The Incomplete Book of Running review

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a local celebrity, Peter Sagal, who just so happens to live in Oak Park, runs, and is a host of NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! AND he wrote a book that is supposed to be about running, but actually touches so much more.

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Peter has a story that isn’t completely different from mine. Although his divorce sounded much messier than mine (kids were involved) we both went through a divorce and we both turned to running to help heal our emotional wounds. While you may be thinking why or how would running help you? It’s not just the act of running but actually more so the act of running with others that helped me the most. Back in 2017, I entered the year married but separated. Married but divorce was legally pending thanks to my husband who filed right before the holidays. I was getting push back from my soon-to-be ex over credit card balances, video game systems, and microchip registration for our pets.

I was seeing my therapist weekly as well as reading a book and meditating daily, as well as working out as much as possible only to survive and rise above everything falling apart around me.

When Michael Chitwood came to my new church that I had just started attending the last two months to talk about his story and the Chicago Marathon, I felt a shift in my heart. And I heard God tell me that this was the year I was to train and run my first marathon ever. Everyone, including Michael, said it would be life changing. But I really didn’t know what he meant until I witnessed the transformation within me. There’s something about lacing up and sweating it out for minutes and then hours at a time with people. Things you never think to talk about come out. And there’s no judgment, because just when you think you’re the only one who’s going through struggles, your running friends have struggles of their own.

Through running, I’ve learned that no one is perfect. We all lace up for different reasons. Some of us run slow (me) and some run fast (Peter). But at the end, we’re all bettering ourselves. Whether we’re running the local 5K or the Boston Marathon, we are bettering ourselves. I love how Peter talks about running. He’s ran 14 marathons, and he didn’t start until he was 40. Despite all the odds, he qualified for Boston and has a crazy marathon PR of 3 hours and 9 minutes.

He also survived through his divorce that spanned years, and is now no longer running marathons, but still lacing up and inspiring others to do the same. If you’re on the fence of whether to start running or not, or if you’re an experienced runner, I would recommend this book either way. Peter provides insight into the world of running that I haven’t seen elsewhere. And writes in a very easy way to understand. This is a relatable book, even if you haven’t ran a marathon or not planning to.

Running is a lot like life

I recently started reading a book by a local runner appropriately named The Incomplete Book of Runningย by Peter Sagal. Even within the first chapter, I saw that this book wasn’t just about running. It’s way more, and running is way more than just running.

You have good days and bad days in running. Some days, the weather’s perfect and so is your pace. You feel like you could run forever and a day. Your feet feel like they’re running on clouds and there’s a stupid smile pasted on your face. These are the days we look forward to and hope for.

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But then there are the bad days. The weather is cold, wet or dreary. Your feet feel like they’re weighing you down. You can barely look ahead let alone up and above the dreaded horizon. Each step is felt and you count them until your last step. You have to push yourself every step of the way, and don’t even think about your pace because that’s a lost cause. If it’s bad enough, you might even consider quitting running for good.

And these days don’t just apply to running for fun, but also race days. You can train and prepare and get to the start line on race day only for everything to fall apart between the start and finish line. Now think about life. Life is the same way. We have good days and bad days. We train and prepare hard for certain things. And sometimes, hopefully usually, we are successful. But nothing is guaranteed. We may fail, but it’s up to us to get back up and dust ourselves off.

You may not finish that marathon, or you might have a terrible running day or streak of days. Or maybe even weeks, months, years. But those running shoes will be waiting for you to lace them up and try, try again.

What keeps you going?

Lively Athletics

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Growing up, I strived to fit in. I was made fun of most of elementary and middle school, I felt accepted in high school, and then I attended one of the largest US universities where I felt like I was drowning the first year. Once I was out on my own, I felt alone in a big city of Chicago. For about 6 years, I felt connected through a small Kung Fu school in Ravenswood.

But a mixture of life circumstances and the owner not caring about me and my welfare led me to moving away and leaving the school. When moving to a brand new area, I was scared that once again I wouldn’t fit in. Just about a month after moving, I entered a local running store named Lively Athletics for a marathon training run that was put together by World Vision and my church. And I saw a chalkboard with a cute sign that said weekly co-ed beer runs every Wednesday night 6:30pm. What I didn’t realize was just how much this little beer run would change my life.

I went to check it out that very Wednesday and instantly fell in love with the runners, store, and running route. Beer was a bonus. I actually went 12 weeks in a row to get a T shirt at 6 weeks and a beer glass at 12. That’s dedication. But through all the sweaty runs, I made friends. And I felt like I fit in with my new community.

