Friday, January 17, 2020

Unstuffed: Digesting 2019

Goodbye 2019! New Year's Eve 2019
2019 was a very full year. Full of promise. Full of recovery. Full of hard work. Full of loss and sorrow. Full of love and joy. It took me all of December to fully process all I had gone through, to fully digest the year. Reset myself for a new year—a new decade.

So I took a hiatus from the virtual social media world to live in the here and now, spend time with my most cherished people, truly reflect on the roller coaster of twelve months, and prepare myself for some major changes. Looking back, I am amazed. Despite numerous setbacks and losses, I've achieved a lot.


RUNNING

I am still in shock at the steady progression of my running. In just one year, I ran two ultramarathons and two marathons in three different countries (USA, Scotland, Greece)! Whoa! Never in a million years would past Sera have believed that she would be an international runner.

Running Seth's Fat Ass 50k in December
Congrats on your 50k, Rich!
IllumiNITE Cold Weather Hood & Tahoe Performance Jacket
 I've run close to 1,000 miles for the year. I could have hit that 1,000-mile milestone, but in December I decided to cut back. Running two marathons two weeks apart in two different countries kind of did me in. So even though I signed up for Seth's Fat Ass 50k—a race where you run 10 loops of 3.1 miles—I only ran half of it. It was bitter cold, and even though my IllumiNITE clothing plus a bathrobe kept me toasty, I was so over winter running. Plus, there were sheets of ice over a large portion of the 3-mile loop, and I just didn't didn't have it in me to teeter across it for all ten loops. At mile 6, my hip was on fire and I was ready to quit. But I never give up just because something gets tough. So I made a deal with myself. I had to run at least half the course—25k. That felt like a reasonable distance to finish out my year of running. I completed 16 miles. I'm happy with that.

Sometimes taking a step back is the right thing to do. I found out a week later, my sciatic nerve was inflamed—hence the fire in my hip. I'm proud of myself for showing up, despite the 10 degree starting temperature, for pushing myself through it, and for listening to my body. So, ALMOST 1,000 miles for the year is fine by me, especially since I got to see miles and miles of Scotland and Greece by foot. Wow, what a year for running!

WRITING

Avenue A Books, the imprint I managed, launched in the Spring with three picture books and one middle grade graphic novel. All in all, I worked on 12 projects before my colleagues and I were let go. I feel blessed to have worked with so many talented children's authors and illustrators. And I learned so much in my role as acquiring editor! I am ever so grateful to the kidlit world for teaching me everything about children's publishing along the way. I'm so proud of all the books I worked on, and I'm beyond proud that the middle grade novel I fought for—the very first project I acquired—was nominated for a Cybils Award. If you haven't read Alexis Vs. Summer Vacation by Sarah Jamila Stevenson and Veronica Agarwal, go read it now!

Love my handmade, black sheep wool
writing gloves from Tarbert, Scotland
It was the best career I ever had—so far. I'm still mourning this loss, but being unemployed gave me the freedom to find my own creativity again. As much as I loved, loved, loved working with authors and illustrators on their projects, I didn't realize how much it zapped my own creativity. I got swept up in the glamour of being on the other side of publishing—the side that makes dreams come true—that I forgot my own dreams.

I'm grateful for the four-month unemployment stint that allowed me to reconnect with my writing. I'm even grateful for the two weeks I holed myself up in my apartment, staring at the walls, racking my brain, trying not to rip out my hair, as I delved back into the fictionalization of my memoir. I may have gotten a few more grey hairs from the process, but this precious time allowed me to fully actualize my characters, plot, and timeline. It's not easy fictionalizing a life lived. It took a while for my brain to wrap itself around an altered timeline with altered people and events. But now these people and their journeys live inside me, and I couldn't be more excited to get them onto the page to share with the world.

