From Mississippi to Europe

How we have made it to mid-October is beyond me. It’s still 90 degrees outside, and while fall has arrived in Mississippi, it is ever so confused. I have just returned from The Netherlands and Belgium where fall was at its best, with leaves crunching under my feet and the cool breeze calling for leggings, boots, and sweaters for all.

Delft architecture

This year’s Memphis & Mississippi International Sales Mission took our group to Europe for sales calls, media appointments, and two unveilings of a mobile blues marker representing the Mississippi Blues Trail. We began our journey in Delft, a picturesque Dutch town an hour’s drive outside of Amsterdam. They are known for Delftware, the blue and white ceramic pottery that is hand-painted and glazed in a process that has been used for centuries.

City Hall in the Delft Square

 

I enjoyed getting to run through the cobblestone streets of Delft, exploring the canals and architecture of the town. On my Saturday morning run, I discovered a market that was set up throughout the city center that included fabrics, Delftware, antiques, and just about anything else people were willing to buy. The shopaholic in me couldn’t wait to get back and grab my purse, but the runner prevailed and I finished three miles in the heart of this charming town.

 

USA Go Wild Event

 

Delft was our home base in The Netherlands because of the USA Go Wild consumer event that we worked, sharing Memphis and Mississippi directly with people who were interested in visiting our area. To kick off the show, we hosted our first blues marker unveiling for over 150 tour operators and journalists complete with live blues music from Mississippi bluesman Vasti Jackson, a Southern barbecue-style supper, and “Mississippi saxophones” for everyone to play a little blues of their own.

Zach’s Dutch birthday celebration

 

My dear friend and “partner-in-crime,” Zach Holifield, turned 30 as we were in the air headed to Holland. We celebrated with birthday crowns and a birthday boy button over breakfast boxes on the flight, but it wasn’t until Friday night that we truly got to celebrate with a proper dinner, toast, and Dutch-themed cake. I will forever remember Zach’s 30th when I see bread baskets, cumquats, and carafes.

 

Stock exchange in Brussels

 

Our next stop on the mission was Belgium. We hit the ground running in Brussels, immediately upon arrival, splitting into sales and press teams, dividing and conquering. That night we met back up for a walking tour of Brussels’ city center and dinner at Chez Leon, a restaurant known for its mussels and pommes frites. Oh, how I love the abundance of french fries in this part of the world!

 

City square in Mechelen

 

In Belgium, one of my favorite days included media visits in Mechelen, a Flemish city between Antwerp and Brussels. We explored the city on foot between appointments and had coffee in the beautiful town square that sits in the shadow of St Rumbold’s Cathedral. I love people-watching and there is truly no better place to gaze than in a city’s square with an exceptional cup of coffee. That goes for the Deep South just as much as Europe!

 

Hanging with Vasti Jackson before the Brussels event

 

Our last night in Brussels included another blues marker unveiling at The Music Village, a cool music venue in the heart of the city. Tour operators, media, and representatives from the American Embassy joined us for a night of blues that only Mississippi can provide. Vasti mesmerized the crowd with stories of our state and tunes to go along with them. Music really is a great equalizer and it is such a joy getting to share Elvis, Tupelo, and Mississippi with music lovers from across the world.

 

Memphis & Mississippi Delegation

 

It was a productive, fun trip and my hope is that both the fall weather and all of the wonderful people we met and shared Memphis and Mississippi with will make their way to see us very soon.

 

Unveiling the Blues Marker

 

Windmill in Delft

 

Press Event at Cannibale Royale in Amsterdam

 

Mussels and French Fries in Delft

 

Cappuccino and Portuguese pastries in Brussels

 

My Nutella Belgian waffle

 

Memphis & MS crew in Brussels

 

2016 Miles to Go: 799

The Countdown is On

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

New York City

Two weeks. The TCS New York Marathon is 14 days away. Our flights have long since been booked, hotel reservations made, and theatre tickets secured. I am totally ready for our trip to New York! But, this trip is in no way about me. John has been training for twenty-three weeks and is finally in the homestretch.

