A personal style blog aimed to entertain and enrich the lives of readers by sharing meaningful and impactful life experiences. Here, readers can find a variety of blog post topics, in addition to a tail-wagging focus on dog blogs!
“The Divinity of Dogs,” written by Jennifer Skiff, takes an inside look into the healing power of the human-animal bond. Through a series of short stories about our encounters with dogs, Skiff teaches readers how to lead a life with nonjudgment, empathy, kindness, dependability, and love. Readers can expect to find stories about the role of assistance dogs in promoting independence, adoption of shelter dogs, and the therapeutic role of dogs on healing our mental and physical ailments. Each chapter in this tail-wagging good read contains emotional firsthand accounts of how dogs and their human counterparts ultimately save one another physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Emphasis should be placed on the emotional aspect of this book as many of the chapters are a reflection of the heroic stories of beloved pets who have since crossed the rainbow bridge. The “Divinity of Dogs” is a true testament to the phrase “Who rescued who?” and is a tail-wagging good read for dog lovers everywhere!
Image Credit: Google Images
Image Credit: Google Images
This post is dedicated to those who (thanks to their beloved pets) know what it is like to love and be loved.
“Paws & Effect,” written by Sharon Sakson, is a tail-wagging good read that focuses on the remarkable impact of the relationship between humans and canines. Sakson creatively utilizes each chapter to convey factual and anecdotal information related to, among other things, the therapeutic role of the human-canine bond. “Paws & Effect” provides readers with an in-depth look into the foundational beginnings and current roles of assistance dogs to promote independence and overall wellness in humans. In addition to learning about the therapeutic impact of assistance dogs, readers can expect to learn about the astounding nature of military working dogs and the incredible bond formed between these animals and their handlers. Sakson bravely takes a dive into controversial topics by providing scientific insight into seizure alert dogs and olfactory detection of melanoma from our furry friends. “Paws & Effect” displays a phenomenal balance between personal accounts and existing scientific evidence of the healing power of dogs in mitigating physical and mental ailments in their human counterparts. An exquisite read, “Paws & Effect” is a must-read for dog lovers near and far!
Meet Maggie Mae! She is a beautiful Australian Shepherd whose adoption story will really tug at your heartstrings! Maggie is a snuggle bug with a wiggle butt that will surely make you smile!
Name: Maggie Mae
How I Got My Name: My human’s mother decided I looked more like a Maggie Mae than a Luna Mae, like she considered naming me.
Breed: Australian Shepherd
Nickname: Maggie Moo, Magoo, Miss Mae, and Wiggle Butt
Age: Approximately 7
Adoption Date: October 2014
Adoption Story: I was running wild through the streets of Fishing Creek when a lady saw me and made efforts to bring me closer to her. She only had Chinese food and pizza for leftovers, which I sneakily made my very own. She gently welcomed me indoors and showered me with love and a warm bath. Upon my surprise, she had two furry friends in her tiny home, but there was no place for me to run and play. She posted flyers, knocked on doors, and made Facebook posts to find my previous owners or a new home. No one claimed me from the flyers, and others reported they had seen me running around for weeks. That’s when my now human momma asked to give me a home. She then took me to a vet to be checked for a microchip and to be well cared for. I had a long recovery from malnutrition, mange, and various allergic reactions, but my momma loved me more than ever, and I stayed by her side. At first, she let me live with her parents because she needed to return to school. She then found a home that suited both her and I! While living with my grandparents, I spent my time snuggling and playing, and soon my scars healed, my hair grew back, and I comforted my human companions with butt wiggles. I am now living with my human momma and am an only dog surrounded by lots of love!
Here I am on one of my very first days with my human momma!
Here I am on one of my very first days with my human momma!
Best Tricks: I do this pretty nifty trick where I randomly throw myself on the ground, roll over, and get endless belly rubs and treats. I also sit, stay, roll over, hug, jump, and bark on command!
Collar Color I Sport Best: Maroon! It brings out my beautiful fur features!
My Fur Family: Me…and only me!
Favorite Fur Friends: I most enjoy Dallas, a big, loving bulldog, who lives with my grandparents! I am also very fond of the twice daily company of a wiggle butt Corgi that always stops outside my home to say hi!
Favorite Activities: My all-time favorite things to do include sunbathing, taking long walks, snuggling my humans, playing tug, and begging for food and treats.
