13 Steps to Entertaining the Runner’s Mind

lululemon athletica

By Megan Cox

Well, this past week I finally banked a double-digit run (just barely—it was ten miles). Unfortunately, I completed it in gale force winds (I swear, it was like a mini-tornado out there!) that gave me the sensation of running backwards.

I almost talked myself out of running the full distance several times during the ten miles. But eventually, I stopped being a big weenie and completed my planned distance. It was when I allowed myself to get lost in thought that I did best, plodding along at a steady rate and keeping the negative thinking at bay.

So here’s my idea. Why not map out a route for my hyperactive mind just as I might map out a physical route for a run? Oh yes, this is such a good idea! Obviously, this mental map is a personal thing, but maybe mine will give you ideas for yours!

Here goes…

  • Mile 1: Think about the fact that I have managed to have someone who is not me look after my kids for two hours. Maybe I’m breathing like a choo choo, but at least the only whining I will have to listen to for a short while will be my own.
  • Mile 2: Try not to focus on my still rapid breathing and take in the sites around me. On race day, this might include the variety of people who are running or watching the race.
  • Mile 3: Dinner! What will I make tonight? What will I make tomorrow? What will I ask my should-have-been-on-the-cooking-channel husband to make me this weekend (and why isn’t he cooking all of our dinners?). Let my mind chew on the idea of a juicy steak. Or chicken enchiladas. Or both.
  • Mile 4: Make a shopping list for imagined dinners.
  • Mile 5: Enjoy the fact that my breathing has finally settled and I’ve passed that persnickety thirty-minute point. Spend the rest of the mile feeling like one uber-powerful female.
  • Mile 6: Come up with names for the third child that we are not having.
  • Mile 7: Come up with names for the dog that we will probably get instead.
  • Mile 8: Come up with my next three Tweets. Make sure they are super-duper funny and/or witty.
  • Mile 9: Having failed Mile Eight’s task, come up with three Tweets that will at least get people remotely interested in checking out my book on Amazon.
  • Mile 10: Name all fifty states and their capitals.
  • Mile 11: Having failed Mile Ten’s challenge, sing the words to two or three of my favorite Disney princess songs.
  • Mile 12: Having succeeded in meeting Mile Eleven’s challenge, make a plan of how to watch at least one of the saved TV shows on my DVR that my husband won’t watch and my kids can’t watch (i.e., the mind-numbing but totally addictive Vampire Diaries). Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.
  • Mile 13: Think about all the yummy food I get to eat because I’ve tortured myself for thirteen miles.

After that, it’s just two-tenths of a mile to the finish line, so I’m pretty certain I’ll be ready to clear the brain and just speed toward the end of the race.

Who knew thirteen miles could go by so fast!

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

How Running a Race is Like Running for Office… and How it’s Not

League of Women Voters of California/flickr.com

By Megan Cox

Sooo, those presidential debates are fun, huh? I sit there and try not to laugh at the antics, but really, it’s entertaining. And maybe a little scary. I mean, one of these guys will be running the country for four years.

But I’m not here to give you my opinion on this year’s race for the White House. And yet, in this politically charged climate, I couldn’t help but think that running a half-marathon is sometimes a little like running for office. And in other ways, it’s totally not.

So, with all due respect for our nation’s leaders and wannabe leaders, here are the similarities…

  1. For both races, you gotta be in shape. I mean it. For politicians, the camera adds at least ten pounds, right? Your body has to be fit whether you’re taking on thirteen miles or debating in a roomful of angry townspeople—ahem, I mean, debating in a town hall meeting.
  2. You gotta keep your energy up. Whether it’s two hours of running or debating, survival depends on making sure your body is fueled. Do you think the candidates sneak candy between questions? I know I would.
  3. You gotta prepare. Your mind and body must be ready to run the gauntlet, whether it’s pavement or the campaign trail.
  4. You gotta be feisty. Have you ever felt yourself smushed at the beginning of a race? It’s intense. I imagine politics is quite similar.
  5. You gotta persevere. People pick on political candidates. A lot. As for the runner of a half marathon, mile twelve seems awful lonely. But the payoff is worth it.

