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Running Inspiration

I’m in the high miles, tired legs, growling stomach, ‘do I really need to run again today’, time of marathon training. And honestly? I’m kind of loving it. Yes, its hard to keep rolling out of bed at 5:00 a.m. But also, yes, I love hearing the call to prayer and the hundreds of voices that sound out in chorus from the three mosques that surround our house. All these men, seeking God in community, while I pull on my running clothes and get ready to pursue a crazy dream, in solitude, and essentially, alone. I will most likely not see another female running, unless she is inside the barbed wire fences of the French or American military bases. If I do see other, male, runners, they will most likely pass me, literally leaving me in their desert dust.

On the mornings when it is harder to get out of bed, when I wonder why the heck am I doing this, in this country, preparing for this race, asking people to fund this project…when my legs feel like bricks, when the miles tick by too slowly, when the funds come in at a trickle (you can help change that!!)…I need motivation.

This training is not being done with my sisters, urging my nephew along. I’m not training in shorts and a t-shirt. I’m not training in the woods or near green grass. I can’t rely on things like that to push me along.

Then I remember these kids from the blind school who came to the track to race, inspired by the Kenyan World Record holder for the visually impaired, Henry Wanyoike.

And I remember these girls, with Girls Run 2, the only all-girls running club in Djibouti, which also has the goal of keeping girls in school.

I don’t need reminders of why I’m doing this. I know why. I love running. I care about Somalis. I believe in the power of education. A Somali proverb says, “Aqoonta waa iftiin.” Knowledge is light. A Somali educator at the university where my husband first taught, told us one reason education is so powerful in Somaliland is that it keeps young people out of trouble. It keeps them motivated for their future. It gives them hope and purpose and goals. So, no I don’t need reminders for why I’m doing this.

I need motivation from books and podcasts, I need to feel like I’m not alone. I need to hear from other runners who talk about the pain in their legs but with the kind of awe and respect that sounds slightly nuts to non-runners. Reading books about runners surmounting ridiculous challenges and the love-hate that turns into joy-pride at the end of it.

Where do I turn in those moments?


It Takes a School by Jonathan Starr

About a school in Somaliland. Not running, but a school. Education. What this race is all about. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far, I love it.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami (read it twice, listened to the audio book once, its in my ‘holds’ list from the Kindle library. again.)

“Its precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive – or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is not based on standards such as time or ranking but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.”

And: “What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue.” Right on.

The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike

I loved this. I had just read Running, a Love Story, which was okay, as is Rachel Toor’s Personal Record, a love affair with running. But these left me wanting more running. More history. Running is already fairly narcissistic, writing about it even more so. The Long Run provided exactly what I was looking for – a book structured around a woman becoming a runner but loaded with fascinating historical information and stories of women running throughout history.

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman

I enjoyed this for the unique aspect of the father-daughter relationship that Foreman focuses on. I’ve done a few runs with my kids, too, and it made me kinda teary in a few moments.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

Fiction. Fiction! I know, I just don’t read much. But, voila. Fiction.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

The quest to break the 4:00 mile. Amazing.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by The Oatmeal

Light reading, silly. Helps me not take it all too seriously.

Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

Because, I’ll say it again, I peed in a port-a-potty next to the port-a-potty in which she peed. I peed faster. She ran faster.

The recipes in the cookbook? Awesome. The attitude behind the food? Love it.

Pre by Tom Jordan

About Steve Prefontaine, ‘America’s greatest running legend.’

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This is probably my favorite book, if forced to pick. Or at least in my top five. Running plays a minor role in the story but you can’t read it and not feel inspired to persevere.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (of course, right?!)

I tried my own barefoot experiment after reading this. Djibouti with heat so hot roads melt, streets littered with everything from condoms to syringes to shattered glass to thorns to camel poop, wasn’t such a great location for the experiment. It lasted for a few runs, then morphed into affecting my shoe choices. I now alternate between shoes with a low heel-to-toe differential and a more supportive shoe and for that, I’m grateful.

Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.

Fiction. Again! What?! That’s right, the runner’s cult classic.

Runners World Magazine (including my own stories, pretty cool!)

And right now I’m reading The Way of the Runner by Adhanarand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans. (another good book) Haven’t finished this new one yet.



Another Mother Runner

Ali On the Run

Personal Best

Sometimes I find it hard to relate with runners in the United States. They think women have totally overcome hecklers warning us our uterus will fall out if we keep running. They think an 80-degree days means it is too hot to run. They are terrified of coming in last (done it) or being the only person of their gender (been there). Maybe it is time to find (start?!) a global running podcast or website…what am I saying? I think I’ve fried my brain on too many long runs.

What inspires you to run? And run and run and run?

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Check out Djiboutilicious, my award-winning cookbook. If you are moving or traveling to Djibouti, you’ll love the information and tips in Welcome to Djibouti. And if you just want more Djibouti Jones, sign up for my monthly newsletter, Stories from the Horn.

