 1963, NH was the first state to have a legal lottery.
 Levi Hutchinson of Concord invented the first alarm clock in 1787.
#4: Franklin Pierce, a hero in the Mexican-American war, is the only NH resident to be elected president (14th).
#5: NH poet and author Sarah Hale wrote "Mary had a Little Lamb" in 1830.

Newfound Lake
Newfound Lake.
We ran all the way around this lake,
with a 2+ mile segment out to Sculptured Rocks and back. 

Bristol, NH (the marathon town-host) is an two-stoplight town on Newfound Lake in central New Hampshire.  While there, I appreciate its old-style architecture and friendly atmosphere.  I can't wait to hit another marathon milestone (marathon #40!) and state #29.
I meet up with my friend Jerry who ran his 118th marathon that day.  We trade stories about our latest adventures and wish each other well.  Jerry went on to run a marathon the next day in Maine.  Go Jerry!

Brooke and Jerry
Jerry and me at race start.

The temperature is in the mid-50's and comfortable race morning.  About 250 marathoners (and some 10K runners) mingle and listen to the Bristol Middle School band (the half-marathoners are bused to a separate starting point).  Just as the National Anthem is sung, the rain starts.  And when the gun goes off, as if on cue, the rain gets heavier and continues all morning, alternating between a light mist and a sideways downpour.

The race begins (and ends) in town at the Middle School.  Quickly though, we are to the lake and running along side it.  It takes a while to register that the first 6 miles were uphill.  Yikes!  But the rest of the course mellows out into one big, nice-and-steady roller.  The great scenery pushes a lot of the rain-soaked dreariness away.  With that being said, I have only an OK run.  I hope to find my running-mojo somewhere along the way, but I never do.  Sometimes, that just happens...

NH barn
Crisp contrasts of the red barn and
the silver-gray sky capture my attention.

NH church
One of many churches, the adjacent graveyard is pictured below.

The Good
  • The Marathon.  Another one done in another great state + I end up placing 3rd Master (over 40).
The Ugly
  • The Marathon.  A cheater!  I've seen the marathon "cheater-chatter" before on Facebook and seen the cheaters "outed" there, but I'd never seen a cheater cheat in person.  Now I have.  At about mile 9, someone goes zooming by me, and she is dry.  As in NOT WET.  I'm soaked by this point; my shoes squish with every step and water drips from my braids.  There is no way she could have started with us and been dry.  I never learn what (if anything) happens to her, but I'm curious.  I hope she feels guilty.  *Jerry noticed cheaters in Bristol too and noted that the two he saw were disqualified.
Three.  The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. 10/2/11 (the next day).

LizLuke/runningbrooke Racers
LizLuke/runningbrooke Racers and me
(sorry to those not pictured!)

  • Thanks team for the opportunity to guide you to great half marathon finishes.  It was tons of fun getting to know you!  Muchos gracias for all of your fundraising efforts in support of The runningbrooke Fund and the kids of Alexandria.  A special thanks to LizLuke herself for going above and beyond.  Have some real estate needs (?), check out
WW finish
Finishing strong at the WW 1/2. 

WW check
Steve Nearman, me and Doreen Gentzler (Anchor, NBC4)
at the WW 1/2 Finish Line Festival. 
  • Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon is a runningbrooke sponsor, so this is a perfect segue into the Sponsor Highlight portion of the email (to my other sponsors, thanks for your patience, I'll return to the alphabetical format next month, promise).Thanks Steve for being part of the solution.  You outdid yourself (again) and put on another fantastic race!  For those of you unfamiliar with this half marathon, here is the scoop...  Run from historic Mt. Vernon (home of George Washington), north along the (closed to traffic) scenic George Washington Parkway, to Old Town Alexandria, VA.  From there, see Washington DC on your left, as you cross high over the Potomac River via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and finish at National Harbor in MD.  See you next year Steve and thanks again!
Four.  An Evening in the Heart of Alexandria. 11/10/11.     

  • Thank you, thank you Volunteer Alexandria for honoring me with the Joan White Grassroots Volunteer Award.  Named after beloved (former) director Joan for her from-the-ground-up actions and everything is doable with-a-little-sweat philosophy, this award means a lot to me.  Click HERE to learn more and see your invitation to the festivities.  And for this one evening,  I promise to stop running and enjoy a dinner sitting down.  See you there! 

