When you have to, How Do You Let Go?

I am not very good at letting go. I cling onto memories of things “I lost in the fire“-lost friends, relations and places left behind. I sob, every time I move away from a place,  even after a mere sojourner. I hate to let go. Yes, I even have separation anxiety, close to the beginning of a new school year. I cry at the thought of sending my child back to school. That’s crazy, right?

Biko and Grandpa (RIP)

Biko and Grandpa (RIP)

More confessions…I have been known to cry over relationships..not too many. I know of only two…Oh! Maybe, three.
One was a guy I was engaged to [Yes, once upon a time, I convinced myself that, “I am the marriage type!”]. Our relationship was transcontinental, but we would visit each other a couple of times a year. When I would go to his country, I preferred to stay in a hotel or temporary rental, instead of moving into his family home. He would come stay with me, while I was in-country. Once, I asked him to move back to his place, because I did not want to continue with the relationship. I ended up crying the entire night over my decision, that he caught a cab and came back to me that night.

The second is the man I fell in love with, aka “the only man I ever loved”. Our goodbyes were filled with buckets of tears. I remember crying, holding each other so tight, at the gates of “Cambridge H-Square,” on the morning of our ‘separation,’ as he was leaving town and I was heading for my final exam. Amidst the goodbye and good luck hugs, we cried so hard that we did not wanna let go..

I thought I had no more tears left to cry for guys. But there came a third. The type you cannot easily or willingly extricate from your life, no matter how hard you wish. I remember crying because of what felt like the end of a chapter, ”…leaving me out to the dogs…” A dream jettisoned…! Letting go has never been an easy test for me.

I will spare you recalling the buckets of tears, I have cried, each time I am separating from family and friends, in Uganda, or scattered around the world. The separation kills me, it is not so easy to let go….

But recent events dwarf all those trying moments. I found myself asking, When it is the only option you have, how do you really Let GO? Especially when your life depends on it, how do you let go? How does a family make the hard decision of, letting go of a loved one?

I am talking here about the loss of my son’s Grandpa, this past Sunday, after a long and shabby illness. It ate him up. He suffered through it. It was painful, especially the last five months of his life. A little bit of relief here and there, but most of it was nasty pain!

I was the perpetual optimist, that he would pull through. Perhaps because, I watched him through all the pain and suffering. The times he would literally drag himself to walk, to make a bowl of soup in the kitchen or drive to pick up grandma from The City bus, or drive across the country on family trips. Throughout it all, he kept his humility, and drive to keep going, with bouts of relief, recovery and laughter.

Grandpa delivered on his commitments, whether to family, friends or within social circles.
This one gesture particularly stands out to me, involving a family of a single mom and two girls from the grandparents’ muslim community. The mom left for work early morning before the school bus arrival time, yet the family lived away from the bus line. So, grandpa offered to drive the two girls to the bus stop on school days. Every morning, he left home shortly before seven o’clock, drove twenty minutes to pick them up from their home, to bus stop, and back home another twenty minutes. Again in the afternoon, he drove out twenty minutes, picked the girls from the bus stop and took them home, and drove back home. Even in the brutal, gruesome winter, grandpa woke up, and drove through the snow, up the windy mountain roads where they lived.

On my part, I was always in awe of his humility, sometimes to my discomfort. Particularly this year, he was not in great shape, but still committed to help the single mother and her two girls. Nor was I a stranger to his humility, even though I turned it down sometimes. I noticed that somebody was emptying the trash basket in the bathroom, every week on “Trash Pick-Up Day”. Once I found grandpa emptying my basket, and I asked him to please not worry about it. I knew it came from a good place, but the African in me does not believe in making the elderly ‘wait on’ me. Instead, I, the child should work for them.

And there is more to grandpa’s helping hand that I partook of. When child and I returned to the US after a couple of years abroad, we decided to move in with the grandparents, closer to my job market in NYC [and the North East corridor]. Grandpa drove 850 miles down to Georgia to pick us up, and another 850 miles back to Pennsylvania. Saving us what would have cost an arm and leg, to transport the two of us and all our property on a plane ride.

He did it again, earlier this year, when I ran the Boston Marathon. Grandpa offered to drive me to Boston, though I decided to leave home with child of mine two days in advance, to allow me ample time to pick up my runner’s package and rest before marathon day. Still, he and grandma drove over five hours to Boston to cheer for me on marathon day. They arrived on Sunday night, bless their souls, but grandpa could not join grandma along the marathon route on that cold rainy Marathon day. Instead, he stayed in the hotel room, kept his eyes glued on the TV marathon screening, and waited to catch a glimpse of me. That is the true human spirit.

I think of grandpa, and I think of humility, commitment, dedication and dependability. I think back to all the times I asked him, “How are you doing grandpa?” And he would say, “Same.” Sometimes, I did not want to ask him, because there was nothing new to ask about. Or because I felt useless, asking how he felt when I was not gonna change a thing. At times I self-doubted whether to help or not. Was I undermining his ability and drive to do things on his own? Would I ably fill-in for his close family? He probably shared similar concerns.

Grandpa also had trouble letting go of — carrying large suitcases onto the car roof when preparing for a family road trip, or his daughter’s large laundry bags from the house into her car. He had trouble letting go of driving long distances. Even on our last road trip with him to Maryland, he insisted on driving the entire trip, when I offered to help drive. I was amazed at his mental stamina, driving without much to eat or drink, so he did not have to get up to use the bathroom. By then, his health had deteriorated, with excruciating pain from every part of his body. That would be his last road trip, followed by indefinite hospitalization.

