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Chicago-bound, October 2019

Statistically, the odds are against me. I mean, only one percent of the world’s population has ever run a full marathon. And when you Google the word “marathon,” the word “grueling” tends to pop up a lot, which really conflicts with my love of everything that’s not grueling (like eating ice cream or lying in Shavasana pose in yoga). So, I guess it’s a good thing I’ve always hated statistics and distrusted search results.

Image may contain: Jenna Lee, smiling, sitting, outdoor and nature

Post-Shavasana Glow

In nine short months, I will be lining up at the start line in Chicago for a 26.2 mile journey. Yes, I’ve lived in Spain and tackled eight half marathons, but to date, this is most adventurous — and perhaps insane — thing I’ve ever done. As a reluctant athlete, nothing about running comes easily. Every step is work, and every mile takes more willpower than most people realize. My body wasn’t designed to run long distances, and I’m still in recovery from a nasty bout of Plantar Fasciitis and a heel spur. Couple that with tight hip flexors and a tendency to trip over my own feet, and it seems like a recipe for disaster. But one thing I am is stubborn. Somehow, I got it into my head that I need to this, and I fully intend on following through.

And when I finally line up at that start line on race day, it will be five years to the day from when I resolved to run it. This insanity started on a trip to Chicago to visit a friend in October 2014. We were roaming the city in true tourist fashion, with eyes wide and a camera dangling from my chest. When we finally managed to tear ourselves away from the infamous Bean, we ended up along the sidelines for the Chicago Marathon. Runners barreled forward or stumbled another step, while the loudspeaker boomed. Thousands of people crossed the finish line that day, and when you see people doing something seemingly impossible, it’s hard to shake the feeling that maybe, one day, you could do it, too.


For those days of doubt, it’s also important to remember that some pretty unsuspecting people have run marathons. To name a few:

1)      Joe Strummer (lead singer of The Clash) (thanks, Lara)

2)      Freddie Prince, Jr. (former American heartthrob)

3)      Alanis Morissette (Now isn’t that ironic? 😉)

4)      Drew Carey (This isn’t made up, and the points do matter.)

5)      Edward Norton (Wait, I thought the first rule was that you don’t talk about it?)

6)      Will Ferrell (I know him!)

7)      Pamela Anderson (It wasn’t in slow motion, either).

8)      Oprah Winfrey (the Queen)

9)      Andrea Barber (Yes, Kimmy Gibbler ran a marathon.)

10)   Al Roker (a fellow SUNY Oswego alum)

And for those super tough days, I’m going to remember that I am running for Ronald McDonald House Charities. If you haven’t heard about the awesome work they do for families in need, you can read more here:


My goal is to raise $1,250 for Ronald McDonald House for the race. If you like what you read about the organization, I would love to have your support! Feel free to pop on over to my fundraising page:

For now, I’ll keep training, little by little. Here’s to the next mile!



A poem … that means much to me


The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


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Free Falling from 10,000 Feet

With one foot planted firmly out of a plane, your toes curled tightly over the edge of said plane, and that same knee floating freely in the air, you don’t have much choice but to jump. My instructor informed me earlier that day that when you’re more than 10,000 feet in the air and the wind storms loudly in through the open door, “no” sounds strangely like “go.” Perched high above the earth, the word “no” flooded my thoughts and echoed off my skull. Every inch of my body tensed with fear. Standing at the threshold, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember why I wanted to do this.


Taking the first step

Mike and I arrived at Pine Hill Airport at noon, ready to skydive for the first time in our lives. It had been my idea — a birthday gift I bought for him that excited me just as much as it did him.  We went through an hour of training, where one of the instructors explained to us how you should contort your body for the fall, where your hands should be placed, how far you should arch your back, etc. He took us inside the plane and demonstrated how the jump would occur, though I’m not positive why he bothered. When you’re faced with the actual reality of jumping out of a plane, everything you’ve ever been taught about proper technique quickly flees the scene, leaving you only with an overwhelming feeling of trepidation. Out of everything our instructor told us, the only thing I could remember was the reminder to breathe. That I could do. So as we ascended in the plane, I focused only on inhaling and exhaling and trying not to throw up.

Another instructor, Matt, was chosen to jump tandem with me, and for this, I was grateful. Out of the four of us in the plane: Mike, Matt, me, and Mike’s instructor (whose name I don’t recall), Matt was the only one talking. He talked about himself, asked about us, and did his damnedest to distract us. On the video he shot of us, Mike and I have looks of terror etched into our smiles. At one point, Mike’s instructor exclaimed, “Who the hell would jump out of a perfectly good plane?!” The devious smile on his face revealed his sarcasm, but the statement lightened the mood, though it didn’t manage to diminish our fear.

