Balance: And there’s someone I’d like you to meet…

Over the weekend I flew home and surprised my family for my brother’s graduation from college! Brian graduated with high honors and we are very proud of him! It was AWESOME!!!

Of course I couldn’t leave the Nashville airport without a pat down…I tell ya, I’m like a magnet for those things, ahh! Home was amazing: complete with plenty of mom’s delicious cooking, sleep, good wine, friends, laughs and family time. On the plane ride to New Jersey I thought a lot about my dad and how he taught me to run when I was a little girl. Below is a picture of my dad and I at my brother’s graduation. I love this one!!

One Sunday morning I woke up, looked out my window and saw my dad walking around the cul-de-sac in front of our house. I knew he was cooling down after his run. In an impulse reaction, I jumped out of bed. My feet hit the cold hard wood floor of my bedroom and I raced down the hall through a maze of laundry and down the stairs to meet my dad at the back door. Can you teach me to run, I begged?

That same Sunday afternoon my dad took me to Sports Authority to get a pair of running shoes. As I walked down the kids shoe aisle I was in awe. My dad reached up, took down a box and handed it to me. I knew what was inside, but in an instant became shy. I was like a young child who is mesmerized by Santa Claus, but when the time actually comes to sit on his lap they become hesitant. I gently pulled back the tissue paper which revealed a pair of New Balance running shoes that were my size. I beamed with pride thinking, I’m going to be a runner just like my dad. I was five years old.

While running has brought me tremendous joy and I had the amazing opportunity to be a collegiate athlete, it was also a detrimental channel for me, when I had my eating disorder in high school. So you see, running is really just like anything in life that demands an equilibrium. We must strive for balance. I will be able to hear my doctor’s words for the rest of my life: Virtue is always in the middle. 

Balance is beautiful and something we all need to strive after, and in reality it will be something we are continually striving for. As each new stage in our life will demand more from us. Tonight, Made in His Image would like to challenge you to seek balance.

What about you? Where do you need to strive for balance in your life? Perhaps it’s with exercise…maybe you over exercise, maybe you don’t exercise at all, and need to start? Maybe you overeat, turn to food for comfort, or under eat? Maybe you’ve thought about praying a little more, but tell yourself you don’t have the time? Maybe you need to go back to Sunday Mass or praying a Rosary?

Maybe you need to strive for balance in suffering, or an illness? Instead of dwelling on misfortune or feeling trapped by the past, you could try your best to mimic and cooperate with God, who will, with our cooperation (faith and hope), do His best to turn everything into good.

However, He needs our participation, determination and perseverance. We are only human and will fall, move backward, succumb to discouragement, which is the first fruit of self-love. We have been instructed by His Son to get back up. Rekindle your effort to see the good in others who have hurt you and to see the things that you have and will continue to be inspired to do as a result of what they did or did not do that disappointed and hurt you.

This it the calling for each and every one of us. To get out of ourselves, see the good in others and to keep doing it over and over until we catch our stride with God who is always with us and waiting for us – like a child learning to ride on a two-wheel bicycle without training wheels, having been pushed forward by Our Father who stays with us, encourages us, comforts us when we fall, and prods us on to get back up and try again. Finally, when we do it, catch our balance and ride forward in glee, we are free and able to see that all that happened was for our good. Then it is our turn to inspire others to find the good in their lives.

A Special Post From My Dad

I am very similar to my dad in some ways, primarily our love for the outdoors. He was a runner as a boy, and taught me to run as a young child. He grew up at the ocean, and some of my fondest childhood memories include the ocean and learning to ride the waves. One of my favorite memories during the summer is when my dad would take some of us camping on Lake Champlain. And by us, I’m referring to my siblings. I am one of seven and he would take three or four of us. Not everyone liked the idea of filtering our drinking water, canoeing to our island, killing snakes and fishing for dinner. I on the other hand, loved it. I get that from my dad. Today I asked him to be a guest writer for my blog and here is what he wrote.

Isn’t this picture so cute? This is my dad and I at the beach! I look so happy, I love it!