Two Saturdays ago marked his first twenty-mile run. He did this long run on the Tanglefoot Trail and it went really well. John felt strong and was trying to mimic the elevation of the New York marathon by running on this flat, fast trail. He fueled properly throughout the week, didn’t go too fast out of the gate, and never hit a wall during his out and back jaunt.

tcs1

John put in 15 miles yesterday and will start tapering this week. He’s excited. He’s nervous. But, most of all, he is ready! He’s got his outfit ready to go, which, as it turns out, is not nearly as important to this race as it was for my Princess race, but I don’t think anyone is surprised about that.

John’s ankles are sore. He had a bone spur in his heel and tendonitis in his achillies. He has beaten up his body to train for this race, but like I said, he is ready. He stuck to his training plan and is prepared for what lies ahead. I asked him what he has learned from this process and he shared several keys to his success.

11_brooklyn%20512x512

1. You have to be flexible with your training plan and modify as it meets your needs.

John had a strong training plan that was put together for him by Lynn Holland, a great running coach and friend of John’s. There have been days that he hurt and rather than running just because his plan said to do so, he listened to his body and took a day or two off. This has kept him free from any major injuries and has enabled him to rest when he needed it without straying too far from his plan.

2. Run with a Group

John is a member of Team X. Because he runs with this group of men and women, he has accountability, safety, and interesting conversation. He has made new friends and pushed himself more than if he had just been training alone. Because of Team X he has joined the Tupelo Running Club and has met even more folks in the running community, including the skunks at Ballard Park.

3. Cross Train. Cross Train. Cross Train.

Cross training keeps you healthy and less prone to injury. John loves to swim and has enjoyed swimming laps at the Tupelo Aquatic Center as part of his cross training. He also does yoga for runners to stay loose, as he is prone to stay tight. Make all the jokes you want. I always do. While it is time consuming to add more training on your running days off, he is committed to this race and has done a great job of putting in the work that needs to be done.

4. Summer miles bring fall smiles.

If I’ve said it once on this blog, I’ve said 100 times. It’s been a miserably hot summer. The vast majority of John’s training has taken place during the summer months and even the fall months have been sweltering thus far. But, two Saturdays ago when he ran 20 miles, it was 54 degrees, was one of the best training runs he has had at an 8:58 pace, and he never looked back. It looks like the weather in NYC is going to be similar to what we are experiencing now, with marathon temps hitting the mid to upper 50’s. Because of the miles John has put in, he’ll be ready.

30_firstave%201024x512.gif

We are excited about our trip to New York in two short weeks. I’m signed up to run the Abbott Dash to Finish Line 5K, which takes you on the final three miles of the marathon with the same finish in Central Park. I can’t wait to experience the same thing that John will get to do the next day, minus the first 23.1 miles. Some fabulous friends of ours are coming to the city to help cheer on John, so we’re looking forward to a wonderful long weekend in the Big Apple.

Have you run the New York Marathon or been a spectator during the race? I’m still researching where to go to make sure I get to see John other than just at the finish line, so I would love to hear about your experience.

2016 Miles to Go: 799

 

Fall is Coming

August was definitely a month on the run, but not so much a month of running. It has been hot. I mean, miserably hot. So hot, that I feel like my motivation to run has literally melted away. I have felt defeated when it seemed like a huge feat to run even two or three miles, but I keep reminding myself that running in a heat index of 105+ could make any seasoned runner question her sanity. Some days, I have pumped myself up to get my miles in after work, only to get home in the pouring rain. But, fall is coming.

This past weekend we went to Memphis for Miles to participate in a Ducks Unlimited Greenwings event. After sweating through the outdoor extravaganza to which I stupidly wore a dress and flip flops, we visited Breakaway Running where John and I both got fitted for new running shoes. He is logging miles like crazy as the New York Marathon is a little over 63 days away. I just hoped that new shoes would help motivate me to get back at it, as there are several races for which I am signed up or want to sign up this fall and winter. As fate would have it, I’m back in my beloved Mizuno Wave Riders, but up a full size. They feel great and it doesn’t hurt that they’re hot pink and purple. Yes, fall is coming and I’m ready to hit the pavement.