Favorite Toy: I love my moose stuffed animal, marrowbones stuffed with peanut butter, and a tattered rope tug toy. Nothing beats a good play session with my toys!
Favorite Treats/Food: I love, love, love my (Xylitol-free) peanut butter, cooked green beans, and peas. I have some allergies, however, that require me to eat gluten free food and treats!
Favorite Memories of Pet: I once taught myself to roll over, and my human momma tells me that this is her all-time favorite memory of me!
Life Lessons Learned From Maggie:
Always comfort a friend.
Long walks and sunsets can soothe and calm any bad day.
I find myself in a strange home. Unfamiliar scents. Unfamiliar sights. I find comfort in her presence and get scared when she leaves. I know the signs. She’s putting on her shoes. Please don’t grab your coat. Won’t you stay a little longer? I can tell she’s in a hurry. I notice her brows are furrowed, and the outline of her lips are facing down, not up like they usually are. Is she scared too? I’m worried about her. My breathing gets heavier, so she looks into my scared eyes and comforts me. She tells me she’ll be back soon, but I’m afraid. She turns the TV on, so I won’t feel so alone. She grabs her key — a surefire sign she’ll soon be walking out the door. First, she puts me in my crate which is somewhere I feel safe. Her T-shirt she left with me gives me comfort as I await her return. What’s that? The door unlocks, and a familiar sight unfolds. There she is. My person. I’m safe now.
There it is. It’s loud and thunderous like a battlefield. It echoes like a child screaming into a cave. Echo, echo, echo. It looms high, bright, and beautiful in the sky for just a moment. Boom. There goes another one. They light up the night sky. I run and hide into my safe place under the bed. I shake. My breathing gets heavier as I await another inevitable boom. The boom of each firework shakes me to my core. When will it end?
This is anxiety. More specifically, this is anxiety through the eyes of Pinella. Throughout her days as a service-dog-in-training, Pinella underwent observations which ultimately deemed her too anxious for service dog work. Some of my very first recollections of life with Pinella involved preparing her for situations, wherein we had to be separated. As a young puppy, goodbyes were often accompanied by fear and distress. My heart ached to witness her feeling emotionally uneasy. We practiced goodbyes, slowly increasing the duration of time spent away from one another. First, it was a few seconds. We very gradually moved from minutes to hours. Reunions were coupled with praise and positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors she displayed upon being separated and while apart (i.e., no destructive chewing, urinating, defecating, barking, et cetera). It is often suggested that the root origin of separation anxiety in dogs is linked to fear of abandonment. It took many test runs of leaving and returning, leaving and returning, and leaving and returning for Pinella to understand that separation was temporary. Together, we mitigated her anxiety by creating an exciting, enjoyable goodbye ritual. She learned that, while goodbyes are necessary, they aren’t to occur without the accompaniment of a peanut butter snack or, more recently, treats in her tricky treat ball.
Separation anxiety is suggested to affect 14 percent of our nation’s pets (Kriss, 2019). It is my personal speculation, however, that this number is highly underestimated as separation anxiety is often overlooked and ascribed to a dog who “misbehaves” or “has bad manners.” It is not the dog’s responsibility to “wise up” and “fix” their problematic behaviors. Rather, it begins with responsible dog owners whose duty it is to become familiar with their pet’s body language, cues, and signals. Kriss (2019) suggests that signs of anxiety in dogs include, but are not limited to, the following:
Tense body posture
Hypersensitivity to sights or sounds (i.e., alertness to the possible sound of their owner’s return)
Barking, growling, howling
Pacing and restlessness
Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
Familiarity with your pet’s body language, cues, and signals begins with first understanding the context in which their problematic behaviors occur. As such, examine whether or not your dog displays any of the aforementioned signs upon your departure from the home. For example, does the dog begin pacing and panting when you go to the closet and grab your coat and shoes? If so, this may be an indication of separation anxiety. If these kinds of behaviors occur across many different contexts, there may be a larger issue at hand aside from separation anxiety.
While some anxiety is healthy and normal, it can become problematic when the dog’s response is disproportionate to that which is average. The latter has been repeatedly exemplified with Pinella’s fear of fireworks. This specific fear, also referred to as a phobia, developed while on a walk one evening. Neighbors were setting off fireworks, and we inconveniently found ourselves in the crossfire. She froze, unable to move. Shaken to the core, she looked at me with fear in her eyes. There existed no amount of praise or treats that would have enticed her and reassured her that she was safe to keep walking.