I am Maura’s Father.  Maura has asked me to write about my running experiences in my life.  I have been running since I was sixteen years of age.  I am now 60 years old.  In these forty-four years of running, I have learned many things about myself, others and God, for running is foremost an opportunity for me to think, contemplate and unclutter my mind of all the distractions.  Most people see running as an aerobic activity to help you be healthier so you can live longer.  I grant you those results do occur if you stay with it but that is not why I primarily run. Running affords me primarily the opportunities to be by myself to think about the day’s issues or life’s challenges.  I prefer to rise every morning around 4:30 so I can run before I go to Mass and start my professional day as a school principal.

My days are very hectic for I am responsible for the academic well being of 500 students everyday as well as the professional development of our faculty and staff which support our school.  Running provides me with relaxation from the stress and build up of tension that comes about from my daily activities of living and working to follow the will of God.  My prayer is enhanced by this physical activity for I can focus more clearly on what I need to do everyday for Almighty God

How did I start this whole experience which for me is such an important part of my day and life?  I was most fortunate to grow up across the street from the Atlantic Ocean.  I could stand in my bedroom and see the sun rise every morning and look to the horizon.  I could see the waves curl, crash and wash up on the beach.  I could hear the gulls squawking and the resultant sounds of dropping clam shells on our roof, driveway or decks to crack them open to eat.  I have found recollections of the smell of the salt drifting off the ocean and permeating my room.  I could lie in my bed at night and hear the waves and fall off to sleep.  Why wouldn’t I want to spend more time closer to these experiences?  Where I lived we had a boardwalk built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression in the 1930’s.  A boardwalk is as the title suggests, boards laid horizontally about fifteen feet wide on top on the sand and parallel to the Atlantic.  It is here that I began my running career as a young boy of sixteen.

I am always amazed as to why I did not begin this experience earlier in my life.  At the time, running was not at all popular in America and those that ran were considered loners and misfits.  I will admit to being a loner and one who enjoyed the time to myself.  From those early years, I matured in my running to running seventy and eighty miles a week which included running a marathon every Saturday morning.  I was young and enjoyed the freedom and relaxation that running provided.  In fact, my first date with Maura’s Mother was to run five miles.

Over the years, I have decreased my weekly mileage as my responsibilities increased, varied and became more time sensitive.  Today, I run twenty-five to thirty miles a week and still absolutely and positively love it.  I try to run every day.  The medical profession says that running every day at my age is not beneficial.  For me, it is essential for I need that emotional release of relaxing as I run.

20 miles

My sister Clare has been writting about her marathon training for the past month for my blog. The following is by Clare.

This past summer, on my way down to Nashville to visit guess who? Yes, the incredible producer of this blog and organization, Made in His Image, I was reading Born To Run, which explains an epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, Christopher McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. One paragraph from the book hit home for me when they were naturally talking about marathons. They were discussing how a character from the book was training for the Olympic marathon and she didn’t have a coach or a training program and she didn’t even own a watch. She just rolled out of bed every morning, downed a veggie burger and ran as far as she felt she could, which usually turned out to be 20 miles! She said that she did it to “unravel the mystery she thought marathon running presented.”

Well, my friends, I DO have a training plan and a watch for that matter. My fellow training partner, Caitlin and I are in week 13 of marathon training for the Niagara Fall International Marathon in 5 weeks. WooHoo! We are both way to hardcore for our own good, such as meeting each other in the library at 3 am to study for neuroscience exams and studying till all we could do is hysterically laugh at how we pronounce crazy medical terminology. We decided that we should combine our wild sides to train for 26.2 miles, and finish out our final semester of graduate school with a bang!

So, last weekend, Caitlin and I met naturally in the dusk of morning to run 20 miles together. In my opinion the total effect of a long run is getting up before the sun rises, but that’s just me. I dropped water bottles and packets of energy gel at miles 7, 14, 17. Most distance runners have at some point “hit the wall”, a term often used to describe complete exhaustion.  Energy Gels are there to help with that.  On runs over the 10-12 mile mark, they are indispensable. Gels consisted of different carbs, which are absorbed at different intervals that give you a steady stream of energy; thus keeping you from crashing. They also contain potassium, which helps with maintaining muscle contractions.

When we hit mile 7, the morning sun was just about coming up and it was a cool, beautiful morning. Caitlin is used to running hills, so I crafted out a nice flat run that went through woods near my house. At times, the run was rough and we needed each other to persevere through and motivate each other in what we were trying to accomplish. Although it was hard, and the last couple strides of mile 19 were rough, we finished! We both enjoyed a nice tall glass of chocolate milk a few minutes later, which by the way is an awesome post run drink. Protein is perfect after a run so that amino acids return to your bloodstream to get to the tissue in your body and repair your muscles.