Yet, he soldiered on for the love of his family. He loved his wife and children, so dearly! He even raised more than his biological children. The stories he shared with me, and the stories I heard about him in life and death attest to his true love for people. While quite reserved, he was a “Man-of-the-People”. He loved to engage with and reach out to people. Whether as a part of the “militant community patrol,” that cleaned drugs and pimps off his Brooklyn neighborhood, back when the NYPD would not venture into some neighborhoods. Or Summer Camp organizer (with grandma) for young muslim kids when they lived in NYC.

While I do not want to romanticize grandpa’s life, as I knew it, I hope to underscore that, we each live multiple lives in our lifetime. Given a chance, we would do ourselves a favor to right the wrongs, that are always part of our human experience. For most of what I knew about grandpa, he turned a new leaf, or leaves in his life. He credited his conversion to Islam for rescuing him from street life. As one of his friends said at the funeral, he was in praise of Islam for transforming his life.

I am grateful grandpa saw the good in me. I told him, “I am grateful that you always say good about me.” Whenever I met his social circles, I did not have to introduce myself because he had already done the introduction of me as a runner, highly educated, excellent mom and healthy eater. In a way, he was my cheerleader. He cheered on child of mine, or as he called him, Biko-man!

But time came, when grandpa could not hang onto his strength, when life was draining out of him, and the family had to take the toughest decision to “Let Go…”
I felt like a denialist. I thought he would pull through. He suffered too much not to live to celebrate beating the illness. I watched the surge and slumps in his health. When he could not sit and eat, and when a smile returned to his face. He tried scientific and religious medicines. He tried homeopathy, and chiropractic treatment. He tried staying positive, looking forward to returning home, and eating my health food. He asked me to cook for him. I obliged a couple of times; Not anymore…

So, the lesson for me, from this experience is, even when we have to Let Go, we do not entirely lose out. We keep fond memories, always close to our hearts. Because those memories never fade. So, may we always see the good in people, and hang on to the beauty they possess. Because even when we have to LET GO, we can still keep them close to us, in our memory.

Where has all the time Gone?

Boston StrongI do not know about yours, but right here I wonder, where has all the time gone? Days seem to run pretty fast here. The other day, it was Monday, now it is Saturday, going on to Sunday!

Dear Calendar, Please allow me to catch my breath!

This is the second weekend of May 2015, and the second week, since I did the Boston Marathon. I am in “recovery mode”; I think I am doing pretty good. Doing nothing crazy, with my body. A couple of runs here and there, not going for mileage, yet. Just happy to go out, when I can.

My legs are doing quite great, back to pounding the tarmac. No 40+ miles per week runs at present, just enough to keep me excited that I went out and did it. A week ago, I ran only 10 miles, this week I have already done 13.9 miles. And it is it not even the end of the week. I still wake up on a couple of weekends, and just do it.

Don’t get it twisted; I am not down and out just yet. You’re probably wondering how I can fall that far from grace! I know, it can be a little haunting and taunting not to do 40+ miles per week. Though, I am not freaking out at all. I know I need a little break.

Good news, my fundraising efforts seem to be styling up; I have two new donors to my CrowdRise account, with $100.00 each, thanks to my stellar performance in the marathon. I am still hoping for more! If you would like to support, please click here to support.

Judging by the number of likes my marathon picture got, I trust the same support will come through. I have no doubt the folks who liked the picture, will also like giving $5.00, $10, $50 or $20 to my cause. supporting Tufts Medical.

For now, I am looking forward to my next big challenge, perhaps Steamtown Marathon this October, if all goes as planned. I will train smart and strategic. I want to do the downhills and uphills, per run course. I should have a PR, right? That’s if I get a mastery of “Downhill-Uphill Running

Running never stops. I strongly believe that, if I can conquer running, then I can conquer back my weight, pre-Bartonsville. That battles seems more uphill than “Heartbreak Hill” along Boston Marathon course.

Nothing is unattainable. We just have to dust ourselves and try again!

Running also opens up other great joys, achievements and awards. I am still thankful for those who stake their time and efforts to watch me grown and achieve big, and participate in my actualizing and celebrating my happiness. Family and friends helping out in many ways – chauffer-ing, sharing a pie of their possession with my Child, Super grateful!

Hoping that my zeal to run and accomplishments, will translate into other areas I sick success, family finances, ownership, career and adventure.

More Birthday Celebrations – There is Only One Boston…..Marathon

On the eve of celebrating yet 21st Birthday….For-ever 21, get’t….To Boston 2015

I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, for all the support I received toward accomplishing my dream of running the Boston Marathon!

Indeed, There is Only One Boston — Marathon!

From the start of mooting the idea of running Boston, I received love and support from friends, colleagues and family, till I finally accomplished my goal on Monday, April 20! What a feat! Do you worry, if you’re yet to declare your support for me; you can still donate to my fundraiser for Tufts Medical Center, my charity of choice for the marathon. I still have until end of May 2015 to accept your donation. Here is the link: https://www.crowdrise.com/TuftsBoston2015/fundraiser/doreenlwanga

Thank you so much, for the many people who expressed their love and support for me, verbally, monetarily, emotionally, physically and communally! Lost for words! You are truly unprecedented!

What a marathon! As I said, this is the first marathon that I went in fatter, financially challenged and socially isolated. Just look at pictures from all previous marathons I ran sleek, slender and swift.

This time, I had no income to afford a running watTufts Teamch, after the strap on my Garmin watch broke. I could not afford to pay a couple of gym hours for strength training, or pay my registration fees for Boston 2015, or a hotel in Boston during marathon weekend. I had no pace-mate/pacemaker/pacesetter/running mate, and had to train alone in the Mt. Poconos. My fundraiser did not yield much, either, in terms of financial contributions, as much as I sent out an email every week.

