Racers take your mark.

Racers take your mark.

"Racers take your mark.."

The words and moments of dripping adrenaline before coasting into the familiar movements after a season of training. I think it's safe to say this in close combination with the minute I step over the finish line and feel the aura of accomplishment are what keeps me - maybe keeps us all - racing.

In exactly 2 weeks, I step onto the start line of the Chicago marathon anticipating those words, those feelings. Despite the nerves and anxiousness already setting in, I'm craving them. I'm craving the feeling of overcoming every challenging workout, humidity streaked practice, pulled mid-season muscle, and frequently bruised ego which has been the hallmark of this training season.

A good friend of mine told me a few weeks back, "It's not the running that gets harder. My body knows how to do that at this point. It's the mental part of the sport that just keeps getting harder."

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My New York Tribe

My New York Tribe

The New York running community is like nothing I could have possibly imagined. It’s a group of exceedingly diverse, multi-leveled, pretty freaking weird souls all out on the pavement just trying to survive. The very concept of the “everyday athlete” – a term I’ve often used to describe the basis on which the Happy Runner Diaries was created – seems to have been born in New York. Here there are elites, there are beginners, there are mothers, charity runners, and multi-sport athletes all sharing the course with nothing but love for each other. There’s no room for entitlement, because in true New York fashion, no matter how you’re acting, we honestly don’t give a sh*t.

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LG Got her Grove Back

LG Got her Grove Back

I’ve lived and have been running in NYC for about 7 years now. For 6 of those years I never ran the NYC Half Marathon. But this year the lottery gods were on my side, and I finally received an entry through NYRR.  I’ve always heard how fun of a race it is, and what a great course it is, so I was pumped to be part of it this year.

With the marathon about 2 months behind me and being right in the middle of the long, cold winter months, I had been feeling less than motivated to run and was getting antsy to train for something, anything.  So this was perfect timing. I picked out a training plan I found online, and put everything in my calendar. Long runs on the weekends, some hill work, plans to go to the track, added in some cross training and yoga days. I was ready to go!

Week 1 came and went and - running wise - was kind of .. no it WAS.. a fail.  It’s okay, I told myself, next week you will get to it.  Well, week 2 came and went and same thing. Aaaaand week 3 was a repeat of weeks 1 and 2.

I don’t know what it was, but running felt SO. FREAKIN. HARD.  My weekend long runs were mostly awful feeling and there were several times I thought to myself “How on earth did I run 26.2 miles only 2 months ago?!”. Any weekday hill or speed work plans I had were thrown out the window. Those runs just became about getting in a few miles.

With March 19th quickly approaching, I was feeling like I had lost my running mojo and was not looking forward to the race at all anymore.  Even the day before and the morning of, the pre-race excitement adrenaline was not kicking in.  I just wanted to get it over with.

Well, for how crabby pants I was about the whole thing, to my utter shock, I had SO MUCH FUN and totally crushed the course feeling strong AF.  There was no PR, but it was the second best half marathon I’ve ever run. The second I crossed that finish line, before even looking at my watch to see my time, I thought to myself: “Oh yea! Stella’s got her groove back!”

So this all obviously has me thinking, what gives?! How did I go from being miserable about even running the NYC Half to having one of my best races in a loooooooong time?

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New York City Half Hacks

New York City Half Hacks

Much to my disappointment, I've never really been the kind of person that can leave it all on the road race morning, pulling out my best performance on the course despite whatever's been going on at practice. Slight amounts of jealousy aside, what's left is nothing less than admiration for these types of racers. I'm, instead, the type of runner that puts my body through hell at practice, somehow still letting nerves/fear/bad luck get the best of me race morning.

I do have those miraculous kinds of days. But it's always on a random Thursday night when I'm extra amped up from work and need to shed negativity straight out of my sneakers. Alternatively, I'll knock out a PR when I'm pretend-racing my teammates on a long run, resting on my ego that in that moment I know I can push a little harder than everyone else at that specific moment in time. Mmkay, great. This doesn't serve me any glory on a course...so what gives?