On our stomachs, Mike and I had two bears strapped to us — and no, not for us to hug as we cried on the way down. Western New York Skydiving partners with Canopies for Kids, an organization that provides bears to kids in hospitals. The idea is to sponsor a bear with a donation, and  then take it with you on your jump. Afterward, each bear is donated to children at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, along with a personalized note from the person who jumped with the bear that explains how the recipient now gets to cuddle with the bravest bear in the world. The goal is to give them a little courage while they are battling their illness, and naturally, I jumped (pun intended) at the opportunity to bring one of these brave bears with me.

Back in the days when I had my own teddy bears, I consistently told my parents that one day, I would go skydiving; I would go bungee jumping; I would travel the world; and yes, I would even go backpacking through the Amazon. None of us were quite sure where this sense of adventure stemmed from — perhaps my brother who enjoyed launching dirt bikes high in the air while performing a multitude of tricks and racing his Mustang as quickly as possible down the drag strip without blowing the engine. During those early years, we had been close, and I idolized his need for speed.

But skydiving is a different kind of adventure. My brother loved — and still loves — everything fast and powerful, but he has never once expressed a desire to launch himself out of the plane from 10,000 feet in the air or trek through terrain filled with tarantulas and snakes and other deadly beasts. Why these adventures have always appealed to me, I’ve never fully understood. Regardless, I decided it was time to check things off my bucket list. I’d like to make a side note here, just to mention that I fully understand why people hate the concept of a bucket list. Number one, it’s a bit morbid: You create a list of feats you want to accomplish before you kick. the. bucket. The whole paradigm is framed by a person’s imminent death; the idea that you are going to die, and should thus create a list of things you should do before one foot gets sucked into the grave. Horrifying, right? Besides, shouldn’t we all be living our lives with care and caution, thinking about how we want to construction our futures?

The answer to that last question is yes. And no. I would argue that we should be consistently thinking about how we want to construct our lives, but maybe not with the care and caution that one would imagine. When you focus only on where you want to be, it detracts from the moment you’re in. This mentality glorifies living for tomorrow. And that is precisely why I love the concept of a bucket list: It is the opposite of this. Given that you actually start checking items off, having a bucket list inspires you to accomplish big ticket items. It encourages you to do the things today that you will be grateful for tomorrow, as opposed to focusing solely on the promise of tomorrow. When you remind yourself that life is short, you unleash a whole new way of living that is much more present-minded.

One of my friends from college, Melanie, went skydiving months before I worked up the courage to actually do it myself. She posted pictures online shortly after her experience. As she rapidly fell from the sky, the skin on her face tight against the force of the wind, a wide smile spread across her lips. As I mused about how happy she looked, I came across a picture where she held the palm of her hand out in front of her. Four little words stood out in bold, black ink: Courage to let go.

As a mental health counselor, Melanie has seen what stress and anxiety can do to a person. In school, she helped run a club called Active Minds that aimed to break down stereotypes surrounding mental health. She volunteered for the Walk to Save Lives, a fundraiser that raised awareness about suicide and created a forum for survivors to share their stories. So when Melanie wrote, “Courage to let go,” on her hand, it had more depth than just letting go of gravity or letting go of the plane. Melanie’s simple reminder was that letting go of the emotions and fears that paralyze us is one of the most courageous acts that a person can accomplish. Whether it be preconceived notions we have about ourselves that make us insecure, traumatic experiences that have changed us, or mistakes that have haunted us, the most liberating act one can do is to simply let go.

In the end, the treasure of life is missed by those who hold on and gained by those who let go. -Lao Tzu #quote:

Easier said than done, no? For me, losing myself in these huge life experiences is a way of doing just that: letting go. Letting go of stress. Letting go of anxiety. Letting go of poor self-esteem. Letting go of societal standards and norms. Letting go of regrets, what-ifs, the should-ofs, could-ofs, would-ofs. Because when you are crashing to earth at 120 miles per hours, the last thing you’re worried about is how is you look or what people are thinking about you or that time five years ago when you should have said a few words to change a situation. None of that matters when you’re in free fall.

