19 Reasons Why: Why I Run, Why I Run for, and Why I Run for Taller de Jose

Saturday, I ran my 19-miler in training for the Chicago marathon. I took the bus up to the start of the Chicago Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile trail that runs 5800 N Sheridan to 7100 S. South Shore (Edgewater to South Shore!!). I added on a mile at the start of the run so it would total 19 miles, which was what my training plan calls for this week. Running Buddy parked at the end of the path and ran 5 miles north to meet me for the last 5 miles of my run, which was a lifesaver to have a buddy for those final miles, but also to have a CAR at the end so I didn’t stink up the bus for an hour bus ride home (THANK YOU, RUNNING BUDDY!). To occupy myself on the run before I had Running Buddy the last 5 miles, I decided to work on this list of why I run, why I run for, and why I run for Taller de José. 

19 mile sunrise
The view on the bus ride north to the start of my 19-miler

Why I run:

  1. I run because it’s a healthy habit to have. Yes, it could potentially be bad for my knees, but so is not exercising. I’ll risk the knee problems for now.  Running is something I can do without a gym membership, it is an “easy” way to exercise anywhere, and it’s a generally accessible way to create an active lifestyle.
  2. I run because running taught/is teaching me discipline. It’s hard to fashion a life that includes all the areas you want it to–relationships, fun, exercise, learning, working, spirituality, etc. The practice of running, and especially of training for races, continues to teach me how to work toward a goal and how to be intentional about how I spend my time, and also to have fun while doing it!
  3. I run because running is a metaphor for life! I learn so much from running, and I find these learnings to be applicable lessons not just to the details of running, but to the larger themes of life, often most applicable to my spiritual life, that is, my relationships with God and neighbor.
  4. I run because running is actually communal. A lot of the time, I run with Running Buddy, so it is a time for us to catch up and connect. But being a runner also connects me to the larger community of people with this same weird habit/passion. It’s a conversation topic and a bridge when meeting new people. It’s one way of being part of something bigger than myself.
  5. I run because running is meditative or at least, good thinking time. Occasionally, when I run by myself, it can almost be meditative, calming, and good for the soul. The other times when I run by myself, it is at least good time to sort through my thoughts. I’m on the introvert side of things, so having time to sort through my thoughts in my head before speaking them aloud is particularly helpful.
  6. I run because I get to. Running is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to run for health reasons or otherwise.
  7. I run because it’s fun! Okay, I admit, not always. But between the occasional runner’s high, the time with friends, the joy of a PR, the satisfaction of improvement, the feeling of accomplishment after a long run, the thrill of running in all sorts of weather, the gift of running on beautiful days in this beautiful city, running is not just pain/drudgery/discipline, but actually joy and gift!

Why I run for:

  1. Full stop, this reason is “this category does not have to exist” because the first seven reasons for running would be enough. “Helpers” like myself need to remember that self-care is not selfish and that something that is good exercise and fun and a challenge is enough of a reason to do something. Occasionally spending time and energy on good things for myself helps me be more available to love others well. Remember, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That being said…
  2. I run for because I am grateful. Running for something else is a way of stewarding this gift I have been given of a two legs that can run (See #6 above). To whom much is given, much is expected (See Luke 12:48)
  3. I run for because it’s a good way to raise funds/awareness on a macro level. Marathons are huge logistical endeavors that require a lot of resources. On a macro level, running for causes takes an event requiring a lot of resources (money, water, volunteers), and makes it dual purpose: a fun/challenging race AND an awareness/fundraiser for many causes. Win-win!
  4. I run for because it’s a good way to raise funds/awareness on a micro level.  I figure I may as well use that huge amount of input on an individual level (money, time, sweat) to further a cause bigger than myself. It’s not that much additional blood/sweat/tears to run for something else too.
  5. I run for because it connects me to non-runners and helps me share this love with people in another avenue that they can appreciate, even if they don’t love running. People (like you, my readers and supporters!) can relate to helping people even if they can’t relate to the crazy world of long-distance running;)
18 mile rainy
A few weeks ago post 18-miler, repping my Taller de Jose shirt and looking like a drowned rat (running in the rain sounds hardcore but it’s pretty darn fun)

Why I run for Taller de José:

