Never Tell Yourself You Can’t


One of the first things women around my age say about my running is some version of “Oh, I could never do that!.” Unless there is a glaring reason why not, my response is, “of course you can, if you want to!”

If you want to do something, never tell yourself you can’t.

I didn’t start running until I was 45. I had quit smoking the year before, after more than 25 years of the habit. When I was a smoker and would see women jogging in my neighborhood, I longed to feel well enough to do that. For all I knew, that kind of physical activity was unreachable. I just didn’t have the energy.

Now as a nonsmoker I did have the energy, and I gradually began to learn that I had the ability to do more than I ever would have imagined.

And I am not the only one to make this kind of discovery.

I have a friend who was critically overweight and had serious health issues well into her mid 50’s. She started exercising, lost over 170 pounds (“a whole person”, she used to joke!) and ran her first 5K race in her early 60’s. A few years after that, I saw her run her first half marathon.

Never tell yourself you can’t.

Author Molly Sheridan was 48 years old when she decided to try running. She was already healthy and active, and the first race she trained for was a full marathon! A few weeks into her training, she suffered a compression fracture of her foot. The doctor told her she was too old to run and essentially ordered her to stop. Not one to give up, she kept training as best she could until her foot healed. She finished that marathon and mailed a copy of her finish line photo to that doctor. Today she is an ultra runner and has run over 45 ultramarathons.

Never tell yourself you can’t. And don’t let anyone else tell you.

Parathletes are competing at Olympic levels in so many sports. It all began with wheelchair races. Now, medical knowledge and technology are ever advancing to allow athletes to participate and compete in ways unheard of decades ago.

These athletes are clearly not telling themselves they can’t do it. They are overcoming greater challenges.

I see more and more stories on social media and in the news, of senior citizens in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s running marathons and half marathons. I joke that if I’m still running when I’m 90, that’s when I’ll do a full marathon! Clearly, these seniors aren’t telling themselves they can’t do it. They’re just doing it!

Never tell yourself you can’t.

There have been so any times I’ve doubted myself even as I was running. “What are you doing?, I ask. “Why are you even trying to do this? Aren’t you a little old…?”

The trick is not to allow those thoughts any voice. The proof is in the action. In spite of the nagging in my head, I finish races. I’m a runner. Clearly I CAN do it, because I AM doing it!

Get out of your own way. Find these stories. Look around you at the people who are doing it. Let them inspire you.

Never tell yourself you can’t.

Safety Tips for Running

Fizio Reno recently hosted a clinic for runners concerning safety on the roads and on the trails.

Sparks Police officer Eric Marconato and Fizio owner Ryan Evans demonstrate self-defense tactics for runners

In 10 years as a Sparks police officer, Eric Marconato has served on SWAT, worked undercover, and also serves on the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force. While he acknowledged the information he shared with us was common sense and not “all that groundbreaking”, his experience provided valuable insight for Reno/Sparks runners.

Staying safe

Run in numbers. “Numbers totally change the picture”, Marconato said. Most attackers are looking for an “easy pick”, and are less likely to pick you if you are with a group. One member of the audience relayed an incident where a group of friends was running along the river, and one of the woman was running several feet ahead of the group. An attacker attempted to go after the woman, but was scared off as the rest of the group approached.

Run during daylight hours. “It’s definitely safer… you can see more of what is going on around you, and there are more people out during daylight hours.” However, if you must run after dark, don’t skimp on lights and reflective gear. Run against traffic, and stay out of the street.

Stick to the planned route and avoid secluded areas. Alleys are probably not the best places to run.

Know your route and know your neighborhood. Marconato cited a popular Reno running path with tall willows on each side of it, an area familiar to most of the runners in the audience. To our surprise, he then described a community of men who frequent the area beyond the willows and solicit sexual favors. Marconato assured us that they likely are not violent predators, but they are out there. The anecdote illustrates that runners should always remain on alert.

Be vigilant. Run without earbuds, or with just one, so you can hear what’s going on around you. “If you hear a rustle in the bushes, don’t ignore it. Look back at it. It might be a raccoon, it might be the wind, or it might be somebody after you, and if you have that little of a jump on them, it’s going to help you.”

Look up. “Some people run with their head down, not looking where they’re going.” Scan the horizon, just as we were taught when we were learning to drive; ”don’t just look at the car in front of you, look ahead so you see a bigger picture. That will give you a reaction time.”

How about weapons?

Weapons are an option, Marconato said, but they can be cumbersome, and they require a level of responsibility and a commitment to use. There is always the chance a weapon will be taken away from you by an assailant in which case, Marconato said, you are not necessarily worse off than you would have been.