 

Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX

After Elvis Week last month, I found myself in Grapevine, Texas, for Travel Media Showcase, a trade show where I had the privilege of pitching stories about Tupelo to travel writers from across the country. Through excellent networking events and scheduled tours, we got to experience Grapevine. I assumed it was just a suburb of Dallas, as it took a mere ten minutes to drive from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to the gorgeous Gaylord Texan resort where the conference was held, but boy was I wrong.

 

Water feature in the Gaylord Texan

Grapevine is culture and cowboys, water slides and wine. It is a shopper’s paradise and one train ride away from a great adventure. I got to participate in the family fun tour that took us for an afternoon at Grapevine Mills. We lunched at Rainforest Cafe, complete with the enormous Sparkling Volcano dessert.

Sparkling volcano dessert at Rainforest Cafe

 

Sea Life Aquarium

Our next stop was Sea Life, a two-story, 45,000 square-foot aquarium with over 30 interactive exhibits showcasing amazing sea creatures. The highlight was a huge tropical ocean tank with a walk-through tunnel. Sharks and rays of all sorts and sizes were swimming just under our feet and above our heads.

 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

When I travel for work, my child has figured out that my return almost always means a surprise. In fact, he often puts in his “surprise request” before I leave town. The next stop on our tour was a quick glance at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. I immediately hit the gift shop, making sure that his request was met. Part of me felt guilty that I was experiencing all of this without my LEGO-obsessed dude, but we got just enough of a taste that I knew a family trip here would be in our future.

 

Hanging with Wiley from Great Wolf Lodge

The last stop on our family fun tour was the Great Wolf Lodge. Speaking of places I definitely plan to visit further, Great Wolf Lodge is like a mini-theme park all under one roof. Love water slides? They have plenty. Need a princess makeover? Yep, you can get it here. Enjoy character meet-and-greets? They have those, too. And, there’s pizza, and ice cream, and an arcade. I can keep going and can’t wait to go.

 

Grapevine Lake

I did manage to get in some running while in Texas. The Gaylord Texan had a great running trail that went around the property, with gorgeous views of Grapevine Lake. I had the privilege of experiencing God’s amazing artistry as the sun rose over the lake each morning. It was hot and humid, but it made for a great start to the day.

I’m home for several weeks before I leave for Europe at the end of September. My goal is to build my miles back up and get ready for all of the races I plan to run this fall. I love keeping up with my upcoming races on the Days to Go app, as seen above. On another note, I’ve found the perfect virtual race to complete my running resolution and it is all the motivation I need. But, more on that later. For now, fall is coming and I am back on the run.

2016 Miles to Go: 823

Opening Dinner at TMS

 

Starfish at Sea Life

 

Clownfish at Sea Life

 

Sea Life

 

Dallas in LEGOs

 

Roll Tide from LEGOLAND Discovery Center

 

My booth at TMS

 

Gaylord Texan

 

Gaylord Texan

 

Happy Elvis Week

I’m sitting here in the Memphis International Airport awaiting a flight for my next work trip. It’s gloomy here today. There is a drizzly rain coming down and the sky is so gray that the clouds have blocked any semblance of sunshine. The airport seems eerily quiet, even though there are people all around. Despite my eternally optimistic outlook on life, I find the bleakness of Memphis today somewhat appropo. It is, in fact, the 39th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.
 

Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition

 

I spent last week at Elvis Week 2016, Graceland’s annual celebration of all things Elvis. We were in town to promote Tupelo as the Birthplace of Elvis Presley to his fans from around the globe. We did media interviews, recorded a podcast, worked a booth at the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competiton, and hosted the official competition after-parties at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street. In between all of this, we talked to fans about Elvis and took every opportunity we could find to invite them to see where the story began. 

Presenting the check at St. Jude

We have created an annual tradition of hosting an event at St. Jude Children’s Hospital during Elvis Week. We take a tribute artist who performs for the patients, their families, and the staff, while we pass out Elvis glasses to the crowd. Brandon Bennett, a Tupelo winner and Ultimate ETA, joined us this year and he was absolutely fabulous! Also, during the Tupelo Elvis Festival each year, we take up a love offering as part of the Gospel Concert Sunday morning that is presented to St. Jude. This began when The Landmarks, a local gospel quartet, performed annually at the festival and asked for a donation to be made to St. Jude in lieu of payment. Elvis’ legacy of giving generously is continuing.   