  1. I run for Taller de José because I love their model of ministry. They embody the ministry of accompaniment, which is to walk with people in their time of need. Their compañeras “help” connect people to social services through the relational model of being with people in their time of need, not extending a lifeline from on high, not walking ahead as someone “in charge,” but walking with as fellow companions on the shared journey of life.
  2. I run for Taller de José because they are unique. They connect people to services and services to people, trying not to replicate other social services that already exist, but filling the gap between those who need help with the help that is available.
  3. I run for Taller de José  because I personally know many of the people who work or have worked at Taller. They get it. See Megan’s reflection. Or Hillary’s.  They embody mutuality, hospitality, and accompaniment. They don’t just talk the talk!
  4. I run for Taller de José  because I personally know the (newly minted) Executive Director (eek!!!). She is Running Buddy. I hear the stories. I saw her go to school for her Masters in Non-profit Management while working full time so she could put that learning at the service of Taller de José. Basically, I have a front row seat to the behind-the-scenes of Taller, and I still trust Taller. I don’t think everyone could claim that after seeing the behind-the-scenes of a lot of places.
  5. I run for Taller de José  because of the clients they accompany. Two years ago, when Running  Buddy was also running for Taller, she shared many of their stories here.
  6. I run for Taller de José because they are located in Little Village, where I lived during my Amate House year. I love the community and they will always have a place in my heart. The neighborhood is listed 3rd highest on the hardship index for the city, so they face many struggles of course, but it is also a vibrant community full of generous, hard-working people.  (And while Taller serves many people from the neighborhood, they also will accompany anyone from anywhere in the area, at no cost to the client. In-cre-ible!!)
  7. I run for  Taller de José because countless dear people have accompanied me during hard times in my life. I love that Taller de José ensures other people don’t have to go through hard times alone.

7 reason why I run 

+ 5 reason why I run for 

+ 7 reasons why I run for Taller de José

 = 19 reasons why

19 18 mile start
For Saturday’s 19-miler, I ran one mile to the start of the 18-mile trail. So this sign may read “0” but please read, “1” 😉
19 mile endish
18 miles later and… I haven’t moved?
19 mile end
Phew! The other side of the sign shows I did actually run 18 miles since the “0”/”1″ sign 😉

Do you like the sound of Taller de José too? Do you have people who have accompanied you in hard times? Or maybe you just want to wish this crazy runner a happy birthday? 😉 You can support Taller de José through my running efforts here! Thank you SO MUCH, dear friends!



Who’s going to catch me when I fall?

And we’re back! After a blogging hiatus, I’m back to blogging, starting first with a “running is a metaphor for life” post which is also a “Yes, I’m running for Team Taller de José again” post. And in case you need a reminder, or you didn’t know me in 2012 or 2014, here’s an update on what Taller de José is.

Who’s going to catch me when I fall?

I asked myself this question in a sudden panic a few weeks ago when I realized this would be the first finish line I would cross without Running Buddy (since I started long distance running).My body has developed this annoying habit of getting really.nauseous. at the end of every race when I try to kick it into high gear. Without getting too graphic, because there is nothing to be graphic about, at the end of every race, I double over like I’m going to throw up, I grab for Running Buddy to steady me, and I have never (yet?) actually thrown up. Woohoo!

illinois half 2013 melissa
About a half second before the first time this ever happened. Running Buddy was blissfully unaware.

But this race, my 3rd marathon, will be the first race without Running Buddy. She will of course jump in for about 5 miles near the end, but she won’t be with me at the actual end. And thus I may fall over at the finish line. Don’t panic, I’m always fine. (Though maybe if I do fall over, the magical golf cart will take me to my belongings so I won’t have to walk? Hmmm… 😉 ).

I think that might just be it, actually. “Don’t panic, I’m always fine.”

Sure, there are many ups and downs to running, as there is with life.

Sure, I may legit fall over at the finish line because my stomach decides to overreact to kicking it up a notch. Every. time.

Sure, I will be wishing I had my Running Buddy to catch me because she not only catches me, but realizes that I’m not dying and I’ll just gag a little and move on.

But also as sure, falling over is not failure. Some people even win gold medals while falling over the finish line. Okay, okay. Diving over the finish line.

Rockstar  Bahamian diver/runner, Shaunae Miller, followed closely by USA running legend, Allyson Felix

Also sure, the ups and downs of running-and life-are just that…ups and downs. Specifically, if I literally fall down at the end of the race, if I puke, if I cramp up and walk, or whatever the case may be, the “down” is not the end of the story. Life goes on. The race, the journey, continues. Resurrection is ALWAYS the end of the story. Love wins.

