Category Archives: Running

Reading on the Run: Audiobooks to Inspire You

Scene from a running trail in Portland, Maine

Scene from a running trail in Portland, Maine

Check out five audiobooks that will help you unleash your inner champion.

Since two of my favorite loves are reading and running, I was thrilled to write a piece for Runner’s World Zelle on the intersection of those two subjects, specifically audiobooks that will help fire up your running through their tales of trouncing self-imposed limitations, journeying from everywoman to athlete on the world stage, and more. Of course, I’ve included my beloved What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. (Incidentally, his first two novels, which were previously impossible to get in English, have been recently released as Wind/Pinball.)

Be sure to check out Five Running-Themed Audiobooks to Inspire for my other recommendations.

Note: The Will Smith quote has been truncated. For the full version, search “Will Smith on running and reading.”


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Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running, Writing/Books

Running Love, Audrey Hepburn’s Healthy Living Secrets, and the Empathetic Brain

Running love

Every relationship—whether you’re talking friends, family, or romantic partner—takes attention and a bit of work. That’s even (or especially?) true when you’re talking about your relationship with exercise. On that note, this week I’m over at Runner’s World/Zelle, where I offer ideas for falling (and staying) in love with running, but I suspect the broad strokes of the ideas could apply to a number of passions. Check it out!

More link love:

Audrey Hepburn was an icon of class, beauty, and style, so it’s perhaps not surprising that she brought that grace to healthy living and food as well. Her son has just published a cookbook At Home with Audrey, and in an interview he talks about her very well-rounded and holistic approach to life, including her emphasis on drinking water, her flexitarian and seasonal approach to eating, and her once-a-month detox day. (Of course she was ahead of the curve!) See it here.

A new study found differences in the brains of people who respond emotionally to other’s feelings (like those moved to tears by witnessing others’ pain), compared with those who have more rational (or cognitive) empathy, such as a clinical psychologist counseling a client. It makes perfect sense that there are different kinds of empathy and that those types light up different parts of the brain, and I can see this finding having a number of ramifications. As just one example, one would imagine that helping professionals do far better with a hefty dose of cognitive empathy versus the emotional kind. (Can’t get much done if you’re crying along with your patients, right?) I’ve personally never heard empathy broken down into subcategories and it’s definitely given me things to think about. See the study here.

Reading that study made me think about discussions of how reading fiction cultivates empathy. Not long ago, I saw the historical fiction writer Erika Robuck during her book tour for the lovely The House of Hawthorne, who said something along the lines of: “A history book can help you see a battle, but fiction can put you in characters’ shoes and makes you feel what they’re feeling.” Her words are backed up by a study that finds not all reading is equal, empathy development-wise. Not surprising, literary fiction—as compared with genre or nonfiction—was the winner for boosting readers’ ability to their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. See the study here.

How do you keep your workouts fresh? Where are you on the empathy continuum? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?


Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running, Writing/Books

20 Inspirational Quotes to Fire You Up for Running—or Life

Running along the snowy Charles River in Cambridge_2014-01-18_by Bill Damon

Has winter chilled your enthusiasm? These wise words from athletes, authors, thinkers, and leaders just might help you rekindle your commitment to your goals.

On motivation

‘Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.” Steven Pressfield

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not
to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is
against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” –George Sheehan

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you.  Criticize me, and I may not like you.  Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.  Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” William Arthur Ward

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” Unknown

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Susan Jeffers

On setbacks

“Pain is necessary, suffering is optional.” –Haruki Murakami

“The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to be afraid of making one.” L. Ron Hubbard

“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.” Steven Pressfield

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” –Napoleon Hill

“Most of all, the ultra distance leaves you alone with your thoughts to an excruciating extent. Whatever song you have in your head had better be a good one. Whatever story you are telling yourself had better be a story about going on. There is no room for negativity. The reason most people quit has nothing to do with their body.” –Scott Jurek

“As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” –Steve Maraboli

On inspiration

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be.” Joyce Carol Oates

“The reward of running—of anything—lies within us. We focus on something external to motivate us, but we need to remember that it’s process of reaching for that prize, not the prize itself, that can bring us peace and joy.” Scott Jurek

“The most beautiful motion is that which accomplishes the greatest results with the least amount of effort.” Plato

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” Unknown

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –Andre Gide

“Having a true faith is the most difficult thing in the world. Many will try to take it from you.” –Steve Prefontaine

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” –George Sheehan


Have a great weekend everyone, and let me know your favorite quote if you have one! I’d love to hear.

Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Some rights reserved by Bill Damon. (This photo originally posted at:


Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running

Diary of a Reluctant Run


For the second day in a row, the sky is gray. I look up from my desk and out the window. There’s a sense of stillness to the air, even though I can see the raindrops hitting the ground. Maybe it’s just my own brain that’s still. Still like a stagnating pond.

As a runner who has battled multiple setbacks over the last few years, both external (e.g., injuries) and internal (e.g., resistance), I sometimes feel like I’m in perpetual start-over mode, and what was once habit can now sometimes require seismic energy. I know it would help to get up and get some fresh air and move my body. I know this, because it always does. But I can’t. I even have good “reasons”:

  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m busy with work, and even though my mind is not generating anything great as I sit here (or really anything) parked at my desk for what feels like the umpteenth hour in a row, I—see reason above—don’t have time.
  • It’s raining.
  • I feel sluggish, and I don’t want to warm up, and if I don’t warm up, I really shouldn’t run, since I’ve been trying to be much better about the warm-up thing.
  • I read we might be getting a thunderstorm. That doesn’t seem to be the case now. But hey, best to be on the safe side right?
  • I don’t really feel like it.
  • Besides, lunch sounds better than running.
  • It’s probably best just not to go.

I go anyway. I force myself out of my seat, put on my layers and my Garmin, don my shoes, and get myself out the door before I can change my mind.

Almost immediately, the rain soaks through my shoes and everything else not covered by water-resistant material—yep, it’s wet out here all right—but what is also instantaneous is that I feel more awake and alive, and I’m so glad I’ve come out. I look around and my eyes take in what’s left of the orange leaves, the stragglers. They are so beautiful, and we won’t have them for much longer. A short time later, I am running past the grade school near where I live. The playground looks abandoned, and I think about being a kid and that jump-out-of-my-skin feeling I had on rainy days when we were stuck inside. Ugh, all that sitting. I take a deep breath as I run past and revel in my big-girl freedom.

On my run, I’m nearly the only pedestrian, save for one man in a heavy rain slicker who’s walking his dog, and later a woman doing the same. She is shivering against the cold, as she has braved the rain without the right kind of jacket to repel the water.

As I run, the rain beats against my body, and my feet beat against the ground, and I am propelled forward in a way that changes the day’s trajectory. I no longer feel like a Walking Dead extra after doing yet another take of a single filler scene. Instead, my brain fires with creative thoughts about how to tackle the writing project I’d been working on, as well as other projects that I hadn’t even been thinking about just a little while ago. By the time I return home, I’m soaking wet, but I’m full of fresh air and fresh ideas. I’m excited to get back to my desk and put my thoughts on paper.

There are things I do that I think, “I probably shouldn’t have just done that.” Running though?

Never one of those things.


Filed under Inspiration, Running

Glute Strengthener, A Playlist Fit for Rocky, Oiselle Fashion Show, and More

Walden Pond

View from trail at Walden Pond during fall

This week, temperatures dropped and I saw telltale signs of fall—a smattering of yellow and orange leaves amongst the lush green, a sparkle to the air as if you’re looking through diamond glasses, vivid blue skies, and pink and orange sunsets. At this time of the year, I feel as if I could run forever. (Though fyi: emphasis on the word ‘feel.’) Fall is a great time for running, and it seems like there’s lots of exciting news and developments around it. So, I thought this week I would put together a bit of link love for things that grabbed my attention.

First up, Oiselle used only real athletes in their fashion show, which grabbed the attention of the New York Times.


