Loving on the Run!

Hi!  Head over to Sara’s spot at Loving on the Run to see my sweet guest post about the disaster that befall me in the Middle of the Greensboro Marathon.

Sara is actually a Carolina girl, and has been fun to email with.  Blogger besties?  Too soon to tell?  Am I being creepy?  Not sure.  Head over beautiful readers!

Guest Blogger! Jessica Ekstrom!

I like to utilize my blog in a number of ways.  1, Obviously, I’m trying to keep you guys interested so you’ll actually donate.  2, I love talking about myself.  (Just kidding!  Kinda…) 3, To show off my new nail polish! 4, To give you fellow runners, as well as aspiring runners a taste of my greatness (or to give you some important tidbits I’ve leaned along the way), 5, To uplift some folks in the community that I think are doing some great things.

Jessica Ekstrom is a cool girl that I met while I was working for NC State’s Department of Campus Recreation.  Still to this day, it’s one of my favorite jobs.  There’s nothing better than working with a bunch of like-minded, healthy individuals, which is what I like about my job now.  Anyhoo, Jess is a youngin who has totally got her head on straight, and she’s made waves all over the country with her sweet project.  Jess, everyone!


“Right before my 20th birthday in the summer of 2011, I participated in an internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation that changed my life forever.

Everyday, I got to wake up and grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. I took day trips to visit the wish kids at their houses and bring them their favorite toys. We received hundreds of letters from wish children that said we changed their lives; little did they know, they were changing mine.

One day, I was pulling my hair back in a ponytail and thought about the hundreds of girls I encountered that lose their hair to cancer. I saw how much losing their hair had an impact on their self-esteem and confidence level.

I thought about the thousands of girls around the world losing their hair to chemotherapy. Being a young girl presents many struggles with self-esteem already and losing their hair as a result of a life-threatening illness is traumatic. Not only do they have to face the risk of losing their lives, they feel that they lose a part of their feminine identity. 
I found that the girls loved to wear headbands to still feel “girly” after hair loss instead of wigs.

Therefore I started Headbands of Hope! For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.

Since we launched in April, I’ve had the opportunity to distribute headbands to girls in the hospitals across the nation. The best part of my job is opening the door to their room and seeing their faces light up when I bring dozens of colorful headbands to their beds to choose from.  Even though it’s fun and fulfilling to bring the girls headbands in the hospitals, I’m constantly reminded that there still isn’t a cure.

Childhood cancer takes the lives of more children in the U.S. than any other disease – in fact, more than many other childhood diseases combined.  Progress is also especially slow in curing adolescents and young adults, because federal funding for childhood cancers is a fraction compared to adult cancers.  Therefore, attention needs to be brought to childhood cancer.

Progress can’t be made without research. Research can’t be done without funding. And funding can’t be done without awareness. Headbands of Hope aims to start with awareness and end with a cure.

Ever since I was a little girl, purpose has been close to my heart. My drive and work ethic came from knowing my sweat was going to fulfill a need, someway somehow. Cheri and here project “Running for Haiti” does exactly that. Run for purpose. In Cheri’s case, she saw a need in Haiti and used her passion for running as a tool to help.

Whether you’re selling headbands or running around Raleigh, look around you for an opportunity to make the world a better place!”

If you’re looking to make a difference, and you’re stumped, the best way to come up with an idea is to look at what you love.  Do you love to sing?  Do you love to dance?  Do you love chicken?  Find a way to turn that passion into action! And non-profit organizations love volunteers.  If there’s a cause you’re particularly stoked about, jump on board with a 501c3 that could use your skill.  It could turn into a job for you later!

Guest Blogger! Carly Swanson!

I am once again, thrilled with the opportunity I have to introduce today’s guest blogger, my friend, Carly Swanson!

Carly 1

I met this tiny nugget while I was working for NC State University, in their department of Campus Recreation.  We got certified to teach cycling together, and cross paths all the time in Raleigh.  Carly is usually crossing the finish line first, while I’m rolling in hours mere seconds behind her.  Without further ado, my inspiration to crush a few miles just a tad faster!

“Fast Car and Freedom”

By: Carly Swanson

It’s 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and while many people my age are just getting in from downtown Raleigh or Charlotte, I am heading that way, as part of a 16-mile run scheduled in my marathon training plan. As I contemplate sleeping in, I know that if I hold off on my workout, I would not complete it that day, as I work weekends web producing at a news station. I end up rolling out of bed onto my apartment’s cold, wooden floors to put on warm running clothes and try to eat a banana before I face the wind and dark streets for a few hours.

Some would call my passion for running as an addiction, but to me, it is just something that runs in my family, as my 53-year-old dad logs over 1,000 miles each year and my mom was a high school track coach when she was pregnant with me.  Ever since December 2010, my mom has run in races with me each month, as well as successfully completed three half-marathons.  Our monthly “mother-daughter tradition” keeps me motivated and I hope to look half as gorgeous and healthy as she does when I am her age.  My parents were my inspiration to take on running as a lifetime hobby and as I’ve been around the sport since I literally was in the womb, my parents even said I was the baby who ran first instead of taking baby steps.

This “get after it” and free spirited attitude has been instilled in me and running is something that has helped me gain confidence in other aspects of my life. I cannot describe how much more powerful I feel after completing a run or race and it is something you have to experience yourself to truly understand. This confidence has enabled me to achieve other goals, such as apply and get accepted in to graduate school and work my way up in the news or sports industries to become a reporter one day.  I always feel physically, as well as mentally stronger and healthier after a morning run or workout and it is one of the few moments during the day I have to myself outside of school and work. Running really is a “free form a therapy” and the energy it gives me during the day helps me push tough everyday work and school activities.