And most sure, I know I have many people to metaphorically catch me when I fall:

  • Running Buddy will run miles 21-25 or so with me. That’s a way of catching me when I’m at risk of falling (e.g., hitting THE wall)
  • Numerous supporters will cheer me on throughout the race. That’s catching me when I’m choosing to do hard things for fun 😉
  • Many of you may choose to support me financially as I accompany Taller de José with my fundraising efforts. That’s catching many people when they’re falling and in need of someone to help them.
  • Most importantly, if I fall at the finish line on race day, it doesn’t matter. I have amazing pillars in my life who catch me when I fall and truly need the support. Thank you for accompanying me. I try to pass it on.

So who’s going to catch me when I fall? All of you. Metaphorically, of course.

P.S. If you want to help metaphorically catch me by supporting my running for Team Taller de José, please click here. Taller and I appreciate any amount…and your prayers! Thank you! 

Have No Anxiety At All: A Non-anxious Reflection on Philippians 4:4-7

I preached this reflection for my Lay Leadership of Prayer and Preaching class. My group led Evening Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent (except we did it on Monday during class, so not exactly Sunday). 

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

True life confession, I find these words of scripture offensive. My high school self, on-fire with the faith for the first time, on the other hand, found them inspiring and encouraging. I reveled in the thought of a God that could take away all my anxiety, the thought of rejoicing in the Lord, always.

But not anymore. I still revel in the thought and the possibility, but now, these words mostly feel like weight and pressure, at least at first glance.  The freedom in them is a bit harder to understand. The simplicity of “do not be anxious” came into question pretty quickly as life progressed after those first high school days of on-fire faith. I realized it wasn’t so simple. Life gives us too many reasons to be anxious.

I’m not a parent myself but my friends and mentors tell me it can be like your heart is walking around outside of your body. The anxiety that Nancy must have felt as she got the frantic call in the middle of the night about her daughter in the ER is not easily remedied by a Bible verse.  Or I think of my friends who have partners or children in the military, who feel their precarious absence so sharply, and who pray for their safe return every day, knowing that that it is not a given. Or the parents in some areas of our own beloved city who fear letting their children play outside because the warzone is not across the pond but more like across the street.  I have friends with anxiety disorders, some of the most faith-filled people I know whose brains sometimes need more than prayer to help overcome the pervasive anxiety that disrupts their daily lives. I too, have known what it means to have the anxiety get to be just too much, when my body has had enough and a sudden anxiety attack overcomes. And I have felt the failure of those moments. A warm wash of shame and failure that could potentially be compounded by a platitude. “Have no anxiety at all.”

But how to not be anxious? You see the news. You know what it’s like to wait for a diagnosis for yourself or a loved one. You have probably missed someone so much that your whole body aches. Do not be anxious? Easier said than done, Thank you St. Paul.

Is our faith just too weak?  To this I want to declare an emphatic “NO.” The darkness of these winter nights during this season of Advent can all too often mirror the darkness and anxiety we live through in our lives. But. St Paul says more than just “Do not be anxious” in his letter.  He reminds the Philippians that the Lord is near. He doesn’t offer a platitude like I thought; he offers a person, a relationship. The Lord is near. To the Philippians, they probably thought this meant to not be anxious about the Lord’s second coming, but here we are 2000 years later and we know that the Lord is near in another way. We are preparing again to celebrate the miracle of God with us, of God become human so as to be as near to us as our own humanity.

And how do we know this? Thanksgiving. Not our recent holiday, but the action. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This is how we know the Lord is with us.  We count the ways daily. We don’t relegate giving thanks to that holiday to this past Thursday. Instead, we let that reminder of our Thanksgiving holiday, here in the States at least, serendipitously lead us into the Advent season, making the radical decision to choose gratitude amidst the messes and anxieties of life. It is not preexisting joy that makes us grateful but gratitude that makes us joyful. And this joy is the awareness of God at work in our lives. A God who loves us so much that he became one of us. She is a God who does not leave us alone in our suffering, but instead, becomes the light in our darkness (motion to paschal candle).

Thanksgiving is the key. Thanksgiving is the way to know that the Lord is near and we can rejoice. Anxiety does not have the final say. Thanksgiving…for everything. The good and the bad. For the smile of the baby across the church, for gentle snowfall, for your daughter’s surgeon and for your son’s safe return from Iraq or from maybe just from school. But we also sometimes give thanks for those hard things in our lives because we know that they are all areas that while God did not choose them, God meets us right there in them and they are things which God can redeem. Nothing is outside of God’s grace. Nothing—outside of God’s redeeming love. The Lord is near.