Jeff Lewis & Friends Jam Session

We helped sponsor the Jeff Lewis & Friends official after-parties at the Hard Rock each night after the competition. These events are great because tribute artists and influencers in the “Elvis World,” become brand ambassadors for Tupelo, promoting us from the stage all night long. The event is one big jam session and my favorite part is the diverse talent that hits the stage. Tribute artists don’t just sing, they play guitar, and drums, and bass, and keyboard. The event is emulated during the Tupelo Elvis Festival, so those who can’t make it to Memphis can join in on the fun in June.

Hard Rock Event

I’m sitting on the tarmac and the rain is coming down harder. Elvis Week 2016 has come to a close and his fans have begun their journeys home, taking with them a piece of Memphis, and hopefully a piece of Tupelo, as well. This plane is full of people in Elvis shirts, Elvis jewelry, Elvis sunglasses, and even an Elvis wig. I’m sitting here in my business-casual attire, Starbucks in hand, ready to start the new Harry Potter book. While we don’t look like we have much in common, it’s our respect and admiration for the world’s greatest entertainer that is our common ground. For that, we can thank Elvis Presley.   

  

Happy Blogaversary! 

Today if my first blogaversary!

Today is my first blogaversary!

Today is officially my first blogaversary! I’ve been sharing stories of running and travel for one full year. It’s been fun, therapeutic, frightening, and a creative outlet, and with lots in store for the coming year, I can’t wait to continue sharing my story and hearing yours.

Tourism friends at the IPW Closing Reception

Since my last post, I spent a wonderful week in the Big Easy for IPW, U.S. Travel Association’s annual convocation of international tour operators and media. I love New Orleans and was excited to spend a week there with my tourism peeps from around the country, as we shared our communities with tour operators from around the world looking for interesting itineraries for their clients.

Visit Mississippi Booth at IPW

Mississippi is a third or fourth tier destination for international tourists as they tend to visit my buddy Mickey in Florida, the Big Apple, and California (including the Grand Canyon and Vegas, baby) first. When they visit us, it is for a tour of several states in the Deep South, often centered around music, but always for a unique, authentic experience that can be had nowhere else in the world. It’s my job to go to trade shows like IPW and tell Tupelo’s story in a way that inspires travel to my town. I absolutely love it! And, it really doesn’t hurt that that I get to talk about Elvis.

Travel South Banner at IPW

I packed my running clothes, with grand plans to run along the river every day during my stay. The first morning I got ready for the show, put on my brand-new black wedges that arrived in the mail the day before I left and found that they sent me shoes a half-size too small. Being that these were the only black shoes I brought with me (yes, I know better), I wore them anyway and rubbed such horrible blisters on my heels that I couldn’t wear shoes with backs on them the rest of the trip. I have never been one to be limited by shoe size. I have been known to base my shoe purchases on cuteness rather than size, but this was a mistake of epic proportions. Needless to say, there was no running for me at all this trip.

I stayed at the Hilton Riverside, one of my favorite flag properties in NOLA because of its location and the fact that Drago’s is located there. If you’ve never eaten a chargrilled oyster from Drago’s, put it at the top of your list!

Escargot with my friend Zach from Visit Mississippi at Arnaud’s

Every trip to New Orleans involves amazing food and this journey was no exception. I dined at Arnaud’s with my Mississippi colleagues one night and it never disappoints. Located just around the corner from Bourbon Street, it is a New Orleans institution. Try the soufflé potatoes. You’re welcome. Another night I had the pleasure of celebrating my dear friend Kevin Kern’s birthday with the gang from Graceland. We ate at Marcello’s, an Italian eatery that was absolutely fantastic. I also may have had a beignet or two from Cafe du Monde during my stay.

