Two 26.2s in 2012—One of me and One for Others

Remember when I did the Bob Potts Marathon in May? Remember I might have said that I won’t do another full marathon again or at least not for a long time?

I changed my mind! I’m training to do the New York Marathon on November 4th!


The New York City Marathon

Yes, I’m doing another 26.2 miles… only 163 days after the first one.

Why? Why did I change my mind? Why am I willing to take 50,000+ steps again?

I did Bob Potts on the 8th anniversary of the accident that changed my life. I did those 26.2 miles for me. To reclaim a day I disliked. To see what I could do. To do what I can.

I’m so glad I did it. And I know doing it would not have been possible without the priceless support and motivation I received from others, and now it’s my turn to give to others.

Doing what I can will now help others do what they can.
Because I’m doing the NYC Marathon for others.
One marathon for me, one marathon for others.  

I’m doing NYC for IM ABLE, a great foundation whose mission is… “to remove obstacles that prevent people affected by disabilities from being physically active by providing grants, resources, fitness opportunities and motivation. They change attitudes about the potential of disabled individuals by exposing what is possible.”

When Chris Kaag, the founder of IM ABLE heard my story, he contacted me about doing NYC as a representative for IM ABLE. Another marathon will be hard, but if I can help even one person live better with whatever obstacles they have, doing 26.2 miles again will be worth it.

IM ABLE is sponsoring me, so I don’t have to raise funds, but I’m so impressed with what they do to help others that I want to. Read more about them and see my fundraising page here.

My friend Bev, who did Bob Potts with me is so amazing that she signed up to do NYC as a fundraiser for IM ABLE, so we are training together again. Yay!

Bev and I finishing Bob Potts on May 20, 2012

Bev and I had to put together an unique training schedule since we’re doing the RW Half and the NYC full two weeks apart. Stay tuned to this blog and to BECAUSE I CAN to see how our training is going and to hear more about IM ABLE and the people they help.

And please consider joining us in doing what you can to help others, many who face bigger obstacles daily than most of us ever will. Visit my page and/or Bev’s page.

Have you done the NYC marathon? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. 
MARATHON WEEKEND UPDATE: I didn’t do the NYC marathon because it was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy… here’s my thoughts about that: From the NYC Marathon to the D&L Heritage Marathon.
Posted in Your Story

Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!

This is another post in a series of sharing your inspiring stories in my quest to take over the negative news media by sharing positive, inspiring stories from others who are…
doing what they can, with what they have, where they are. 


I met Michele on Facebook after I saw this inspiring photo on a mutual friend’s page. Both the changes she has made in her life and the saying Believe you can…. and you will caught my eye. Overcoming the obstacles in her life didn’t happen overnight… the day by day journey took a few years and continues today. 

Believe you can… and you will!

Congratulations on making positive changes in your life Michele!
You are an encouragement to me and others. You’ve shown that with wise choices, hard work and time, major changes can happen. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Here is Michele’s story.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Michele Elbertson and I am 25 years old. When I was 23, I weighed a whopping 398 pounds and wore a size 28/30 clothing. I hit a breaking point in my life. I was teased and tormented about my weight my entire life, and at age 23, I had enough of it!


Tell us about the changes you made in your life.

On April 15, 2009, I underwent Lap Band Surgery. A band was placed around my stomach which extremely lessened the amount of food I was able to take in. Let me make it clear that the Lap Band was not an easy fix. It was a tool that I used to help me have portion control with my eating. You can “use or abuse” your band. I know some who assumed the band was an easy fix, and ended up gaining weight, or had difficulties which lead to further health issues.


After a Disney Half last year.

It’s hard to make changes, how did you do it?

I was focused, determined, and ready to lose this weight! It took about two years, but I lost 170 pounds. I had begun running and even competed in my FIRST half marathon in 2011!

Since then, I have raced in 12 half marathons, numerous 5k’s, and I am currently training for my first full marathon! These are all things I would have only dreamed of prior to the weight loss!


