I’m not a dog person. Cat people, no need to rejoice, I’m not a cat person either … truth be told I’m really not any kind of animal person, especially if the animal wants to touch me. I like to view them from afar … like horses in a meadow or squirrels scampering through the woods.
So when I saw Jennifer Luitwieler’s new book, Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, with a picture of Jennifer and her dog on the cover, I wasn’t sure if it was a book I would relate to.
But the running aspect of the book made me want to read it and it turned out to be a great book. Yes, she talks about “The Dog” and his poo (I was impressed how many different ways she found to describe the smelly dung) especially at the beginning of the book, but the book is about more than running, the dog and his poo.
It’s about a woman finding out who she is and what she is capable of if she is willing to try new things.
I learned about Jennifer’s somewhat hippy start to life and then her years spent as a pastor’s kid in a more stuffy environment. About her move years ago as a young bride from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and how she planned to only be there a short stint, but has lived there ever since.
After having three kids, a dog entered her life. The Dog (she always refers to him as The Dog … you don’t name things you aren’t close to) needed to go outside every morning, so that he’d quit using her sewing room for his bathroom. As we all know the care of most house pets falls on the wife/mother, so she began taking the dog out.
Walking The Dog was too slow, so she began running. With time running with the dog was too slow, so after short runs with him … she left him behind and began running longer distances, eventually working up to a half-marathon. (with dreams of running a full, as you’ll see in the interview below)
Janet: I’m curious about The Dog … does he have any idea how much book material his ‘movements’ have given you? And how are you compensating him for that?
Jennifer: You know from reading the book that The Dog and I are not friends. I am firmly in the “dogs are not people camp”. He lives in my house and continues to be fed. Any attention or affection he get comes from other members of the household. I feel no guilt about this. I have softened toward him of late, but I don’t like him. Baby steps.
Janet: I love this mentality of yours … “Finishing the race would not be by an act of God … it would be the result of my training.” (page 121) Many people live with the opposite mentality that if something is supposed to happen, it will … so they don’t commit to making changes, instead they seem to think that it will magically happen somehow. Did you always recognize that doing hard things takes commitment on your part or is that something you learned through running?
Jennifer: That’s a tough question to answer, because as a Christian, of course I believe that God made me and called me to certain things. I am also of the belief that it’s not as much what we do but how we do it that makes a difference to God. We spend so much time talking about what his will is for our life sometimes that we fail to actually go out and love people.
One of my favorite scriptures is from James, where he writes that faith without works is dead. I can’t sit in my house and hope to be athletic. I have to actually go out and do something. It’s the same with depression. I can’t stay in bed and hope to be healed. I have to move, put one foot in front of the other and live my life, even amidst the depression. I think I have always recognized that things worth doing are usually challenging.
My father says I was born fighting. What’s shifted are the things I’m fighting about/for. I used to fight just to fight. Picking debates or arguments just for kicks. Now I choose my words and my debates carefully. And of course, this relates internally as well. I don’t need to beat myself up about my motherhood, but if I want to improve my running time or stride, then I need to up the ante.
Janet: You write about your awareness of how you would encourage your friend when she quit in the middle of a planned run, but when you yourself quit something … you beat yourself up with negative talk. If someone finds themselves doing the same … what are the first steps they can talk to stop being so hard on themselves?
Jennifer: I see this nearly everyday, as a mom, wife and friend. We are so quick to hold on to the crap, so hard on ourselves. This is very very tough to counteract, because it’s an ingrained habit. The first step is to recognize how we are talking to ourselves. When trying to track finances, people who know things encourage us to keep a daily record of how we spend our money. At the end of the day, we realize we’re spending eleventy-hundred dollars on chai tea lattes. I think it’s the same with the negative self-talk. If you keep track of how you talk to yourself for a day, you might be shocked at the abuse you heap on yourself. After that it’s realizing that those negative statements are false, and replacing them with true ones. Sounds simple … but it’s painfully difficult.
Janet: Now that your book is out … is there anything else you wish you would have said in it?
Jennifer: Not really. I mean, I always learn something when I run, whether it’s about running or writing, or something about engaging with my family … I could relate anything to running. And I think it’s a beautiful metaphor for the Christian life. I have it on good authority that the apostle Paul would have agreed with that ;)
Janet: Are you working on any new projects, books or otherwise, now?
Jennifer: Right now, I’m working on promoting the book, encouraging new runners, and taking on the challenge of homeschooling our kids. This is our first year and our kids are 13, 11 and 7. As one who was used to having the house to herself for writing, this has been an adjustment. Every day, I am doing a little bit of research on my next project, which will be a novel set in Tulsa, OK during the early 1900s.
Oh, and I’ve got the Tulsa Run-15K (9.3 miles) in October, the Route 66 Half-marathon (13.1 miles) in November and I’m considering turning my Pittsburgh half-marathon into a full marathon. If I can do it, anyone can!
Jennifer is a wife, mama and writer in Tulsa, OK. She covers crafts and sports for local and online publications and enjoys running both alone and with her merry gang of running hoodlums. She loves to talk, cook, sew and smacktalk football teams that are not the Pittsburgh Steelers. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.