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Expos as a Metaphor

Expos as a Metaphor

I’ve been in such dread for the New York City half expo that I actually drank an entire draft of Guinness before stopping down hoping the buzz wouldn’t wear off before I could pop in and out of that bad bear, carefully sidestepping even one hand-out vitamin that I’ll be tempted to take race morning but shouldn’t. The train down was packed, I was sweating through my chambray by the time I crawled out of middle Earth back to fresh air, and I was a face-flushed piss ball by the time I got inside. But why?

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10 Tricks to Stay Cool under Pressure

This is the manual. Life gets busy, and it’s a consistent balance, maybe even a juggle, to keep everything up. So sometimes don’t keep it up, let it come down. Go to bed early. Cancel your plans. Close your computer. Go to yoga. Drink tea in your underwear. Do the things that you need to do in the mini moments where you catch your breath so that when you come back, your game face is stronger than ever.

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Day Breaker: The Year of the Rooster

Day Breaker: The Year of the Rooster

2017 is the year of the rooster, a day maker, a call to action.

In so many ways it's already been a year of great change, followed as always with great uncertainty. At these times I'm left to wonder what remains as a tangible object I can hold onto. With every year older I'm left to give up another security held fast in childhood. There are no “security blankets” in adulthood.

Although I've only analyzed my personal circumstance I wonder if this intangibility is a contributor to the quarter life crisis characterizing our generation. But then again, I think of all the amazing things our generation has created from intangible property. We are the babies of the Internet, the children of the app revolution, and the pioneers of the future tech standard. We live our lives on an intangible platform and not only rely but thrive on its uncalculated depth of opportunity.

As a direct result of this intangibility, we’ve also been able to achieve ambiguity. Our relationships are concealed behind the veil of a screen, and this is convenience comes with incredible price. I’m guilty of it too. I’ve used social media to portray very specific sides of myself. I’ve used the distance of a screen or internet conversation to voice thoughts I’d never deem appropriate in face to face contact. I’ve lost a portion of the credibility for which I used to hold in the highest esteem: to be fully accountable.

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How to get motivated for Winter Running

How to get motivated for Winter Running

Well, runner’s, it’s that time of year again. Winter is upon us. The temps have dropped, the wind is blustery. We have the occasional snowfall, and it gets dark at a ridiculously early hour.  Our natural instinct to put on our comfiest jammies and snuggle up inside our warm apartment is kicking into high gear (ya feel me?).

It’s that time of year when going out for a run isn’t as easy as it was in the warmer spring and summer months. Winter running takes a lot more planning. Routes need to be carefully mapped out in well lit areas; layering becomes an artful of the most essential kind - not enough layers and you struggle to even get warm, but too many layers and you build up too much body heat and your sweat doesn’t evaporate.  

And, if you’ve spent the a good portion of the past 6 months or so training for a big goal race, your schedule is a little more loosey goosey with no real obligation to weekday training runs and early weekend morning long runs. Aka, you don’t really HAVE to go for that run.

Bottom line - more planning and less structure can leave you feeling a lot less motivated to lace up your sneakers and get out for a run this time of year.  

I admit though that I’m one of those weirdos where this time of year is actually my favorite time of year for running. There are few things that I enjoy more than the cold, crisp winter air filling my lungs, the occasional sound of the snow crunching under my feet with each stride (but if it’s shiny, watch your hiney!), and the feeling of bad-assery I get when I am finally forced to take off my top long sleeve layer revealing a short sleeve layer because I’ve finally built up enough body heat to be hot in 30/40 degree weather.

So how do I stay motivated in the winter months, even when I don’t HAVE to be running? I use 5 essential winter running steps.

 

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WTF – The Modern Day Power Mantra

WTF – The Modern Day Power Mantra

I used identify as an 'everything happens for a reason' person but have lost some faith in that belief system over the years. I prefer to identify as a 'learnist' - learn from everything and everyone to make you better.

WTF. Three common sometimes comedic letters that if you are like me you use on the REG.

I.e., “WTF is with people not reading the ‘be courteous’ signs on the subway and wearing their back packs during rush hour????”

Daily annoyance WTFs aside, I've developed a new positive love for WTF, not just in angry moments. It can be a powerful agent of change.