What ongoing changes have you had to deal with?

In January 2012, I realized I had tons of excess skin that was getting in the way of my exercising. There was too much skin for it to go away with exercise alone. I was developing rashes and infections within the excess skin, and was fully approved by my insurance company for an Abdominalplasty (tummy tuck) in August 2012.

My doctor does not perform simple tummy tucks (cuts from hip to hip). He performs abdominalplasty’s, which cuts hip to hip, as well as lifting my buttox and gets rid of my “back fat”. I had the surgery a few weeks ago and I’m currently recovering, so far I’m 24 pounds lighter from the day I entered the hospital! I still have approximately 35 pounds to lose before I’m at my ideal weight, but I can and will get there!


What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

In the future, I hope to continue to lose weight and have my arms and chest re-constructed. My breasts have dropped from the weight loss, and my arms have become droopy and saggy. After the final reconstruction, I hope to continue to encourage others who are going through the weight loss process and be a strong support system for them!



Michele Elbertson is a preschool special-needs teacher.  When she’s not teaching, she’s either baby-sitting or exercising.  In her free time, she enjoys going on vacations to Walt Disney World and spending time with friends.


Ask questions or leave notes of encouragement below or feel free to contact her via email with any comments or questions.

*More of Your Inspiring Stories
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can

Running Truly is for all Ages
Beverly Shantz, Living and Laughing—Because She Can!
Roni Noone does Fitbloggin’—Because She Can!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! 
Posted in Body

The Story of Two Different 10Ks.

When I’m training for a half-marathon, I like to do some 10ks to push myself a little and to add diversity to my training schedule. Since I’m training for the Runner’s World Half in October, I was glad there were two 10Ks two weeks apart on the same course in my area.

But wow, talk about two different experiences!
The first 10k was miserable, but the second one was excellent.
It was my best 10k since my return to running post-accident!

What I felt like at the end of the first 10k.   – photo from google images

Some of the reasons for the different experiences were out of my control, but many were within my control. Obviously the weather was out of my control…

First 10k: Temps were in the high 70s with high humidity.
Second 10k: Temps were in the mid 60s with low humidity.

So the weather for the first one wasn’t as good as for the second one, but because I like to blame others another major culprit was peer pressure. Okay, maybe not exactly peer pressure, but pressure from other runners… namely the women’s Olympic marathon! Thanks to it airing the morning of the first 10k, I went to the race all jazzed up. (Why didn’t the Olympic Committee and/or NBC ask my opinion on when to air that race?!) 

Watching half of it before going to the 10k was enough to psyche me up and allow an unreasonable portion of my cranium to convince me that I can run faster than I normally do.

Those super-gazelle-women made running 5-minute miles look easy, and while I’m not stupid enough to think I can run 5 minute miles, I thought I could push it and run faster than I normally do. So unrealistic expectations had me making the age-old mistake of starting way too fast.

Plus I forgot my timer which dictates my run/walk times, so I ran too long without taking my usual walking breaks. Within a few miles, I was exhausted and cursing my body, running and runners everywhere!

Toward the end of the race, my legs and lungs were screaming and I had no choice but to slow down. And because I was annoyed without a timer, I took too many and too long walking breaks. I couldn’t wait to see that finish line and I wondered why I would ever do another run.

Fast-forward two weeks… another 10k, same course,
better weather, an unpleasant memory and a working brain.

Before this race started, I did a mile walk/jog which does two things… helps me get centered/focused and helps my body warm up properly so I don’t get exercise-induced asthma. At the previous 10k, I skipped it because I was talking to other runners and checking the Olympic marathon results online. (darn NBC!) 

When the race started I was near the back of the crowd and I was determined to run my own race… and I did. I used my run/walk timer and stuck with a routine I was comfortable with for the first 3 miles. At the halfway point, I was feeling good, so I had energy to decrease my walking breaks and increase my running pace during the last half.

