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Be Still

A few weeks ago, as the holiday season began in earnest, I stubbed my toe and broke it.  Of all times! I cried to God as my foot swelled and bruised. I pushed myself and it got worse. I am a runner, and running is how I cope with stress. But now I’m sitting still with my foot propped up—doctor’s orders. Not able to run. Not able to decorate for Christmas or get out in the hustle and bustle. After my pity party, I realized God had been speaking to me in gentle ways, but I wasn’t listening. He’s got my full attention now. He wanted me to slow down and listen. I have finally heard him, when my usual distraction and constant activity were forced to cease. It’s hard to be vigilant when you’re always rushing. It’s hard to be quiet and listen for guidance when we surround ourselves with noise. Tribulation is imminent. If the Universe is trying to get you to slow down, listen to him.

All about Love

In All About Love, hooks writes,

 “Taught to believe that the mind, not the heart, is the seat of learning, many of us believe that to speak of love with any emotional intensity means we will be perceived as weak and irrational. And it is especially hard to speak of love when what we have to say calls attention to the fact that lovelessness is more common than love, that many of us are not sure what we mean when we talk of love or how to express love.

Everyone wants to know more about love. We want to know what it means to love, what we can do in our everyday lives to love and be loved. We want to know how to seduce those among us who remain wedded to lovelessness and open the door to their hearts to let love enter. The strength of our desire does not change the power of our cultural uncertainty.

Everywhere we learn that love is important, and yet we are bombarded by its failure. In the realm of the political, among the religious, in our families, and in our romantic lives, we see little indication that love informs decisions, strengthens our understanding of community, or keeps us together. This bleak picture in no way alters the nature of our longing. We still hope that love will prevail. We still believe in love’s promise.”

I’m not sure what works best for everyone, but for me I believe in love’s promise and I do best on love. Love is ………

I knew a Wise Woman

I knew a Wise Woman
And she said to me
That the river would mold me
And the wild wind would cool me
That the trickster the coyote
He would fool me
That father Sun would warm me
Mother Earth would clothe me
Grandmother Moon would greet me
And of the old ways she would teach me
Wise woman, she told me
To always walk lightly
Tread the earth ever gently
Lovingly so preciously
And take from her sparingly
She said, to share with others
What you have learned from me
Be still and breathe, ever patiently
For the web of life
Has woven what is to be
But you must still chose
Your own path, you will see
And lastly, the wise woman said to me
To listen to the wise one
That dwells within me
To walk my path in balance
Is too be free ✨

Author, Unknown

Sweat it out

I’m not sure how we suddenly got here—how the beginning of the New Year suddenly catapulted into May. How the pandemic has left us sheltering-in-place for weeks. How so many people are alone. Or unemployed. Or sick or dying and can’t have loved ones with them.

When I feel overwhelmed, or when I need clarity, I run. I count my blessings with each mile; I work through the emotions of the being stuck at home; I pray for others. I sweat it out. 

I like my normal routine. I like my morning runs, I like the quiet in my office, I like the shared times with my loves. That routine has been interrupted. Unexpected interruption makes us feel off-balance, lonely and helpless. So, I run. 

And while I run, I think: How can I use this time in quarantine and my talents to make a difference in the world? How can I show up in a new way, to help people? How can I do small things that change hearts in big ways?  I’m not sure what the answers are, but I think the prize will be in the process.

The gift will happen during all the miles leading me there.

I don’t know where we’re headed, or exactly what to do, but I do have some good conversations with my soul. I sit quietly, or I listen to the birds as I run through the trails, contemplating the sparks God shines inside me. The root to finding any answer is in the quiet, the “be still” moments of our lives – or at least it is for me.

Sue Monk Kidd said it best, “I realize that the heart of religion was setting up an honest dialogue with uniqueness of one’s soul and finding a deeply personal relationship with God, the inner Voice, the inner Music that plays in you as it does in no one else.” It’s in the journey, your journey alone. Your interruption of the process—the prize.

It plays differently in each of us. Even children. I listen to my grandchildren talk about “the virus” and how they’re not able to go to school, or see their friends or grandparents, or have traditional birthday parties. But they’re still happy. They still laugh and laughter is proof of hope. They’re creative. They find the joy in life—no matter what. They know they are loved. They trust it’ll be okay. We tell them it will. Children can remind us of who we are, or who we want to be.

We can find new creative ways to show up at church, to “zoom” our friends and teachers, we can help teach the value of connection but in different ways. Love and connection matter. Creating a connective life begins with us deciding to make changes day by day. Let’s walk through this pandemic together in new and creative ways. Let’s flex some new muscles. Let’s make time for the people that may need just a phone call or drop off a gift at their front door or a drive by parade with signs, balloons and music. Show up as your true self. Even in the hard. Because we can do hard things.  

We will get through this pandemic. But, it is a reminder of our inextricable connection. It’s all we have. Through our relationships we can channel love. Our true nature is love. And there is nothing more powerful than love. Everything that matters will last. Our love for each other, our connection to each other. The way we love and serve each other – none of this is in jeopardy, even in this weird quarantine world. This is giving me hope. How about you?