The new Runner’s World hit newsstands and doorsteps, and, Wow! I love the fresher and edgier redesign. I always thought the covers turned something really exciting into something, well, kind of staid. So it’s nice to see some movement and life reflected. Plus, how about those vegan socks! Also, I loved the passion with which Sons of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi spoke of running.

Karla Bruning (as usual) has wonderfully motivating posts. Two faves: running mantras and a Philadelphia Marathon playlist.

On a different note, the Apple Watch may have worrisome repercussions for all the other fitness trackers and running watches.

And finally, here’s my new favorite strengthening exercise: Marching bridge. It’s from a series of strengthening exercises taken from the book Build Your Running Body.




Filed under Inspiration, Running

Three Lessons on Believing in Yourself

The ubiquity of Boston Marathon jackets during race weekend and the examples of mental toughness shown by elite runners Meb Keflezighi and Kara Goucher provide lessons on becoming your best self.

Lesson one: Believing in yourself will be easier if you stay connected to your tribe.


Scenes from Boston Marathon 2014 weekend

 By the Saturday before this year’s Boston Marathon Monday, all the structures for the invited guests and media were finished, tents had been set up in Copley Square, traffic was already blocked off in certain areas, and the area was swarming with marathon charity teams, runners coming to get that packets, and people like me who wanted to support the race in person even if not on the day itself (I had to work Monday). As you may know, the running field had been greatly expanded and the crowds were expected to have doubled since the previous year, sending a very clear message of strength to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers and their ilk. The area was also a virtual ad for Boston Marathon jackets. And not just the neon orange ones from this year. Perhaps it wasn’t true, but it seemed like there were more people wearing marathon jackets than regular ones. People work incredibly hard and sometimes run multiple marathons in an attempt to qualify to run the Boston Marathon, and some never succeed (and it’s only gotten harder to get in). Yet, walking around the Boston area that weekend, even accounting for the fact that some people had a jacket for other reasons (charity, for example), made the qualification seem not just doable, but almost ordinary.

There’s an important lesson in that, and it is this: If you have a goal (whatever it may be), and you spend more time with people who think that goal is worthy, doable, etc., that goal will seem more possible; those feelings are infectious. But, of course, the opposite is true as well. This power of our social connections to shape our behavior and belief system is illustrated quite well with multiple research findings that friends and loved ones strongly and subconsciously influence our weight. But I think this phenomenon holds for most things. The people around us give powerful messages about what normal is. That why if we’re not getting support for a particular goal or dream, it’s crucial we find our people/tribe somehow, even if that’s only through research (examples from history, the media, etc.). Of course, the beauty of the Internet is that if we aren’t finding our people IRL, then there’s a 99% we can find them online, people who make our dreams seem perfectly normal and natural to attain.

Lesson two: Believing in yourself is a make-it-or-break it quality.


Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi throws out ceremonial first pitch at Boston Red Sox game (and my first game of the year).

Of course, while who you surround yourself with is crucial, in the end doing well—however you define that—comes down to just one person: you. Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi illustrated this well. Although he was not favored to win, Keflezighi did just that, beating out younger competitors just two weeks before his 39th birthday. How? By focusing on practical skills such as skillful rehab of injuries, knowing what kind of running strategy suited him best, and racing smart. But without the more (seemingly) abstract mental toughness and its very important subcategory, a deep belief in himself, it’s unlikely that Keflezighi would have won for all of America.
As Karla Bruning wrote in her wonderful “Lessons from Boston Marathon Winner Meb Keflezighi” (bold mine):

If Meb Keflezighi believed all the press about him, he’d never be the Boston Marathon winner or finish top five at any race. But when everyone else counts him out, Meb still believes. And he turns that belief into results.

A recent study found that mental toughness accounts for 14 percent of the variables that influence finish times such as fitness, weather, fuel and the like. Keflezighi taps into that 14 percent to beat faster runners. Lesson? We all can use mental toughness to believe in ourselves, even when no one else does.

Lesson three: Belief in yourself can require a lot of work.