I crossed the finish line feeling so much better than two weeks prior and 5 minutes faster.
(first 10k= 1:13:40 and second 10k= 1:08:39)

What I looked like finishing the second 10k – photo by Jackie Hoffman Wenrich

Running is good for me and I run to be healthy today and long into the future… so feeling good when I finish a run or race is important to me, because that increases the chances of me continuing it longterm.

Lesson learned: you can’t expect your body to do more than it’s trained for just because you are jazzed up emotionally. The way to feel good while exercising is to train well, follow a similar routine and to keep your expectations realistic.

So if you’re training for a fall race, like the Runner’s World Half… try to do a few shorter races between now and then, so you have some experience with how you may or may not react when you’re faced with various challenges or your brain freezes.

And if you have a run where your common sense
takes a vacation like mine did,

know that it isn’t the end of the world. 

What good or not-so-good running experiences have you had?


Posted in Personal

Thinking about my Sons Moving Across the Country

I rarely write about my boys on here… mostly because my boys are teens/young adults (ages 24, 22 and 19) and wouldn’t appreciate it. Also, because I’m up for the Worst Mother of The Year Award (again!). It’s not hard for me to earn that award, it comes naturally to me because mothering doesn’t. But this week I might be dubbed a mommy blogger because the older two are moving 3,000 miles away and that deserves a post or two. (both have lived away from home at college for a time, but this is different)


At age 22, Jerry and I were probably too young when we became parents to Joshua. But if there was a perfect baby to become a mother to, it was Joshua. Other than the fact that he was born in the posterior position (face-up) and gave me intense back pain during labor (don’t worry, that’s all the childbirth stories you’ll hear from me) he was a great baby who slept well and rarely cried.

He was a curious toddler, who talked early and provided endless hours of entertainment for us as he attempted to repeat everything we said and do everything we did. He read early and by second grade was writing excellent stories. As he grew up, he became more reserved, especially around others, often standing on the sidelines watching the action. He not only wanted to know what he was doing before jumping in, but he wanted to do it right.

Joshua’s curiosity causes him to question any status quo he bumps into and we all know where he gets that from, but he’s an introvert and I’m an extrovert, so we’ve had our differences. Being born face-up, which is opposite of the norm, might have been a sign of things to come, because Joshua looks at the world differently than most. At one time that bugged me, but now it intrigues me and I look forward to seeing how he turns that into an assest in his life.

Joshua studied communications in college and moved home last year after finishing. He’s been working with Jerry (remodeling houses) as he looked for a job in his field. He hasn’t found anything around here and he’s always dreamed of writing for film or TV, so he’s moving to Los Angeles with a friend to pursue that dream.
(Anyone have any connections in that world?)


When Joshua was not quite two, he became a big brother to Joseph. Joseph was the perfect baby to be second in the family. He also slept great and rarely cried (lest you think none of my babies cried, I can’t write that line about my third son) If I was busy with something, Joseph would suck his thumb and coo until I took care of him. He didn’t talk early, but his blond curls and charming smile usually got him everything he wanted anyhow.

As a toddler he followed Joshua everywhere and mimicked him for a time before branching out with his own personality. He had to explore, climb, jump and satisfy his need for speed. It didn’t matter if he did it right, the experience was the party. And speaking of a party, the more friends he could hang out with, the happier he was.

Joseph loved to figure out how things work and find ways to make them better. He started designing, inventing and making things at age 8 or so when he used fabric from an old pair of pants he cut apart to hand-sew little pockets to hang on his belt to carry his treasures. His desire to create along with his need for speed and adventure developed into an interest to make machines that go higher, farther and faster.

Joseph is now a mechanical engineering student at Penn State with only one semester of classes left. He lived at home for the summer because he had a summer internship with Boeing in Philadelphia.  He’s taking his last classes during the spring semester, so he found a work co-op from September to December at NAVSEA in Seattle.