So maybe I reject St. Paul’s words too quickly. They are not an offensive platitude but they offer a relationship with a God who is with us. The two words of “thank you” keep us in relationship with the God who can handle my anxiety and yours. They keep me in touch with God, who is our peace, a surpassing truth deeper than the passing anxiety of the details of our lives. I’m sure that Mary had more than a little anxiety facing her family after becoming pregnant without being married, more than a little anxiety carrying Jesus in her womb for nine months, traveling to unfamiliar land for a census, and then unexpectedly giving birth in stable. She nevertheless knew, her Lord was near. “Have no anxiety at all” is not an impossible platitude, but instead an offer of a deeper peace and a lasting joy amidst the messes of our lives.

Maybe this is why Master Eickhart said that if the only prayer we ever said in our lives was ‘thank you’, that would be enough. ‘Thank you’ reminds us that the Lord is near. Like Mary this Advent season, we travel with wombs full of anxieties and hopes and expectations, let us say “thank you” to the One who is with us, the One who never leaves us to walk that road alone.


Drop Keys of Freedom: A Reflection on Luke 20:27-40

Below is a reflection inspired by Saturday’s gospel reading, which can be found here. I shared it at a Celebration of the Word (with Distribution of Holy Communion) that I held as part of my Lay Leadership of Prayer and Preaching class. The whole service had to be video-taped and I have to review it with my professor. Guess who is not looking forward to that part? 😉 

The small person
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Prisoners. (Read x2)
– Hafiz

The Sadducees in this story are those small people. They are trying to trap Jesus. Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection. They were a conservative group of Jews whose only source of authority was the Torah, the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible, and in that, they saw no evidence of the resurrection. Their worldview was black and white. Their appeal to authority secure. Their confidence, unwavering. The Sadducees were a rather well-off bunch comparatively; they had no need to hope for a resurrection in the same way the majority of the impoverished Jews did.  So they went up to Jesus with their “question.”

While there is some debate in the academic world about whether there are stupid questions or not, there are certainly wrong questions, questions that trap and build cages, questions that are dead-ends. Questions that presume the answers. These questions steal freedom and provide an answer of condemnation in their very asking. The Sadducees ask a wrong question.  It is a ridiculous example based on Jewish law meant to ensnare Jesus.  They want Jesus to crumble and they want to feel secure on their own high horse. They try to build a cage.

And Jesus replies dropping keys of freedom. He meets them right where they are, in all their hubris, appealing only to their source of authority, the Torah, and proclaims that God is the God of the living.  Jesus sees the cage they are building and instead declares freedom and hope for them and for others.  The Sadducees, in their Temple of comfort and luxury, are removed from the suffering of everyday life and their message via their question tries to heap more despair on an already suffering people, but Jesus, who suffers with the people, offers a message of hope and resurrection when it feels like darkness, despair, and division might be the end of the story.

Do we ask the wrong questions? Questions meant to trap and cage? Questions meant to justify our own righteousness? Questions where we’re actually asserting our answer? Often, these questions are judgments in the silence of our minds. We look at a disheveled homeless person on the street and we wonder why they don’t get a job instead of reminding ourselves that we know nothing about the circumstances that led them to this place.  We hear a person goes to Latin Mass or to school at CTU, or CUA, or….. the list goes on and we make assumptive judgments about their “orthodoxy.” Even of the same religion, we assume and then we box each other in.  Or a parent yells at their struggling teenager walking in a few minutes late, “Where have you been?!?!”  Or maybe in our angst and grief, we cry out to God, “what did I do wrong that my loved one had to die?” Or on another dangerous and irrelevant level, we say things like, “What was she wearing?” after an assault is alleged.

These are all variations of the wrong question.

Jesus upends our wrong, dead-end questions and answers with mercy and love and promises of new life to come. He speaks hope for those caught in darkness. He reminds us God is the God of the living, not the dead. These dead-end questions show that life has nothing to do with whether we’re still breathing.

We are alive when we ask questions and don’t presume to know the answer. We drop keys of freedom when we manage our judgments in our mind when we begin to condemn somebody instead of hearing their story. We speak freedom and life when we express genuine interest in the various expressions of our Catholic faith without crying heresy at the first sign of difference. We open room for breathing and surviving our own grief when we move from questions that condemn ourselves in our suffering to words that simply say, “God, I don’t understand and I’m hurting.” What if our first question to our teenagers was “Are you okay?” when they walk in the door, leaving space for their hearts to feel heard. And what if we asked different questions about gender and the role our culture has to play in violations of women instead of considering asking “what was she wearing.”