Yet, the volume of support, directly and indirectly, solicited and unsolicited, declared and undeclared enabled me accomplish Boston Marathon with no glitch and plenty of satisfaction. While I trained alone in my Poconos neighborhood, I had plenty of ‘unseen’ and undeclared support from the watchful eyes of motorists, pedestrians and onlookers, who saw me pounding the area main streets, back roads and sports fields. No doubt, they were cheering me on, in sleet, snow, rain and below freezing temperatures, even though they did not know my mission was Boston.Coach Megerle

It all started with Coach Don Megerle giving me a spot on the Tufts Marathon Team. Thereon, I knew I had to get to Boston and run, and run damn good! How that would happen? I would worry later. Once the registration process with BAA opened, I innocently broke the news to Coach that I was frantically trying to mobilize the US$300+ registration fees. Surprise! He asked me to give him a call, and instantaneously find it! Fully registered and paid up, I did my happy dance, as news, updates and reminders started flowing in from BAA.org. With registration finally confirmed, I upped my training and preparation for Boston 2015.

Plus, Coach Megerle sent near daily running updates, schedule, motivational articles, advice on staying physically fit and focused, eating well and staying connected with the TMT and other freebies to the team. Just connecting with us, and making me feel a part of a team, from far away was super-good!

GoMebTo keep track of my mileage and stats, my phone came in handy on my runs, with three running apps, plus two other apps for tracking daily strides and activity. Two of the running apps had pre-scheduled marathon training plans, perhaps more than necessary, but each served a purpose.

My running shoes were really wanting of immediate replacement, both pairs were not eligible to run Boston. Along came my brother with magical ideas on how to obtain new shoes. Viola! I got myself two new pairs – my first choice of Newtons Distance to run the marathon, and an additional Brooks for training. Add to that, a sweat scarf, which served as a mouth mask, face mask, and head scarf, and two good running tights. I was all set.

Still, I had to find a place to stay during marathon weekend, and a ticket to Boston. I planned to take my son with me, so he could watch me run and cheer me on. Sadly, friends, who had hosted me the last time I was in Boston were having guests over during Marathon Weekend. So, I posted a message on FB, seeking for alternatives. Problem solved, in an instant of posting a message, and a couch readily available at the Mwosa Girls and Boys. They happily welcomed my extra-baggage aka child, giving me joyous relief!We can do this

We traveled to Boston two days before the marathon, taking two buses -The Poconos to NYC, then, from NYC to Boston. Got to Boston safe, picked up our Bibs and run package, took a couple of pictures, toured the expo, did a little bit of freebie hunting, made posters, and enjoy a coffee at Boston South Station, and shared an ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery until our host returned into town.

The entire Mwosa house was ready for us. The young boys, eagerly awaited this child of mine, and indeed enjoyed each other. For the entire four-day weekend in Boston, I do not think I saw him for a full hour. He did not care that he was sharing a room with ’new friends’, away from his mother! Nor did I have to worry about feeding him breakfast, lunch or dinner because the Mwosa parents had all that covered! They pampered me V.I.P. -style the entire visit, allowing me to rest before and after the marathon. They chauffeured me back and forth to the “T” aka “Boston Train”, when I could not find a cab, and they accepted my invitation to the Tufts pre-marathon dinner.

I gat thisOn the eve of the Sunday, Marathon, April 19, I did only 15:42 minutes of running, rested most of the day, until I went to dinner with my hosts. Typically, I don’t like eating the night before the run, for fear of shocking my stomach during the run. Since Tufts, was hosting us – the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT) and family to a pre-marathon dinner, I went with child and our hosts. I felt compelled to eat something in keeping with “carb loading” advice, even though I don’t do “carb loading”; quite frankly, I don’t know what it entails. Dinner was good in taste, time of day and duration.

Marathon Day, April 20! Of course, in my typical style, I barely slept the entire night. Once again, my body clock woke me up close to two the morning, before my alarm clock went off. Plus, the jitters I have every night before  any big event did not allow me to sleep soundly throughout the night. I was wide awake way before scheduled time to leave the house for the “T”.

After two cups of tea and warm water, I set off to catch the T downtown. The T gate would not take my ticket! Another train rider gave me a ‘nod’ to go through without paying. Heard, there was some kind of “Boston Marathoners ride Free T Ride Day”. A woman on the T asked to take my picture – my short celebrity moment. She said, she too wanted to run the Boston Marathon, and wished me good luck! I got a few more “Good Luck Today” cheers, but most of the commuters were absorbed in themselves. Surprising, since the Boston Marathon is a Big Deal on Patriots Monday. Perhaps, they have had enough with their city being swarmed by ’26.2 miles Zombies’ from the world over! Don’t blame you Boston, I still love you!

On oN to Marathon Bus Loading Zone, with no problem. First, into the “porta-potties” line. While standing in line for the bus to Athletes Village, I saw a friend from Kampala Hash House Harriers. Yeah! What a joy! We boarded the bus together, and stayed together until our marathon wave started, then planned to hook up again post-marathon.Medals with friends

Everyone was allowed to board the buses to Hopkinton, MA, regardless of the Wave number. The ride was too long; felt like going to another country! Got there, and made another dash for the porta-potties! Yes! A woman gotta empty her bowels before hitting the marathon route. I don’t believe in stopping for the porta-potties along the course, even though I drink at each water refueling station. I say, nobody will know if you pee on yourself while running. Particularly on rainy Marathon Monday; who would even care? Except for that guy with a sign, “Smile if you peed on yourself”. So naughty!