The more I learned about Lively, the more I fell in love with it. It’s a sister-owned local running store that caters to women and children. Sorry, guys, but you already know women are taking over. And the owners are amazing. Kate, mother of two beautiful girls, cranking out marathons left and right. And Anne, mother of two as well, a power-lifter and cross-fitter. Together, they’ve created not just another running store, but a welcoming running community for runners of all ages, sizes and paces.

Every time I lace up on a Wednesday, I know that I won’t feel judged or left behind. Even now that I skip the beer afterwards, the gathering of sweaty runners afterwards is something I look forward to. It feels like I belong here, and that I belong in Oak Park thanks to Lively Athletics. And if you’re a runner looking for anything running (or tennis!) related, hit up this local gem. You won’t be disappointed.

Writings from the other side

I’ve been dealing with a few thoughts lately that have been coming at me from the other side. Bear with me.

“No offense Jen, but I’d never marry someone who’s divorced.”

How I remain unoffended is another story for another time, but what about being divorced makes someone undesirable? Why is it an instant red flag situation? And if this is true, why did I marry a divorced person? Where were you 4 years ago as I was tying the knot with the devil himself?

I guess if I had that mindset, then I would’ve never gotten married in the first place and I would have less baggage. A less red red flag. Or maybe I’d have more. Who knows. A part of me thinks the marriage kept me out of trouble though. And it taught me a lot.

It taught me that just because I know how to love unconditionally and trust someone doesn’t mean everyone knows this. Also, while I saw a glimmer of hope and felt loved by my ex, it was fleeting as once things got hard, he ran away. But only partially. I learned that some people can literally live on lies, and create two separate lives based on these lies. A part of me wonders if there’s an app for that: keep track of all your lies app.

I also learned how to love myself. By being discarded, I found myself and finally see how much I truly am worth. I found not only my legs, but my entire body, mind, and soul all came in sync with each other. Enough to not just run my first marathon, but also to start a whole new life that I never thought I’d have. Finally, I am happy to be on my own. I am getting comfortable in my independence and freedom in this new world.

But there’s that nagging voice inside my head. What about my future husband, if there is one? Another marriage? I mean, if I can find a guy willing to roll the dice on me (since I’m so unwanted). Please note the tone of sarcasm in this last sentence. But for real, if and when I do decide to potentially marry again, what does this mean for me? And for the man I decide to take a chance on?

There will be demons that I will have to fight. I’m actually already fighting them now, way before even considering marrying again.

Am I good enough? Will I be good enough for someone to marry? Will someone love me the way I deserve to be loved? Unconditionally and until death? The way marriage is supposed to be. Will I be able to trust someone enough to take the plunge again, after everything I’ve been through? They say better to have loved and lost than to never have loved. I find comfort in that and I agree with it. Which is really hard to say because I was really hurt, for a very long time. Longer than I’d like to admit. Some days I still hurt a little over it, but everyday is getting better as I find my strength and courage to push forward and move on, one step at a time.

One thing I have learned is that until I am completely over what happened to me, and completely happy with myself, I won’t be ready to even entertain the idea of marriage. I know this time is the time that I need to focus on myself and my relationship with the Lord. My strength and courage come from Him. He has opened so many doors in my life it’s overwhelming. He has answered all of my prayers, and has given me more than I could ever even imagine asking for. One year ago he freed me from the hell I was living in, and he answered my prayer by having my friend invite me to her church, which is now my church. And that was just the beginning.

IMG_20170923_104230I’m not perfect. I will likely always have doubts and those voices in my head that I must battle. But I know what I deserve, and I strive to be the best person I can be. I know my ability to love, deeply and unconditionally. And I feel that same love from Jesus, so at the end of the day even if I end up being alone (and with 30 cats) I will be just as happy as I would be with someone. I don’t find my worth or happiness in others (if I did then that comment above would affect me way more). Instead, I find my happiness within me and my joy in God. He brings me everything I need and even the things I don’t realize I need. He goes above and beyond to show His love to me. And it’s indescribable.

So to my future husband, if you exist, if you’re reading this then you can see that I’m a work in progress. But aren’t we all? All I ask from you is patience and love. If you choose to love me, I will choose to love you. Everyday. For the rest of our lives.

But until then, I’m going to enjoy the shit out of life with my fur babies, my friends, and my family. I’m going to run marathons, or maybe just half-marathons (they’re much easier!). I’m going to lift weights and practice yoga. I’m going to not only attend but also provide help at my church. I’m going to spend time in God’s word and grow with Him. I’m going to enjoy my alone time as much as my time with others. And I’m going to heal myself. I choose myself everyday, which may seem selfish, but I know it’s necessary during this season in my life.

All I can say is I’m worth it. We’re worth it. And with God anything is possible. Always and forever.

With love.

Jen

Running

Running adrift, free from the chains this world tries to put on me.
Music: www.bensound.com