Since that incident, I have done extensive desensitization training and counterconditioning work with Pinella to help mitigate her symptomology. While she has demonstrated decreased anxiety symptoms, holidays, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, continue to be most challenging. What is most frustrating, however, is the unpredictable nature of firework displays. I fully support pre-planned displays at previously determined locations. I think it’s wonderful that we, as a society, can come together and celebrate our nation, its freedom, and the veterans who fought for it. What I find problematic, however, are the displays we see in neighborhoods — those that are unpredictable, unplanned, and unbeknownst to all until it’s essentially too late. We owe it to our nation’s veterans, anxious pets, and all individuals with exaggerated startle responses to be mindful of how unpredictable firework displays can worsen psychological symptomology.
When Pinella developed a fear of fireworks, we immediately began working together to create an environment where she would feel safe, comfortable, and confident. As holidays, such as the aforementioned, approach I find myself with a freezer filled with peanut butter Kongs and marrow bones filled with organic pumpkin. At the sound of the first firework, she will retreat to her safe space under my bed where she has free access to her treats. The curtains are drawn. The television and fans are turned on to provide ambient background noise. Through studying and assessing her body language, I have learned that, while she enjoys my company, constant comfort and too much invasion on her personal space results in increased anxiety. For that reason, I often find myself staying in the same room as her while allowing her to check-in with me when she needs to. When you have an anxious pet, it’s important to know what triggers them as well as what comforts them. Here are some tips to help you in developing a plan to care for and comfort your beloved fur friend:
The aforementioned information highlights the debilitating and unnerving experiences that are commonplace to many of our four-legged companions. The prevalence of anxiety-related issues in pets is alarming. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty and moral obligation to understand what our pets are communicating to us and, in turn, identify sensible solutions to make them more calm, confident, and comfortable!
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another Sit, Stay, Blog post! Don’t forget to Like and Follow us on Facebook,Twitter,and Instagram! If you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to see your pet featured on Pets on the Net!, leave a comment below or submit your information on Sit, Stay, Blog’s Contact page! 🙂
Until Tuesday is a tail-wagging good read that focuses on the intimate relationship between a veteran and his service dog, Tuesday. Luis Carlos Montalvan, deemed a “highly decorated captain” in the U.S. Army, served two tours in Iraq. Post-Iraq, he found himself experiencing a host of mental and physical disabilities. Montalvan reports that the crippling aftermath of serving in combat caused him to experience debilitating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and chronic physical pain. He coped unhealthily, often relying on alcohol, isolation, and alienation from others as a means to manage every day life. Each day was seemingly a constant battle for Montalvan “until Tuesday.” Tuesday was a beautiful golden retriever trained by East Coast Assistance Dogs. Through his training, Tuesday learned many cues, including how to open doors, turn on lights, and sense and respond to the onset of anxiety and flashbacks. For Montalvan, he did just that and more. Tuesday connected with Montalvan like none other and provided him with the service he needed to more healthily manage both his mental and physical disabilities. Through Until Tuesday, readers learn about the manifestation of posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, alcoholism, depression, and physical ailments in Montalvan’s life. We learn about the horrific extent of the many issues that our nation’s veterans face upon reintegrating into civilian life, and we gain a first-hand account of the therapeutic and healing power of the human-canine relationship. With Tuesday’s help, Montalvan developed the confidence and courage to become a nationally recognized advocate for veterans with PTSD. Until Tuesday provides an avenue for readers to learn about “man and dog,” “war and healing,” “ability and disability,” and “spiritual restoration.”
Montalvan reportedly died by suicide in 2016. In memoriam of a national hero, thank you for your service. Thank you, Tuesday, for your gift of life that you provided to your partner in the years leading to his death.
Meet Luca! Luca is a beautiful, two-and-a-half year old Pyrenees who teaches the value of calmness and patience. She’s a beautiful little lady who certainly knows how to steal the hearts of those she meets!
How I Got My Name: Out of nearly 4,000 names, Luca is the only one my owners could agree on! It might have helped sway them that my dad’s name was Luzenac!
Breed: Great Pyrenees
Age: 2.5 years young!
