What I learned on Valentine’s Day

I’m obviously a little late with this, as Valentine’s Day was over a week ago…but who doesn’t want to extend the love for another week, right? I’ve never celebrated the day in its traditional sense, but I sure had fun last year making running-inspired, styrofoam Sweethearts candy replicas and throwing around fake snow in the window while everyone else made dinner plans. I had no reason not to come up with an equally fun display this year, and so I took a few minutes to find an idea, and suddenly a glittery masterpiece was underway. You know that saying about being distracted by shiny things? That phrase is actually about me. I am instantly drawn to glittery and shiny things; they make me so excited. Anyway, for the first part of this post, please enjoy the following photos from my Valentine’s Day store window, 2014 edition:

First, I constructed a giant cardboard heart. The concept was an oversized card, or love note to running. I had no clue what I was going to write on it.

20140130_191013I miraculously cut it out:

20140130_212007…posed with it:

20140130_211159…and proceeded to write notes like, “Meghan’s heart – do not touch/break” because…well, I was already making a giant love note to running out of cardboard, there was no harm in furthering the corniness of the ordeal.

The result:

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20140131_19521120140131_195148For the record, these little scraps of confetti paper were way easier to clean up than the clingy styrofoam “snow” from last year! I’m not sure what to do with the giant “card” now, but I’ll figure something out….

…but back to what I learned

I learned more than the fact that our vacuum cleaner is so awful it doesn’t pick up loose glitter from a carpet. I learned a fundamental reason why I love running. As I mentioned in my last post, the week of Valentine’s Day wasn’t going so well. I was planning on doing a workout Wednesday night, and then I felt sick and needed to bail on that. Thursday it was dangerous to go outside with all the ice, snow, and wind, and I still felt kind of sick. I committed myself to getting up early Friday and doing a workout regardless of the road surface. That is, I was going to suck it up and join the rest of the world…on the treadmill. This was a huge deal for me. I hadn’t been on a treadmill other than to test shoes since 2008. I had never done a workout on a treadmill either. I was determined to have fun with it though; I was telling myself I’d get to play with the speed, I’d get to wear shorts and a tank top in the dead of winter for once, I’d get to listen to music. Things I normally don’t do. It would be fun (insert meme here?).

The plan: walk to the store. Get on the treadmill. Warm up two miles, switch into flats (another bonus point, I thought!). Run two miles at ~6:30, into one mile at ~7:00, into two more miles at 6:30. Cool down inside or outside. The warmup wasn’t too bad. I felt good and thought the hard segments would be fine. HOWEVER. I ran the hard two mile segment in around 13:10, with my pace faltering (meaning, I needed to hit the down arrow or I’d be at the back of the belt) as the end neared. I faced a mental battle, as well as a row of orange Nike shirts (the treadmill faces the wall now…). This was awful. How do so many people do this on a regular basis?! Props to all of you, seriously. Running on the treadmill takes a tougher person than running outside in the snow. I’m not sure if that is true or makes any sense, but that is what went through my mind that Friday morning. I jumped off after the two miles, feeling dizzy and dehydrated. I threw on a long sleeved shirt and gloves and ran outside.

I ran about four miles and loved every step of it, ice or not. The sun was as bright as it had been in days. The streets were slushy messes, but I felt so free. This was it, this is why I love running. No, I didn’t get in the rest of the workout. I wasn’t running a decent pace on this dangerous, uneven surface. But that was okay. Because for those four miles spent on the treadmill, especially those last two, I didn’t like running very much. I wasn’t having fun. I’m not saying I expect to have fun on every run, but I should at least feel like the run was my choice, and that I would rather be doing it than not. I didn’t feel that way on the treadmill, and the stark comparison of the post-treadmill run outdoors made me realize that I loved running in part because it makes me feel free.

When I run, I shatter the demeaning power of self-doubt and feel like my most confident self.

There’s no need to think of what others think of me when I run, because I’m doing what I enjoy most and that is all that matters in that moment. 

When I run, I can reach a mental and physical state not many others can understand, and that is something special.

I can run away from annoying things – whether they are people playing loud music, or taking up the entire sidewalk when they walk, or my own self feeling too tired to accomplish all I want to do, or thinking too much about one thing.