There may or may not be stupid questions in class, but there are wrong questions in life. Let’s drop keys of freedom by asking questions that are open-ended and give life instead of presumptuous ones meant to condemn. And let’s instead choose to be like Jesus and rather than taking these dead-end questions as personal attacks, turn them around to teach about the infinite mercy and love of our God.

The small person
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the




Trey, the Unacknowledged Prophet: A reflection on Matthew 25: 14-30

This is a reflection that I preached in my Lay Leadership of Prayer and Preaching class this past week, but it is on today’s (Sunday, November 16th) Gospel reading. Maybe it  will invite you to consider a different angle on this common parable?

I am a people pleaser. I want people to like me, so my most frequent response to a petition to help with something is… yes, especially when the person asking is a person in authority. I’ve know this about myself, yet sometimes I still catch myself saying “yes” when a more appropriate answer would be, “I’m sorry, I really can’t help with that right now.”  But this is okay, I’m a work in progress, and on my better days, I can accept the grace of still being under construction.

But my people-pleasing ways worry me sometimes, because I worry that if I were in today’s gospel story, I would be more like the first two men, than the third. It might surprise you that I want to be like the third man (let’s call him Trey) since this story is often used as a call to live your vocation and use your talents to the fullest, and Trey doesn’t seem to do that. And the Master, who we presume must be God, gets pretty mad at our third man, Trey, for this.

But what if the Master isn’t God in this story?  That master is pretty angry and greedy anyway. Let’s flip this story on its head. What if Trey is actually the brave hero who has something to teach us? Should we bury our talents too? Depends on what talents are, I guess. Some people probably want me to bury my supposed-talent when I like the song in church and make a joyful noise unto the Lord, much to my neighbor’s dismay! But a talent in Jesus’ time is not a characteristic, or a gift. It was an amount of money or a weighed measurement worth a large sum, as we can tell by the way it can be traded and invested for more.

So maybe this is actually a story about money, about greed, and about a prophet I’m calling Trey.

You see, in their time and place, there was no stock market. You couldn’t just invest $500, and magically get $500 more (at least that’s how the stock market seems to work to me when it’s not a recession). No, if you got $500 more using your original $500, that means someone else, was $500 poorer. It was a limited system of scarcity. Trey decided his master’s request wasn’t acceptable. The master was asking Trey to make money off of his already-poor neighbors.

Trey had a choice. Would he be a people-pleaser and cooperate with a master who self-admits to greed and unjust practices? Would Trey exploit others on his master’s behalf? Or would he stand up for what was right and risk suffering for his decision?

This is why I want to be like Trey—Trey, who is the lowest of the servants, the one given the least amount of money, the one said to be the least capable—because Trey recognized exploitation and had the courage to stand against it.  He decided not to be a people pleaser and he refused to cooperate with greed. And then he paid the price. He suffered for risking and standing up to corruption.

We are called to be bold and prophetic like Trey. To not immediately say yes to everything that is asked of us, before we have discerned its value. We are called to courageously risk ourselves to not cooperate with injustice and greed. Sometimes this will mean suffering for our resistance. Maybe we choose not to shop at stores where products are made from child labor. It may cost more and ask us to cut back on our spending in other ways. Sometimes it could mean not going along with it at work when your boss wants to fudge some numbers and you’re expected to look the other way, no questions asked. Speaking up could have very real consequences, like it did for Trey, but to this, with appropriate discernment, we are called.

I’ve heard it said that courage means to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart. When we have courage to stand up prophetically against injustice like Trey, we tell the story of who we are, who we are called to be…. with our whole hearts. Hearts that are moved by love and not by people-pleasing. Hearts that choose justice over greed. Hearts that support those like Trey who face consequences for speaking up. Hearts that are full of gratitude for what we have instead of constantly striving for more than we need. Let’s be like Trey and with our prophetic actions, tell the story of who we are with our whole hearts.


“I’m so thankful for my injury”

Yes, it is another ‘Running is a metaphor for life’ post. 🙂 

“I’m so  thankful for my injury.”

That’s not exactly something you hear everyday, but Running Buddy definitely said it around mile 22 of our marathon together. But I didn’t flinch, because I knew exactly what she meant.

She’s been battling some IT-band issues for a good chunk of training but after the 20-miler, it was so bad, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to run the marathon. We were pretty worried. And I’d been there too. Two years ago, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run our first marathon because of a dropped metatarsal. I actually have a draft saved on this blog of a post I wrote updating and processing the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon. (I got the okay to run it but turns out I probably shouldn’t have—I was still injured and got more injured in the process). I was thankful to have finished that one, and after each setback since then, coming back to running is all that much sweeter.