All athletes or should I say athletic people strive for perfection and try hard to minimize their mistakes. Being an athlete my whole life, I often struggle with being called a “perfectionist” and wanting to do all things without mistakes. Training for this marathon has taught me a lot about how to measure greatness and accomplishments. In a world where honor and fame are recognized as success, individuals often find their value in high achievement or conversely their lack of value in failure. I don’t know about you, but the times in my life where I have discovered the most about myself was when I have failed or persevered through something that was a challenge.

So my friends, go after those dreams you have deep within your heart that you thought you never could reach. Our call to greatness has nothing to do with being perfect or running a speedy marathon time or never making mistakes, but in striving for a dream that God has instilled within our heart to achieve. There is greatness within each one of us that is attainable!

17 miles!

A lot of people think running is the same thing as jogging. To put it bluntly, it’t not. And while I most certainly do not intend to degrade anyone who jogs, my sister Clare is a runner. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a jogger, but compared to Clare this past weekend I might have to put myself in that category. On Sundays I only have time to run a quick 5 miles after work and before evening Mass. In preparation for her third marathon this fall, Clare ran 17 miles this weekend. And yes, that would be all at once. Amazing right? Here is her marathon training update for all of you advanced runners out there. The following was written by Clare, a former NCAA Division 1 runner.

My sister Clare and Megan post Marine Corps Marathon, 2010.


Perhaps the worst part about marathon training is knowing and thinking about the pain that will come sooner or later on the run. I believe marathon training itself humbles and exhilarates you at the same time. That in itself, is the lure that brings you back when you have forgotten about the last one. Frank Shorter, a former American long-distance runner who won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Olympic Games, once said “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”

As I embark on week 11 of marathon training, that little voice inside my head is beginning to get louder and louder as I ask myself, why am I doing this to myself again? People ask me what I did this morning. And I tell them “Oh, I got up at 6 am and ran 17 miles.” Needless to say I got some weary looks.

But yes, before the East Coast was ravaged this weekend by hurricane Irene (I would have run during the storm, but great friends and family were concerned for my safety. I love running in the rain!) I got up and ran 17 miles in preparation for my 26.2 mile endeavor in 8 weeks. Overall, it was a great run! Got up a little early and ingested some carbohydrates to help maintain my blood glucose levels during my run. Did the first 12 miles on this awesome trail through the woods near my house. Then I ran back to my house where a half of a banana, cold glass of water, and my roommate Megan was waiting for me to finish the last 5 miles.

At around mile 9, I was feeling a bit tired and then I knew I need some “reinforcements.” I called upon them from Our Blessed Mother and the saints. That is when I just start praying for the strength to persevere. Having the motivation of knowing someone is waiting for you at a certain mile is also awesome. So for all you long distance runners out there, having a running training buddy is a great motivator because you think in your head “I can’t stop because they are waiting for me.”

Therefore my friends, knowing you will experience fatigue, pain and have to be mentally strong to simply keep going is what makes you a marathon runner. It is important to remember that feeling tired is what training is about. From a physiology standpoint you receive many benefits from marathon training only after you’re tired. So the goal is to run beyond the point of being tired so that the body is stimulated to grow stronger and gain more resistance to tiredness.

I have learned over the past couple years that marathon training or running in general is a great metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it. It is a battle of your mental will to keep on persevering and complete the task you started. So in our present culture that offers every alternative to avoiding pain. I leave you with a question – is there any kind of true love in this world without some type of resistance, struggle or cross?

Running advice from Clare

Contrary to popular opinion Clare is my younger sister. Yep, that would be correct, I am older than Clare. For some weird reason people always assume that Clare is older; I guess I need to start acting my age more huh? Anyway I am a year and a half older than Clare, shocking I know. I have asked Clare to be a guest writer for my blog to give advice to more advanaced runners because she is a two time marathon runner and knows a thing or two when it comes to running.

Clare is a former NCAA Division 1 athlete. She ran for the cross country and track teams at Seton Hall University. In the fall of 2010, she completed the Harrisburg Marathon and then last year the Marine Corps Marathon. Currently, Clare is training for her third marathon this fall in upstate NY. In short, Clare is amazing! The following is written by Clare. And she will be a regular writer for this section of my blog.