At one point, I realized I was wearing my favorite running shorts and shirt, like I planned it but I didn’t. I felt like I could run all day, conquering the world, at least my world, one street at a time. Eventually I headed back though, because I did have to work all day. What began as a bad experience with a treadmill, an overheated room, and legs that questioned my sanity for starting this thing in the first place ended with a renewed sense of passion for running…one could even say it was like the perfect Valentine’s date. 🙂

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Christmas 2013: the ugly, the classy, and the sweaty

After a post that was mostly words, here is one with mostly pictures to balance it out. I didn’t run any holiday-themed races this time around, but I had probably my best Christmas season yet – meaning, I actually enjoyed it and am a little sad to see it go.

My sweater would suggest otherwise:

Don’t be fooled. My heart’s grown three sizes.

Screw goodwill, Walmart + Michael’s was the way to go. I had a lot of fun painting it…the problem was, it turned out better than I expected. Therefore, it wasn’t quite ugly enough to win the ugly sweater contest at a local bar that night. But, I did get cookies for my effort, and my friend got second place and was awarded with a huge cooler! He didn’t win the $100 cash prize because a.) he won that on Halloween…got to spread the love, right? and b.) a guy who got second last year won this year…and he should have won last year because he wore this:

Caption contest?

All was fair.

xmasAlso, I think we definitely won in the end because we convinced our favorite bartender to attend our party the following night. It was a “classy” party, so some pictures are required:

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20131220_223820Santa attended as well:

20131221_000037An argument can now hopefully be made that I’m not always covered in sweat and mud making pain faces. 🙂 In case you were wondering how long it would take for me to get dirty again though, the answer was about twelve hours:

Bike ride on the roads on a 60 degree day...that melted snow was not very clean.

Bike ride on the roads on a 60 degree day…that melted snow on the shoulders was not very clean.

Overall, it was a great week with both friends and family, and as I gushed about last week, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Halloween, work edition

If I told you my Halloween fun (and stress?) stopped when I put my sparkly green Tinkerbell shoes away in the closet (to be worn again…when? No clue), I would be lying. When I realized I had very limited time left to snatch the opportunity to decorate the window at the store, I spent all day on Tuesday getting supplies, and all night after the track workout putting my plan into action. Each year I make a store pumpkin, and there was no way I was skipping it this year. Here’s an evolution of the pumpkins…I’m on year three:

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And a drumroll please for this year…

I should tell you that I added some glow-in-the-dark paint, and glitter, to this year’s pumpkin! So, what it lacks in creative paint design, it makes up for in luminescence. Clearly, I didn’t stop at the pumpkin this year. I got totally tangled up in fake spiderwebs each time I turned on the pumpkin lights (i.e., twice a day), and when I realized I hadn’t changed the mannequin’s top yet, but this window display was worth it. The result:

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Note: I wanted to put a black sheet on the ground, but to be honest, it would have put me over my budget.

The loose straw will inevitably cause my coworkers to give me some grief, but I assured them I would clean it up thoroughly. They responded with comments that reassured me the Styrofoam snow (from the Valentine’s Day window) was still on the top of the Meghan’s Messiest Projects list. In the clear. I think the green glitter (St. Patrick’s Day window 2012) is second, because there was some deja-vu-inspired outcries when my Tinkerbell shoes and sparkly shirt made their way into the store last week….

I contemplated dressing as some sort of inanimate object we sell for Halloween at work Thursday, but the thought of constructing something out of cardboard that would resemble the Stick or a foam roller made my head hurt after all the other efforts I had already put into this holiday. So, I decided that an inspiring female runner would be my costume. I actually started off in normal clothes, and had just thrown some things into my bag; not feeling like doing it after all after putting final touches on another costume and packing for New York the night before. Then I got excited about it, and a Grete Waitz costume was fabricated (appropriate for pre-New York City Marathon weekend):

Gosh, I love dressing up. So does the local high school cross country team, who ended up running past the store during their practice! One of the mothers gave us a heads up, so we had plenty of warning time to go outside and take a lot of pictures. I sent them in to a local newspaper the next morning on the train to NYC, but I’m not sure anything ever became of that…perhaps Halloween was already old news (never!). Anyway, they were pretty sweet.