So, even though things are moody and messy these days; get outside, enjoy the fresh air. Go for a run, a walk or a hike through the woods. Sweat out your fear. Sweat out your worry. Ponder the simplicity of love and connection, even on the strangest of journeys.

I can’t wait to spend time with you! I love you!

Group social

Group social! 

Steadying My Gaze

February 2019

I’m taking dance lessons, which has proved to be another incredible form of exercise and a drastic departure from my comfort zone. The introvert in me is very weary from the extroverted effort of dancing. It scared me at first. I’m not a natural dancer.

My patient instructors, Rudy, Candace, Cary and Crystal (and I need all of them), have taught me how to transfer my weight quickly and hold my frame, all while listening to the rhythm of the music and following the lead of my partner.  So many of the analogies they use sound just like what I say to my athletes.  When I dance, it must be pretty obvious that I am nervous, and they are often reminding me to breathe and relax (which sounds familiar, too). Do they see me closing my eyes and saying a prayer to myself?

One of the most important skills I’m practicing is spotting before I spin–picking a point in front of me and steadying my gaze before I spin to avoid dizziness. In yoga, when you concentrate on a point of focus, it’s called your drishti. So, if I use my drishti to spot, the rest of my body will follow and I don’t feel like the room is spinning out of control and I’m going to fall over. I am reminded of the quote from the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: “The car goes where the eyes go.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to force myself out of the house, but every week I get ready and head to the lesson. And I enjoy every single second of learning how to dance. It’s a lot like running in that when you watch someone who is really good, it looks impossibly easy and effortless. But when you try it yourself, just like running, you soon see that it is a lifelong learning curve in terms of endurance, efficiency, and grace.

The lesson: when you have a challenge before you, a difficult succession of things to accomplish, determine your focus before you begin. Will you gaze on the difficulty? Will it be on your competition? Will it be on your past? Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter—note it. And figure out a way to celebrate it. It’s better to have growing pains than to grow numb of challenges.

Just dance….and run….it will make you happy.


Make Miles Count

January 2019

I hope your New Year transitioned beautifully. Mine did. On January 1, I ran with some friends around Huguenot Park before participating in a local race. The “First Day 5K” takes off around 11am–a late start to give the ball-drop-watchers a chance to sleep in. As we logged a few sweaty, smiley miles on that beautiful 60-degree morning, we gave thanks to the year behind us and chatted about our hopefulness for what lies ahead. For me, it’s the perfect way to spend New Year’s Day: friends, a run, a race and moments to mark our gratitude for all we have. A new year is the gift of a clean slate, a fresh start. Close your eyes and take in the cold, crisp air. Think about what you would like to look different in your life this year. What are your roadblocks in making progress in that direction? Is there something you need to let go? How can we deepen our relationships? How can we live life more consciously, mindfully, faithfully and intentionally? Let’s open our heart to all possibilities. Listen and trust and the outcome will unfold. Maybe we will run into the year inspired and free.

I finish the day with my beautiful family sharing a traditional  New Year Day southern meal–which we hope might bring us a little luck in the coming year.

Whatever your heart desires in 2019, put it out there, believe it and prepare to receive it. God wants it that way. It’s the perfect time of year to make our miles count.

A Rare Gift

This summer, I spent a week traveling around Southern Ireland with a dear friend. But I’ve been hesitant to sit down at my desk and put into words my experience. I’ve waited, soaking the experience into my soul, before I shared it. Just like long runs deepen your connection with people, nature, and your inner self, an international adventure strengthens relationships – to yourself and to others – and creates lifelong memories, stories and experiences over miles and miles that cannot be made any other way.

My Irish adventure involved hiking, walking and running along cliffs, exploring castles, discovering hidden beaches, touring gardens, hiking through waterfalls and rainbows, eating seafood, sightseeing, logging almost as many miles on our feet as in a car, and having so much fun outdoors that we’d allot only 10 minutes to shower and throw on clothes before heading out again. Plans were easy and subject to change. The miles on the trip were exactly what I needed.

Below is a map of our journey. Click on the markers to see pictures!

Runners learn endurance and it serves us well in every area of our life. I channeled this endurance during a long flight from Richmond to Atlanta and then to Dublin—where we immediately rented a car and headed to the Cliffs of Moher, on no sleep. At least, I didn’t sleep. I met a friend on the plane (that can’t sleep on planes either) so our happy “hour” chatting lasted all night long and into the morning, when we started spiking our morning coffee with Bailey’s to make it through the final stretch. Being a runner came into play—pacing, patience and the ability to function on very little sleep. And, of course, lots of coffee.

Exhaustion didn’t stop us; I was determined to enjoy every moment of my time in this new place.