Lauren Fleshman (L) and Kara Goucher (R); scenes from Boston Marathon weekend

Lauren Fleshman (L) and Kara Goucher (R); scenes from Boston Marathon weekend

On the belief in oneself front, Kara Goucher is one elite runner who has been open about her battles with negative self-talk. I was thrilled to see she was at the Marathon Expo at the Oiselle section, along with the very inspirational Lauren Fleshman (who is gracing the June cover of Runner’s World in the short version of my favorite running shorts). The two were signing autographs and posing for photos with fans. Goucher has long been a personal favorite, and one of the things I like best about her is that despite being one of the most noteworthy runners today, she’s had her share of Imposter Syndrome. She has grit in spades. Confidence in herself? That’s been much harder to come by. From a 2010 Runner’s World article:

[Her mind] tells her she’s not worthy to compete at nationals, at the World Championships, at the Olympics. Look at the women around her. She’s out of her league. There’s a world record holder. There’s a gold medalist. Compared to them, who is she?

In a more recent interview with The Runner Dad, Goucher shared her “learn from the tough times” mindset:

You know, I think we all have that point in a race where we start to doubt ourselves. I mean, I have always had it, even in my best races where I think I don’t know if I can keep doing this, I feel terrible…I don’t know how much more I can give. For me, I try to go back to places in practice where I’ve struggled…Whenever I have a bad day I try to think what did I get out of this day. Maybe I didn’t hit my mile split perfectly, but what did I get? Well I learned to push through discomfort and I learned how to position my body. So I try to go back to those places in races when it gets tough…You just have to kind of stick with it and remind yourself you’ve been there and fought through it before and you can do it again.

I admire that Goucher has faced the mean girl parts of her mind head on by, for example, working with a sports psychologist. I also admire that she has been brave enough to share her battles with the rest of us and that she keeps putting one foot in front of the other (a lot faster than most of us, of course), sometimes even setting some very public goals for herself, such as intending to win Boston in 2009. She didn’t win, and I’m sure her heart was broken for awhile, but she’s continued moving and growing—while continuing to deal with roadblocks (especially in the form of injuries)—making some big changes along the way (having a baby, changing coaches, creating new goals, choosing new sponsors, etc.). I love that she seems to base her choices on what’s right for her as she grows, rather than getting caught up what was right for yesterday.

As Goucher has once said, “Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.”


Filed under Inspiration, Running

Beautiful Race Bling to Treat Yourself After Your Marathon


Jewelry from Erica Sara Designs offers multiple ways to celebrate your accomplishments and to beat post-race blues.

Many people start running so they can lose weight, fit into their skinny jeans, or prepare for bathing suit season. But most people who run a marathon or other long-distance event have bypassed those externally oriented rewards long ago for deeper reasons. Getting through an 18-mile run for the first time ever, raising money for charity team, finally qualifying for the Boston Marathon, or completing your first marathon are big events. They take grit, determination, tons of work, self-care, and sacrifice. And while the feeling of pride is its own reward, I think it’s important to honor such accomplishments with something more tangible.

Of course, if it’s a race you’re celebrating, you might have bought a jacket, you’ll receive race swag, and hopefully, you’ll have tons of photos to mark the occasion as well. But since you probably won’t be inclined to wear your medal to the office (at least after the first week) and a jacket tends not to go with a LBD, some fancier race bling might just be the thing. One option is Erica Sara Designs jewelry.

Erica_Sara_jewelry_200x200Erica Sara, a dedicated runner whose racing credits include the New York City Marathon and the Maui Oceanfront Marathon, is the woman behind the jewelry. She offers customizable options, so you can create necklaces or bracelets that offer you ongoing reminders of accomplishments or mantras to help you remember to dig deep for your strength.

For those running Boston on Monday, you may be interested to know that Sara even created a Boston Strong necklace. In its first months, 100% of the proceeds from purchases of the necklace went directly to the victims. Thereafter, 50% of the proceeds from the sales have continued to go to the OneFund. So far, Sara has raised more than $7000.



Filed under Health/Wellness, Running