That's it for now, except for the photos below.  The next marathon is in Savannah, GA on November 5th.  (Marathon #41 and State #30!)  Until then, be well and run!


NH race director
Behind the bar with the NH race director... and NO, this is not
the reason why I didn't run well, haha!

NH trees2
Birch trees and changing foliage.
NH River2
Another shot of the rushing river water.
Race Day Lake
Rain clouds over lake, somewhere before mile 9.
Tree Carving
One of three tree carvings, the trunk and roots intact, about mile 10.
NH Banjo
Great sounds!  The second time I came around,
he had a full-length yellow trench coat on, but still playing vigorously.
NH Graveyard
Graveyard from above church, an appropriate with Halloween approaching.

Upcoming Races
(the rest of 2011)
Nov. 5: Savannah, GA marathon
Dec. 10: Rehobeth Beach, DE marathon

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Light on Your Feet" by Heather M.

     I have continued running three times a week for .6 miles each time. I wear the Saucony's I mentioned in a previous post, and I continue to try to get the hang of running from midfoot to ball of foot (instead of striking my heel). It's continues to be a difficult transition, and it just doesn't come naturally to me. I have read up on the transition a bit more, and I have realized that the object is not to 'strike' with a different part of your foot, as much as it is to avoid reaching ahead of your body with your foot. Reaching ahead with your foot, which is what happens when I try to open up my stride, causes your heel to hit first and almost stop your forward motion. Running on your mid or forefoot involves pushing the ground behind you, not reaching out to get to what's in front of you. You shouldn't be banging your forefoot off the ground either. You should be making an attempt to be as light on your feet as possible.
     Yes, I know, how can you lighten the load on your feet? To most people, it makes no sense at all. We think of pushing ourselves along with our legs and feet. To move further and faster, you have to push harder, right???  I can only understand being 'light on the feet' (a little) because I am the mother of a ballerina. Have you ever wondered what is in one of those pointe shoes ballerinas wear? You probably think there is something that hold their feet in place and helps them to balance and dance on their toes. Well, you're wrong. Almost all pointe shoes are made out of paper and glue that is layered together to make a hard vamp(or front part of the shoe). Some have bigger and flatter bottoms than others which help with balancing, but 99% of the work is done with the feet and the rest of the dancer's body. The feet are trained for a long time to point and to perform releve(or to stand on the balls of the feet). However, you don't just work your feet over the years and put a pair of those shoes on and hold your whole body up on your toes. Here's something else you do - over all of those years, you learn to pull up out of your hips and elevate yourself (you don't just push yourself there with your toes). It's a difficult concept to understand, and even harder to do.

     I am going to try to apply this type of logic to my running, not necessarily the pulling up out of the hips, but by trying to use the other parts of my body - besides my feet - to help me run. I'll let you know how it goes over the next few weeks.

PS: I have an appointment with the podiatrist next Thursday. Hopefully, he will be excited about my plan (and give me a shot in my heel). The pain hasn't gotten a lot worse since I started doing this little bit of running, but it waxes and wanes. Lately it has been doing one of those things a little too much.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Going out in Public - the Community Lodgings' "Lights on After-school" Open House by Heather M.

     Once in a while, Brooke lets me "go out in public" on behalf of the RunningBrooke Fund. I'm kidding - she doesn't 'let me,' she kindly asks me. Sometimes she needs help and sometimes she asks me to attend an event when she can't do so. Maybe she doesn't know it, but I am always nervous. I hate to screw up - ANYTHING. But that's one of my biggest problems - I am so afraid of screwing up things, that I rarely try to do anything new. Being nervous on behalf of the RunningBrooke Fund has been a learning experience for me, and I am so thrilled when I experience some sort of success, even if it is just a little success.
     The first time Brooke took me out in public, we went to Old Town to try to sell tickets to the RunningBrooke showing of "Hairspray." She stood at one end of the farmers' market in her crazy outfit with her a posterboard describing the work of the RunningBrooke Fund. I stood at the other end of the market, conversing with the farmers, and sheepishly asking everyone who walked by, "Do you like musicals?" Heck, I wasn't asking them if they knew about Jesus (which is fine if they did), but I still felt like an idiot, and I was so scared of rejection. As one woman walked by, I piped up with my old line about musicals. I am not sure if she said she did or she didn't like them, but she did pause to speak to me. (She is a lot kinder than I am when people confront me on the street.). She listened to my nervous sales pitch, and just when I thought I had lost her, I must have mentioned Brooke's name. Her face lit up as she told me she was an old friend of Brooke's, and I sent her on over to her 'old friend' standing across the way in her crazy dress and wig in the 100 degree heat. The best part is . . . a few weeks later, I saw her at the performance. I told her how thankful I was that she stopped to listen to my awkward pitch and that I was SO HAPPY that she came. Baby steps, but those few were worth it.

     Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going out in public for the RunningBrooke Fund and attending the "Lights on Afterschool" Open House at Community Lodgings. Community Lodgings is one of the five local charities which the RunningBrooke Fund helps support. Yesterday's festivities highlighted the organization's afterschool programs for homeless and low income students, but Community Lodgings also has an Adult Education Program, a Low Income Housing Program, and a Transitional Housing Program which provides housing and support services for up to 14 otherwise homeless families.
     As I walked around the stations they had set up, I was a bit nervous, but the children were great. I was very impressed with the LeapTrack Program and the help students were given with their homework and reading.

Becca Waltrip, the Education Coordinator, explained how these centers were coordinated with the material the students covered in school. She does such an amazing job with the little resources she has. Like most charitable organizations, Community Lodgings has had to make staff cutbacks in recent years, and the remaining staff has to do more with less, and from what I saw, they do it with smiles on their faces. They make such an impact on these students lives, and some of the students who have "graduated" or moved away, even come back to visit when they are in the area. The older girl sitting at the corner of the table in the top picture is a former student in the after school program who now attends 11th grade in another city. I thought it was nice that she took the time to stop by and help some other children. She was a wonderful young lady, very bright, well-spoken and kind, a graduate to be proud of!
     Meeting this beautiful young lady and her brothers and hearing their story was kind of like the moment I saw Brooke's old friend at the "Hairspray" event. It served as a little bit of affirmation that what I was doing was right and even slightly successful. Woohee, more baby steps and in the right direction too!! It's all about them, and that's what I have to remember each time I go 'out in public' for the RunningBrooke Fund. Thanks to all our supporters who help the RunningBrooke Fund help others!

PS: I was having trouble weaving a few details in my blog, but I wanted to include the pictures below and let you know what was going on in them.

In the above picture, the adult students were playing a simple game which allowed them to use some simple English vocabulary they just learned. I talked to their teacher and we discussed how useful it is to do "regular things" in another language you are learning. Activities like playing games and cooking really help students to utilize new vocabulary without having to memorize little scripts like many of us did in high school. (at least I did, lol!) 

Mayor Euille spoke at the Open House and praised the Center for the work they do. He recalled how refreshing it was to see a family walking down the street, each of them carrying a book and reading while they walked a long. He remarked that we(and places like Community Lodgings) must be "doing something right" in Alexandria.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Nice to be Recognized . . .

Joan White Volunteer Award
     Volunteer Alexandria has just announced that our very own Brooke Curran will receive the Joan White Grassroots Volunteer Award. 

Open the invite HERE 

     Please come to The 11th Annual Evening in the Heart of Alexandria at Carlyle Club to honor Brook of the RunningBrooke Fund and Nina Tisara of  Living Legends for their volunteer work in the Alexandria Community. Brooke has used her love of running to help needy Alexandria families. She does it because she believes that if you can, you should. (and boy, can she!!!) She doesn't do this to be recognized, but we hope she will stop running for this one night and enjoy this evening in her honor. It would be such a treat to see all her supporters there too.

     Click HERE to go to Volunteer Alexandria's website and see more of what this wonderful organization does. People may think that it's easy to develop a volunteer organization, but it really isn't. Volunteer Alexandria helps these organizations become better at what they do. It gives them the critical support they need so they can become more effective at helping others. THANK YOU, Volunteer Alexandria, for all you do!!!

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Thanks LizLuke for making a difference!

    Thanks Elizabeth (2nd from left) and the LizLuke team for lacing up your shoes and raising significant funds for The runningbrooke Fund and the at-risk kids of Alexandria.

    You've provided books to kids that have none, inspired girls to run a 5K, fed homeless kids healthful after-school snacks + much, much more.

    So amazing to get to know each and every one of you.  You rock!  Keep going out there and saving the world one step at a time!

    Let's thank Elizabeth and give her a call for all of our real estate needs.  She cares about Alexandria and she'll care about you.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    I Found the Cumin!!!