Birthdate: August 27, 2016
Adoption Story: My owners have always wanted to raise a Great Pyrenees from puppyhood, and so along came me into their lives!
Collar Color I Sport Best: Black and gold!
My Fur Family: I have two fur siblings, Rory and Mardi. Rory is a Yorkie, and Mardi is a mixed breed. Word on the street has it that they will also be featured on Pets on the Net! soon!
Favorite Fur Friends: Rory, Mardi, and Finn, of course!
Favorite Activities: I enjoy walking and playing ball, although I most enjoy ball-playing in the house! It is also a favorite pastime of mine to play with Mardi! Lucky for me, I also have two human playmates as well – my owners’ granddaughters!
Favorite Toys: I hope it’s not too cliché, but I really favor my tennis ball! Boy, I have tons of fun romping around with that in the house!
Favorite Treats/Food: Tail Banger Cookies – yum!!
Life Lesson Learned from Luca: The thing about Luca is that she’s known for being the calmest in the pack. She teaches her fur friends and human family the value of patience in this ever-busy, ever-demanding world we live in!
Meet Vincent! Vinny is described as a “lazy” little puggly-wuggly fur friend who teaches you how to love and be loved. He’s a remarkable little fella who knows how to steal hearts and take naps!
“I guess she’s all right.”
“My ride or die, Hannah!”
Name: Vincent Paterno Keiser
How I Got My Name: I am named after the greatest college football coach, Joe Paterno, PSU Football!
Nickname: Vinny, Vinny Bumper, Bumps, Chubbs, Baby boy
Age: 4 years young!
Birthdate: November 21, 2014
Adoption Story: My sister (Phoebe) and I thought we had our forever home all figured out. Unfortunately, plans had changed, and we quickly became foster kids. We kept our hopes high that we would be able to stay together; however, we knew that it might not be possible because we can be very hyper together. Luckily, we found a forever home with two other Pugs (Abby and Lucy and later on, Clarice) when an animal-loving family took both of us home!
Best Tricks: One thing I have mastered and a skill that can never be taken away from me is my ability to make food disappear!
Collar Color I Sport Best: I have always preferred the “birthday suit,” “nudity” kind of look, but when my human sister (Hannah) makes me exercise, I settle for wearing my blue harness!
My Fur Family: My fur sisters are Phoebe, Lucy, and Clarice who are also all pugs like me! I also have three cat siblings, Nelly, Mo, and Kobe!
Favorite Fur Friends: I like my sister, Phoebe, the best, but sometimes me and Lucy play together!
Favorite Activities: My all time favorite things to do include sleeping all the time and taking trips to the beach with my human family (If it ain’t a dog-friendly beach house, it ain’t for us!)!
Favorite Toy: I love squeaky and conveniently play with him before bed time.
Favorite Treats/Food: My daddy always gives me puppy food, but sometimes mommy spoils me and shares cheeseballs and powdered donuts with me. They are my favorite!
Life Lesson Learned From Vinny: “Accept yourself. As you can see by Vinny’s photos, he does not care about his figure. He is not too interested in exercising and accepts himself as he is. We all love him for that! He doesn’t compare himself to his sisters who are a lot smaller than he is. I think we can learn a lot from him by not wasting so much time changing or hating ourselves.”
Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! A new year is upon us! Do you subscribe to the “new year, new me” mantra? Did you set a new year’s resolution? We’re officially one month into the new year. Some of you are excelling beyond expectation at your new year’s goals, while others might have dismissed their resolutions altogether. Whatever your status, you set a goal, and that’s progress in and of itself! Be proud!
You might notice some “New year, new me” progress here at Sit, Stay, Blog in the form of a new website design as well as a new domain (www.sit-stay-blog.net)! I’m very excited to share these changes and updates with my readers and hope that it will propel me into a successful year of blogging!
The end of 2018 marked a special time for me — I completed my master’s degree! This monumental experience has reminded me about the importance of pausing to reflect inward on who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. Through this self-reflection, I’ve learned something: I’ve been chasing happiness.