I must say, the love and support along the route was phenomenon! No way I would have finished the marathon, the crowd support. Please believe me, because I am not a quitter, never thought of being one. Yet, the hills and hills and more undulating hills along the BM course gave me lots of temptations in my head, to quit. See, I run in the Mt. Poconos, with plenty of hills and steep climbs. I run below freezing, in temperatures before what we had on BM, I run in rain, wind and everything. Yet the hills burned me so damn good! Unfathomable!

I guess even more reason to celebrate my 3:49:02 finish. I know I was aiming for more, but that was much better than any pace during my training. Remember, I am fatter in size than all other previous marathons. I was amazed by the runners, outdoing themselves, like each was a professional! Folks were running, no jokes! Sweating it nice and each staying calm. I guess that’s the true meaning of being among the crème de la crème. The best there at this game of marathons.

The crowds gave us all the love, not just water and gatorade, but also oranges, water mellow, more water…And I heard, but sadly missed, the “Beer Stop” of the Boston Hash House Harriers. That beer would have given me wings! On consolation, there was plenty of Jumbo-Love especially at Mile 9, at the water points, and different points along the route, with plenty of “Kisses from the Wesley Girls, music and more cheers all the way to the finish line.

How gratifying to catch sight of the finish line! I always say, I have very high respect for anyone who can run a marathon in five Family celebrationshours! Don’t mean to sound obnoxious or condescending, but by three hours and a half, my legs are ready to give in! But that excruciating agony, is positively boosted by the exhilaration seeing the finish line. Every minute thereon counts, you push yourself to achieve better. Especially when crowds cheer on your like a champ!

My son’s grandparents drove all the way into Boston, bless their kindest souls, to watch and support me run.The grandparents deserve a big shout-out! All those times you were in the battle alone, training in the snow, freezing rain, while all others are tucked cozily undercover, it is so gratifying witnessing the love of anyone taking off their time to support you!  They traveling at night to Boston, came out in the rain and chilly weather, stood at Mile 9, waiving the poster they made with my name up high, waiting to see me run by. Then, unexpectedly, to finish line to welcome me with flowers, though I missed them, as I dashed off. Even grandpa who stayed in the hotel room, because the weather was conducive for his health, was glued to the TV the entire time, hoping to catch a glimpse of me run amidst the crowd. Then they stayed, until I was all done with the post-marathon reception on Tuesday, to drive us back to PA! Priceless!

I am so grateful for all who contributed to my run – as financial donors, cheerleaders, hosts, and admirers. MWith grandma Anitay friends and family in Boston, who I was not able to meet in person due to a tight schedule, but gave me a call or sent me messages. My son, who does not understand why I did not win, perhaps a manifestation of his ‘grandiose’ respect and confidence of me. I love my son, very much! I love to see his glow, whenever he sees me. I love everything he says. I am so glad he’s very flexible in different circumstances and different places. I run for him.

Running the Boston Marathon is not just about being part of phenomenon history. As I ran those streets, I thought of my best friend Phina, who would have lived the streets of Boston outskirts, along the marathon route, cheered me on, and waited for me at the finish with her contagiously perfect smile. I dedicate this run to Phina. We met in Boston and last saw each other in Boston. She like me was a beneficiary of the care at Tufts Medical Center.

Please join Phina (RIP) and I in celebrating Tufts Nutrition, Fitness and Health Programs by donating to my Charity the Tufts Medical Center. It would be a great honor to me, as I celebrate another 21st Birthday, tomorrow April 28, 2015. https://www.crowdrise.com/TuftsBoston2015/fundraiser/doreenlwanga

Thank you for all your love! Thank you!IMG_7416

Ignorance is Bliss, Sometimes….

IMG_4254Literary societies pride themselves in the abundant availability of information. They privilege the ability to read and write, communicate and publish. Evidence of one’s name imprinted on a couple of publications, bestows a level of respect and titles, and a sit at several ‘high tables’ as a respectably important member of society.

In academia, we know the common saying, ˆPublish or Perish”. So real that tenure-track aspirants spend their maiden post-PhD years teaching, conducting research, writing and submitting articles to academic journals for publication. While publishing does not guarantee tenure track per se, at least it gains the pursuant important visibility and respect within and outside academia. Writing and publishing provide one a sense of comfort and confidence, adds a paragraph onto one’s literate portfolio, and the self-endowment to sit on one’s very high horse.

No doubt information is very useful, even to everyday living. We need information to operate the microwave, drive a car, assemble furniture, or cross the road. Even in our professions, passions and personal lives, access to information enables our career progression, personal growth, goal attainment and reaching for the moon. Information shapes our job applications, helps us prepare for big events like training for a marathon or nurturing our children into well-developed human beings. Yes! The ones who will take care of you when you are of age; I mean, put you up in a nursing home with abundant information sources – Television, remote control microwave, smartphone, book library, and a temper-pedic with a button to call room-service.

Sometimes, however, too much information is undesirable. Ignorance is Bliss!

For instance, right about now, I am overwhelmed with all the information flooding into my brain as I prepare for Boston Marathon 2015. I do not remember any other time, while training for other marathons I have done, receiving this much information. This time, plenty of emails, newsletters and bulletins mailed, e-updates, web information and running apps. Add to that, Webinars! Really?

Please believe me, I recently signed up for a Webinar on preparing for Boston 2015! I thought I was gonna be about logistics in preparation and getting to Marathon Day, April 20. I did not expect another academic seminar on “panic relief”, “fluid prescription”, “emotional” and “psychological” stamina during the marathon, or a whole chapter on Maslow!

Perhaps this is, indeed the “thrill of a Big City Marathon”? Perhaps it is just Boston

source B.A.A

source B.A.A 

Marathon? I can understand the ‘paranoia’ among the organizers, trying to deter another 2013 bombing. Understandably, extra caution needs to be taken to secure the race before and on the day, to ensure safety, confidence and security for all runners. It never occurred to me that some people actually suffer panic attacks during or in the middle of the race, requiring specialized treatment.