Washington, D.C. Photo Op at IPW

Next year’s IPW is in Washington, D.C. It’s been several years since I visited our nation’s capital and I can’t wait to go back. The photo op Visit D.C. set up in the trade show lobby was too good to pass up, as you can see. Move over Underwoods.

Fiery Gizzard Waterfall and Hike in Monteagle

Not long after my trip to New Orleans, we headed north to Monteagle Mountain for 10 days of rest and relaxation. My family has spent summers on this mountain in the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly for  generations. The annual July 4th celebration is a homecoming of sorts and includes a big picnic on the mall, competitive games, pool games, a major fireworks display, and so much more.

Ready to Run

Another annual event is the Shenanigans Pub Run. It is 6.4 (really more like 6.7) miles from the gates of the Assembly to Shenanigans Restauarant in Sewanee. This year was the 39th running of the race, with this being John’s third time and my first.

Mountain Goat Trail

The race winds along the Mountain Goat Trail, a wonderfully-paved trail that meanders from Monteagle to Sewanee. Much of it is tree-lined and flat, with the occasional straightaway in the sun, and minor hills. Once we veered off of the trail, I ran some of the most atrocious hills I have ever run, and it was hot, very hot.

The “Traditional” Awards Ceremony

The race ended at Shenanigans for the “traditional” awards ceremony that included toasts to the race founders and the winners drinking from their newly-acquired trophies. As always, it was lots of fun, once it was over, even though I questioned my sanity during those goofy middle miles. My cousin, Jackson, ran it with us, and thankfully we all managed to cross the finish line.

John, Me, and Jackson post-pub run

June and July were tons of fun and I’m excited about the interesting trips I have coming up this fall. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing over this past year and since I plan to stay on the run, I hope you will continue this journey with me.

2016 Miles to Go: 842

A Festival Fit for a King

IMG_3812Last weekend, in my hometown of Tupelo, we celebrated our favorite native son with the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival. Held the first full weekend in June, the festival celebrates the impact Elvis Presley made, and continues to make, on music worldwide.

Whether you’re a die-hard Elvis fan, a lover of music, have a pet who has an uncanny resemblance to the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, or are just looking for something a little different to do, everyone can find something to enjoy during the festival. One of my favorite parts of the weekend is the annual Running With the King 5K that is put on by the Tupelo Running Club.

I signed up for this race by myself and tried to persuade a friend or two to join me, but to no avail. I’ll admit, Saturday morning when my alarm went off, the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run. Since I had already registered, I drug myself out of bed, put on my running clothes, and drove to Veterans Park for the start. It was hot…and muggy. Thankfully the sun was hidden behind some pretty thick clouds or it would have been a miserable experience.

The race winds through Tupelo’s Veterans Park which is located in Elvis’ neck of the IMG_3777woods in East Tupelo. After running past the Tupelo Aquatic Center and down the American flag-lined Lawrence Stanley Memorial Drive, we made our way onto Elvis Presley Drive, past Elvis’ house, and through his neighborhood that was once lined with sharecropper shacks. The final mile took us along Veterans Park’s winding, tree-lined trail and ultimately to the finish by the park’s softball complex, where an Elvis impersonator was waiting to serenade us with the King’s greatest hits.

I ran a good race, not a PR, but about a minute under last year’s pace. We had a wild Saturday last weekend, so I didn’t have time to stick around to hear the winners announced, and they still haven’t posted the results, so I’m not completely positive what my exact IMG_3779time was, only what my Garmin showed at the end.

I bought new running shoes last week, so this was the final voyage for the dreaded purple Asics. I am once again in my happy place with the newest Mizuno Wave Riders thanks to my friends at Trails and Treads in Tupelo. I began breaking those bad boys in this week and have learned my lesson about steering away from what works.

I’ve shared before about the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition that’s held each August in Memphis during Elvis Week. Tupelo has its own competition during the Tupelo Elvis Festival that sends a winner to represent our town during the festivities in Memphis.