Chasing happiness is a strange concept. On one hand, you’re trying to achieve happiness (a positive). On the other hand, you’re missing out on life as you’re trying to get there (a negative). As I reflected on where I’ve been, I realized that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time striving to live in the future. “I can’t wait until this semester is over.” “I’ll be happier once I move.” “Life will be easier when I have a 9:00 to 5:00 job.” These statements are a reflection of my eagerness to achieve whatever goals I had set for myself; however, they also represent a grim reality of how we, as a society, operate on a day-to-day basis. We wake up on a Monday thinking, “I can’t wait until Friday.” When we are faced with something we don’t want to do, we can’t wait until it’s over with. We are eager. We chase happiness. We push aside our ability to be mindful of the present so that we can invest all of our energy into whatever a future of happiness looks like. I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with this sense of eagerness in striving for happiness in life. For me, however, I’ve learned it’s important to consider the process in how I get there.
Self-reflection can teach you a lot. More recently, it has taught me that, at any given moment, you are in control of how you feel. You have the power to choose happiness or chase it. You can choose to find happiness in the smile given to you by a passerby. You can choose to be happy about the wet doggy kiss your four-legged friend just greeted you with as you walked in the door after a long, hard workday. Perhaps you can choose to be happy about the teachers who have provided you with the education necessary to read this blog post. In the most simplest form, you can choose to feel happy about the beat of your heart that allowed you to wake up this morning and start anew.
This sounds like a relatively simple concept. However, it requires a change in your frame of reference, and change is difficult. We are a society that resists change because it’s much more comfortable to stick to the status quo. I’ve chosen to embark on this new year with the goal of finding happiness each and every day. I am working to eliminate phrases such as “I can’t wait for…” from my vocabulary and instead am choosing to focus on more present day events that spark my happiness. In this first month of 2019, I have actively chosen to feel happy about settling into my new home, spending time at home relaxing with Pinella and Alex, receiving three job offers, increasing my presence at my favorite service dog organization, reading a new book that broadens my political knowledge base, revamping the look and style of Sit, Stay, Blog, and the list goes on. As this year progresses, I hope to continue to be more conscientious and deliberate about finding a way to celebrate all positivity, big or small, while minimizing my exposure to negative energy.
Understanding the difference between choosing and chasing happiness is step one. Step two includes implementing action steps into your daily routine to promote feelings of happiness. Action steps include activities that allow you to be more mindful, present, and in touch with your everyday experiences. While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the strategies I employ to reach a state of mindfulness to ensure happiness:
Reading a book
Spending time with an animal (Animals live in the present and are wonderful models to their human counterparts about how to be mindful)
Unplugging from social media
Recognizing your five senses (paying attention to how things look, smell, sound, taste, and feel)
And much, much more!
2019 will be a year of firsts for me. It is the first time in 20 years that my identity will include something other than being a student. I will embark on a new lifestyle that includes full-time employment. I will teach and be taught many new things. I will care for others and be cared for. I will strive to live my life in the present. Most importantly, I will choose happiness.
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another Sit, Stay, Blog post! Don’t forget to Like and Follow us on Facebook and Twitter! If you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to see your pet featured on Pets on the Net!, leave a comment below or submit your information on Sit, Stay, Blog’s Contact page! 🙂
Meet Brushel! Brushel is described as a “loyal” fur friend who can make you smile with his silly quirks and goofball attitude. He’s a lover, a snuggler, and a remarkable companion!
How I Got My Name: My dad was switching between TV channels when a commercial for a brush hog (whatever that is) came on. Just as he switched the channel, he heard the “ell” part of Russell Westbrook’s (a basketball player) name. In combining “brush” from the commercial and “ell” from the basketball player, he came up with Brushel, and the rest is history!
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Nicknames: Brush dog, brush head, brush, brushy
Age: 2 (soon to be 3…already)
Birthdate: January 14, 2016
Adoption Story: I was adopted on March 26, 2016 at ten weeks old. I kind of picked my owners, they didn’t pick me. While all of my brothers and sisters were busy playing with each other, I ran over to my now human parents and snuggled up against their legs. I’ve had them wrapped around my paw ever since!
Best Tricks: I can “sit” and “lay,” especially if food is involved, and I’m pretty good with “leave its” too! I’m also really good at catching food in the air when it’s thrown to me (and might have even passed this skill onto my fur friend, Pinella)! I’m not too good at paw shaking, however, because I hate my paws being touched.
Collar Color I Sport Best: I sport my green collar the best, and when I pair it with my red harness, I feel all decked out for Christmas!