Yes, I know of colleagues who have run to the porta-potties to ease their running stomachs along the marathon course. I know folks who have taken a break, read a novel, adjusted their socks, and got back onto marathon route. None required specialized support and rescue, or sessions of webinar preparation!

In my imagination, running is something one picks up out of interest, as a hobby, ultimately becoming routine part of their existence. Granted, some folks run for their livelihoods and dedicate themselves to as much preparation, training and mentoring as possible. Still, I doubt any of them started out as “textbook runners”. Most of the world’s most elite runners are from very poor backgrounds, and some started out running with no running shoes. While, they have grown into world phenomena, I doubt all they sit around reading textbook from “theoretical runners”, on how to run a marathon. I am sure they might read up on what to expect when registration materials are sent out to them, and perhaps log onto marathon websites.

I must say, all this information is freaking me out! I already have enough responsibility keeping up with my run apps, reviewing run assessments and statistics after every run. Plus the pile of information on training and staying in the winter; buying the right running shoes; tapering; keeping the pace; nutrition and diet during training and on marathon, I am e-receiving from my team coach, and the B.A.A newsletters.

source B.A.A website

source B.A.A website

I want to stop reading, but that is not feasible. I am worried I will miss out on last minute details. Too much information seeping through my ears into my head on marathon preparation is making me crazy. I already have enough worries, whether I will attain my target pace and finish time. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have all the community support through my marathon running team, I am yet to meet, and the marathon organizers…But please, can I have no more information….Please leave me in my Blissful Ignorance.

April is All the Kool Kids Month! Let’s….!

It is here….and….It is Official! Sun over the First Spring Lake

April is All the Kool Kids Month! Go Figure!

Sorry y’all who don’t fit the profile! I know the, “Damn! Why was I born on March 31? I don’t blame you, I would too…If I happened to fall off the “Kool Kids Train”…oops 🙂

I love April! Nor more ‘smell’ of Spring; it is upon us…in all the realness! The rain, the sun, the pollen, the cooler temperatures, and the flower blossoms! I love April, because I share this coolness with my other most important person in this world…the one who gave me a life —Sweet dear Mother (April 6)! My very beautiful niece too, is also a Kool Kid (April 6).

I love April because it is National Families and Reading Month. Who does not love reading? Thankfully, I gave birth to a reader; we know how to turn the pages, one after another. Often sharing our “pages” with the “paws”,who surely enjoy the magic of our reading! This April, we are both reading to Child’s class: child is reading on April 22, and I will be Guest Reading on April 28 – which also happens to be my Birthday!

What else will I do for my birthday? Not sure yet, but traditionally since childhood, I celebrate and make merry! At the very least, we celebrated with popcorn and tea, which were very big features of birthday celebrations in my family household. Last year, Child treated me to a special birthday, when he won the Student of April Month, with a coupon for a free meal at Friendly’s. So, we decided to dine out on my Birthday! I am sure we’ll be doing something funky and blinged this year as well, including receiving lots of love with y’all! Right?Spring Tree Climber

What I am sure about this April, I will be running my maiden Big City Marathon, the oldest and most prestigious City Marathon born in 1897. It is The Big City Marathon, the rest are races, so they say. I have butterflies, self-doubts, thrills that a bride gets the morning of her wedding night. I am thinking, since I have never been one. Yet, I am super determined to do it. It is not my first time, but this is a Big Deal, Big City Deal! Lets…

Glad to be sharing April with some of the Koolest Kids on planet earth, especially since I am getting cooler myself! Now I know about Star Wars, Super Sonic, Beyblade and Wonder Woman. Now I know all about the solar system, and learning lots of astronomy, thanks to the Child. Plus, my birthday also happens to be International Astronomy Day.

Yeah! There are a couple of more Kool days you too would know about, if you were an April Kool Kid! I plan to enjoy a fair share of those, starting with Fooling Around (April 1); Read a Book with Children (April 2); Skip Work (April 3)Hug A Newman (April 4); Say no to Housework (April 7); Go Patriot [on the Boston Marathon trail] (April 20); pay homage to Earth Planet (April 22); Take a Chance (April 23); and Hug an Australian (April 26) who would become My Mate to Kiss (April 28), very appropriately on my Birthday! How Kool is That!

Oh! Before I go, CrowdRise asked me to tell you that I should ‘give up my birthday to raise money for my favorite cause. I think this is awesome! Wait, how did CrowdRise know that I was already raising $$$ for my favorite charity of the year? Y’all know that I am running Boston Marathon 2015 with the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT); yeah, that’s what’s up!

All proceeds from my fundraising are going directly toward the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition toward support for research on nutrition, obesity, hunger and famine, and to sustain programs that promote health and wellness across the university and within our host communities of Medford, Somerville and Boston’s Chinatown.  Here is the link to my fundraiser; your gift is big to me, and will mean a lot to me and everyone who benefits from Tufts University Medical Services! Please support, and make me the Koolest Kid, ever!

Happy Koolest Kids Month! Bring on April!

Geese on the LakeOnly one Big City Marathon

Tapering For Real! Road to Boston Marathon 2015

Telling a runner that you cannot run after 21K, is like saying you cannot walk after a full marathon.

Who does that? Who listens to that? Not a runaholic. And I happen to be perfectly one of the brand.

On second thought, perhaps there is a time when enough is enough! When even a runaholic better go into “Tapper Zone”. For real, I might have said “Tapper Zone” two weeks ago, but never committed to it. Shh! Please don’t tell my Team Coach that I did not listen to his advice. Don’t even blame me for disobeying my coach, it is complicated!