(Click here to support my Somaliland Marathon and Education Fund)

Couch to 5K before the New Year

Today I am sharing a guest post by Jane Grates.

Maybe you don’t want to race a triathlon or a marathon with me but maybe you would like to start running. Aiming for a 5k is a great way to jump start into the sport.

If you’re like most people, by now the new year’s resolutions you set for yourself back in January are probably long forgotten. Maybe this was the year you were going to start eating right and exercising regularly, but for whatever reason, those audacious ideas fell to the wayside… again… this year. As we begin to slowly creep toward the holiday season, you may be already regretting all the unhealthy decisions you’ll surely make and the weight you’re inevitably going to gain, and yet again, come January, you’ll decide that next year — for real this time! — will be the year that you at long last get your act together and start living your best and healthiest life.

Sound familiar to you?

I’ll tell you a little secret, an observation that I’ve come to over the past decade or so about health and wellness. When you decide you’re going to recommit your life to making better and healthier decisions, the nice thing is that you can start making those decisions right now. No, really! Even if you downed an entire large supreme pizza for breakfast and haven’t exercised in you can’t remember when, if you want to start making healthier decisions, you can do so immediately.

Even though 2017 is already almost over, there’s still plenty of time for you to begin making better and healthier decisions. One of the best ways I think you can do this is by setting a goal to do your first 5k race by New Year’s Eve in 2017. That means that you’ll have all of December to both train for and complete a 5k, approximately 3.1 miles. Even if you’ve never run a step in your life, you’d be surprised at what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Below, I’ll detail some suggestions that’ll help get you on the path toward completing your first 5k by the end of 2017.

Get the OK from your doc first. Before jumping right into things, and especially if you haven’t had a physical in a while, go talk to your doc and make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. Just because you think you may feel or look healthy doesn’t mean that everything is ok on the inside. Plus, you’ll want to get your doctor’s blessing before starting a new fitness program for the first time. Just play it safe and go see him/her.

Begin really slowly and without much expectation. If you’ve never run before, or if you haven’t run in a long time, it may be tempting to think that you’re going to put your pedal to the metal right away and go out, guns blazing, right from the start. That’s a great way to injure yourself, so I can’t suggest not doing that enough! Instead, start conservatively. Go out for a walk and try to run for 10 seconds. See how that feels, and begin walking again. When you first begin training, expect that you’ll actually spend more time getting ready to go run than you will actually running. It may be frustrating, but the reality is that many runners injure themselves because they do distances their bodies are incapable of handling or because they run much too fast too frequently. Particularly when you’re beginning, remember that you’re new to this. You won’t be an expert right away, and that’s okay! You may think you’re slow as molasses, and that’s ok, too. Just be patient with yourself.

Get properly-fitting shoes from someone who knows the sport. Runnings nice in that it doesn’t require much “stuff,” but you’ll benefit from having a good-fitting pair of running shoes. I’d highly recommend going to a physical, brick-and-mortar running store in your area to talk to a salesperson — who’s also probably a runner — who knows the latest and greatest and can recommend a make and model (and size) of shoe for you. It can be tempting to go pick something pretty off the shelf, particularly if it’s on sale, but again, many runners get injured because they get shoes that don’t fit their feet very well or that don’t offer support like they need. Talk to a professional to get an opinion about what you need first.

Consider hiring a coach or using a C25k plan online. If you’re cautious about your training and making sure you don’t overdo things or injure yourself, you may want to consider hiring a coach for your first 5k or minimally, finding a couch to 5k program (often called C25k) online. Working with a coach will bring added costs, but coaches are trained and seasoned professionals who have worked with thousands of athletes over the years and can help ensure that you arrive to the starting line healthy and ready to rumble. Training plans online can also do a similarly-good job, but unfortunately, most any plan you pull from online will be more cookie-cutter in design and not account for your individual strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.

Remember to have fun with the process! It can be tempting to want to make your new C25k goal the driving force in your life, but remember to have fun with your new challenge! Some days your training will feel fantastic, and other days it’ll probably suck. That’s the nature of training: lots of ebbs and flows. Remember no workout will make or break your race; instead, it’s the totality of the experience and your training regime that will have the greatest influence on your race performance. It’s great to have goals, but I think for your first race, it’s most important to have fun and to finish with a smile on your face. You will literally not have a first time again, so enjoy it and revel in the memory you’re creating.

As we embark on the final month of 2017, it’s important to remember that there’s still time to make good on your fitness goals that you may have set in January. One of the best ways to help stay on track through the holidays is by getting into a training schedule, and with all the holidays coming up around the corner, training for your first 5k in December is a great way to help guide your workouts through the often harried holiday season. Give yourself a chance during this final part of the year, and I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can do when you really go all-in on a fitness goal for once. I’m rooting for you!

JANE GRATES: Nature lover, doer and record lover. Loving the sweet spot between beauty and function. I make random things with friends.

By |November 27th, 2017|Categories: Running|Tags: , , , |0 Comments