         Remember when I said I have issues? Well, that applies to deadlines too. You see, Brooke doesn't really give me deadlines, but I usually tell her the date I plan to post something and then I post it a day or two after my self-imposed deadline. It's kind of like when you tell your significant other that an appointment is actually half and hour earlier than it really is so that he or she shows up on time.
         This was the problem last night - I was making something with pumpkin in it for the first time in my life, and I couldn't figure out why I had pumpkin pie spice. I have never, ever made a pumpkin pie. I chucked it because it was probably 10 years old, and then I proceeded to try to figure out why I had three containers of paprika(seriously?) and FOUR containers of black peppercorns. And I finally chucked the huge bag of jolly ranchers that fell all over the place whenever anyone opened the cabinet. Like I really need candy, especially candy that has been around as long as that has. I ended up spending hours making the pumpkin cookies and cleaning out every cabinet I could.
         Five trash bags and a day later, here I am to give our Laces readers two new fall recipes. (We swear we have more than recipes and me whining about my foot and ankle, but we hope you enjoy these while we work on the rest, LOL!)

         The first is another Weight Watchers Recipe that my family even liked. My son noticed there was no meat, so I gave him a little chicken on the side. It is very easy to make and you can substitute organic products for anything I used. For those counting points with the big WW, it makes 6 servings of "5" PointsPlus each.
    Bulgur and Bean Chili

      1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
      1 cup onion chopped
      2 medium poblano chile, chopped (I used one and it was fine.)
      2 Tbsp chile powder
      1 Tbsp minced garlic
      3 cups water
      28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
      3/4 cup uncooked bulgur (I found it in the bulk foods aisle at Whole Foods)
      1 tsp salt
      1 cup yellow corn, fresh or canned 
      15 1/2 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
      1/2 cup cilantro leaves, fresh, chopped
      1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

         Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper; saute until almost tender, about 5 minutes.
         Add chili powder, garlic and cumin; saute for about 30 seconds. (I skipped the cumin because I couldn't find it, but guess what happened when I cleaned the cupboard last night? Woohee, Cumin!!!)

         Add water, tomatoes and their puree, bulgur and salt; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
         Stir in corn and beans; simmer, covered, over medium heat, until corn and bulgur are tender, about 5 minutes.
         Remove from heat and stir in cilantro (I just tried to use the cilantro as a garnish in an effort to spruce up my photography. It probably would have tasted better chopped and in the chile.); finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

    MaryKay's Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

       A word of warning here - this is not necessarily a healthy or nutritious recipe, but it isn't that bad for you either. I just included it because it was the right time of year for it. For about three years, I shared a pipestem, a kind of private drive, with a beautiful woman named MaryKay. Halloween is her birthday, and she loves to make these pumpkin cookies. Just so you know that she is normally a very nutrtion conscious person, MaryKay's family doesn't eat red meat (I do) and they introduced my son to sprouts. She has a husband and three very healthy sons. They love these cookies like I do.

    Feel free to try organic products and to decide what you think is the healthiest option for the margarine. MaryKay and I couldn't figure out which was the "in" product nutrition-wise at this point, margarine, butter, or even light butter. Heck, it's a cookie!

    Yield: Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.
      1/2 cup margarine
      1 1/2 cup sugar
      1 cup Libby's solid pumpkin, canned
      1 egg
      1 tsp vanilla
      2 1/2 cups flour
      1 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp nutmeg
       semi-sweet chocolate morsels if desired.

         Cream margarine and sugar in a large bowl.
         Add egg and vanilla, beat until fluffy.
         Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture alternating with pumpkin, stirring after each addition.
         Mix in chocolate chips if desired.
         Drop by teaspoon on lightly greased cookie sheet.
         Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes.