See, I am training away from my fellow teammates, Tufts Marathon Team (TMT) for the Boston Marathon 2015. I am not sure when they started on a training plan, nor each individual projected finish time. My marathon training plan, from one of the run apps I use has me going on longer than my Team Coach’s recommended tapering period/date. So, I decided to follow my run app.

But I am done! Believe me, I did my last long run 20.66 miles this Friday, March 27, which I think is a safe moment to end the long runs, in preparation for marathon on April 20. I am aiming for a better finish time than my last marathon. The marathon plan I am training with has a lower finish time than my target finish time. I am not sure that is advisable? Is it? Hopefully I won’t burn out to d-day.

Talking about burning out, most marathon coaches and pre-scheduled training plans advice to take off the day after a long run. Trouble for me, I have to readjust my schedule to fit my life. A typical marathon training schedule plan goes like this:

Sunday – Long run (combination of fast and steady) Boston Marathon 2015

Monday – Off 

Tuesday – Fast (marathon pace (10miles<)

Wednesday – Slow (under 10)

Thursday – Fast (under 10)

Friday – Off      

Saturday – Slow and short

Looks like a great schedule, right? Except that I have a lil’ ‘handicap’. I cannot do long runs over the weekend because I am the sole CEO of my child, who is home from school over the weekend. When I have occasional help, I go out and do up to 13 miles, but that is not guaranteed. Which means I readjust my schedule to do most of my running during the week, when child is at school.

Monday – Off

Tuesday – Fast (marathon pace 5-8 mi) Sometimes Off

Wednesday – Slow (4-6 mil)

Thursday – Steady/Fast (6-11 mil)

Friday – Long Run Steady and Fast (8-20)

Saturday – Steady (4-8 mil)

Sunday – Off or Steady (8-13mil)

My schedule is a little intense, but it has kind of worked for me. If I have a chance to run on Sunday, then I take off Tuesday. Sometimes I run six days in a row, sometimes take off Wednesday, if I know I can run Sunday. There is no guarantee for Sunday, so I try not to risk a week day, when I am sure I can run.

Generally, I have done well with my schedule, although I have missed a couple of runs due to inclement weather or work schedules that did not allow me time off to run. Sometimes I have made up by running longer distance on the following days, otherwise, I put in a short run. Overall, I have put in quite an impressive mileage per week.

This week, I put in 56.7 miles, my most mileage in a week! I cannot believe that  translates to 91.2 Km. I feel strong at the end of the week. I also did all the scheduled runs for the week, and more. Plus, I did back to back running from Wednesday to Sunday. My long run was on Friday with 20.66 miles, mostly steady with eight miles fast. Ideally, I would have to rest on Saturday, but I decided to go out for a slow run instead, to stretch my legs and relax the sore muscles. Then Sunday, I went on a Steady/Fast eight mile run, and sealed off the week feeling strong again.

I am finally agreeing to go into “Tapper Zone”. I have put in enough long runs, I am not doing any more long runs until Marathon Day, April 20. Now on, I am going for speed and shorter runs. The longest run I have left is 13 miles next week, thereafter will all be under 10 miles.

I do not feel ready, though. I do not feel like I have done enough preparation. I still do not feel plenty of strength. Too much information coming in, is also making me a nervous wreck. I repeat, Ignorance is Bliss, sometimes! All the tips about running, preparing, tapering, nutrition, rest, and more are so much for me! I want to switch off, but then I do not wanna miss anything important.

Today, I received my “Runners Passport”, and all the info I need for Boston Marathon. Totally freaked out. Off to work on more strength, and off to keep the fundraising.

Now, this is the part where I ask you again, to please please support my pledge and responsibility to Tufts Marathon Team to fundraise for Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition, health, fitness and wellness. I would appreciate any donation you can add to support me at https://www.crowdrise.com/doreenlwanga for such a worthy cause. It would boost my running even more!

It is March 20th! 31 Days to April 20th

Yesterday, Friday, March 20 marked exactly thirty-one days to April 20th, which will be a Monday!

You may be wondering, why the fuss with “the 20th”?

Worry no more, March 20th is the Official First Day of Spring 2015; April 20th is the set date for Boston Marathon 2015. Incidentally, both days are gut wrenching to me.

While Spring officially began – it also snowed, expected to accumulate to six inches. Isn’t life too strange? Just the other day, we were happily clad in our little skirts, kissing Winter goodbye, saying hello to Spring blossoms!

April 20th is also beckoning me, with nervous blossoms! I have to be ready to run 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon, and do it with a good finish, better than my current record of 3h:56min. I have tried training with discipline, or so I think. Yet, I do not feel as strong as I was last time I ran a marathon in 2013. I said a lot about my fitness and training experience this time around, in my writing last week.Bye Bye Muzino_Fotor

This week, I have thus far put in 27.4 miles out of a possible 48 miles in three days. I still have two days to run this week, seven miles tomorrow – Saturday and 14 miles on Sunday. I am hoping to beat my procrastination and run Saturday on snow. Where the hell are my YaktraxYes I Can still achieve my goal for this week, and slightly more! I am more optimistic about Sunday, shhh don’t tell anyone I am losing my umph! Turns out, I spent Saturday at the gym taking a break from the concrete

I guess I need to go into that “Taper Zone” yesterday, even though the run schedule I am using is telling me otherwise. I still need to put in more strength training at home and the gym. This week has tested my strength, and questioned my resilience. I have done better time than this week. Ugh! Blame it on the weather, speed training, long distance running and low strength.

In all fairness, the weather has not too bad, except for a few windy days that required gloves and facial masks. I have ran through worse winter days. This time, I went for speed on plenty of runs, burning out on the climbs, without quick recovery – State of Mind.

