I am an ugly runner. I trudge over the pavement. I do not float. I sweat, a LOT! When my body temperature rises, so too does the color of my skin. It progresses from tan, to pink, to a horrible blotchy red rash. On any given run, I am fighting shin splints, back pain, or neck and shoulder tension. My breathing becomes so marked that I sound like I am hyperventilating. Snot runs freely from my nose or from my nose into my throat giving my marked breathing a sickening rattle. I cough. I spit. I gag. I am uncomfortably aware of my wiggly parts. I am the antithesis of a pretty runner.

About six years ago, while running in front of Loyola College (now Loyola University) on Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland, I lifted my head to determine my progress as I climbed what seemed like a never ending hill, only to see a very tall, very thin girl running toward me. With a high blonde ponytail that swung like a perfectly timed pendulum, and a light bouncing step, she trotted by me with ease. Her porcelain skin and unwrinkled matching Nike outfit were noticeably free of perspiration. As I trudged along in my bargain running clothes with sweat dripping steadily from my hair and forehead into my eyes, it took a considerable amount of will power NOT to stick out my foot and watch Little Miss Perfect face plant on the cement; tearing holes in her completely dry and unwrinkled outfit, while simultaneously scraping the skin off of her porcelain complexion and skewing her perfectly proportioned features.

Over the years, I have often been reminded of this run; while negotiating raised sidewalks, pot holes, and traffic in the Baltimore neighborhood of Roland Park as elite athletes with long smooth strides glided gazelle like by me; or while sweating buckets during humid summer days at the beach as college girls trotted by in sports bras, the only apparent bounce occurring in their perky little breasts. However, I was reminded of this moment most recently while running the Stone House Museum Half Marathon on September 11.

I began training eight weeks before the race, two weeks less than I had trained for last year’s Kingdom Challenge. The two-week loss in training, however, did not worry me since I had been running consistently throughout the summer. Two weeks into training my attitude changed as the height of the summer’s heat and humidity kicked into full gear. Every run felt like a struggle. The majority of runs were far slower than I had anticipated. My training regimen was inconsistent, due partially to an utter lack of motivation born from frustration with my training performance. Though the last eight weeks had been ugly, leaving me feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally unprepared, I forced myself to reassess my goals and slipped into bed the night before the race with only the hope of finishing, regardless of my time.

I woke up on September 11 to plentiful sunshine and frost; perfect weather for running. Even more perfect for running through the picturesque Vermont hills. I was less picturesque. Crawling out of bed at six in the morning rarely agrees me. Crawling out of bed to run in a race I am less than enthused about proves an even more frightful sight.

Standing on the starting line waiting for direction from the race coordinator, I began a conversation with a girl in her twenties who was excited to be running her first half marathon. She was what most twenty year olds are…perky, pretty, and peppy. Too peppy, I thought as I stood freezing my ass off while listening to her speak with enthusiasm about the next 13.1 miles.

In an instant, the race began and off she flew, her ponytail bouncing in perfect rhythm to her spring-like easy gait. If I had been next to her tripping her would have been my first thought. However, as I fought to keep her within my sight, I could only imagine her twisting her ankle as she stepped into one of the many potholes scattered across the dirt roads, or slipping on the loose gravel, scraping her ass and smearing dirt down her perfectly pert buttocks. At mile ten, when my energy was waning and my back seizing, she kicked into high gear and I lost sight of her. Forced to focus on finishing the race without the burning flames of envy beneath my bottom, I turned up my iPod, bent my back in an attempt to stretch it, and looked uphill at the last three grueling miles.

As I ran the last few yards to the finish line, I saw the peppy twenty year-old, standing on the sidelines cheering in a relaxed manner as if she had just returned from a day at the spa. Had I not glanced down at my clock and been astonished by my time (I shaved ten minutes off my last half marathon and was the third woman to finish overall) or failed to look into the beaming face of my daughter, my envy would most likely have turned to a deep burning hatred of all perky twenty year-olds. However, my accomplishment combined with the pride my daughter felt for her own accomplishment (she ran the shorter 5k occurring simultaneously as the half marathon) turned this beast into a beauty.

At that moment, I learned that no matter how ugly of a runner I may be, no matter how graceful and easy other’s may appear, my achievements and the achievements of my daughter are the essence of beauty; that though I looked hideous while running it, and even more frightful after running it, I had not only set a goal for my race, but had far surpassed even my own expectations. I had overcome my mental, emotional, and physical roadblocks. I had crossed the finish to look into the beautiful blue eyes of my daughter, who when asked about her own race exclaimed, “I won!”