2016 was supposed to be my sub-4 hour grand comeback debut after a 3 year marathon training hiatus. This was my focus and my main life goal for the year. I came back stronger than ever physically, training runs paces were in the right range in dismal summer conditions. It seemed not just possible, but very likely and achievable in Chicago.

Sub-4 did not happen in Chicago. Sub-4 did not happen in Philly by 55 seconds.

After a lot of WTF, I realized my 4:00:54 in Philly is no coincidence. I’ve been a serious competitive athlete my whole life winning state soccer championships and running on champion relay teams. I can't turn a blind eye and say better luck next time to a missed goal. I could just take the easy way out and attribute the 54 seconds to the fact that I didn't wear a watch and really didn't know how close I was, or the rough wind. I figured if I was going to miss it, I'd come in at like 4:05 and it would have been a valiant effort in my 2nd marathon 6 weeks after Chicago. Never did I think I'd be that close, so I figured it was time to pay attention to the universe messaging.

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Podcast Alert - Hops of Life

Podcast Alert - Hops of Life

It's pretty fantastic to watch your childhood friends grow up and follow their dreams. This particular dream sprouted less than 200 yards from my house, from a young man it somehow took me 18 years to befriend. Yet, in the time since then, I have found a kindred soul for a fit an active lifestyle. 

Brandon is a masters student at Cortland University majoring in exercise science and bio-mechanics. He's a lab instructor, a prior strong-man competitor, and volunteer counselor at Double H Ranch. 

Check out his new podcast. Full story and link in the full article!

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The Pursuit of the Personal Best

The Pursuit of the Personal Best

I grew up a high strung kid. Most people would likely still say I'm a high strung adult, slightly too anxious, and always reaching for the unattainable. In many ways, I'd say they are right, or more certainly that they were right. Today, more than ever, we are surrounded by ideals of perfection. We see them on facebook, instagram, snapchat, and blogs. We are bombarded with the images and videos captured on only someone's very best day... marked in the illusion that life can be like this all the time. I'm personally extremely guilty of using social media to portray my "best self" through the portal of imaginary reality that I'm living my best life. Then, as I'm sure we all-too-intimately relate, on the inside we're faced with questions like is this enough? Am I enough? What am I missing out on? 

This wasn't a new phenomenon for me. I think I experienced the term "FOMO" far earlier than the concept existed in any type of abbreviated form. I always felt an urge to be at the center of the action. I always longed for the moments that were just distant enough in the future to still be dripping in imagination. At any instance I was doing one thing, a part of me felt so strongly I wanted to be doing something else. This bred a nervousness in me. It created a concept that whatever I was doing wasn't as good as I what I could be doing. It cultivated the concept that if I just worked a little harder, expelled a little more energy, ate a little less, trained a little longer... you could imagine this is a slippery slope. 

In college it spiraled so far out of control that I lost sight of what I wanted in the long term to focus on the "image" of what I thought I could portray of a life I wasn't even leading. The concept of sharing experiences with others forced me away from experiencing them myself. Immediately following that, I realized that the sharing wasn't the issue, but the perception of being and thriving didn't stand a chance when measured against an external scale. 

The concept of the happy runner was born on the backbone of this timid realization.  The happy runner is not distracted by comparisons, put-downs, or the concept that every race needs to be competitive with the elites. As a runner, the concept of "personal best" is not only key, but critical. While the goal of being elite is both attainable and important to keep in one's mind, it shouldn't and - if we are lucky - isn't the climax of the sport. Bearing ability, opportunity, and injury in mind, we - the happy runners - move along the trails and pavement in pursuit of much more personal and internal goals. 

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Kale and Bean Soup

Baby it's [getting] cold outside, and nothing warms me up better than a good cup of soup. I stumbled upon this gem when my roommate made it during a snowstorm in 2014 and I haven't stopped making it since. It's 10 ingredients, and couldn't be simpler or more filling. Paired with a piece of whole wheat sourdough toast, or my personal favorite: popcorn on the stove, and this makes for a fiber-filled, amazing meal for lunch or dinner on a chilly day. 

