Monday, October 29, 2012

My first marathon: moments of inspiration

Well, it's been broadcast all over Twitter and Facebook, but I figured I'd do a different kind of race recap here. In case you haven't heard, I finished my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, yesterday. Victory tasted pretty sweet:

My dad and I finished in 5:30:41. Considering he ran the whole thing with a broken toe, I would consider this time a success! Plus, we crossed the finish line hand in hand, smiling. They've started to load the official race photos, and I have to say, I look like I am genuinely enjoying the race in each photo.

For me, this marathon was about finishing. It was about pushing myself to achieve something I had never achieved, and proving to myself that I was capable of accomplishing something this big. And I have to tell you, this may be my greatest personal accomplishment.

Today, as I try to foam roll out the stiffness in my legs that is a constant reminder of yesterday, I wanted to take the time to blog about my experience, and about moments of inspiration from the race.

My race started at 7:55am. We placed ourselves in the 5:00 finish corral, which was silly because our strategy was to run the first 15 miles and then alternate walking and running (walk one mile, run two) to the finish. In retrospect, we should have placed ourselves in the 4:30 finish corral, which would align more with our running time. Instead, we ended up trying to make our way through the pack of people running at a pace 2-3 minutes per mile slower than us for the first three miles.

Being in this grouping brought our first pop of inspiration, when around mile four, we ran past a blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon, guided by three guide runners. If that doesn't inspire you to be limitless, I don't know what will.

Somewhere around mile four or five, we also found a group whose shirts read "The journey is the reward, the marathon is the victory lap." Reflecting on my own journey, from where/who I was when I signed up for the marathon in March to where/who I am now is a pretty powerful thing. And they're right, the marathon was my celebration - a celebration of living a life that I love and getting a little bit closer to exactly what I want my life to look like.

Mile 11 brought us to our first views of the national mall, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The roundabout we went around was lined with spectators, cheering for friends and family members and random strangers. It was one of two times that I started tearing up, and really only out of sheer inspiration. Here I was, in a sea of 20,000+ runners, all achieving a goal - whether just to finish or to beat a time.

We then made our way to Haynes' Point, which was the most challenging part of the race for me. For miles 13-16, we were spectatorless, and I was hurting. I was pretty excited to cross the 13.1 mile marker at 2:15, which is a whole 15 minutes faster than the half marathon I ran in April, but other than that, I was just ready to start walking. Then, right when I was getting frustrated, I started seeing pictures of fallen soldiers. About 25-30 pictures of young men in their uniforms, smiling, with their names and dates of birth and death along the bottom. Following their pictures was a line of people, each bearing an American flag with a black ribbon, embroidered with a name. It was moving and humbling, and I found myself pretty emotional again. The Marine Corps Marathon is special in this way -- you are inspired by the hundreds (thousands?) of Marines cheering you on from the sidelines, as well as by the countless young men and women who never made it home.

The last ten miles were a blur. I know that my little Miss Greater Springfield princess, Hannah (who loves to run), was my inspiration during mile 21, and that my Girls on the Run girls were my inspiration when my knee started hurting during mile 22. I know there were donut holes at mile 24, and that I ran the last 6.2 miles (after "beating the bridge") with a huge smile on my face after seeing a sign that said "Smile and wave if this is your first marathon -- you are now a marathoner."

And at 26.2, they announced my name, and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with my dad, a huge smile on my face. Because my journey has been my reward, and the marathon truly was the victory lap.

I hope that if you're reading, you take away this: you are capable of anything you set your mind to. You are in charge -- of what you accomplish, of how you feel, of your life. It is never too late to decide what you want out of your life and to determine how you are going to go after it. Let the blind woman running the Marine Corps Marathon be your inspiration too -- the only limits you have are the ones that you create for yourself.

Can't wait for the next one.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My only political post: Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know tonight was the last presidential debate. And to be honest, I have never been so excited for a television series to end. Seriously.

Ya'll, I used to enjoy politics. I studied political science in college, and at one point in my life, I dreamed of running for President. I loved politics because, like philosophy, it was an area that had no right or wrong answers. Politics, unlike hard science, is about balancing opinions. I was drawn to study political science because it centered around compromise and listening to the viewpoints of others. For me, politics were about listening to others talk about their beliefs and learning about how they formed their opinions. If you listen closely enough, a person's views tell their life story, because their views are built from their life experiences, circumstances, and situations.

But this election? This election has nothing to do with anything that made me fall in love with the study of politics. This election has everything to do with "big manning" your opponent, and nothing to do with coming up with solutions to our problems. I can't watch TV, listen to the radio, or go on Facebook without hearing a negative political ad or seeing a friend belittle another friend because they have a different opinion.