By: Alyssa Coupe T2M2R guest blogger from Vermont

My career as a semi-serious runner began shortly after moving to Baltimore and at the beginning of my third year of college. Always physically active (I played basketball throughout junior high, danced throughout high school, and during the first two years of college ice skated four to five times a week), I found myself three thousand miles away from home, at a new school and in a new town lacking the resources I had previously depended upon for physical exercise. Forming a relationship with Jody, an avid runner, was, therefore, propitious timing.

            When I first met Jody, and for months after meeting him, I was unaware that he was a runner, and an avid one at that. I knew that he swam in high school and college and that he coached two swim teams, a club team and his school’s team. I knew that he played tennis growing up. That he played golf and worked at a golf course one summer. I even knew that, as children, he, his brother, and their friends liked to play Evil Knievil by jumping bikes over each other while lying in the dirt. However, I did not know he ran. That is until I inquired as to his whereabouts after an almost two-week absence from work. He answered, “Ireland with my dad.” “Touring?” I asked. “Yes” he very nonchalantly answered, “but mainly went to run the Dublin Marathon.” I must admit that at that time I had no idea that a marathon entailed running 26.2 miles. My knowledge of marathon distance was limited to “many miles”, especially to run. I believe my jaw was slightly ajar in “ah” at the time. However, I must have appeared the gawking idiot as I pried further, only to find out that Dublin was not his first marathon. In fact, it was his third or fourth in addition to several triathlons.

As our relationship progressed from friendship to formal dating, Jody and I often talked about running and its physical benefits, but more importantly, we discussed the emotional and mental health benefits that he derived from hitting the pavement 5-6 times a week. It was these discussions, my increased lack of physical activity, and my desire to find a sport that did not require gyms, dance studios, or ice rinks that drove me to lace up my running shoes, which I had only ever run in once or twice, and to venture out for my first very painful, pathetically short run.


            Not only were my lungs on fire, but I was developing a sharp cramp in my rib cage and I was only a quarter of a mile into what I hoped would be a two mile run. By a half a mile the cramp had worsened, my breathing had quickened, and my legs were beginning to feel gelatinous. However, I pushed on, hoping that I could get into a reasonable pace, take a deep breath, and, if necessary, complete the two miles I had hoped to accomplish without stopping to walk, even if it meant running at a snail’s pace. At three quarters of a mile, I stopped. The cramp had become so severe I could barely stand up straight. My legs were giving out on me and I was gasping for air. I was mad. Make that livid! My body was not doing what I wanted it to do and the confidence I felt ten steps into my run was now ground into the pavement by my sparkling new running shoes. I walked the three quarters of a mile back to my parent’s house feeling hopelessly defeated and questioning whether I would ever do this again.

My therapist once told me that anger is, in reality, a positive emotion. Unfortunately, individual’s negative actions because of anger have made it a taboo emotion. However, anger is a driving force, one that, when used positively can help achieve great things. Thank God, it is not in my nature to surrender gracefully. Otherwise, that first run would have been my last, depriving me of a life long sport, confidence booster, and coping mechanism.

The blind rage I felt at the end of that first run motivated me to venture out again, completing a mile; then again, increasing my runs by another half a mile, until I was running three miles regularly and working my way up to four miles, three to four times a week. During many of these runs, I felt like stopping, throwing my hands up in the air and saying, “Fuck it!” However, the thought of failing fueled my anger, forcing me to ignore the physical pain, silence the negative voices in my head, and focus on the finish.

Soon I was training for my first five-kilometer run, a small fundraiser that began and ended at Jody’s place of employment. Most novice runners would simply strive to finish the race, and if I were not such a perfectionist, I would have been smart to do so. However, being the perfectionist I am, I set two goals for myself. First, I vowed not to stop and walk and any point during the race. Second, I strove to complete the race in thirty minutes or less, a not unreasonable time considering the ten-minute mile average I had been maintaining.

The moment I committed to the race, my nerves were highjacked. The thought of stopping at any point during the race produced tears of frustration. The thought of finishing with more than thirty minutes on the clock made me want to scream. In order to calm my nerves and release some tension, I decided to run the course the race would take three or four times before race day.