Thankfully, these races are different too. For instance…

  1. In a half marathon, you don’t need a power tie. You need shoes, yes, and some comfortable clothes, but your money would be wasted on any designer duds. I mean, unless that’s your look. Which is cool, I guess.
  2. A half-marathoner does not have to figure out how to solve the nations’ deficit. Seriously. That is a huge relief.
  3. In half-marathons, the entry fee is way, way cheaper than the money you would spend on a campaign. I mean, unless you’re running for a really small office, like, uh…hmmm. Nope, entry fees are much cheaper.
  4. Half-marathoners don’t have to endorse negative campaign ads. That’s some good karma for you right there.
  5. Half marathons are generally better for your health. Have you seen those guys in office? They age, like, a decade for every year in office. No thank you! I’m aging fast enough, baby. I’ll take the toned muscles and endorphins I get from my half.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

Fueling the Run: 5 to Consider for an Energy Boost

Roland Brunner/flickr.com

By Megan Cox

Now that my long runs are over an hour long, it’s time to give my body that extra push when my footsteps go from slow and steady to slow and ploddy. Okay, so I made up the word “ploddy.” Whatever. I’m a writer. It’s one of the perks of the job.

Anyway, I need some energy. I need A LOT of energy. I have a two-year-old, a six-month-old, and a husband. That, my friends, is a job enough. Oh, and I do this thing where I write books. It’s cool, but I find that my mind and body are pretty worn out at the end of each day.

So I’m not the picture of liveliness when I roll out of bed at 5:30ish a.m. to achieve a ten mile run. I would hate the darkness at that hour if I weren’t so glad that it hides my makeup-free face and the fact that my hair looks like it’s playing keep away from my head.

My neighborhood loop is about two miles, so I circle it quite a few times to rack up the mileage. The first time or two I pass my mailbox, I gaze at the house forlornly, thinking about that nice soft bed I’ve exchanged for cold pavement. My running “buzz” takes about four miles to kick in.

Unfortunately, at about the same time, so does my rumbly tummy (did I just make up another word? Or did I hear that one on Winnie the Pooh?).

Now, before I ever leave the house, I chow down on a sports bar, but I’m definitely in need of a boost that’s easy to devour while I’m in motion.

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Baby it’s Cold Outside: Wish List for the Cold Weather Runner


By Megan Cox

So the weather outside is finally changing here in the Oklahoma City area. Since I moved here over two years ago, we’ve had some sizzling summers and mild winters.

But we do get our frosty days, and that’s fine by me. Generally.

Really, the only time I actually hate the freezing temperatures is when I have to get my butt out of bed around 5:30 a.m. And I am only up at this dark, ungodly hour so I can run before the rest of the house wakes up and needs its mommy.

I’m not a huge fan of running in the pitch black, but I gotta do what I gotta do, right? And I won’t get trained for a half-marathon after two pregnancies by pushing the snooze button.

But now that the air is glacial when I step outside (okay, glacial may be a bit of a stretch—but it feels that way after 100 degree summer temps), it’s hard for me to get the engine revved.

One of the ways I get this girl motivated is by thinking of the chocolate I plan to consume on runs over six miles (more on fueling my long runs in my next post), but I also have to get myself bundled up nice and right so I don’t hate my time in the cold.

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How I Became a Happily Obsessed Runner

By Megan Cox

I am so pumped this week.

And no, it’s not the copious cups of coffee I’ve been drinking to survive my days. This week, the first book in my Teen Mobster Series is being released, and it feels like I’ve been waiting a lifetime for this moment.