At Boeing he was working on a machine that flew high—the Chinook helicopter. At NAVSEA he will be working on a machine that goes in the opposite direction—a submarine. I love the diversity in experience he will get this year. Hopefully that will help him land his dream job after graduating in May of being an engineer with one of the companies that does space travel, like SpaceX.  (Connections, anyone?)


So since they are both headed to the West Coast this fall, they decided to turn the travel into a road trip together and they leave tomorrow morning. Joshua and his friend, with as many supplies as fit, will be in his Jeep.  Joseph, his supplies for four months, and a friend (who will fly home after the road trip) will be in his car.

I’ve raised them to follow their dreams, aim high, see the world and explore options. Now it’s happening and I’m hit with a mix of emotions, which I’m trying to write about for a coherent post for tomorrow or the next day or whenever…

I’ve already made chocolate chips cookies, mashed potatoes and other favorite dishes of theirs and after a run this morning (which I so need!) I plan to make more. What is it with us mothers that we want to feed them well before they leave?

Posted in Personal,

Thinking About Stepping Straight

Two years after the accident I had another surgery (#20 or so) to have my achilles tendon stretched to allow my ankle to have better range of motion. After three months recovering in a cast and on crutches, I returned to physical therapy where I had already spent about a year.

I asked my physical therapist if I would always walk with a limp. She measured my legs to check their length. They were the same, so she said that while I lost some tendons and muscle on my leg, the tendons I did have could compensate for the ones I lost, so walking without a limp was up to me.

Which was good news because that meant it was in my control,
and bad news because that meant it was in my control. 

With no idea if it would work or how long it would take, I began forcing myself to step straight with every step I took. Somedays it was easy to remember it, other days it wasn’t. And somedays when I was grumpy it seemed like it wasn’t helping, I would get annoyed and decide I don’t care, I’ll just walk with a damn limp.

It took about two years before I could walk limpfree without the mantra step straight, step straight running through my mind. Today I rarely walk with a limp, except ever now and than when I really tired.

Having done the work to walk without a limp benefited me a lot when I returned to running four years after the accident. But as I started increasing the distances I did, I kept getting an annoying blister on the ball of my right foot. I tried new shoes and new socks, but whenever I did over 4 or 5 miles, the blister reappeared.

Around that time I took a Chi walking/running workshop and I learned that not pointing both feet straight forward can cause a lot of foot, knee and hip issues. As we move forward our bodies point straight forward, so if a foot is heading right or left, the ankle, knee and hip are torqued with each step causing all kinds of issues.

I wondered if my blister could be due to that. So the next weekend I went out for a run, Jerry joined me on the bike and became my coach. (which may or may not be good for a marriage, but that’s another story) My left foot/leg is the one with the most injuries and thanks to the focus I had put on stepping straight with that foot, I was pointing it straight forward.

'Steps' photo (c) 2010, Adam Baker - license:

But Jerry noticed that when I stepped down with my right foot, it was not pointing straight, instead it was pointing at about 1 o’clock, like the woman’s left steps are in the picture. That wasn’t far from being straight, so I doubted if that little bit was causing any issues, but I decided to revive the step straight mantra for my right foot.

When I first stepped straight with my right foot, it felt like I was walking pigeon-toed, so I didn’t bring it in quite as far. But then Jerry would say, “In farther, in farther”.

“But I feel like I’m walking pigeon-toed.” I explained.

“But you aren’t, I promise.”

So we’d go a few more minutes, me running, him biking slowly.

Then I’d hear the voice from the back again, “In farther, in farther.”

“But I feel like I’m walking pigeon-toed.”

“But you aren’t.”

The man is a saint and with time I learned what stepping straight was with that foot, even if it felt odd. I tried to remember to do it whether walking around my house, shopping or on a run. The first time I did a few miles my right calf was sore in places it wasn’t before, because I was using my muscles differently.

On my first 5+ mile run after the Chi class, I was with friends, so I probably forgot to focus on stepping straight about half the time, but yet I didn’t get a blister. I was shocked… could this really work?