If you are attacked:

Scream loud, and “be obnoxious about it. You want to make a big deal so you get attention.” Marconato suggested yelling “help” or “stop” and repeating it loudly to ensure you will draw attention to yourself.

Defend yourself. As Marconato memorably stated, “go for eyeballs and balls”. Cause damage:  pull hair, scratch, claw, and leave marks. Remember: if they assault you, they probably have assaulted or will assault others. Scratching leaves noticeable marks, and also leaves DNA under your fingernails.

Report it. Don’t be embarrassed. Get the facts out there. Remember it’s not just you. Don’t wash or change clothes, as that would wash away any evidence. “Call the police, then go straight to them.”

Self Defense

In addition to his law enforcement experience, Marconato teaches defensive tactics and hands-on combat, and demonstrated some basic tactics to the group of runners. He is an instructor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and recommends the martial art for those who seek instruction in self-defense.


Have you had any uncomfortable encounters while running? Please share your experience.

Virtually Running

by Shelley English

I’m betraying my age here – but when I first heard the term ‘virtual racing”, I immediately thought of the introduction of the concept of virtual reality in 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. However, virtual racing has nothing to do with “virtual reality”…you really are doing the running, but you are doing it at your own chosen time and place.

The Resolution Run 5k Virtual Race – a New Year’s tradition

Virtual racing is becoming quite a trend. There are a growing number of companies who offer virtual races; such as Will Run for Bling, Gone For a Run, Virtual Strides, and Virtual Run Events, just to name a few. Most of them offer really fun themes and cool medals, which of course is part of the attraction! But there are many reasons to do virtual running, other than the hardware!

The next best thing to being there

My first experience with virtual racing happened a few years ago when I had registered for a local race series. The final race in the series was postponed due to fire in the area. They rescheduled for a date on which I had a prior commitment, but offered the virtual option for those in the same predicament. I just had to run the distance and submit proof of the run via “Map My Run”. A friend and I ran the virtual  race the same day as the live one, but at a different location. I emailed the proof to the race coordinator. By the end of the week, my series medal and shirt arrived in the mail.

It seems more of the larger races are offering a virtual option.  I’m very excited that the Giant Race series is offering the virtual option this year. The series includes four races in different locations between March and September, culminating with the race in San Francisco and offering “sweep” medals for running two, three or all of them. Doing all four of the races in person is not an option for me this year, but doing a couple of them virtually certainly is!

Hold Myself Accountable (and get bling for my effort!)

It’s not always easy to get out there and do the miles; let’s face it, sometimes the medal is a carrot! I’m currently participating in a couple of Virtual Race challenges; one is the 200 Mile Winter Challenge which runs from mid-December to mid-March; and the other is a team challenge with 3 friends, to run a combined 2,017 miles this year. Both challenges are keeping me accountable and getting me out there to at least meet a minimum mileage goal per week.

I’m currently training for a half marathon (a “live” one!) that’s about a month away. These challenges are helping me to get my miles in not only to train for the half but also to meet these concurrent goals. The truth is, the organizations hosting the virtual races are not going to know whether I did the miles or not…but I will know; and in the case of the 2,017 miles, so will my team.

Challenging Others

It’s a great way to challenge friends and family in different locations. My mom – who lives in the Bay area – and I are both doing many of the Giant Race series separately, gearing up for the big one later in the year where we will meet up and both collect our “sweep” medals at the end.

No crowds

Although to me, the crowds add to the race day excitement, some people don’t enjoy being in the midst of a large group. So Virtual Racing is an option for introverted runners.

Support great causes

Most of the virtual races donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. It’s a good way to support lots of different causes doing something you’d be doing anyway.

For the person who has everything

You know your sister likes to run and collect medals, but you may not know her schedule.  The virtual race offers a fantastic gift option. It’s unique, and not likely to be exchanged!

These are just a few of the reasons virtual races are a great option for runners. What has your experience with virtual racing been like?

Freezing Shmeezing: Winter Morning Running

by Shelley English

Evidently I have low standards.

This thought crossed my mind at 5:20 this morning. I was warming up for the first of our twice weekly predawn runs.  And my human running friends had unapologetically bailed on me.

To be fair, one friend injured her ankle several weeks ago.  The chilly weather has since crept in, and it seems understandable – wise, even – to stay in bed at least until daylight while she recovers.

My other friend informed me last night that she has higher standards…for higher temperatures, that is.  Her code?  Nothing below 20 degrees.

She had drawn a line in the frost.

Sure, it’s now below freezing most mornings. But “zero-dark-hundred” is still my favorite time to run.  One of the first things I noticed when running became part of the morning routine was how happy my dogs are to see me crawl out of bed.  Before, no one in my household was that excited so early in the morning!