As I set personal running goals for myself, I also try to inspire and motivate others to do the same.  My supporters: family, friends and followers are frequently a motivation to me to train and work hard. I feel that if I can show them how running has helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle, they too can easily reap the benefits of exercise with small lifestyle changes. If it weren’t for their support, the training of my marathon would have been extremely difficult.

The unique opportunities racing each month has provided me with ranges from winning the Krispy Kreme Challenge for women in 2012 (eating a dozen doughnuts and running five miles for the NC Children’s Hospital) to treading in pond water up to my nose and climbing through barbed wire and mud in China Grove YMCA’s Down and Dirty Run.

The fitness opportunity I am most thankful of is representing the Oakley Women brand, as an ambassador. I was one of 10 women chosen to represent the brand in the “Perform Beautifully” competition, where over 600 women applied in the fitness industry in 2012. My fellow women ambassadors are like sisters to me and are a group of the strongest, most determined women I’ve ever met. All of their stories are such an inspiration to me, as they are “real, everyday women” who not only enjoy have a passion to lead healthy, active lifestyles, but also help others do the same. They frequently motivate me to set and achieve goals and I recommend learning more about them, as well as finding workouts and healthy recipes here: http://www.oakleypbc.com/Article/Details/dfd636a8-4826-4956-9355-b2c920c6fe37 as I know they can inspire you as well! Connecting with these women and the Oakley brand has opened so many new doors from me and I cannot be thankful enough from the support and fitness opportunities I have taken away from each time I am with this group of kick-butt women.

My Oakley sisters helped push me to sign up for my first marathon in 2012. I was able to achieve some personal running goals, as I ran in Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon, where I ran it in 3 hours and 20 minutes, as well as placed first in my age division. I also achieved a bucket list goal, which was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The best part of my first marathon process was that I made a great friend/training partner in the process and I still enjoy running today (I’m itching to run another 26.2!)

I learned so much about myself after completing my first marathon and I am not going to lie, there were many times that I wanted to skip that early morning workout or just give up because I didn’t think I could mentally stay tough through the pain. It doesn’t matter if you are training for a race or trying to land that dream job, you have the freedom and ability to do accomplish any goal you hold yourself accountable for. Here are a few tips that have worked for me and I hope you can use them to achieve your goals you have set for 2013 and beyond!

-Schedule your workouts/runs/studying like an appointment in a planner. The feeling of crossing that off your to-do list is very empowering and helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

-Announce your goals to your friends, family and followers. This will give you a great support system and then the pressure is on and you are held accountable to achieving that goal!

-Connect with others who have either achieved the goal or are working to achieve that goal too. I frequently look to other runners or fellow Oakley ambassadors for advice and to learn how they have been successful and unsuccessful in their specific interests and niches.

-Remember you hold the tools to build a successful and healthy life for yourself. Do not let anyone stand in the way of achieving your goals. Let that unsupportive person be your motivation to work harder to achieve that goal faster. There is no better feeling than to prove those people wrong and show them how much stronger you are than before!

As Cheri has been such a wonderful motivation to me through her sense of humor, amazing Zumba classes and inspirational blog, I love connecting with other runners and those looking to leader healthier lifestyles on social media! My current goals include: continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle, constantly challenging my fitness routine, completing graduate school, reporting full-time, running in the 2013 NYC Marathon, 2013 Marine Corps Marathon and 2014 Boston Marathon. I frequently post motivational articles, workouts and healthy recipes on my social media outlets and feel free to connect with me and hold me accountable for my goals as, I can also help you achieve yours!

Email: carlyswanson1@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carlyswanson37
Twitter: @carlysamsonite
Wordpress Digital Portfolio: www.carlyswanson.wordpress.com
Instagram: carlysamsonite”

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Thank you Carly!  I hope I can glean a little bit of your magic for my Spring races!

Guest Blogger

Me and Ashley

The beautiful young woman pictured to my right is one of my best friends in the entire world, Ashley Little.

We met freshman year at Elon University, and it has been nothing short of a pleasure to be her friend.  Ashley Little is beautiful, smart, like-minded, hardworking, and did I mention, beautiful?  And I am honored to have her guest blogging here today.  Ashley, who is also a wonderful writer, honored me by speaking on why Haiti still needs our help.

“You might say that the tiny nation of Haiti was born out of struggle.

In 1804, after a bitter, long fought battle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence. Sadly, the country (the poorest in the western hemisphere) has been plagued by political, social, and economic turmoil ever since.  And in January 2010, it was dealt yet another devastating blow: A 7.0 earthquake descended violently upon Haiti, leaving behind an unimaginable, and catastrophic path of destruction.

In the days and weeks to come, the worst earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years became a fixture in national news.  And the global response, (particularly in terms of humanitarian aid) was extraordinary. But even a natural disaster of this magnitude proved to have a short shelf life, quickly fading from the public conscience.

Amongst all of the rubble, Haiti is a country of endless beauty; manifested especially in the resilience, and optimism of its people. However, there is still much work to be done:

40 % of the 10 million people in Haiti do not have access to clean water. (source: http://www.waterandhealth.org)

Cholera is rampant, and has claimed over 7,000 lives while afflicting 6 percent of the population.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain housed in camps and otherwise overcrowded, and deplorable conditions.

(sources: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=6362&cat=field-news)

Out of struggle and tragedy also comes triumph.  And together, we can continue to rebuild, and restore Haiti. They are still in dire need of our help today.  Let’s start one mile at a time.”