Clare (right) and our friend Megan after completing the Marine Corps Marathon.

Hello, and welcome to Maura’s blog. I am so happy to be writing for I fight Him with love. I am even more excited about my sister’s ministry Made in His Image. When her clinic is built I am going to head up a running group for girls recovering from eating disorders and help educate them on running in moderation. For now, here is what I have for you. Thanks for reading.

At times I feel compelled to ask myself why I have this innate drive within me to get up at four a.m. to complete a 20 mile run for marathon training. I mean goodness gracious at times it is difficult for me to get up at the crack of dawn to a delicious cup of espresso, but a three and a half hour run? Why put yourself through 18-weeks of strenuous training to only conclude with a 26.2 mile race? However, from the time I finished my first short race, the challenge of a 26.2 mile race always hovered in the back of my mind. For sure, the 5-K race is pleasant, the 10K race is commonplace, and the half-marathon a definite self-esteem propelling long distance race, but in my mind none of these have the mere distinction that a marathon has alone. It was a feat I always wanted to accomplish, had to accomplish, and ultimately did accomplish. Why, one might ask? Because for a runner the achievement of a marathon is always something left to undertake. It gives someone an opportunity to test the limits of their perseverance and accomplish something extraordinary when you don’t think you have it within yourself to take one more step.

So to all of my running friends out there who want to undertake this grand and glorious endeavor I have jotted down a few tips for marathon training that I have learned…

Pre-long run : Starting out with sufficient energy reserves is vital, but it’s best to allow one to four hours after eating a proper meal before setting off, otherwise your body may not have had time to digest the food properly. I normally complete my long run in the morning, so I get up ½ to hour earlier before start running. If you’re heading out first thing, think about grabbing a quick snack like a banana or energy bar, perhaps a slice of toast or half a bagel. Alternatively, a few swigs of a sports drink can give you a quick boost – these are easier to digest than solid food, and are a good source of carbohydrate if you can’t stomach anything more substantial. I normally just eat a Cliff energy bar (Chocolate Brownie are my favorite!) Keeping hydrated while training is also an absolute must. As a rough guide, try to drink 500ml of water, diluted juice or a sports drink hour before a run, and another 150ml just before you leave.

During long run: If you plan to run for less than an hour, plain water should be all you need to top up your fluid levels while you’re out. Exercise for longer, though, and you may find sports drinks helpful. These usually contain sugar and electrolytes (including sodium) to help replenish fluid loss.  For long runs (over 60 minutes), consider taking a snack with you so you’re not left running on empty. Energy gels washed down with water will give you an added boost, as will jelly beans or a banana. Few runners are able to tolerate anything more while on the run. Running is a high intensity activity. The body uses a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fat to burn energy. However, carbohydrates are the most efficient form of fuel available to burn. Carbohydrates are nothing but sugar and they store and transport energy. If the body runs low on carbohydrates, runners commonly experience hitting the wall, which is no fun!! I love the power-gel brand that has an espresso flavor that has a shot of espresso in it. My kind of boost if you ask me! If you’re planning to eat or drink during a race, try doing so a few times in training beforehand. There’s no way of predicting how your body might react to anything new and you don’t want any nasty surprises!

Post-run: Replacing fluid after a run is just as important as before and during. Drinking around 500ml of water or diluted juice in the first 30 minutes after your run should be plenty, but if you have a headache or feel nauseous you should have more. After hard sessions, especially if you plan to train again the next day, think about having a recovery drink. The carbohydrate-protein ratio of these drinks will speed up muscle repair, rehydrated you quickly and also give your immune system a boost. Energy bars are also good for topping up your fuel reserves when you get back. Like recovery drinks, they contain a mixture of carbohydrate and protein that will help your muscles recover faster. Other good post-run snacks include eggs on toast, a fruit smoothie and a tuna sandwich. If you can, try to eat within an hour of completing your run, as this will maximize the benefits.

So my friend’s marathon training is no simple achievement. It is an epic adventure that I am sure you will not regret. The harder the struggle the more glorious the triumph is what I always say. Stay posted on more tips. St. Sebastian (patron saint of athletes), Pray for us!