My Fur Family: I have 3 other feline siblings – Joe, Nittany, and Sue. (Can you guess how they got their names?)
Favorite Fur Friends: I love my kitter siblings, Cousin Pinella, Molly (the neighbor dog), and Lulu and Pepper (the neighbor cats). I also really miss my fur friends, Chloie and Maggie, and try to make friends with NutNut and the squirrels, but they just run away from me!
Favorite Activities: In addition to playing fetch year-round, I love when summertime rolls around because mom and dad take me to the river to swim. I was once a scaredy-cat (or should I say scaredy-dog) to go swimming until one day I saw another dog doing it and decided to give it a try. Now, I love it. I guess it’s true what they say: Monkey see, monkey do!
Favorite Toys: My ball that squeaks when you roll it and my durable chew toys (nothing soft, please, I chew those to pieces!)
Favorite Treats/Food: I eat Purina Pro Plan and love peanut butter (without Xylitol!), apples, bananas, and Milk Bones. I really like having this new human sister though because she always drops food down for me. I’ll eat just about anything!
“When I was going for a walk with my human family and, silly me, wasn’t paying attention and tripped over a rock and it scared the poop out of me (literally all over the road)!”
“When I got to reveal the sex of my new human sibling!”
“Waiting at the window every day for my dad to get home from work”
Life Lesson Learned From Brushel: Dogs teach us how to be better humans. They teach us what it’s like to never hold a grudge and love unconditionally.
Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! I wasn’t lying to you in my What It Means To: Take a Break From Blogging post when I said I had a busy few months ahead! The most recent of my endeavors: The Hershey Half Marathon! It was fun and exciting. It was nerve-racking. It was painful. It was anything and everything described below.
Dear Diary: My First Half Marathon
Sunday, October 14
(One week until race time)
Emotionally, my nerves are rattling, and I can’t stop the ruminating thoughts. “Next week at this time, you’ll be over halfway through the race.” “Wait, what if you don’t make it past Mile 10?” “What if your injury-prone self decides to get hurt this week?” Today, I took a 4-mile run with Alex to try and capture my best PR (personal record). I know that this is the last these legs will run until next Sunday which is both a relief and anxiety-producing. In between submitting papers for my graduate program and completing work assignments for my job, I know I’ll fit in some walks with Pinella this week to keep my muscles loose and limber. While I truly know very little about how to treat your body when preparing for a half marathon, I know that during this week leading up to the race, I don’t want to push it and certainly don’t want to get injured!
Monday, October 15
Hello, Monday! Less than one week to go! My mind is so preoccupied on the papers I have due, my state licensure exam happening at the end of the month, and preparing for my upcoming midterm exam. Surprisingly, I have not thought about the half marathon much today. This ironically makes me feel more anxious than when I thought about it all day yesterday!
Tuesday, October 16
Bring it on! I’m still not having many thoughts or experiencing any pre-race jitters. I am beginning to question my commitment to the race. What is wrong with me? Am I losing focus?
Wednesday, October 17
Halfway through the week! Today, a thought or two snuck into my mind. I’m starting to get that nervous feeling in my stomach and wondering what this experience will be like. Will there be great crowd support? Will the hilly course be manageable? Will the weather be ideal?
Thursday, October 18
Yikes, it’s getting closer to the weekend which means one step closer to race day! The jitters are building up. As I sat through my evening classes tonight, I could not focus on anything other than the race. I think to myself, “The next time I’m in this classroom, I will have (hopefully) completed my first half marathon.” The thought scares me as much as it excites me. I’ve read about people who DNF (did not finish) a race, and I DO NOT want to be that person. I have set two goals: 1. Finish the race. 2. Maintain at least a 14-minute mile.
Friday, October 19
Mentally, I need at least two more full days before the half marathon. This morning I wake up praying it’s not Saturday. Phew, it’s only Friday! Breathe. I start preparing myself mentally and physically. Aside from reading others’ blog posts about the Hershey Half Marathon, I’m also looking up the best foods and drinks to load into my body.
Saturday, October 20
(It’s the final countdown)
Holy moly! I barely slept last night. I had race-related “nightmares” throughout the night. In the first nightmare, I missed my alarm and didn’t make it to the half marathon on time! Secondly, I forgot my shoes! Who forgets their running shoes? It’s the one thing you need to run a race! The rest of the day, I’m nervous, and my stomach is aching. Alex must have sensed my pre-race jitters because he came back from the store with some of my favorite snacks! My race day bag is packed and ready to go for my early morning journey. The only thing left to do is wait for Sunday to arrive!