In my 2.5 years of running so far, I was sidelined with that injury, then with undiagnosed anemia, and then with mono, in addition to some busy seasons of school when running got sidelined, each time, coming back to running felt more and more like a gift. So when Running Buddy said, “I’m so thankful for my injury” in the midst of the best run we’d ever had (I think collectively for us both and individually for sure for me), on the most beautiful Fall day, with our family and friends and one million other fans cheering us on, I knew exactly what she meant.

The setbacks make the successes all that much sweeter.

I may have wept tears of pain and frustration during my first marathon but I smiled for 26.2 miles in my second.

I may been diagnosed with mono the day after winning the lottery to sign up for the Chicago marathon, but I rocked training as soon as I was fully recovered six weeks later.

I may have been frustrated by being in shape yet out-of-breath, but with iron supplements in hand, I came back stronger than ever.

I may have had seasons where my 5 hours of sleep was more important than running, but guarding those 8 hours of nightly sleep this time around felt right.

I may have struggled in the 20-miler with cramps, dehydration and nausea, but 26.2 went uncharacteristically smooth.

I may have crossed the finish line alone two years ago, but I crossed it with Running Buddy this time around.

I may have not written my goal for this marathon too boldly because of fear of not succeeding—I wrote, “Finish strong, preferably under 5:00”—but I crushed my goal—finishing strong at 4:45.

I may have not felt like a strong, real runner for 2+ years because of all the various setbacks, and because my dear Running Buddy often was able to run with a tad more oomph than me, but on marathon day this year, I knew I was a real runner.

I may not have blogged about running after my first marathon because I had so many unresolved feelings I didn’t know how to express, but today, I can blog about the journey, the setbacks and the successes.

In running and in life, we of course learn the most from our setbacks and failures. But in running and in life, those fleeting moments of success are great motivation to keep going because the journey includes ups AND downs, not just downs. And they feel pretty damn great. (Or maybe those are some lingering endorphins). 😉



And just to clarify, because sometimes I can’t resist qualifications, none of this is meant to toot my own horn. It’s all to say that basically I’m grateful for a good running day, made all that more poignant by Running Buddy’s sort-of injury. It could very easily have gone the other way, as it often has. A good or bad running day is rather arbitrary at times. I’m just saying “thank you” for the gift of a good race, just as I try to say thank you for the not-so-good runs that teach me a lot too. 

Life’s Better When We’re Connected

Another “running is a metaphor for life” post 🙂 

Life’s better when we’re connected.

Darn Corporate America tugging at my heart in their advertising. They got me. “Life’s better when we’re connected” was the theme of this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. And it couldn’t me more true.

This is going to sound ridiculous but I have to say it because it’s true: the marathon passed quickly for me this year because we spent almost every few miles looking for fans. At 20 points along the way, we saw someone or a group of people that Running Buddy or I knew! We were at Mile 17 when I was like, “How are we already here? I’m not getting ahead of myself or anything, but…. This is going by so fast!” Two years ago, I was all like, “Baahhh… if we don’t see our fans like we’re supposed to at mile 16, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” (Needless to say, Running Buddy was getting worried about me at that point two years ago).

But what I notice about both of my experiences is how important our spectators were to me. Seriously, they kept me going! With our names plastered on our shirts, even strangers were cheering for us, the whole way!! And then we saw our families at SEVEN spots along the way. They win at “Competitive Spectating” for sure. And despite a bunch of friends not being able to make it who were originally planning to (I was getting worried the week of), a bunch of other friends came out of the woodwork and told me where they were going to be along the route. Amazing!

I am bursting with gratitude for all those who cheered us on on marathon day, for all those who supported me with encouraging words before and after the race, and for all who donated to our Taller de Jose running team.  I’m one lucky marathon runner.

Life sure is better when we’re connected… as runners, as spectators, as friends and family, as strangers, as a human family. Who would have thought that would be one of the life/running lessons of 26.2 miles?? But my tired legs can testify, they didn’t run it alone. They ran supported by you. Just as I live my life thanks to the beautiful known and unknown people with whom I am connected.

Thank you.

Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)
Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)



A Friend Catches You When You Fall… and other running/life lessons

I have always maintained that I run not just to run because running is a metaphor for life. Running continues to teach me about life, about my journey of faith and love and struggle and pain and joy.  Recently, as my marathon training peaked, I was again given the gift of two life-lessons.  It reminded me again of why I run , why I’m putting my body through the hardship of 18, 19, 20 mile runs in preparation for the big day of 26.2 one week from today on October 12th!