In case you forgot, our freedom to think, feel, and say what we want is what makes this country so great. We all have different life experiences and situations that have shaped our views into what they are. Further, we all have different issue priorities. The presence of many different opinions does not mean that some are wrong or even that some are more right than others, it simply means that we are unique individuals who have come to different conclusions about how we want our country run.

Are there uneducated voters? Absolutely. There are uneducated voters who will show up to vote for each candidate. But to make generalizations about people simply because they will vote for a different candidate than you will is both heartbreaking and ridiculous.

Here is what I know: the men who are running for President both care deeply about the United States of America. They both want what they believe is best for this country and for you, the American citizen. Whether or not you agree with their plans and ideas is up to you, and I encourage you to get out and vote for the candidate that best aligns with you on whatever you deem to be the most important issues. Instead of bashing the other side, the other candidate, the other voters, learn to agree to disagree. Embrace the fact that this country is beautiful and special because we have the ability to make our own choices and form our own opinions from all of the information available.

Because as we tear down each other and tear down each candidate, we further divide our country. We take this election from one in which we are choosing between two men who care about the future of this country to one where we are choosing between the lesser of the two evils.

And while you're at it, research your local congressional candidates as well. Vote for the person who best represents you, and the one who will work across the aisle to get things moving again. Because without a Congress that will compromise to move forward, neither Presidential candidate will be able to forward any of their long-winded promises.

That's all I've got. You've got two weeks to get yourself educated, and a whole lifetime to work towards making politics more of a conversation and less of a fight. November 6th is a very important day, and I hope all of you take the time to make your voice heard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What exactly does "Start the Conversation" mean?

This weekend, I'll be speaking about nutrition with a group of kids, and I've been thinking about my approach for the last few days. This will be my first planned time speaking on this topic to a group. While nutrition is something that I've been passionate about for a while, and a passion that I've shared on many, many occasions, this will be the first time that I'll have prepared a presentation and shared it.

I think it's fair to say I'm a little nervous.

But I'm also extremely excited. Public speaking is a passion of mine, and I am SO excited to talk to these kids about REAL food. About building a healthy relationship with food. About enjoying homemade cookies and made-from-scratch pizza every once in a while.

Start the Conversation is about rebuilding a healthy relationship with food. I think that we've gotten to the point where we're so obsessed with counting calories or carbs or labeling foods as bad that we don't appreciate food for what it is -- a cultural staple, our sustenance, and, most importantly, something to be enjoyed.

We feel like we can no longer enjoy the "secret family recipe" because it's made with butter or whole milk, and society tells us the calories are bad. But while we're scared to cook our food in olive oil, we're made to believe that eating cereal or microwave dinners made of countless ingredients we can't pronounce is somehow better for us.

I want to use this year to help people feel better about eating the real foods they love and less of the chemically flavored things that have been developed in a lab in order to reduce calories, fat, carbs, whatever. I want to share a message of moderation, one of enjoyment, and one of food appreciation. I want to help people stop obsessing over what they should and shouldn't eat, and instead use all of that energy towards enjoying life.

I'll share my weekend experience with you all on Sunday. If you have any advice for me for sharing this message with kids, please leave me a comment below!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's inspiring me this week

Long time no pinspirational post! Here’s a few of the things I’ve been pinning recently:

The last one is my favorite: You own your values, your integrity, your thoughts, your words, your actions and therefore, your destiny. Question: are you proud of what you own?

Happy Wednesday :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pancakes and Elvis

There are few things I love more than breakfast:


Saturday I got to make two appearances as Miss Greater Springfield, and I had a really great time! My morning started with going to the Greater Springfield Fire Department pancake breakfast, which was held in conjunction with an open house for Fire Prevention Week. I got to meet members of the community and speak with some local heroes – volunteer firefighters.

I learned some really interesting things about fire prevention (duh, Fire Prevention week), and figured I would share. I met the two high school volunteers pictured below at the smoke detector booth. Did you know that you should really have a smoke detector in every room and hallway in your house? Or that there are two different kinds of smoke detectors? I had no idea that you were supposed to have that many smoke detectors!


Later that night, I had a really special opportunity to spend the evening with a group of World War II veterans who were visiting D.C. from Tennessee. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post hosted the group for dinner, which was delicious and catered by JW and Friend’s in Springfield. It was really special getting to thank these heroes in person, and to work with the VFW veterans as well. And, they even had a special duo of performers:


Not sure anyone else can say they spent their Saturday with Marilyn and Elvis!  