Standing on the starting line early that misty Saturday morning, I thought I might vomit. My nerves were wound so tightly they would have twanged if plucked. When the gun went off signaling the start of the race, I stood stunned for a moment before I remembered that I must put one foot in front of the other. Heart pounding in my chest, I took off, remembering that three quarters of the race was a steady uphill climb, and pacing myself was the key to achieving both my goals. I plugged along steadily, watching a handful of individuals sprint by me, stop and walk, then sprint by me again a half a mile later. I trudged on trying to ignore the uphill climb by staring at my feet and the pavement in front of me. While reciting, “I think I can, I think I can” repetitively, I looked up briefly only to realize I had reached the summit. My heart leapt with joy. All I had to conquer was a downhill mile. I crossed the finish line in just over 29 minutes, having run the entire race.  

Driving home that morning, I felt accomplished and confident. I had not only set a goal and achieved it, but also overcome my own doubt and nerves. I had pushed myself both physically and mentally, running a distance that six months before would have been unthinkable. I had competed against myself, and I had won.

Serenity NOW!

            Most of my friends, and a few brave souls that have dared to ask, know that my daughter, Lucy, came into being through In Vitro Fertilization. Less well known is the severe post-partum depression I suffered approximately 5 months after her birth. Having a baby is a life altering experience. An experience that though joyful, is also physically, and emotionally, taxing. The coping mechanisms I had previously used in order to deal with stress, such as a couple of hours alone or the ability to have a good soul cleansing cry, ceased to be options with an infant whose every need I was responsible for meeting. Through intensive therapy, an hour every day when at my worst, I not only got to the heart of my anxiety and depression, but also worked on formulating a list of coping mechanisms that had worked in the past and could be fit into my daily routine with Lu. Conversation after conversation, list after list resulted in one reliable answer: exercise.

            When Lu was small, running was not the best option. We lived in Baltimore city. Pushing a running stroller in the street was unsafe. Pushing the running stroller over the pitted and pitched sidewalks was not only difficult but I feared would give Lu whiplash. Therefore, I turned to walking. The worse I felt, the more I walked. Most days I walked no less than 4 or 5 miles. My schedule soon revolved around my morning walks to Starbucks and when Lu was nine or ten months old, the playground. From 9am until noon, I walked. On the rare occasions Jody was not working, I snuck in a run. That walking, and those periodic runs, not only helped me lose what was left of my pregnancy weight, but also saved my sanity.

            In 2009, Jody and I moved to Vermont to create a better life for ourselves and for Lu. For the first time in the twelve years we had known each other, Jody would only be working one job. Shortly after our move, we began working on a schedule that allowed both of us the opportunity to exercise by alternating days or meeting up at the gym after Jody had had the opportunity to work out. I once again began running three to four times a week and lifting two or three times a week.

            In August of last year, I registered for a half marathon. I trained for ten weeks battling sickness and the inclement weather that a Vermont fall can produce. However, I also treasured those healthy days when my long runs consisted of brilliantly crisp, indescribably beautiful fall days through the Vermont countryside.

The day of the marathon brought with it freezing temperatures and snow. The route, described as moderately hilly by the coordinators, included a thousand foot climb. Despite these factors, I crossed the finish line a mere four minutes shy of my two-hour goal and surprisingly at peace with my “failure”.

            Motherhood, and life, remains as challenging as it did three years ago. The challenges just change with each passing day. The crushing depression I suffered from three years ago, periodically tries to rear its ugly head. However, it is on those bad days that I now lace up my running shoes, plug into my iPod, and bask in the knowledge that the next thirty minutes to an hour will bring me solitude, clarity, and an increasing sense of serenity.

By: Alyssa Coupe T2M2R guest blogger from Vermont


T2M2R is my way of working through my grief, so I can help a child overcome theirs. ~ Jamie Roeder
Now that Teacher2Mother2Runner is really taking off (Um, they have a Twitter account!), getting big, gobbling up fans left and right, I need to let you in on a little secret about them. You may not know this, but being a member of T2M2R means you're a part of an amazing organization. If you think T2M2R is just another "mommy running group," you're wrong! I know, I hate when that happens, too.

You may have stumbled upon T2M2R because a friend mentioned them and you figured "why not?" You may have been drawn by the cute logo. You may be hopeful that you're going to win the next item of swag from Treasure Chest Tuesday (I know I am!) You may be a teacher, a mother, and a runner or at least fit the bill of one of those. Or you may have joined so you could be a part of something that is a lot bigger than all of that.

When I was first introduced to T2M2R I had no idea what they were all about. I 'liked' them on Facebook because I am a mother and a runner. They promised that even if you weren't a teacher by profession you were still welcome to join. I didn't learn what the purpose of the group was until I went on an 8 mile run with one of the founders of the group, Jamie. She told me her story about the losses of parents she endured in her life and instantly I felt like I needed to do more and really get involved.