Sunday, October 21
I didn’t sleep a wink, but am I surprised? I tossed and turned all night wondering if I would make it on time, if I would hit traffic, or if I actually would forget my shoes. You name it, I worried about it. I get out of bed at 3:30 a.m., put on my race gear, brush my teeth, and head out the door. Before I leave, Alex says, “You won’t fall asleep while driving, will you?” My reply: “I haven’t slept all night. Why start now!?” When I left for the race, the weather was a mild 42 degrees. As I approached the venue, it grew cold, windy, and rainy. RAIN? For my first half marathon? You have got to be kidding me.
A Glance Into The Hershey Half Marathon
As the race began, the skies cleared up, and the weather (thankfully) became quite optimal for a brisk morning run. As we began running, two participants were having a conversation behind me about a race they recently ran and how they “hit the wall” at 10 miles. For the record, I have trained for and now successfully completed a half marathon, but I really don’t have much insight into the running world lingo. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant to “hit the wall,” but I figured it out around Mile 11 1/2.
The first half of the course included a beautiful run around Hersheypark Drive, through Hersheypark, past Zoo America, and through the town of Hershey. Miles 8 to 10 had great crowd support from the students at the Milton Hershey School. The course itself was very hilly. Whereas I usually abide by the rule of “what comes up, must come down,” I quickly learned that in the Hershey Half Marathon, “what comes up, just keeps going up.” The wind picked up around Mile 9 which served as an added obstacle to make it up the hills.
Mile 11 1/2: Cue what it means to “hit the wall.” I passed the chocolate aid station but was so determined to get through the race, I grabbed the chocolate and threw it in my waist pack. At this point, the wind was strong, clouds were overpowering the warmth of the sun, and I was getting low on energy. I had read about the “Miracle Mile” occurring at Mile 12 wherein kids from the Children’s Hospital line the final mile to cheer on runners. I knew if I could make it through this next 1/2 mile, I would reach the “Miracle Mile” and get the encouragement needed to finish. To my dismay, however, I made it to Mile 12, and a mere five or so people lined the street. I was so discouraged and frustrated, but I knew that the real reason for running this race was to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. I thought of those children with chronic illness who are forced to face repeated and/or long-term hospitalizations and created my own newfound sense of encouragement.
As I neared the end of the race, I was undoubtedly exhausted and my knees were getting sore, but I was blessed with the greatest sight imaginable: my family just before the finish line! My kind little brother left me with a sweet comment to finish up the race: “Thanks for being selfish and taking so long.” Seriously, how encouraging is he? 🙂
I made it to the remaining tenth of a mile. I was so excited to cross the finish line but was incredibly disappointed that the finish line was nothing more than a timing mat. No crowd support. No big finish line banner. Nothing to say, “Hey, look at me! I just finished a half marathon!” I anticipate that the finish line crowd support was much greater for the faster runners, but for slow-mo runners like me, it was anti-climactic. However, these details are simply logistics. I made it, I survived, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my experiences in finally achieving my goals of not only completing the Hershey Half Marathon but also maintaining an under 14-minute/mile pace!
Life is truly what you make it. If you’re nervous about running/walking in a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or any other race, just go for it! Seriously! I ran my first 5K in June 2017 and pushed myself to complete a half marathon in 2018. You can do it too!
When you are a faster, more well-trained runner stuck behind a slower runner, keep in mind that this may be their first race, they may have a disability inhibiting their ability to run a stellar six-minute mile, or they may just be pacing themselves to truly enjoy their experience. My personal philosophy when it comes to running is that you are your best competition. If you ran a 15-minute mile last year, aim for a 14-minute mile this year. If you’re satisfied at a 12-minute mile, embrace it, enjoy your experiences, and be thankful for your healthy body that enables you to get out and run! Lastly, when half marathons give you a less than stellar finish line experience, you smile big, throw your hands in the air and say, “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I JUST FINISHED A HALF MARATHON!”
Thank you for your support as I worked toward achieving this goal and in celebrating my accomplishment by reading this blog post! Stay up-to-date with upcoming posts by “Liking” and “Following” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter! 🙂