Free fall: Noun-The condition of unrestrained motion in a gravitational field; see also: motion. Motion: Noun-An act, process, or instance of changing place. By definition, free falling implies change. You fall from one spot to another, creating motion. What that definition fails to tell you is how liberating movement feels. Once I got over my fear of stepping through the plane’s threshold, I free fell for 36 seconds before Matt pulled the parachute. For 36 seconds, I did backflips and wrestled with a sinking sensation in my stomach that, contrary to popular belief, felt completely liberating. It wasn’t the kind of sinking feeling that comes from being upset or scared, but rather the sensation of butterflies you get before a first kiss or that little flutter in your stomach when you first lay eyes on the Roman baths or the Royal Palace or a beautiful sunset in foreign country.

After about 20 seconds, I was allowed to spread my arms wide against the wind, to show my own wise words: Carpe diem, Latin for “Seize the day.” That was my response to “Courage to let go.” Because that’s what letting go is all about: seizing the day.


Once our parachute sprung open and we jolted to a slower pace, Matt and I drifted toward earth like the leaves of a dandelion, swaying against the wind. From 6,000 feet, the view is incredible, stretching all the way from Albion, where we departed from, to Niagara Falls and Grand Island. The verdant trees created a thin canopy over countless houses and businesses. Through clusters of clouds, the sun shined dimly over the city, lightly highlighting the skyline.


When we extended our legs in front of us for landing and my feet felt the earth once more, I radiated with life in a way that I never had before. I felt alive. Unhindered. Free. And for me, that freedom is worth all the strength it takes to get over my fears and tackle insane feats. So, my question for you, dear readers, is what will you do today that scares you?


Half-Crazy: Why I Run

In retrospect, I knew it was going to hurt. Months of preparation and training had proven to be painful, even excruciating at times. But at mile 10, on the big day, I thought my legs might detach themselves from my body and jump into the nearest ditch. Luckily, by mile 11, they went numb, which proved to be the age-old dichotomy of a blessing and a curse. It helped the pain threshold, but made it difficult to keep my legs moving.

I’ve never been an inherently athletic person, so how I found myself tackling the immense task of running 13.1 miles is still perplexing to me. My life has always yoyo-ed back and forth between healthy habits and ice cream; working out and Netflix.


Life is too busy, I’ve told myself repetitively.

I don’t have time to be one of those crazy runners.

When I graduated and got my first job, I started working out with a coworker, which was great motivation to stay healthy. I completed a few 5k races—the fun ones, of course—then endeavored to train for my first 8k. At the time, the idea of running five miles terrified me, and I had absolutely no idea how to train for it. I started running three or four days a week with no schedule, and I wasn’t tracking my mileage. At the start line of the LockRock 8k, my mind raced with doubts, and I knew I had underprepared.

Did I finish?—yes. Was it pretty?—no.

Coming across the finish line, I kept booking it pass the spectators and found the biggest tree I could find. By the time I was done with it, its fine bark was coated in that morning’s breakfast special. Talk about embarrassing. Half of me was proud that I at least finished; the other half wanted to limp as far away as I could and never come back; to ram my head into the ground and live in the hole that it created.

It wasn’t until I found myself wandering aimlessly through an ocean of spectators that I became infatuated with running. One of my friends from college moved to Chicago for law school, and while taking in the sites of the city, we got swept up by the Chicago Marathon. Thousands of people flocked to the course with shouts of encouragement on their lips; they were alive with excitement and their hands clasped signs that declared: You are unstoppable! Or Run like you stole it!


The energy intoxicated me; the shouts were hypnotizing. But nothing made me fall in love quite as much as the expressions on the faces of the runners. Their faces contorted from ecstasy to fatigue to pain and back again, but each runner moved forward, regardless. When they crossed the finish line, some of them collapsed into the arms of their loved ones; some fell straight to the ground; and others reached desperately for water and food. Regardless of their reactions, all of them seemed divine at that finish line, their faces placid with the knowledge that they completed a feat most would never dream of in their lifetimes. To me, it seemed like a grand metaphor for life, a testament to human resilience—to be able to push yourself toward your goal when every muscle in your body begs you to stop, to be able to keep moving forward when your face so clearly screams with exhaustion—that is what being alive is all about! In that moment, I vowed to be one of them: exhausted with triumph, too depleted for negativity.

I was going to run a half marathon.