There must be something in the crisp morning air. I love being one of the first in my neighborhood to step outside and breathe it in. I love the slight chill of spring and summer mornings…and yes, even the brisk fall and winter currents.

Geared up for winter running!

Mentally and spiritually, it’s simply the best way to begin a day.  It’s a great time for meditation and brainstorming, both during warm-up/cool down and during the run.  It gives me some time to clear my mind and check in with my soul before diving into all of the to-do lists.  And in the wintertime, there is nothing quite so serene as running during lightly falling snow.

And there is the bonus of accomplishment, having achieved my exercise goal before most people have even rolled out of their warm, cozy beds!

So maybe my standards are low…at least when it comes to the winter running temperatures I’m willing to endure.  But other than the ones I have declined, there has not yet been a morning run I have regretted.

Now, when my dogs don’t even want to go for a run with me, then I’ll know I’ve crossed the frost line!

Up and Running

  • img_4497My First 5K

by Shelley English

I’m very exited to introduce Life Up and Running. The purpose of this blog is to provide a space to share stories, tips and inspiration for staying active. In addition to my own experiences, you’ll hear from my running buddies, mentors and acquaintances. I hope to share advice from experts on training and physical, mental and spiritual health. And, an active lifestyle doesn’t only refer to exercise, so there will be information about all kinds of events. So I hope this blog will be something you enjoy and look forward to, and will contribute to, as well.  Comments are welcome.

From Band Mom to Runner

Let me begin by sharing some of my background as an “active adult”. Candidly, up until almost five years ago, I wasn’t all that active – or all that adult, for that matter.  Unless, that is, by “active” you mean being a Band Mom, and by “adult” you mean working full-time and facebooking over wine every Friday night.

I had been a smoker since college (yes, old enough to know better, young enough to think it was still cool and wouldn’t hurt me)! While I had made many attempts to quit over the years, the demon persisted. I’m almost ashamed to share what finally worked. The success coincided with purchasing my very first brand new car on my own. I had not smoked in a car in years, but the smell of cigarettes lingers on the clothing of any smoker, and it became all the more apparent to me when getting behind the wheel of a brand new car. Not wanting to cause premature loss of new car smell, I kicked the habit. I was able to call myself a nonsmoker before the first car payment came due.

A few months after that, I decided I may as well use the gym membership I’d been paying for but hadn’t used since my daughter graduated from high school (we had enrolled together to help her finish her physical education requirement).  Then, I figured I may as well take advantage of the trainer’s evaluation and recommendations offered. I started taking Zumba and strength training classes, and of course, used the treadmill. I followed the trainer’s recommendations almost religiously.

When it came to the treadmill, my trainer had only recommended that I walk a certain amount of time to get my heart rate up.  Running was never part of the training plan. But walking on the treadmill is not very exciting, so music was critical. And the musician in me insisted on keeping time with the beat. So one day I was walking along to my favorite 80’s mix, and “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts came up on my playlist. That’s a fast tempo, but I decided to see how long I could pick up the pace. I don’t think I was able to jog the entire song, but I do remember being surprised that I was able to keep up for the amount of time I did … I recall thinking to myself, in awe “I am running!”

The bug had bitten, and a new fever was beginning to rise.

After a few successful trial runs on the treadmill (meaning, I’m sure, two minutes without collapsing), I began to gain confidence that I could learn to be a runner. I set my sights on an upcoming community 5K benefit run, and downloaded an app to my phone to help me gradually train from walking to running for 30 minutes.  My self-training began. The gym was two miles from my house, so on Saturdays I would jog to my strength-training class.  Then after my class, I called my daughter pick me up, because running home would mean running uphill!

The First 5K

As race day grew closer, I recruited a friend to run with me. We met at packet pickup, planned our wardrobes, and when the day arrived, we were ready! My friend had more experience than I did, and I encouraged her not to wait for me…”run your own race” is a motto I adopted early on! I didn’t run all 3.1 miles, but I did run more than half of the race, and under the 45 minutes I had set as my goal! And I felt fantastic! At age 45, I had completed my first 5K!

As we were leaving, I noticed a table where they were handing out flyers for another 5K the following month. I picked up a flyer and decided hey, I think I can do one of these a month! So I made that my goal, a 5K every month.

Soon I was running distances beyond the 3.1, and up an over hills I never thought I’d attempt. I’ve completed eight half marathons, and I hope to keep moving for many more years to come. And, most importantly, the running community has introduced me to some of the nicest, most generous and real people I’ve ever known…many of whom I can’t wait to introduce here in this space!

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