In between competition rounds, some of the top tribute artists in the world perform concerts at the BancorpSouth Arena, showcasing Elvis and the various eras in which he performed. Right when I think I know a little something about Elvis, I attend another show and realize that I still have a lot to learn. From the “outfit,” to the movement, to the hair, the tribute artists have to know it all, because the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s fans absolutely IMG_3772know. I got to see a few of my favorites perform Thursday night, including 2014 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition winner Jay Dupuis (pictured), which made for a great start to the festival.

On the Fairpark side, this year’s  festival was headlined by American Idol winner, Trent Harmon. We knew it would draw a big crowd, but no one could have predicted that the crowd would show up, leave due to inclement weather, and then come back in full force to hear this hometown boy play. Elvis Presley, Mac McAnally, and Paul Thorn were all born in the Mississippi Hills and it will be exciting to see what’s to come from the newest generation of Tupelo’s musical talent.

Another Tupelo Elvis Festival has come and gone. The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and its many volutneers that make up the “Blue Team,” are the ones that make this great event happen, and they do a fantastic job. I always look forward to the festival because I get to run, I get to hear great live music, and I get to learn something new about my city’s most famour former resident. Plus, a little black leather and powder blue never hurt anyone, right?

2016 Miles to Go:  859

 

 

#Global Running Day

Runners across the globe will commemorate Global Running Day this Wednesday, June 1. A celebration of running, this day is about lacing up and running, whether it is through the yard with your kids, around the block with your dog, or putting in several miles solo or with your running group. On Global Running Day, we celebrate the joys of running with a goal of inspiring others to get out and do the same. I pledged to run three miles tomorrow, on the Global Running Day site, and look forward to hitting the pavement along with runners from over 165 countries around the world.

 

Miles at the RunDisney Kids’ Races

As part of this celebration of all things running, kids are being asked to join the Million Kid Run to promote running as a fun, healthy activity. I am so excited about this, as it encourages kids to turn off the television, put down the video game console, get outside, and run. Since John and I are both runners, we have let Miles join us from early on, so he too would find enjoyment in the sport. His first race was the RunDisney Kids’ Races at Disney World during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and we knew he was hooked. I look forward to the day that he can run his first 5K with us and I am already certain that he will leave both of us in his dust!

Individuals aren’t the only ones planning to celebrate Global Running Day. There are tons of brands, event organizers, and companies with promotions and special events planned to encourage runners to be a part of this day.


The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is one of the most fun series of races around. With “tour stops” in cities across the United States and around the world, they specialize in making the experience of racing as important as actually running. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series folks plan to celebrate Global Running Day in a major way with deep discounts on all of their upcoming race dates. John and I have run the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon twice, and with bands every mile and a fantastic party waiting for you at the finish line, you should definitely sign up for this discounted race first thing Wednesday.


Brooks is inviting runners to join the party by letting you print your own bib for Global Running Day, sharing group run information, and giving runners a place to share their pictures throughout the day. Plus, they are offering participants the chance to win a pair of the new Brooks Neuro shoes, so visit their Facebook page to learn more about the contest.


Perhaps my favorite promotion for Global Running Day is courtesy of the folks at Runner’s World Magazine. They are holding the world’s biggest RUNch June 1, encouraging colleagues to go for a run during their lunch hour. They have described perfectly how to get this done and get back to the office in time on their site, so if it looks like lunchtime is your only opportunity to participate in Global Running Day, Runner’s World can help make that happen. They even have an excuse you can give to your boss should your RUNch run (pun intended!) a little long, signed by the Mayor of Running and Chief Running Officer!


Yet another pretty fabulous company that plans to celebrate Global Running Day, is Sparkle Athletic. These purveyors of sparkly running apparel are like a big family, as every runner who adorns their skirts are part of #teamsparkle. You can RSVP on their site to be a part of their Global Running Day virtual group run no matter where you live and will be entered to win a Sparkle Athletic prize pack. Tag your pics with #teamsparkle for another chance to win.
There are so many exciting ways to get involved with Global Running Day, I hope this will inspire you to run a few miles tomorrow.