phsxcWe had some trick-or-treaters stop by later in the evening, which was fun also. THge clock struck closing time and after taking out the trash still dressed as Grete (I’m glad it was 65 degrees and humid that day!), I transformed into a flapper/Great Gatsby-themed character via costume number three! I am a big fan of the book and movie…and the movie’s soundtrack! I went to see it before the official opening day this May, and my friend and I dressed as flappers. That was a subpar effort, however. Halloween night I tried to do a better job, but didn’t go all-out and make a dress with beads and such, as I thought I should do back in the spring (enough stress is enough…I’ve never had three costumes before!). Here was the movie outfit (May 9th):

I learned that day that my hair is not compatible with the traditional flapper-inspired headband across the forehead. It just doesn’t stay put. So, I bypassed that entire idea and embellished a traditional headband of my own with gems, feathers, and pearls. I wore heels, tights, a dress I already had, and a couple different necklaces attached together.

Getting ready at work as usual....

Getting ready at work as usual….

…and part of a mandatory photoshoot before these candle pumpkin bags are thrown out:

With “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” stuck in my head, I attended a party at a local bar, at which my friend won a $100 cash prize for best costume! Afterward, I watched Scream for the first time (CHECK, for all those who have as list going of the movies they cannot believe I haven’t seen), which was superb. Not even kidding. Just when I thought Halloween was over, it got better. Cheers to that!

A lot of people ran in Halloween-themed races…I have yet to run in a costume (the sparkle skirt doesn’t count); if you have, tell me what it was like! I hope you had a great Halloween!

Next up: My NYC Marathon expo experience, the basics from a work perspective…and probably all the in between the lines, cold hard truth stuff surrounding it which is bound to come out sometime.

the best holiday of the year

Friends, it’s that time again:

halloweenIt should be known that Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. That being said, it always causes me a ton of stupid, unnecessary stress in the weeks leading up to it. You see, in my mind, Halloween is a time when I can go all-out and be really creative with creating a costume – basically turning myself into a piece of artwork. The stress comes into play when I realize I only have one chance during the year to do this! Therefore, it must be perfect. Hello, self-pressure. Another challenge is making sure I have everything I need to buy before stores close for the day, which is sometimes difficult with my work schedule (I’m usually not done until 7 or 8 at night). Yet another challenge is…trying not to actually buy too much. Needless to say, I am ready for Halloween Season 2013 to begin! I say “season” because if you celebrate Halloween like I do, it’s not just October 31. So before I spoil the surprise for this year (it’s not totally finished yet…but needs to be by tomorrow, yikes), here’s a look back at some of my costumes since I started this DIY costume madness.

2010: Lady Gaga

I figured Gaga would go out of style, at least Halloween-costume-worthy style, if I waited another year to do this, so I went for it. I looked at photos of a bunch of her crazy outfits and created a Gaga-inspired one of my own. A good place to start for nearly any costume is a black dress. With a glue gun, spraypaint, and other random things, anything is possible from there.

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2011 Part 1: Hershey Kiss

I was a Hershey Kiss for Halloween when I was three. Why not recycle an old idea (that certainly was not even mine the first time around…)? So, eighteen years later I was a Hershey Kiss again. I thought the shape of the Gaga dress from the year before would work well, so I spray painted it silver and hot-glued aluminum foil pieces to the tiers of fabric. This was the hardest costume I ever made. It also didn’t last for more than one party.

2011 Part 2: Christmas Tree

I sort of want to forget Part 2 even happened, because a.) the Halloween excitement certainly got the best of me that night and b.) the costume was awful. The Hershey kiss had fallen apart and I’d run out of glue sticks with which to repair it. It was snowing outside, I didn’t feel like driving to a store, and I had two parties left to attend. What to do? I raided the closet of the house I was renting senior year of college and found lots of Christmas decorations. And put them on. It was ridiculous that it was snowing in October, so I might as well make fun of mother nature, right? Conclusion: Part 1 was better, and there are hardly any pictures worthy of posting.