1. A Friend Catches You When You Fall

On September 21st, Running Buddy and I ran a “supported” practice race down the Lakeshore path with the Chicago Area Running Association (CARA). It was a beautiful day and the run was going pretty well for both of us, though I was still getting over a cold and Running Buddy was having IT band issues. Then, around mile 18, my body wasn’t having it anymore. In retrospect, I was probably dehydrated, because when we crossed the finish line, I started heaving and Running Buddy literally caught my arm and held me up. Within minutes I was fine (thanks to water and recovery drinks!!). But already during those few unpleasant minutes, I was (inwardly) delighting in the running-life lesson being lived out. Running Buddy literally caught me when I was falling, just as her alter ego, Ace, does metaphorically in non-running real life. Just as my beautiful and supportive friends and support network do for me constantly. What a gift to have friends who catch you when you fall!

2. Conditions will Never Be Perfect

I’ve been hoping desperately for good conditions during this marathon training season and especially for the marathon! I’m sick of having qualifications for my training and my races. For example, whenever I talk about my first marathon it always includes something like, “Well, I hurt my foot two weeks before and almost didn’t run and then I ran anyway and got stress fractures in both my feet.” Or I tell the story of how I got mono the day after I won the lottery for this marathon (kinda kills the momentum) and couldn’t run the Illinois Half I’d been training for at that time too (kind of a downer). In addition to those bigger bummers, I just feel like my running in general is plagued with “well, I was kind of sick for that run so…” or “I didn’t get enough sleep this week” or… you get the picture. While I’ll of these things are true, I think it’s left me in the unrealistic pursuit for a smooth, no setbacks training season and race.

So on 20-miler day, when I was still getting over a cold and using sentences again like, “And I had a cold for this run, so hopefully on the actual marathon…” to (rightly) justify why it may not have been as good a run as I hoped (like my 19-miler was!),  I realized that I’m always looking for those perfect conditions, conditions that will probably never actually exist. The imperfect, rainy day journey is what matters. It’s the messy here and now. In running and in life.

We rarely get quite enough sleep, have quite enough time for our projects in work or school, or see our friends as much as we’d like because it’s hard to find the perfect window of freedom. Maybe we should stop holding out for the stars to align when we will then be at our best, but make the most of our imperfect and messy lives, which is still full of stars, even if they don’t quite align into Orion’s Belt. Maybe the lesson..and even the unexpected joy, is in the imperfect, “not ideal conditions” journey?

3. Drink Enough Water

Ok, so not all running lessons correlate exactly into running lessons. Sometimes, you learn a lesson while running or racing that is just helpful to learn for future runs.  Somewhere along the way in the 20-miler, I stopped hydrating enough….hence the unfortunate end of the race mentioned above. I learned what I need to be especially attentive to on race day!

Thanks to all who have supported me in fundraising for Team Taller de Jose! In addition to water, it is my supporters, whether in person with cheering, through online donations and encouragement, or in spirit and prayer, who will keep me going next week!  If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, you can still do so here: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/tallerdejose/campaign/2014marathon/fundraiser/MelissaCarnall/



20 Reasons for 20 Miles

Pre- 20 mile run!
Pre- 20 mile run!

In honor of running 20 miles today, I decided to name 20 reasons for why I run! Actually, my Running Buddy is the one who actually wrote them down, so you’ll have to go on over to her blog to hear why we run FOR TEAM TALLER DE JOSE!  Yes, I am “borrowing” her reasons 😉

If you’d like to support our training and Taller de Jose, you can click on over to my fundraising page! I can hardly tell you how much it means to me and to Taller if you’d consider supporting us in this way!

With gratitude and sore legs and three weeks until the marathon,


Post 20-mile run!
Post 20-mile run! (This happiness belies the post 20-mile scene where I’m bent over heaving). 

Stick-shift driving, GSWs, and Afterschool Care

Stick-shift driving, GSWs, and Afterschool Care: A Summer’s Tale and Accompaniment Appeal

Stick-shift driving

This summer, I’ve learned to drive a manual car. My roommate, aka Running Buddy, aka Ace, owns a manual car which I’ve never been able to drive. This was okay when we had a third roommate (Amici), who used to let me borrow her car if needed, and I take a lot of public transit too, of course. But Amici moved to a place called OK (miss you, Amici!), and Ace was going to be in Europe for three weeks this summer and her car would be here with me, all alone.  It was decided in early June that by July 13th, I would somehow magically be able to drive her car home, after dropping her in the suburbs where her group was leaving from on that day. And by “it was decided,” I mean, Ace decided this, having way more confidence in me than I had in myself.