Yes it did! I’ve not had another blister, even when doing 5 half-marathons and a full marathon. If making that small adjustment to my step helped how I landed enough to prevent a blister, imagine how much that helped my knee and hip to be aligned right with each step I take. I wasn’t feeling any pain from them yet, but it’s something that could have showed up a few years down the road. (pun intended)

So grab a spouse, friend or child the next time you walk and/or run… and find out if you step straight. If you do, great! If not, focus on doing so with each step you take. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, because it’s not. The hardest time to remember it will be when you are tired, but trust me, you can do it.

Recently I’ve been taking classes at Corp Fitness with Chris Kaag and I’ve been learning a whole new level of focusing mentally no matter how tired my body is. Whether it’s the beginning or the end of the class, Chris has us count and shout out the reps of the exercises we are doing. At first, I thought I couldn’t chew gum and walk do it. When I focused on the exercise, I’d forget to count, or if I focused on counting, I stopped doing the exercise. But when I forced myself to focus, to my surprise, I found I could do both!  

'IMG_1780' photo (c) 2007, catlovers - license:

Stepping straight!

This is what you are aiming for.
Our bodies naturally go back to the default
they’ve been used to the longest, 
so you will forget many times,  
but don’t give up, keep trying!

This is important for everyone when walking in everyday life… and the more steps you take, the more important it is. So if you are doing any walks or runs, work on stepping straight and you could avoid potential injuries at the event and/or years down the road.

The bad news is that it’s in your control.
The good news is that it’s in your control…
So do what you can, with what you have,
Because you can! 

Running With the Amish and Christopher McDougall

Bart Yasso had an article titled Running with the Amish in Runner’s World. (February, 2012) The article is a great read, both due to Yasso’s writing skills and to all he covers in it. Some of the article took me down memory lane because I went to a one-room Amish school for seven years, but finding out there is an Amish running group was news to me.

My family is part of a strict Mennonite sect, with a few more liberties than the Amish, but with a similar lifestyle. There were no Mennonite schools in our area, so my siblings and I went to a local Amish school. Though I still live in the same area, I left the Mennonite church years ago and I don’t have many connections with Amish folks anymore.

But running creates all kinds of connections.

Last fall, I met Mark, a former Amish, when he emailed me after reading Because I Can. Along with having the connection of both leaving a sheltered community, Mark is also a runner and does many of the local races I do.

At one race, Mark mentioned that he does some runs with the Amish running group Bart wrote about and he invited me to join them for a run… and not just any run, but for the “regular run under the full moon” mentioned in the article.

This week it was full moon and there was a run, so a few of us joined them.


Amish Runners

Following the address Mark gave, we arrived at a farm not too far from Lancaster. We were a little early and only a few others mingled around as we greeted the host, John.

The full-moon runs draw as many as 30 people, Mennonites, Amish, and English (which is what the Old Order Amish call non-Anabaptists). The course changes each month, designed by whoever is hosting the run. – Bart Yasso

As I met a few Amish guys and one girl, I had some odd moments of feeling like I’m in some type of time-warp. Nothing about their dress and style seemed to have changed from 30+ years ago and yet we were going to run together. Life sure is funny at times.

My friend Rose, ready to run with the Amish

We wanted to get some pictures of the group, but we wanted to respect the no pictures rule of most Amish, so we posed for pictures and just happened to be in front of some of them. This was about 15 minutes before the run and at least, 20 more people showed up before we ran.

At the far right (near the van) are Jim, Barbaranne and Erin, running friends that also came me

And one person that arrived was Christopher McDougall.
The Christopher McDougall!

Christopher McDougall and Janet Oberholtzer

Christopher is the author of the bestselling book, Born to Run, a book that inspired me and gave me confidence to run longer distances again. I was so impressed after reading Born to Run I even gave away a copy because I wanted to share it with my readers.