I told you it was bad.

I told you it was bad.

2012: Peacock

This idea came to me randomly and I totally ran away with it. It was so much fun. And I could re-wear it at any time, because it didn’t fall apart at all.

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2013…TBA!

But here’s a hint:

By the way, this is my first EVER Instagram photo. So exciting! I’m either going to use it all the time or never again. To find out, follow me here.

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An update: Thanks for the comments on my last post! It really helped to know that other people didn’t think I came off as ridiculous for wanting my results to be accurate. The good news is…they now are! Cheers to published, accurate PRs!

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When running meets Valentine’s Day…

(First of all, pretend it’s still Valentine’s Day. Just for the sake of this post, of course. The extent to which I have been busy since that day is insane. I hardly have opened my laptop.)

One of the things I really enjoy about work is that I can be creative, particularly with the window displays. It might not be a big deal to us, since we work there and see it every day, but there are thousands of people who walk through downtown each week, and our store is in a prime location. The window is a chance to send a message, to invite people in if they like what they see, or maybe just to make them smile. I did not make a Valentine’s Day themed window display last year. This is probably a good thing, because if I did, it would probably have included black hearts, flames, and Adele lyrics. Who wants to see that, right? Anyway, I was in much better spirits this year, and though running is currently my only love interest, I decided to do something cute. About this love interest, obviously. I thought it would be clever to use the idea of Sweethearts candy and make them read things about running, in the typical format of their sayings.

love Sweethearts candy…but the old recipe was better! Especially the white hearts, which they apparently do not make anymore. 😦 So I packed some paint and other supplies and got to work last Monday afternoon. I would like to thank Tifosi Optics for sending us a new sunglass display, since the Styrofoam supplied me with the materials for my oversized Sweethearts running-themed candy.

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A big runnerdy mess.

It was…messier than I expected. I used cardboard for some hearts because I was on a roll with sayings. They got cornier and cornier. They just kept coming! It was so much fun. I posted this picture to Facebook and it got ten likes immediately – a good sign that my window would be a success! My coworkers thought I was crazy and probably did not enjoy working with me that day (when I painted some awesome hearts I would run out to the front and exclaim my enthusiasm), but I cleaned everything up and finished only a couple hours after we closed.

The finished hearts:

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So cliche…but why not?

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I changed Sweethearts’ “BE GOOD” to “RUN FAST”…sound analogous to you?

My phone camera went through a hard time after that night, I’m not sure what the problem was, so I resumed taking photos in the daylight at work on Valentine’s Day:

ImageNote the new additions:

Props to Becca for bringing this to my attention, and suggesting I include it in the window! I didn't have time to paint it, but dry erase is better than nothing.

Props to Becca for bringing this to my attention, and suggesting I include it in the window! I didn’t have time to paint it, but dry erase is better than nothing.

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I had to. Flip side: “U R FAST.”

And now, glitter passes off the crown of Messiest Craft Ever (I’ll keep it PG here, it sounds better…) to… STYROFOAM. Seriously, it is awful. Not only does it get everywhere because when you break or cut it lots of little balls come loose, it is extremely electrostatic and will cling to everything within a foot of it. That is, hair, clothes, carpets, furniture, windows…you get the point. Note that I was making the hearts in the back, climbing in the Styrofoam-fake-snow filled window in the front, and traveling back and forth. Biggest vacuum job I have ever done at work. On the bright side, I made use of all the Styrofoam…and it does look like snow, sort of. More like hail, actually. Thankfully the vacuum picked it all up just fine. Not that I have taken down this window display yet or anything.

This was, I must admit, the highlight of my 2013 Valentine’s Day. I did not even run that day, purposely, as a precautionary measure after the double interval workouts and my Achilles giving me a scare. Just making other people smile and laugh when thinking about running, and not take the “holiday” so seriously made my Valentine’s Day great!

Photo shoots are fun too!

Becca and me just advertising spring Nike clothing, that’s all…

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But in case you didn’t catch that…It was the corniest running V-Day ever, that’s for sure! Princeton City-20130214-01745Let me know if you want to call dibs on a heart when I take them all down!