IMG_2545.JPG

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 bunch kale (5-6 cups)

4 cloves garlic

1 large white onion

1 12oz can white cannellini beans

1 12oz can red kidney beans

¼ cup white wine (optional)

Cooking Tools:

1 large pot

Knife and kitchen scissors

Cutting board

Large bowl

Preparation

Begin by using your kitchen scissors to cut the kale into small, bite-size pieces into your large bowl. Cut the onion and garlic, so all your veggies are ready. In the large pot heat the olive oil for a few minutes and open both cans of beans. Empty the cannellini beans into a bowl and begin mashing them with a fork to create a paste you will use to thicken your soup. Add the onions to the oil and let them brown, then add the kale. Stir the mixture together and add the garlic. Next, add the broth, water, and wine. Stir in the mashed cannellini beans until evenly distributed, and the red kidney beans on top.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, and you’re DONE!

Kale and Bean Soup with a side of homemade stove-cooked popcorn.

Kale and Bean Soup with a side of homemade stove-cooked popcorn.

Marathon Season is here.. What to get your Favorite Runner

Marathon season is upon us, and with the NYC Marathon less than 1 week away, you may be wondering, "what should I get my favorite runner on her special day?" Below is a list of some starter ideas to get your basket going. Top with a heartfelt note and card and you'll be sure to have your pal in tears, aided by both your thoughtful gesture and the emotional output of the final days in taper.

Here's a few links for the items above:

GuHoney Stinger | Clif

Body Glide

Shifting the Frame

Shifting the Frame

This post is honest and it won't be for everyone. It's the pent up, mind churning post that's been marinating in an attempt to assess the essence of the happy runner, on both her best and her worst day. I wanted the happy runner to be for the optimist, but in true form she will always be a realist. Just as happiness will always be a choice.

It's on my way to work that I have the most ghastly thoughts. This is likely because I'm headed to one of if not the very last place I'd like to be going. It's as I stand down on the subway platform dripping sweat and feeling like a horse raced too hard on a hot day that I look around and feel actual loathing. I'm disinterested by everyone enduring their morning grind because I’m consumed in my own. I yearn for a pollution filled breeze, just to feel like anything is moving at all. My mind fills with dreams to run (really, to run away) to take the edge off the dread I have in returning another day to a place that doesn’t fit my skillset with people who don’t seem like they’ll ever relate to me.

It wasn't always this way. In my last job I loved the people I worked with. I respected and looked up to them. I felt they were my friends and my advocates inside and outside the work place. I didn't like the work there either, so I took a leap of faith and began a new adventure.

See, that’s the thing isn’t it? We’re told again and again to take a chance, start an adventure, close our eyes, and “leap”. We read books and stories, watch movies, and hear reports on all of the amazing things that can happen if you just “take a chance.” I’m here to represent the 99% of the world where this didn’t go as planned. I’m here to tell you that I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of the part in that book where they tell you “I failed 100 times before I got it right.”

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Moroccan Eggplant Tangine

Moroccan Eggplant Tangine over Couscous

Moroccan Eggplant Tangine over Couscous

Ingredients

  • 1 C Couscous
  • 1 C Chick Peas
  • 1 large (2 med) eggplant - cubed
  • 2 Tomatoes - cubed
  • 1 Onion - diced
  • 4oz tomato paste
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 3 oz dates
  • 3 Tbl shelled pistachios (unsalted) - chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbl Olive oil

Spices

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Heat water to a boil, add couscous, cover and return to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the burner leaving the pan on the heat so the couscous can expand.
  • Heat olive oil in a pan, cube eggplant into bite size pieces, peel and cut garlic. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook for 6-8 minutes. Once eggplant is browned and softened, add the garlic and salt/pepper to taste. Stir in tomatoes and onion; cook for 2-3 minutes then add can of tomato paste.
  • Spice your mixture and stir until fragrant, then add chick peas, figs, mint, and parsley.
  • Plate your dishes, garnishing with the chopped pistachios.
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Jessica Ferrucci

The Happy Runner is the everyday athlete; finding balance by carrying six coffees without spilling them on the subway, meditating on elevator rides, and weight lifting your laptop as your hurdle a puddle to make your 9AM meeting. The Happy Runner is a community of like-minded beautiful souls striving to add a little sense of movement and meditation back on the agenda.