So, I started training. Slowly, of course. Progress was grueling: three, four, five miles, always intermingled with short stretches of walking. When I gained a bit of confidence, I started telling people about my plan, including my college friend, Dave, who not only encouraged me and gave me advice on the training process, but vowed to run it with me—even though he lives in Syracuse. With newfound resolve, my excuses became fewer, and my runs became longer. I woke up early on Sundays for long runs, and started needing to walk less. I explored new trails and quickly learned each and every five-mile path from my house. Doubts still weighed on me, though: Could I really do it? My training schedule was always behind, and I was nursing some pretty serious blisters that set me back in my training. Dave always swiftly shut each concern down, and eventually, I made it to ten miles, though it wasn’t the prettiest ten miles I’ve ever covered—the last few miles were still littered with stretches of walking and a whole lot of sweat.

Leading up to race day, I read articles on techniques you can use while running distances and came across one that suggested I focus on something different in each mile to break up the run. So I took this idea and shaped it into a game to motivate myself. For each mile, I vowed to dedicate the run to someone I cared about. I needed thirteen point one reasons to run this race, so I found them.

On the big day, I found myself scrambling to use the port-a-potty twenty minutes before the race, and the line was backed up for nearly a quarter mile. By the time I finished, I was scrambling to find Dave near the 10-minute-mile marker and was terrified that I would be running the race alone. Whereas the boisterous voices at the Chicago Marathon had energized me, the chatter at the Buffalo Marathon made my nerves stand on end—there were so many people. Luckily, Dave’s bright orange hoodie eventually caught my attention, and when the sign was given, we were off to a crawl, hindered both by the crowd, and my own fear of running out of energy early on in the race.

Finally, we fell into a rhythm, and I let my game begin. Mile one was dedicated to my grandmother, a fiercely stubborn and relentless woman who recently had her leg amputated and was bound to a wheelchair. As my feet pattered over the pavement, a memory came to mind of a trip my family had taken with her years back when I was a teenager. At the time, she had been using a cane to help with her balance, and my parent and I were going to play tennis. She hobbled along with us, and we snapped a picture of her gripping a tennis racquet in one hand and waving her cane in the air with her other. That picture found its way into one of my photo albums at home, and what stands out most is not the absurdness of her playing tennis with a cane, but, rather, the joy in her face that testifies that the woman never let life’s limitation keep her down. As I rounded up that first mile, I knew that she would love to be in my shoes.

I dedicated mile two to my other grandmother who struggles daily with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Despite her confusion and lack of short-term memory, she still holds fast to cherished memories that happened over fifty years ago that have shaped her into a spunky, lively, and strong woman. I dedicated mile three to both of my parents, whose unwavering support brought me to the realization of so many of my dreams. Mile four was dedicated to my best friend, and sister; mile five to my brother. At mile six, I thought it fitting to dedicate my run to my grandfather, a Korean War veteran. It was after all, Memorial Day weekend. Each subsequent mile followed suit, with a dedication to someone who helped lead me to where I am today.

My most important mile, mile 13, I saved for someone truly dear to my heart: my grandpa Mozer, who died in September 2001. I still remember all of the stories he told about snow-shoeing through Alaska with his pack of dogs and about great battles he valiantly won against strangers. He was the reason I fell in love with storytelling, and his memory gave me fuel in my last full mile. It also planted a seed for one of my next races, where I will dedicate the whole 13.1 to him and my best friend’s father, who both lost their battles with cancer.


(If you would like to donate to my Team Cure Challenge, you can find my page at: Every little bit helps and is greatly appreciated!).


The final .1 of the race, I had to dedicate to Dave, for all of his support and encouragement, and for helping me achieve more than I ever thought possible of myself and my body. There were times when I wanted to quit, but he never let me. The entire trek was made possible—and much more pleasant—by Dave’s words of encouragement.


I was kicked at mile 10, but somehow, I kept moving forward. The signs along the trail helped. When someone tells you: You Look So Skinny Right Now! or My parents are doing this, and they’re old!, you tend to find motivate to push yourself even more. When I saw the finish line, I found strength in myself to haul as fast as I could across the finish line. As my feet halted to a stop at the end of course, my exhaustion was replaced by disbelief and pride.

When they placed the finisher’s medal over my head, it wasn’t the feat itself that I was most proud of: it was the thought of the people in my life who transformed me into who I am today. It is because of them that I have the strength to wake up each day and work toward my goals.


I’ve never felt more fortunate or blessed than I did at that finish line. And that, dear readers, is why I run: because when life threatens to buckle underneath you, you need to learn to spring back up and book it to the finish line, especially when it hurts the most.

Also, the cool finisher’s medal helps a lot.