The book was actually completed before my first half marathon in 2007, but by my full marathon in 2008, I still hadn’t summoned the guts to put the novel out there for rejection. I was enjoying my job as a government public relations pro, and my getting published had really been put on the back burner.

It wasn’t until I landed in Oklahoma City—a result of my husband’s job transfer—that I sat myself down and said, “Megan, it’s time to make your writing dreams come true.”

Two years later, I’ve got a book coming out, the rest of the series under contract, a creative writing workshop gig, and this awesome blogging opportunity where I get to tell all of you how I manage to fit training for a half-marathon into a busy working-mom schedule.

All this and I still have time to participate in tea parties with my toddler and enjoy giggle-time with the six-month-old baby. What a life!

Yes, it’s a busy, busy life, but I certainly can’t complain (or at least, I definitely shouldn’t). And with my first YA novel (that’s publishing talk for “a book for teenagers”) hitting the market, it made me think back to being a teenager—and when I started running in the first place. It seems so, so long ago…

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You Are What You Eat

By Megan Cox

I just had a great visit with one of my friends. We went out to the Cheesecake Factory, and the food was as good as I remembered. As a mama of two little ones, going out to eat usually involves whining, water spillage, and Teddy Graham crackers covering the restaurant floor.

I love my kiddos so, so much, but a peaceful dinner with JUST grownups can be a welcome respite.

Here’s the thing though—when it came time to order cheesecake, my conscience was kicking me. Yes, I may be training for a half-marathon, and yes, I am nursing a baby. These are good, calorie-busting endeavors.

However, as much as I feel like a bottomless pit, I am not one. And if I want to burn off those last few pregnancy pounds and really get back in tip top shape, it’s time to put my diet under a CSI-type investigation.

The result? I can only deduce that my love of sugar—namely ice cream, chocolate, and yes, the occasional piece of cheesecake—are not doing my physique any favors.

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Better Safe than Run Over

By Megan Cox

Ah yes, nothing better than, on an early morning run, the feel of the cool autumn air, the daylight just beginning to peek over the horizon, and the quiet stillness that hangs over a sleepy neighborhood.

That is, until I have headlights coming at me full speed ahead.

Currently, we have a little situation going on in my subdivision. It’s called a Facebook war, which has been waged between those who have been tracking cars driving too fast through the neighborhood and those who like to tell people to mind their own business.

As a mama of two little ones, I tend to side with those who caution the reckless speeders, but as a woman with a very full plate, I don’t comment. However, it’s fun to tune in to the Facebook drama—there’s usually a new episode every day.

Lately, I’ve been a little more perturbed with the reckless drivers, and that’s because I’ve been out very early to get in my training runs for my December half-marathon.

If you’ve been keeping up with my journey, you’ll remember that I can’t use the YMCA child watch because of the warning by my pediatrician about a whooping cough outbreak — at least not until my baby is six-months-old. That leaves my only training option to be six in the morning, which wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t still feeding the baby at four a.m.

I know. Whine, whine, whine. And I promised I wouldn’t do that!

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How to Handle ‘Bug Season’

By Megan Cox

I hate bugs. Eight-legged ones. Six-legged ones. Slimy ones. Crunchy ones. They are gross and prehistoric looking, and I don’t want them anywhere near me.

However, the type of bugs I hate the most, especially as we head into fall, are the bugs you can’t see. Yet you know they’re out there. You know it because your preschooler brings them home in her snot.

Yes, I have succumbed to my first cold of the season. The doctors call it common for a reason! First the toddler gets it, then the baby, and then me. Somehow the hubby managed to bypass it, and I’m sure it has something to do with using incantations and holy water, but if so, he’s not coughing up his secret. Pun intended.

So what can I do but trudge on with my runny nose, stuffy head, and a voice that’s dropped a few octaves? The baby still has to be fed, the toddler still has to be kept busy, and my books don’t write themselves. Oh yeah—and that half-marathon-training thingy I’m doing. That’s go to get done too.

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