Typically, my runs begin with setting up four different run Apps, followed by fitting on three pairs of gloves that take a hell lot of my time, before I start running. Somebody please point me to a pair of gloves warm enough to withstand the brisk winter cold. I bought the most expensive skiing gloves from my area sports store, but my lil’ fingers still froze real bad!

Along all my running routes are plenty of steep climbs, especially the last two near competition of my runs. After all the speed running, they kind of burn me out with a not so stellar ending. I am yet to regain my stamina. I am consoling myself that I will do better running with a group on Marathon day and finding pacesetters.Though, the 3+ run apps I am using kind of take their toll on me. I would not recommend it to anyone. Though, each has its story.

One, is the longest I have used ever since I started running Apps back in June 2013. It also has most of my friends from around the world, allowing me to follow their fitness activities and and stay inspired. From time to time, it offers me a chance to subscribe to a challenge with occasional benefits of “one-month free Elite Membership Passes” and access to all my running statistics in comparison to others, thus boosting my running. proficiency.

In 2014, I subscribed to another App that combined running with a good nutrition monitoring package, allowing me to submit daily food intake and monitor calorie intake. Gone are those days of obsessing over what I eat, submitting daily food intake! I got so confused trying to monitor food intake, and ate more to make up for the calories lost during exercise. Out with calorie counting; hello disciplined eating! Plus, this App also tracks my running gear mileage, alerts me when I need to replace my shoes, and recommends equally good ones.

The third app is relatively new, offered to Boston Marathon entrants. I started using it late in training, so it is kind of off Boston Marathon schedule. The fourth is my charity App I use to I donate all my mileage run or walked (I rarely record any walking) to the a charity of my choice – Every Mother Counts.

Running with four apps can be daunting, especially the three loudest Apps! Each has own timing and cues- when one says “speed up”, another says “slow down to blue zone”, then another says, “you are behind your target time.” Too confusing, but I suck it up and concentrate more on my first choice, that I started with for marathon training.

Hopefully, next week is gonna be much better, with 52 miles lined up, the last planned long distance run. Thereafter, it will be speed training and more speed training. Hopefully, no more snow days! OR somebody better ship me off to train on top of the Sahara…

And while we start the Spring blossoms, please do not forget about me. I am still asking for your support, toward my Boston Marathon charity, Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition, kindly click on this link https://www.crowdrise.com/doreenlwanga to donate toward my fundraiser. Together, we can support and sustain good health, wellness and fitness research and services to the public.

Anxieties in “Taper Period”, six weeks to Marathon!

Here we go running

Here we go running

I am feeling rather anxious, as I get into the “Taper Period” before D-Day, Monday, April 20. I am talking about running the Boston Marathon 2015. This is my first “Big City Marathon”, since I entered the world of marathon running. I feel inadequately prepared, mentally, physically and financially.

Last time I trained for a marathon, my mind, pockets and body were all in the right places. I was a smaller size than I am now, went out there and did it, and had the finances to afford all the costs of marathon training and preparations. I was also in winter-free zone, sans the pains and agonies of training under snowfall, icy roads, whirlwinds and below freezing temperatures. I had control over my work and family schedule, which afforded me much needed time for marathon preparation.

My work schedule allowed me to train during daytime, before picking up my child from school. I had the money to afford weekly gym time, where I dedicated at least half a day to strength training, massage and swimming. I had a supportive family that afforded me the luxury of weekend running, with free and reliable childcare when child was off school. I had a running team to motivate me, train with, and pound Saturday morning long runs on hills and dirt roads. Plus, another smaller group for occasional Sunday runs, when I felt like going extra miles. I had really have limits – I just ran without a structured training plan. It paid off, very well!

Now, I am in a different geographical zone, with different weather challenges that affect my training mood and achievements. Still, I have gone out as much as my schedule allows me, and avoid missing a scheduled run because ‘I do not feel like’. Yes! I am now running on a pre-planned training schedule on one of those running apps. No! I do not have, one, but three running apps monitoring my pace, mileage and time, plus two other fitness apps tracking my daily steps, plus a charity app to which I donate all my run miles.

I have different schedule challenges, though. I am without reliable family support to afford me training time when child is off school. I now do my long runs on Friday, when child is at school instead of weekends when I do not have guaranteed childcare. Implicitly, I have to take Friday off work to put in the mileage and more running hours when child is at school. I am not as financially comfortable as last time around. I started earning a bit of an income very recently, but it cannot afford me the “essential-luxury” of gym time for strength training and massage. But there is advantage to a non-permanent/non-fixed job; I can afford to schedule work on my off-training days, and put in half-day work weeks, to allow more training time.

I guess because I am on a pre-scheduled training plan, I feel more pressure to meet my goals unlike when I had own-scheduled training plan. I also feel bigger in size and slower. I am running solo, without a social running group to motivate me. All that combines to make me a nervous wreck sometimes. I am hoping that I will afford to take my child with me to see me run in Boston. I am yet to find out if any of my Boston-based friends would want to watch him.

It is six weeks to go, and that feels like tomorrow. I do not feel physically ready to hit 26.1 miles. While I have woke up before and run 24+ miles on my solo run, I am yet to run 20+ miles since I started training for the Boston Marathon 2015. Today will be the first day I am going out to do 20 miles. Hopefully, slightly more mileage and great speed. I am yet to consistently do in-house strength training, since I cannot really afford gym hours. I tried my hands on fundraising from friends to afford me a few gym hours, but that did not work the magic.