The views along the Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking. It’s a view that reveals the enormity and power of our beautiful world; I felt so small in it. The sea was like a battlefield of giant waves hitting the rocks with such force it gave the appearance of geysers of water spouting high from the collisions. The seascape was so high and the clouds were so low you could barely see where one ended and the other began. I’m grateful we could run and explore the cliffs by foot. There is no better way to see the terrain, beauty and history of this beautiful country.

Travel tip: we stayed at this B&B. Thank you James and Shelia for the best stay ever.

The adventure continued to Dingle, and I return to the subject of endurance, because we were back in the very small car, driving down very narrow roads. I spent some time in hopeful prayer that we would make it, in one piece, to the next town.

Dingle quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. The countryside was lush, green and fresh. Beautiful wild flowers cascaded down rock walls lining the winding, narrow roads. We pulled over often to take photos and to soak in the prettiest mountain views I have ever seen. We saw sheep and cattle feeding in the fields or herding along the roads, ignoring us while we stopped to watch. We took our time driving along the peninsula with full view of the sea, learning about the history and the culture of the people with our eyes and hearts wide open. We ate fresh fish and chips. We drank Guinness and danced.

I didn’t want to leave Dingle. This place and our time there was a gift from God. I said thank you often, squinting into the sunrise over the cliffs. I wanted to linger here, just for a bit and relish the goodness of this moment.

Travel tips: Stay at this B&B. Thank you Michael and Blandina for a wonderful stay. I will be back—one day. 

Visit this local pub, where we listened to great Irish music and danced the Irish waltz with the locals.   

This pit stop was yet another reminder that while we meet many people in life, we never know the moment when we will meet the ones that we’ll remember forever. Bart and Mariam: I hope our paths cross again. These are the moments I hold most dear.

On the advice of the locals, we decided to squeeze in a stop at Killarney National Park. We thought it would be a great place to run. As it turned out, this was not a leisurely walk in the park. The hills of Killarney were eternal and beastly—up stone steps and winding trails—but the scenery was so amazing that you barely noticed how hard you were working. We ran and explored the trails and saw the most amazing waterfall I have ever seen. We visited Muckross castle and gardens, where the lush plants and flowers exploded with color, like a canvas of vibrant hues and shadows that would pop into focus as you drew closer.

The next stop on our journey was Cobh, a sweet quaint, beautiful seaport village. While yet again I could wax poetic about the beautiful scenery, my most notable memory from this leg of our journey is that the people of Cobh are the nicest, friendliest humans on the planet. For instance, on my last day, during an early morning walk, I spotted a small souvenir in the window of a shop that I wanted to buy for my grandchildren. The store was closed and I was about to turn towards home, when the young shopkeeper went out of her way to open her store for me to make that one totally-not-worth-it-for-her transaction.

At the end of our brief stay here, I felt happy, grateful exhausted and full. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Our final destination before heading back to Dublin was Wicklow Park. We didn’t have much time here as the trip was long and time was short. But my travel companion’s one request before we left was to stop here—to see where the TV show Vikings was filmed (and we secretly hoped to run into some of the cast, like this badass :).

Wicklow Park is a popular location for films. While we didn’t succeed in meeting any of our favorite show’s cast, we did enjoy sandy beaches, rolling mountains, hidden lakes, bogs and small villages. We very quickly understood why this beautiful spot makes the perfect Hollywood backdrop.

We finished the trip back in Dublin and at the infamous Temple Bar for dinner with flowing Guinness and lively Irish music. It is a “must go” destination when in Dublin. After dinner, we strolled around Dublin, taking in the bustle of a lively city—the busy-ness was a stark contrast from any other stop on our trip.

A journey through Ireland is like a deep breath for your soul. My time there was overflowing with goodness, friendship, culture and adventure. Saying goodbye to this country was awful. At the airport, the only thing heavier than my carry-on bag was my heart. But the memory of this adventure–this rare gift—is now part of who I am, just like every place I’ve ever run and every person I’ve ever run with. They are the building blocks of me.

Eyes on Iron Man

By John Sicat

I did the Richmond Marathon last November and had a fantastic day. I improved my previous PR by about 20 minutes (3:27:03). I’m short about 2 minutes for Boston, but I see it within reach! I’m thrilled and I think a lot of my success was due to utilizing the good form/technique Coach Brenda taught me.

Brenda, your wisdom paid off! In hoping to keep the momentum going, I’ve signed up for an Iron Man in September (Chattanooga, TN). What have I done?!!

PR Every Race

By Amy McCann

As a later-to-life distance runner, I did not have much experience when I met Coach Brenda.  I had run some marathons, half marathons and other races, but my performance was unpredictable.  Coach Brenda used her experience and expertise to set a training plan specific to me and my goals.  Her approach is different from the one-size-fits-all training plans I was using.  Since working with Coach Brenda, every race has been a new personal record!  She continues to challenge me, but is always mindful of keeping me healthy and injury free.  Her knowledge and experience have helped me achieve my goals AND enjoy the training process.  I highly recommend Coach Brenda to runners of all levels.