    PS: I have been told, by a loyal follower, that our comment function is not working. Until I figure out how to fix it, if you want to comment and you can't work with the comment function either, just send your comments to and Brooke or I will gladly figure out a way to post them for you.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Week 1, Heather

         Since I am a little late at getting the recipes I planned on sharing with you this week, I figured I'd update you on how my first two mini-runs have gone.
         One of the suggestions ALWAYS given regarding changing one's stride from heel striking to mid or forefoot striking is that the transition should take place VERY SLOWLY. When you change your gait, you also change the muscles you use. Specifically, when you run on your forefoot, you work your calves much more and you put more stress on your Achilles tendons. This may be a good thing since I never developed calve pain or problems with my Achilles in the past. As a matter of fact, as my podiatrist listened to my ongoing and every-changing problems with my feet, he was amazed that I didn't have any problems with my Achilles. He even stressed that "if it gets into there," there wasn't going to be much he could do about it. Glad "it" didn't get there!
         Keeping the "slow transition" in mind, I decided to run a .6 mile little loop near my home. I ran it on Monday and Wednesday, and I'll do a last run for the week tomorrow. Honestly, it's a little difficult to run on my forefeet. I definitely have a problem striking midfoot, because I am trying so hard to NOT hit my heels. It takes a lot of concentration and as I get a little tired(I even get tired running .6 miles), I feel myself dropping my heels and plodding along. It also becomes a little difficult because the loop I do is down a hill and up a hill. I planned on walking to the track that is very close to my house, but on Monday, the football team was there. I was NOT going to start my running in front of a high school football team. It took a lot of courage just to put shorts on!
         I had a little pain in one of my calves, but it definitely wasn't debilitating. My feet still hurt a bit everyday, but they aren't any worse after I run. And, since I don't hit my heels, they don't get sore.
         I plan on continuing with the .6 miles until it becomes more comfortable/natural to stride that way. Maybe I will try a mile by the end of next week. One thing that is sure to help is losing some of that weight that I mentioned before. I will try to work that into my program now - baby steps, well at least for me.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Is This the Answer???

    I have issues, well at least my right foot does, and it has had them for a year and a half now. 

         When we restarted this blog, I asked Brooke if I could do a running report on my return to running. She knows as well as I do, that running for me is not what it is for her. I am not a marathon runner. One day in my life, I ran 10 miles. It was a great day. See very embarrassing photo of me sitting on my couch 'watching tv' with my son after the race.