 

 

 

My Favorite Saturday of the Year

 

Leaders of the pack

 This past Saturday was my favorite Saturday of the year in Tupelo. The annual Gumtree Festival and Gumtree 10K make for a grand weekend full of art, music, food, running, and fun in Downtown Tupelo. The festival is usually held Mother’s Day weekend, with the exception of every few years when Mother’s Day falls on the first weekend of May and other area races are held that first weekend. Our annual tradition is to pick out Mother’s Day gifts at the juried arts festival, so the gorgeous painted barnwood tray I picked out this year was well worth the wait! While I look forward to the festival every year, it is the race that makes this Saturday my favorite Saturday of the year.

Gumtree Race Party

 
The Gumtree 10K winds its way through Downtown Tupelo before heading into some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Traditionally, watch parties are held to cheer on the runners and neighborhoods get together to man water stations. The race comes up one side of my house and turns in front of it, so we invite our neighbors, close friends, and family to join us for breakfast and to help cheer on the runners. This combines two of my very favorite things: running and brunch! I was probably asked about 100 times if I was running Gumtree this year, but given the chance to throw a party, I always put on my party hat instead of my running shoes.

John’s annual note of encouragement

 
The Gumtree 10K has been held for 39 years and runners from all over the world come to Tupelo to participate in the race. My husband, John, is a runner and has run Gumtree several times. The last time he ran it, I put on the party by myself, in the rain, and after that I graciously asked him to bow out from being an annual participant. The last year he did participate, he said that his favorite part was running through the Joyner neighborhood and being cheered on and encouraged by all of the onlookers. The support from the Tupelo community is what makes this race extra special.

Hi-fiving the runners

In 2014, an EF-3tornado ripped through my neighborhood just weeks before the Gumtree 10K. With cleanup efforts underway, the city considered canceling the annual race, but the Joyner neighborhood banded together and asked the city to keep the race as scheduled. We put up signs proclaiming #TupeloStrong, cleaned up our yards and helped our neighbors clean theirs, and we still held our parties and cheered on the runners. It was a much needed bright spot in an otherwise dark time. But, that’s Tupelo, and that’s why my community is so special. 

So, like I said, this is my favorite Saturday of the year in Tupelo. If you’re a runner, I highly recommend making a trip to do the race, enjoy the festival, hear some great live music, and do your carb-loading at one of the city’s wonderful local restaurants. If you’re not a runner, then just plan to come eat breakfast at my house. I make a mean sausage casserole.

Cheering on the runners

2016 Miles to Go: 876

  

  

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! I was blessed with a pretty incredible mother. She loves selflessly, supports unconditionally, is the most organized and together person on the planet, has a sense of humor like no other, and has freakish upper body strength. As I reflected this morning on how my mother’s love mirrors God’s love for us, it also hit me that the lessons I have learned from her over the years can help me be a better runner.

 

The slide of death in Ecuador

 
#1: Try something new

My mother is the first person to get you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to try something new. To this day I will try anything once, whether it is food, meeting a new person, hanging a picture a different way, or trying a new activity. I often hate to tell her this, but she’s usually right.

Running is something new for me. I’ve only been running for about five years, but have found so much joy in this new thing that I have tried. Because of my mother, I’m not frightened of new things or change, and I am eternally grateful to her for that. I tell people all the time that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I love recruiting new runners and I have my mama to thank for that.

 

Commitment = Seeing through a week at Disney

 
#2: Commit and see it through

My parents have always encouraged me to try new things, but once a commitment was made, there was no going back. What a great lesson in a time where society tells us we should all be happy no matter what. There were several commitments throughout my life that made me horribly unhappy, things I joined or started that turned out to be far from what I thought they would be, yet my mother always made me honor my commitments. For this, I am so thankful, even if it meant I didn’t get to come home from horse camp. 

This totally applies to running. So many times I have signed up for a race and started my training, but inevitably, those early morning runs would get old after awhile and I would not stay as committed as I should. There is no other feeling like crossing that finish line and if you don’t commit fully and see your training plan through to completion, that finish line feeling may be out of reach.

 

Supporting my theatrics

 
#3: Be supportive

I could talk all day long about this one. Both of my parents have supported me in every single thing I have ever done. Whether it was with their time, their prayers, their finances, or any other way, they have always been there for me 100%. My mother has attended events, bought tickets, worked nurseries, gone on field trips…this list really could go on infinitely, but the point is that she has supported me in all things.