So off we went to empty parking lots to practice stalling, I mean, practice driving stick-shift. Before we started practicing, it felt like I was humoring Ace and maybe humoring myself, pretending that this would somehow happen that I would be able to learn to competently drive a manual car… in CHICAGO. But after that first practice session, and after another one or two, I realized learning stick shift was like training for a marathon. When you painfully endure 5 miles for the first time and it takes every ounce of strength you have, if you imagine running 26 miles, you’ll never think you’ll be able to complete this marathon you signed up for on a whim (that was me 2+ years ago).  But if you painfully learn to endure those 5 miles, and then eventually you can run 10 miles, running 12 miles after that doesn’t seem so terrible. Twelve becomes 14 becomes 18 and so on til you  train to eventually hobble across the finish line after 26.2 miles.  Thus it was with driving. First gear in the parking lot led to 2nd and 3rd gears on empty roads, which led to stop signs and neighborhood driving. This was the gateway to Ace saying, “today you’re going to drive on the highway” and next comes parallel parking. Eventually, I drove her car home after dropping her in the suburbs on July 13th as she anticipated so assuredly. And I’ve been smiling like a 16-year-old behind the wheel for the first time as I have enjoyed this new skill of mine these last few weeks.


This is one of those acronyms I didn’t know until less than 2 months ago and now I wish I didn’t have to use it so frequently. It means “Gun Shot Wound.” This summer, I’m doing a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship as a hospital chaplain at a Trauma I hospital on Chicago’s South(west) side. We throw around the term like we’ve used it our whole lives and like we didn’t see a hole in a person where there should never be a hole and like we didn’t hold an anxious mother for hours while she awaited an life-changing update from a busy ER doctor. “Patient X was multiple GSW to the abdomen… Pastoral care provided: prayer with family, water, tissues, and non-anxious presence” are normal parts of our updates with fellow chaplains. More on this internship is still to come for sure (the internship is well known to be an intense experience with little time for outside activity, thus the absence of time to blog about it). But for now, maybe take a minute to say a hold all those suffering from GSWs and all forms of violence in your thoughts and prayers?

Afterschool Care

My internship at Mt. Sinai hospital where I’ve been seeing these GSWs and otherwise meeting patients in various stages of illness is only 1 mile from the Roommate’s work. Due to various meetings at her work in the meeting that I was attending too, or coordinating rides home, or doing laundry in her work’s basement (yes, you read that right), or just going to eat lunch there after an on-call shift and before heading home, I ended up at her work many times in the first few weeks of the summer. I started joking that her work felt like my “Afterschool care.” When Roommate was in Europe, I even went to “afterschool” once to do my laundry still, after an encouraging text from Roommate’s boss that I was missed at “Afterschool.” How many people can do laundry at their roommate’s workplace, when their roommate is not even there?!?! I’m one lucky gal with a lucky roommate with a great place to work.

So what does driving a stick-shift, learning about GSWs, and going to “afterschool care” have in common, aside from all existing in my summer?!


Stick-shift driving: Roommate/Running Buddy/Ace believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She was a patient and encouraging teacher and I was driving stick-shift by myself after about 5 lessons. I never thought it possible. She accompanied me.

GSWs: As chaplains, we accompany families and patients when they are in trauma in the ER. As chaplain interns, we have accompanied each other this summer as we process these intense experiences. I could not ask for a better cohort of CPE interns than the ones that God has placed with me at Mt. Sinai. We accompany one another.

Afterschool Care: Roommate’s place of work mentioned above? Taller de Jose!  The team I’m running the marathon for! They have accompanied me this summer and I am seeking to accompany them in their ministry of accompaniment. 


So my last post explained why I dropped off the face of the planet and stopped fundraising suddenly for my half-marathon in April. I also explained in that post that I would be running the Chicago Marathon, for Team Taller de Jose, just as I had anticipated running the half-marathon for them in April. At that time, I was still in the throes of recovering from mono. I am beyond words thrilled to be able to say that after the requisite 6 weeks of getting over the exhaustion affectionately known as “mono,” I was back to my regular self, and I am now almost half-way through training for that marathon!

Will you accompany me during my summer of accompaniment  as I run for Taller’s ministry of accompaniment? Your prayers and/or financial support are much appreciated! If you would consider donating, please check out my fundraising page here! No donation is too small! Or large 🙂

In the spirit of accompaniment,