         What I didn't know when I was a young, aspiring track star (ok, it was a one season career, but I did get a third place once) that I know now, is that I am a person who has to take running slowly. That doesn't mean that I have to run slowly, just that I cannot just join a team and start running 3-5 miles per day when I never really ran before. 
          After that short running career in high school, I really didn't run for twenty years. I lifted a lot of weights (ok, for five years), got married, had two babies, raised them fairly well (still working on that), and don't forget the college and law degrees, but I always had the feeling I wanted to run. I knew I wouldn't be great at it. I just wanted to do it. I wanted to be like all those other people I saw on beautiful mornings, running down the sidewalk, or along a trail or through a park. AND, not getting shin splints!!
         Finally, about four years ago, I started a bootcamp class. I made it to every 5:30 AM class that month, but it was quite painful. By the next spring, I could run two miles in 24 minutes. I know, pretty pathetic, but I hadn't run two miles in a row in twenty years, and I had at least three other buddies in my group who ran my speed. Somehow, through all the aches and pains of adjusting to bootcamp, I was able to stay away from a bad case of shin splints. One thing I learned about my "shin" pain is that a lot of it was really located in the front of my ankle. If I took my shoes off and stretched with my toe under, opening up the front of my ankle, I was able to forego a lot of pain. Who would know it could be so easy, or that a simple stretch, which requires taking off your shoe, could be so helpful?
         After a nasty sinus infection sidelined me for a month, I gave up bootcamp and put up my running shoes. Yes, I was a quitter. I also gained a few more pounds - BAD NEWS! 
         In March of 2010, I was getting up every morning barely able to walk. My feet hurt so bad, and I really just thought I was getting middle-aged, FAT and achy. I was, but that wasn't the real problem. After perusing the internet and talking to a lot of middle-aged ladies who went through the same problem, I realized I had a very bad case of plantar fasciitis. Off I was to Doctor Number 1.
         It's hard not to fall in love with a man who takes all the pain away, but I held on to my heart and my seat as I got my first cortisone shot in my right foot. Honestly, my foot hurt so bad by that point that I didn't even mind the very large needle. He hooked me up with some innersoles and had me come back in a month.
         A month later, most of the major pain was gone. By May, I started back at a bootcamp class and fell in love(again.) I also decided to watch my weight because I was not going through the pain of bootcamp and the heat of those summer mornings without dropping some weight. We did a monument run that summer, and I found out that I was able to run over 4 miles. I was in Wonderland when I was finished, but I had never run that far at once before (NEVER)! I lost about 10 pounds by the end of the summer, but when I went to the doctor in August, I told him that some of the pain was coming back in my feet. He figured that the custom made orthotics that I was picking up that day would do the trick for good, and he said he really didn't think I should quit my class because I was so much happier and I was losing weight. By that point, I was even going on an occasional run on the weekends. (You can eat more and still lose weight if you run!!!) 
         By December . . . I was able to run five miles with my friends in 50 to 55 minutes, and I was so proud of myself. Unfortunately, the pain was coming back - back to the March level. HORRIBLE!!That was a lot of pain. The podiatrist was frustrated, of course, and he knew he didn't have a shot at curing the plantar fasciitis unless I stopped running for a while. My problem was that I talked to Brooke - yes it was all her fault - and I committed to becoming one of her first RunningBrooke Racers. I told her that I could only run 5 miles at that time, but she knew that I could fit in a lot of training before the 10 mile race on April 3d. The podiatrist gave me one last cortisone shot and sent me on my way until April 4th. 
         My training consisted of running three to four times a week and gradually increasing the distance. Things got really painful, so I water-jogged (Brooke taught me) for a week and then decreased my runs to three a week. By the end of March, I was basically getting accupuncture twice a week to lessen the pain and swelling so I could run the next day. It worked pretty well, but nothing was curing the problem. 
    I finished at somewhere around a 10:45 minutes/mile pace. When I first signed up for the race, I was hoping to finish at a 10 minute pace, but by April 3d, I was just happy to finish. Oh yes, I also raised over $1000 for the RunningBrooke Fund. That was the most fantastic part!
         Since then, I have gone through various treatments, doctors and orthotics, and nothing has made the pain go away completely. At its worst, I had pain up into my hamstrings and I have even gotten some nasty tendonitis in, not one, but both, peroneal tendons. Man, that was and is nasty! My podiatrist tried a shock wave treatment that wasn't covered by insurance, and it didn't help at all. Then he put me in a boot. The boot wasn't helping, and the front of my foot was becoming really weak and painful from carrying the weight of the boot. The next doctor was an osteopath and a pervert. He had me buy another completely minimalist pair of shoes without suggesting that I work into them slowly. After a massage that went a little out of bounds (believe me, I had no pain there), off I was to Doctor Number 3, or was it 4?
         He was a chiropractor, and he actually helped a lot, but I realized he wasn't going to solve all my problems until I took a little action myself. First, I need to lose weight, twenty more pounds on my scale. It's kind of doctors not to shove the weight thing in people's faces, but there's no escaping it. When you run, your feet hit the ground at 250% the force that they do when you are just walking. Twenty pounds? Well, that's 50 pounds of force when you are running, and at my size, that's a lot. The other problem I have is that I am/was a heal striker. All the orthotics and shots in the world aren't going to help me at all if I continue to BANG MY HEAL OFF THE GROUND! 
         As I went through the various treatments, especially those with the podiatrist (he's a great guy, really!), I noticed that the front of my foot was weakening A LOT, and my bunion was getting worse, oh, and yes, my toes were beginning to hammer. At one point, I could do 10 single-leg calf raises on my left foot, but it was impossible to do even one on my right. Hmmm, sounds like a problem to me. In the last month, I took on the challenge of strengthening the front of my right foot. Now I can finally do ten calf raises on my right foot too, but it is still not as strong as my left foot. 
         The plantar fasciitis still waxes and wanes a little, and the tendonitis bothers me a little, but I want to start running again, and here is my plan: I bought a pair of shoes with a very minimal heel drop, but with cushioning. (See below.) The shoes allow me to run on my forefeet, or at least on the middle of my feet, without striking my heel. They still have a little cushioning which is a lot kinder to my tender feet than completely minimalist shoes. I'm also going to wear a toe spacer in my right shoe so that the forefoot running doesn't aggravate my bunion. Most importantly, I am going to start slowly (that shouldn't be hard for me, lol), and I mean really slowly. 

         At the end of next week, I'll give you a report on my progress. Don't worry - It won't be a quarter as long as today's report. I just wanted to give you an idea of how ugly a long bout of plantar fasciitis can be. Something tells me you got the picture. 
         I also hope that those of you who don't run, or who don't think you can run, realize that it is possible, and it can actually be fun. You know those days when you just want to run away from it all? Well, take up running, and you can!!!
                                                                                                Talk to you next week,

                                                                                                Heather M.