I had returned to running before I read it in 2010, but I was concerned about how far to push my body. Reading Born to Run helped me realize our bodies are stronger than we give them credit for and I increased the distances I ran. Reading it also inspired me to try barefoot running, which resulted in more healing happening in my left foot. I have a post titled From Stubborn to Flexible on my old blog about that.

Christopher has never run with this group before, but he lives in the area and decided this was the month for a moon light run. At the beginning of the run, I ran about half a mile with him!
I can die happy now :)

The run started at 8, so it wasn’t quite dark yet.   .Picture by Rose Petri

It was a hot, humid, but beautiful evening! And again, here are a few of Bart’s words…

The Mennonites wore running shorts and running pants, and synthetic tops. The Amish men wore black pants held up with suspenders and long-sleeve, button-down shirts. Most were clean-shaven… The one woman in the group wore a long dress and a head scarf. I should note that they all wore running shoes.

We ran by many fields and farms

The host of the evening had planned out two routes, one 10 miles and one 5 miles. Along with about half of the group. Rose and I opted for 5 miles. I knew I couldn’t keep the pace of most of them, and after a mile or so, Rose and I were running alone.

First moon sighting

With a faster start than normal (had to stay with Christopher as long as I could!) Rose and I soon slowed down. I turned on my run 3/walk 1 minute timer and we enjoyed the run along almost empty roads between cornfields and barns. Thanks to Mark we didn’t get lost, he probably ran almost 10 miles on the 5 mile loop, because he doubled back a few times to make sure we knew the route. Thanks Mark!

Rewards!    .Photo by Barbaranne Kelly

By the time we arrived back at the farm, it was dark and the flicking lights of the gas lanterns lit up the yard. The host had filled a table with our rewards! Chocolate milk, vegetables and dip, fruit, pretzels and ice cream with fresh peaches!

As we ate, we talked about the normal talk of runners… running plans, races, shoes, etc. While silently I marveled at this unique evening. So many worlds had collided… from a one-room school to the bestsellers list to a cool moonlight run with friends.

I love how running connects us all!

I’ve always liked full moon and most months I spend a hour or two on my porch when it is full. Now I’m thinking it might be time to start a new practice… moonlight runs. And I’m sure each month will bring with it joys of its own, whether I’m running with a group of Amish, a bestselling author, a few friends or all three.


What is the most unique running experience you’ve had?


Posted in Thinking

Thinking about what if it all goes right.

I used to think I had to have all tension resolved before I move forward.

I used to think that I need to know the end result before I begin.

I used to think I had to conquer uncertainty to even try.

I used to think brave meant not having any fears.

I used to think I had to have all the answers.

I used to wonder what if it all goes wrong?

Thankfully I’ve learned a few things along the way, especially that life is too short and too beautiful to live in fear, so I’ve changed my tune. And one of my most listened to songs is What If It All Goes Right.

But what if it all goes right?
What if it all works out?
What if the stars line up and good luck rains down?
What if you chase your dreams and it changes your whole life?
Yeah what if it all goes right? 


Now I do what I can, with what I have, where I am…

even with fear
even with tension
even in uncertainty
even without answers
even as I say I don’t know
even taking the first step without knowing where the last step will be.

By changing my mindset I’ve done more than I ever imagined I would… and while I still have fears, uncertainty and more, I look forward to what is ahead. More books, more speaking, more marathons, more helping others, more peace, more ?

“What If It All Goes Right” preformed by Melissa Lawson. 


We often only have enough light for the step we are on… so taking the first step, literally and figuratively, will give you the light and the confidence to take more.

They say talk about what you know, so here’s suggestions for things that are near and dear to me: sign up for a 5k or a half-marathon or go to a writing event.

But what is near and dear to you is probably different then what is near and dear to me…

so what dreams are you not pursuing because
you’ve been thinking about everything that could go wrong?


I’ve linked this post to Life: Unmasked at Joy’s Blog today. Click over there to read other posts about living real, authentic lives.