Still, my spirit is not down and out. I know I will do it! On race day, I have an entire team to learn to pace with on race day. I hope I do not go too fast or too slow. I hope I can achieve my goal; won’t say here..Hoping to put in more strength training, and to take my child with me…to Boston…

If you still wish to support my training preparations, I will be more than happy to receive your donation. Should you wish to contribute to my obligation to fundraise for my running team at Tufts University, kindly click on this link https://www.crowdrise.com/doreenlwanga. Let’s support, health, wellness and fitness!

Good Luck Charms for Runners

To quote Ulysses S. Grant,

“Everyone has his superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished.”

I have my own superstitions, which I have also dubbed Good Luck Charms for Runners. Here is one, “If you run the first day of the month, you get good luck throughout the entire month. You will run literally all the 28 or 29 or 30 or 31 days of the month! Ok, maybe I made that up. At least I live by it, and it works for me! Try it; you may like it!

I consciously try to go for a run every first day, and last day of the month. So, I am ‘haunted’ throughout the month to stay on course. Plus, Monday is a Running Day for me, since I joined my first “Hash” with the Kampala Hash House Harriers (KH3) in Uganda back in 2011. Though now I physically run solo where I live [except once when I did the New Years Eve Run], I feel and stay part of a running community.

I virtually run with KH3 on Monday, even though their weekly six O’clock run happens before or after mine. I am subscribed to a couple of running Apps –Runkeeper, MapMyRun and MiCoach, through which I follow my running-mates around the world. Following my friends on mobile Apps helps boost my morale and commitment to keep running, always aiming to top the “Leadership Table” every week and at end of the month. I enjoy observing their running and other fitness activities, which boost my running morale.

Thankfully, I have started off March running the 1st day, and the 1st Monday. The last week of February 2015, I put in 47 miles in four days. My target of 50+ and five days did not happen due to a combination of necessary rest and conflict of schedule: Monday was a resting day, because I had ran 12 miles the day before in sleet and freeze; Wednesday became tres occupé for me, when I should have put in a run; I rested on Saturday because I ran 18+ miles on Friday, then went out on Sunday. This Monday, I did it again, because the schedule permitted!

I am glad for what I was able to do. Keeps getting better by the week. I am pounding the road, the tarmac and trying to put in all the mileage. It is cold, it is snowed out, it is icy, all the conditions that could discourage one from going out running. Especially, solo running is more dreadful! Thankfully, I sucked it up and did my mileage. I was not able to run the last day of the month, per my plan, but I ran the first day of the following month.

I always say that running the first day of the month helps fuel my running for the entire month. I didn’t do that bad at all this month. In fact, February is my best month, thus far. I broke many records: 1) Farthest Distance in a Month; 2) Longest Duration in a Month; and 3) Most Calories Burned in a Month. 🙌🙌🙌

Hopefully, March will march along so good for me. I need to put in those mileages, as the marathon draws nigh! And these Muzinos need a final rest.

Rest in Peace, Muzino

Rest in Peace, Muzino

So, if you still wanna support me on my journey in six weeks, please click on this link to make a donation that could afford me a new pair of shoes. Most importantly, please help me raise money for the Tufts Medical Center, on behalf of the Tufts Marathon Team I am running with. I would be most grateful!

56.7 miles in a Week averaging – F Weather!

Last week, I run a total of 56.7 miles, over six days, in an average of single digit weather. The weather last week was terrible with snow, ice and wind, all moving at high velocity. I had to suck it up and do what I have to do, run it. Success does not wait, nor does marathon training.

That is why we invest in YakTrax, to providing traction and run smoothly over snow. Proper running shoes, a warm jacket – there is nothing better than Free Country, a warm cozy pair of running socks – shout out to Cabot & Sons, plus head, neck and mouth gear smitten in Buff’s multifunctional wear. You should see me out on the road. I am all good to go. My mittens are with me, supplementing my Columbia gloves. Which reminds me that I lost one of them, and need a replacement, as well as a replacement of the running shoes.

I am proud of myself for 56.7 miles. I hope to replicate that, going forward. The first step is always a challenge, especially thinking of the gush of the wind awaiting my body once I step out of the door. I am grateful I am able to overcome that. Add to that, treading carefully the first 0.4miles of my route, to avoid slipping on icy roads. Sometimes I forget my YakTrak when I step out of the door, and have to walk carefully on the snowy sides. But even when I have them, some of the roads are too icy to take chances of falling, so I walk and my pace suffers. And Yes! I need to replace the YakTrax – wow! more money going out!

Did I say that the pace is also affected by wearing gloves? That’s right! Since I have to double glove – I am yet to find one pair of gloves that keeps me fully comfortable, I have to start the running Apps before starting the run, and that counts against me. The least of my worries, it should be. As long as I go out and do it!

Now I need to really go out and get some money, fundraising on the road for my charity. My ideas it to myself a mobile billboard, and collect any donations possible. Please help me raise money as part of the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT) to the Boston Marathon 2015, to support research on nutrition, obesity, hunger and famine, and to sustain programs that promote health and wellness across the university and within our host communities of Medford, Somerville and Boston’s Chinatown. Here is the Link to my Tufts Fundraiser. You can also support me personally, as I train for the marathon

The Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition offers a very specialized program designed to study adolescent obesity. Dr. Christine Economos is the chairperson of the study, and is also the Director of Child Obesity 180 at the Friedman School. She is currently a committee member for the Institute of Medicine report, “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.”

According to our coach, Don Megerle, additional funds are also raised and donated to the Tufts Personalized Performance Program. This program was actually an offshoot of the original Tufts Marathon Team concept. The program educates and trains seniors at Tufts to become Life-Coaches in the fields of health, nutrition, and personal fitness. There are 15 seniors enrolled in the program, and they assist me during the year with various projects related to the marathon. Marten Vandervelde, Director of the PPP, ran the Boston Marathon with the TMT three years ago.