Anyways, it was a pretty fantastic Saturday. I’m looking forward to this Saturday as well – I’ll be speaking about nutrition with a group of kids and also attending the Miss Hampton-Newport News pageant to see the lovely Phyllicia give up her title!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

“I am a runner because I run.”

This weekend was pretty crazy, but also pretty crazy awesome. I had two appearances as Miss Greater Springfield on Saturday, enjoyed working at Octoberfest, and then traveled to Charlottesville for the afternoon on Sunday to spend time with the chapter that I advise. Be on the lookout for a couple posts about my appearances from Saturday once I get the pictures :)

Today, I also got to go on a nice run to cap off the weekend. It was a beautiful day, and I really enjoyed jamming out to my music while pounding out my daily mileage. It’s pretty hard to believe that in two weeks, I will be able to call myself a marathoner.

Anyways, while on my run today, I had this moment of realization (like I often do. As it turns out, running time is great thinking time). Somewhere between May and now, I became a runner. As in, I feel the need to run several times a week. As in, I’m already looking forward to picking out my next race. As in, I completed twenty miles in under four hours last weekend with my dad. In the rain. Without complaining.


One of my favorite workout tops has “I am a runner because I run” written inside of the edge of the bottom of the shirt. It’s a good little mantra that has a lot of truth to it. The idea that you can become something just by putting the work in and DOING it is pretty awesome and pretty powerful.

I am a runner because I run. And because I’m at a point where I smile and jam out while doing it. And because I no longer feel the need to walk on a six mile run.

I’m a runner because running is now fun. How crazy is that?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We all fall off the healthy living wagon sometimes


I have a confession to make: I partially fell off the wagon. The healthy living wagon? Yeah, I was on it, and I really have been barely hanging on the last few weeks.

Sure, I’ve been running (I did 20 miles for the first time last Sunday!), and making my way to boxing and yoga occasionally. But eating good-for-me-food? Certainly not like I should be. Like last night? Guess who ate cotton candy like a five-year-old while celebrating the Orioles win over the Yankees (two thumbs up!):

So the last two weeks have been filled with more than my fair share of sugar. And while the ice cream, cotton candy, cake, etc has been quite delicious, I think it finally all caught up with me. I woke up this morning feeling a little bit like a bus hit me, with a wicked stomach ache.

I’m feeling much better after a day of healthy eating, my workouts are on my calendar for the next week, and I am looking forward to getting myself completely back on the wagon.

Moral of the story? Healthy living isn’t a part-time thing. It’s a full time commitment to feeling 100% all of the time, and you can bet if you pull a Jen and channel your inner child for a week, your body is going to rebel.

The good thing is, it’s a pretty easy wagon to hop back on, and feeling good happens pretty quickly.

And now, it’s time for boxing. Look out for a new Tunesday later tonight!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's talk about (school) lunch

When I think about school lunch, I think about milk in a pouch, rectangle pizza, that pumpkin ice cream they served at Thanksgiving, Cup Noodles, and iceberg lettuce and baby carrots presented as a salad. It's safe to say that the school lunch that I experienced certainly wasn't the healthiest. Not to mention that french fries counted as a vegetable, and you could buy Snickers ice cream bars every day if you wanted.

And judging by the nutrition facts posted by FCPS, they've still got a long way to go (I've got a bone to pick with the fact that elementary schools don't serve green vegetables.. corn isn't a veggie - it's a grain!). Luckily, there's an organization in Fairfax County that is "working to increase the quantities of healthy foods in Fairfax County Public Schools and supporting programs that educate students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices."

Photo from

Real Food for Kids is an organization that I'm excited to work with because its focus is to combat childhood obesity by enabling kids to choose and love real foods. Would you believe that FCPS used to serve kids a hamburger with TWENTY-SIX ingredients? A hamburger! Real Food for Kids is already making a difference, and the school system is starting to adjust it's offerings. This year, students are required to have a fruit or veggie with lunch and FCPS is no longer serving food with trans fat.

Whether you're a parent, student, former student, or just interested, you should join me at Marshall High School on October 23rd for Real Food for Kids' Food Day. Starting at 6:00, the night will feature a competition between culinary teams from five high schools and a panel of experts, including chefs, a doctor, and a nutrition policy associate. The students will be tasked with creating a tasty salad bar that meets all of the recommended nutrition guidelines (the salad bar that my high school featured was definitely the highlight of the lunch line, let's be honest), and I think it's going to be fun to see what they come up with.

 If you're interested, you can RSVP to

What school lunch sticks out in your mind? I still think the milk pouches qualify as the most bizarre.