Now that you’ve seen the lighter side of my run blog, I’ve hopefully gotten your attention to now read through some mushy, feel-good, more serious stuff that I’ve been thinking about.
I always try to remind myself throughout the year to be grateful for everything that I have, but like others, I am at fault for taking things for granted. In light of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday, I’m taking fingers to keyboard to type out the top 10 things that I’m thankful for when it comes to running.
10. My stomach is a non-stop hungry machine, and also made of steel.
I’m thankful that my parents were able to put a cornucopia of food on the table for me growing up. Raised by two Chinese immigrant parents, everything from fried and spicy foods, dumplings to hamburgers, Italian food, BBQ, and did I mention fried spicy foods were weekly items on the menu. As an avid traveler, by default I eat almost everything, and thankfully haven’t developed any food allergies. I do try to eat healthy local, sustainable foods, but as a runner, I love my iron-rich choices found in juicy steaks. And minus a few bouts of tummy problems this year, I am grateful for my strong stomach and ability to take in almost everything.
9. San Francisco is the perfect training grounds.
Though I have my opinions about the change overtaking SF neighborhoods and widening gap between rich and poor in the Bay, when it comes to running, I can’t be any happier. Hills, parks, lakes, tracks, and long stretches of road are a runner’s dream. We live in such a runner-friendly city, it’s no wonder you’ll literally run into hundreds of people along the Embarcadero or Great Highway on most weekend mornings. The cool temperatures – even fog – are an added plus.
Dolores Park at 7:30AM. Views like these never get old.
8. Air travel, pilots (yes, even those on the hated United), and airports.
As some of you may know, I travel a lot for work. In fact, this year, I flew over 115,000 miles. And yes, that was mostly on United. I haven’t been home all month since February! I’m thankful that all my air travel has been safe, and that I’ve come back in one physical piece. I can’t quite say that to my mental state since I’ve learned to fully embrace zombie mode. One thing is for sure, I have yet to learn how to slay the metaphorical beast that takes the form of jet lag. Tips are highly welcome.
7. My work.
Related to air travel are the opportunities I get with my work thanks to the nature of my job and to the people who support me. As an international development professional, I travel to our field offices across Asia to work with our teams to help implement projects that can help poor communities thrive. This means visits to local partner organizations, talking with small business owners, meeting with government officials, attending networking dinners, and designing work plans. From Myanmar, Nepal, Indonesia to Mongolia, this year I have been able to work closely with our partners. I’ve also spent early mornings (roughly 5am) out on the streets pounding pavement. On foot I’ve been able to see the city wake and discover new sights, smells, and people. I’ve been able to run by temples, rice paddies, armed policemen, and monks giving alms. It’s a breathtaking way to explore a new land.
Here are just a few of my work travel photos from Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand:
6. The app developers, data wizards, and running crazies at Strava.
A data geek myself, I have been obsessed with uploading and sharing my daily workouts on the platform Strava for the past couple of years. I’m thankful that Strava exists so that I can view my pace, elevation gains, distances, weekly mileage, splits breakdown, and much more all the while cheering on my other “followers.” With occasional “challenges,” virtual “races,” and more robust features like the heat map, Strava has been keeping me honest and pushing me to be a better athlete. What’s more is that the people who work there are kickass runners who inspire and are darn smart! I’m thankful they’re around – and in SF! Check out my athlete page here and follow me!
5. Cross-training opportunities – in the realm of physical sports, creativity, and home décor.
My life would be unfulfilled, empty, and downright pathetic if I ran 12 hours a day, stared at my Garmin, and went to bed without talking to anyone. Thankfully, my day job and other hobbies, friends, and interests keep me entertained, busy, and challenged. I’m thankful that I am 15 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, where I’ve taken up standup paddle boarding as a great way to exercise my core and upper body. Plus, who doesn’t love surfing with dolphins? I’m thankful to be surrounded by a tight knit community of kite surfers, who constantly watch my back while I’m in the water as I timidly “mow the lawn” and occasionally jump 50 feet up in the air (OK fine, 3 feet. Feels like 50). Apart from the physical sports, I’m thankful to still have the fire to take on new projects – as simple as interior décor, movie making with the GoPro, painting, and gardening. I can’t do it alone; it’s the inspiration around me that keeps me motivated.
This past weekend I took some photos of my friends SUPing. Photograph young men surfing? Sure, why not.
I also managed to dig up some GoPro footage from a Mexican holiday vacation last year and put together this short movie.
4. The women runners who inspire, lead, and find the potential in others.
I am grateful I have found a team in the ladies at Oiselle. From Sally Bergesen, CEO and founder of Oiselle and a freaking fast marathoner to the always inspirational and “keeping’ it real” Lauren Fleshman, to my Team Volee runners across the country, I am thankful I can surround myself with badass, dedicated runners who believe in each other. They motivate, support, comfort, and entertain to help me to constantly think about self improvement. If it wasn’t for Oiselle, I definitely would not look as cute while running. I’m thankful for my coach Dena Evans, who is an expert leader in the field of coaching runners – training elites to the recreational runner (I’m somewhere in between).
Recent race last weekend, decked out in some of my Oiselle race gear. Want to buy some apparel as gifts or time to treat yourself for the holidays? Talk to me or check out http://www.oiselle.com.
3. I’m still young in my mind and have much of my health.
Stupidly or brilliantly, my mind still thinks it’s 2007. I think I’m still in my 20s and college was only a few years ago. I’ll run, jump and crash land in bed, swan dive on my face in the bay, or land tail bone first as I’m trying to do one-legged squats on the balance board. Except, news flash, I’m not 21 and invincible anymore. Nevertheless, I have my “I’m too old for this” and “But it’s 9:30pm and past my bedtime” moments. I don’t drink myself silly every night, and the next day’s sore back reminds me I can’t bounce back as quickly as I could have back in 2007. Yet I’m thankful I have my health and can run 60 miles a week and travel the world. And fool myself into thinking I could get into new hobbies like parkour.
2. A husband, sister, mom and dad, and friends.
He’s not just a husband, but also a chef, my most vocal cheerleader, alarm clock, paparazzi, doctor, nutritionist, and driver. She’s not just my younger sister, but also my partner in crime when it comes to sushi, shopping, and silliness. My parents are my #1 fans, logistics coordinators (drop off, pick ups, parking, hotel bookings) and supporters. My friends put up with my crazy addiction to the sport; early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedules; superfluous posts about races on FB; and constant stink of me in my workout clothes. I’m grateful I’m surrounded by people who continue to stick around. 🙂
And last but not least….
1. I’m thankful for the supportive run community across the globe and back again.
I can’t go without mentioning the throngs of runners and NON-RUNNERS who keep the sport accessible, fun, safe, and affordable for most. Of course, Boston was a nightmare so many had to live through and continue to live with, but it also brought out the strength and pride of Bostonians, Americans, spectators, volunteers, policemen, medical professionals, and so many others across the globe. Chad Stafko’s article in the Wall Street Journal last week might have angered many runners, but in an unanticipated way, it gave so many voices an opportunity to share to the world WHY they run and why it matters. The community is unbelievable – both online and offline. We all have our reasons for running – some more personal than others – but we’ve banded together as a single community to help each other become the best that we can be. I’m thankful for that.
What are you thankful for when it comes to running?
Have a happy Thanksgiving!