Running a race can be a very lonely thing, but when other runners support one another, we are all in it together. The most supportive race I have ever run was the RunDisney Princess Half Marathon. Complete strangers cheered each other on no matter the mile we were running. Outside of Disney, I strive to be that runner who encourages others, thanks volunteers along the way, and supports runners in their quest to reach the finish line. 

Having fun at Granne’s house

#4: Have fun

Remember how I said that my mother has a sense of humor like no other? I wasn’t kidding. She is hilarious and makes sure that everyone around her is having fun. I didn’t always get this, especially when she was singing over the bus intercom on middle school chorus trips, but I totally get it now. Finding a way to laugh in every situation makes even life’s hardest moments a little less hard, and boy does my mama know how to do that.

Running is hard. It can be downright awful some days. But, I do it to have fun. Traveling, seeing communities from a different perspective, getting great exercise, and earning the bling, all make running fun, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.

  
On this Mother’s Day I am so thankful for my mother and hope that I can be half the mama to Miles that she has been to me. I also hope that the lessons I have learned from her continue to make me the best runner that I can be. I may not have the freakish upper body strength that she possesses, but I bet when the time comes to move Miles home from college, I can make sure that he is more prepared to do so than I, right Mama? 

2016 Miles to Go: 881

Existing Within a Virtual Reality

One of my running resolutions for 2016 is to run a virtual race. What is a virtual race? Well, I’m glad you asked. In its simplest form, a race of the virtual variety enables you to run where you are. No need to travel. No need for complicated race day logistics. No need to spend a ton of money. Just pick your date, pick your time, and run. Oh, and shortly thereafter your shiny, new race bling magically arrives in the mail. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

There are a plethora of different virtual races out there. In fact, RunDisney announced last week that they are jumping into the virtual game with their Virtual Running Shorts Series that will be held throughout the summer. This is your chance to get a little piece of the Disney Magic without the larger price tag that is usually attached. There are three different races, and a challenge race if you want to run all three, each with its own signature medal. These races are 5Ks and if you complete the challenge, four bright and shiny medals will be headed your way, courtesy of the mouse himself.

In choosing the virtual race to meet my running resolution this year, I have sifted through site after site containing all of the benefits of running that particular race. Through research, I have decided that my race will have to meet three distinct parameters in order to be the one.

#1: It supports a charity 

With a myriad of races out there some are for profit, others simply want to cover the cost of their bling, and a great deal of them exist to give back. I love a race that gives all or a portion of your race fee to a nonprofit organization. Races for Awareness offers an array of virtual races, all dedicated to a specific charity, with 80% of entry fees going to that charity. I like this site because they offer so many different races for lots of nonprofit organizations and the medals are pretty fabulous! Will Run for Bling is another great resource for virtual races that give back.

#2: It has a set distance

Some virtual races let you pick your distance and go as far as you want, as long as you pay the entry fee.  Others are distance specific ranging from a 5K all the way to those 100-mile plus endurance races. I’m shooting for a 10K for my first virtual race because that distance can be challenging, but makes for a great run whether it’s first thing in the morning or later in the day. I also want a race that requires you to log your distance and time.

How do you track your distance if you don’t have a set course? I run with a Garmin Forerunner 10 run watch. It is just fancy enough so that I know how far I’ve gone, how fast I’m running, how many glorious calories I’ve burned, and my total run time. You can also use Map My Run or RunKeeper, both great running apps for tracking. 

#3: It doesn’t have a set date 

Just like an actual race, some virtual runs require that you run on a specified date. They often bring people together from all over the world to support a cause on a specific date or require that you run on a certain day in order to award prizes and ship medals in a timely fashion. I am looking for a race that has no timeline. I want to run when I want to run. This is just one more reason that virtual races are so easy to do. 

So, what race am I going to run? I’m still not sure, but I’m learning a ton through research, as I look for the perfect race for my running resolution. Have you run any virtual races? If so, what do you recommend and why? 

2016 Miles to Go: 881