I lost my dad four years ago. It feels surreal to even type that. Wow, four years. As an adult, losing my parent has been terribly difficult. I miss him each and every day. My dad was always there for me as a kid when I was involved in sports. He was the one who cheered (i.e., coached) for me from the bench during my Little League softball games. He drove to my track meets after long days at work and watched me in my events, even if I only ran 1 race that lasted a few minutes. I can't imagine him not being there during my childhood. While training for my marathon I kept him with me. I knew he was cheering for me along the way even though I couldn't hear him. After finishing my first marathon, I called my mom to let her know how I did (that I was alive). When I hung up, I felt an emptiness. There was one more person I wanted to call, but he wasn't there to answer.

As painful as it is to not have my dad around now, I can't imagine losing him when I was much younger. If he missed those softballs games, track meets and wasn't around to play catch with, I'm not sure how I would have coped. Fortunately there is an organization, Comfort Zone Camp, that helps kids cope with the loss of a parent or loved one. Teacher2Mother2Runner brings awareness to this camp, which is offered as a free service to kids, and helps them get funding. They also donate to the camp as well. Pretty awesome, right?

You may have been going around telling people that you're a part of this great running group, full of inspiring women, which is all true. However, you're also doing a lot more. The more support and recognition T2M2R can get will translate into how much more they can give to the Comfort Zone Camp. So don't be afraid to drink the kool-aid and share it with a friend. That's why I'm here. That's why I write a weekly blog, and that's one of the many reasons I run.

Run Hard,
Run Strong,
Run For You,

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." ~ Steve Prefontaine 
I've heard all of the reasons and excuses why people feel the need to run with music. The most common one, "Running is boring. If I don't have music to push me, I'll never get my run in." Um, pardon me. Did you call my beloved sport 'boring?' I'm sorry, but if you find running boring, it's probably just not for you. Listening to music isn't going to take away the 'boring' factor. What it is doing is distracting you from the task at hand. Running while listening to music is not only unnecessary, it's dangerous. Nothing that Lady Gaga has to sing about is important enough to make me replace the bull dog on top of a Mac truck, because I didn't hear it coming behind me. 

Here are some cases where I think running with music is NOT OK.

1) You're running on the road. I admit it, I used to run with my iPod blaring while I was out running in traffic. It doesn't matter if you're running head on into traffic; (which you always should be) accidents happen. You need to be aware of your surroundings. A car behind you could just as easily hit you from the other side of the road. If there is an accident at an intersection and you don't hear it, you could get hit with debris. These scenarios may seem unlikely, but why chance it? Be smart, look out for yourself. I can guarantee you that the cars on the road aren't paying as much attention to you as they should be.

2) You're running with a friend. I'm sorry, is Katy Perry's menage a trois last Friday night more important than what you're 'sole' sister has to say? Remove the ear buds and dish. Runs can be lonely, especially long runs. If you're fortunate to run with a friend, use that time to your advantage. Talk her ear off, brag about your kids, complain about things no one else wants to listen to (she doesn't have a choice but to listen). If I'm feeling low during a run and my running partner is jamming to her tunes, I have no one to push me when I want to quit. If you want to listen to music when you run, go alone. You pretty much are alone if you can't hear anything around you anyway.

3) You're in a race. Um, hello did you train so that you couldn't get the full experience of the race? I think not! Leave the music at home and soak in the atmosphere! There is nothing more inspiring than the race day environment. Get pumped and excited from the crowd, not your "friends" in the little music box. Those people aren't there running the race with you. You have actual human contact all around you, so enjoy it!

Now, I'm going to get off of my soapbox because I'm sure majority of you are huffing at your computers and calling me judgmental. I'm not! Honestly, I ran my 7 miler two weeks ago and brought my iPod with me. I mapped a course that had me running 3 miles (alone!) on the trail and I knew I would need something to occupy my time. Miles and miles of crushed stone is not very motivating and my brain tends to get exhausted from counting leaves. I'm not saying running with music is terrible, or makes you a bad person/runner. All I'm saying is, don't depend on music! If you enjoy running; try to enjoy it sans music once in awhile (and always while running the roads). I challenge you to leave your music at home for your next run. Don't worry, your "friends" will still be there when you get home.

Report back and let me know what you think if you accept my challenge!

Run Hard,
Run Strong,
Run for You,