A Proper Send-off for Summer ‘16

A Proper Send-off for Summer ‘16

It’s the week back after the long Labor Day weekend, and the first unofficial start to the fall season. According to mainstream media, summer is over, white attire is retired, and autumn crisp is right around the corner. This has been a roller coaster year in life and running. It has been a year of re-assessment, of running for the sake of run love, having bad runs – bad days at work, bad commutes, and bad hair days – and being ok with it. This year was the concession to the reality of the quarter-life crisis. But most importantly the rising from the doubt, the dating myself, and slowly re-positioning the frame to smirk at my own imperfections with the love I can only imagine comes from the slight bit of pride that builds from knowing you created the best version of yourself.

This weekend was a capstone of sorts on the progress of that journey. There was no grand race, award, project, or accomplishment. Like the rest of summer’16, the weekend was different – but also better – than expected. Eight ladies set off early Friday morning for our camping adventure in Minnewaska State Park, just outside of New Paltz, NY. The objective of the weekend being a starter weekend for bonding, an exceptional weekend for bonding, and a much needed break from city noise and Saturday long runs. 

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How Running Helped My Yoga Practice

How Running Helped My Yoga Practice

As runners, we are creatures of movement; drawn by the pulse and rhythm we get from the road. Often, we become dependent on the movement to maintain our state of equilibrium. Science will tell us this is the result of endorphins – tiny elemental chemicals which flow through our veins after a tough workout bringing messages to the brain of elation and excitement. We, as runners, concede it is not just endorphins but freedom, competition, habit, and community which bring us to the road.

I know – for me – after a tough week, an argument, or simply the drain which is the corporate America lifestyle of being chained to a desk, I want nothing more than to counter the stagnation with heart pumping thrill. So, you ask, where does the yoga come in? For me, it was the replacement – or the augment – to a former life of dance. After beginning full-time work, I noticed a slip in posture, a lack of stretch, and a terrifyingly cluttered brain that wouldn’t slow at night, wouldn’t calm in silence. Two years into work I became a frequent sufferer of panic attacks. They came on with suffocating intensity, racing heart, tingling fingers and the fog of the thickest storm cloud clouding out any clarity to my motion.

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The Happy Runner Survival Guide

The Happy Runner Survival Guide

Ever have a moment where you step away from social media in one last futile attempt to silence your mind and create a gap in active screen time? Whether yes or no, the feeling for me has created this month lag in Happy Runner posts while I tried to get a grip on my utter frustration around the expectation to never "turn off." Of course my intention was never to leave the happy runners behind. It's here I feel my most creative and most complete self. It's in this venue with the Happy Runner manifesto that is keeping me sane.

Instead, this break is a cry to my inner peace to show itself in the form of active recovery in a toxic work environment. My goal in my happy runner heart mission was to take all that I've leaned in my own yogi-runner journey and not only create a discourse of how I apply it in my own life, but also share it with a community of like-minded souls like you. In this past month I've been called to act on my own cry of action...to meditate in brief moments on the train and during elevator rides, use 20 spare moments in the early morning for quick at-home yoga or a morning run, cook on Sundays to try to bring healthy meals during the week.

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Runspiration: John Fiore

Runspiration: John Fiore

Looking at the journey of a runner is a little bit like looking at the rings of a tree. When you cut into the trunk, you can see the progression of seasons and the effect it’s had on the growth of the organism. In times of drought, fire, plague, and other pollutants the tree is forced to conserve, to change, and to grow a thicker skin on the outside in order to endure a long lifetime of a constantly changing external environment.

As a runner you’re more than aware of similar changing conditions on the road and – even harder – in life. I’ve learned not to question the intentions of this unique community. Instead, I’m only able to absorb the stories in utter admiration for what the human body is capable of, but even more so what the drives a human soul.

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6 Tips for Morning Gymming

6 Tips for Morning Gymming

We want it all because we deserve it all. We’re the ladies that are going to change the world. We’re smart, independent, determined, but while we’re out there chasing our dreams we can’t lose sight of the fact that healthy bodies harbor healthy minds. Aside from our other long list of amazing accomplishments, we are athletes and we need to be.

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