See, I've been trying to fictionalize my memoir for two years now, but nothing I tried gave me that epiphany moment where everything clicks until now. I'm a firm believer that with loss brings opportunity, so I cherished that beautiful, temporary break from work. And although it was often tough to keep my faith that all would work out career wise, I treasured the abundance of creativity that flooded through me. I found my Muse again, and I'm so happy she's back. I've missed her so much, and we've been nonstop talking since. Thank you, Universe! Sera is back! 


ILLUMINITE

Night run with my girls!
IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance Jacket
& Cold Weather Hood
A very exciting happening in 2019 was my partnership with IllumiNITE, a Massachusetts-based, family-owned apparel company. This partnership allows me to combine two of my greatest loves: running and writing! And now I can do both in style! I've had way too much fun trying out their different designs! I feel so much safer running in the woods and on the road at night knowing that I am lit up as brightly as a neon sign. I have so much fun talking with other runners (and hikers and walkers) about IllumiNITE's apparel. And if we're being totally honest, I love being so fashionable at races without losing comfort or performance! Thank you, IllumiNITE, for believing in me, and for all your support in my running efforts! I'm so excited to see what's to come for 2020!

LOVE

We found these two hearts on the same
hiking path in Santorini
They say, whoever "They" is, that you find love when you least expect it. I've always rolled my eyes at that statement. It feels like an excuse you tell people for why love is unattainable. But I now see this phrase in a different light. I've been slowly hoping for love, working on myself—what I want, what I don't want, what my own issues around love are, and how to change negative patterns—but I never expected to actually find a healthy, loving relationship. I thought it just wasn't out there, not for me. I thought I had to accept that I would always be single—or settle for something less than.

But then I found love, or perhaps it found me, or perhaps it was just waiting until I was ready and he was ready—truly ready—for love. And I realized least expect it doesn't mean going about my business and bam! Love hits me out of the blue. Rather, I just didn't expect it to happen. I didn't even realize love had happened, not at first, until I went to visit my friend Mary in California. I told her I had met someone, and after talking for a while, she gasped. "Sera, are you in love?" I was so caught off guard by her question. We were sitting on the beach, and I stared out at the ocean waves for a few minutes pondering. "Yes," I said. "Oh my god. Yes, I am in love." I hadn't said such words in two decades. But I knew it to be true.

One of my all-time favorite books/movies is Perks of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). The line that kills me every time: "We accept the love we think we deserve." It wasn't until I I searched deep down inside to figure out what love meant to me, what type of love I wanted, and to convince myself I was worthy of such love that I found true love. It's a love I never experienced with anyone. It's a love I've been searching for my entire life and never quite knew it because I didn't know it actually existed. Hence, I least expected it—especially now that I am in my 40s. But here love is, FINALLY. I feel so blessed. 

A New Focus

A symbol of our love
All of these changes in 2019, both good and bad, have helped me shift my perspective on what is
important to me. The career path I was on, the romantic path I was on, the go-go-go-too-busy-to-think path I was on took me away from the life I always dreamed of. It took a FULL STOP to help me reset my priorities, remember the life goals I've always wanted but somehow forgot about. I feel blessed to be starting off this new decade with a new career that enhances my creativity, a supportive life partner by my side, and a closer bond with my family. It might take some time to adjust to this new focus in life. But I'm ready for it.

Sometimes our dreams get sidetracked by shiny distractions along the way. Every now and then, the Universe tarnishes these shiny things so we can better see what's right in front of us—the path we're meant to travel. Time to take that next step back to the Sera I've somehow lost.


What did you learn in 2019? And what are you hoping to change in 2020? Please share your comments below! Happy New Year!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Hi From Greece!



This is a pre-written post to remind you to stay tuned for a recap of Athens Authentic Marathon coming soon!

I downloaded this picture from the Athens Authentic Marathon website. I'm guessing our start looked something like this! More on the race soon!

In the meantime, check out my Instagram and Facebook pages for updates! Hopefully, I've had a chance to share a few adventures!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Marathon Bound: We're in GREECE!

Sera: IllumiNITE Tahoe jacket/
Powerstretch pant
Mike: IllumiNITE Mercury pant
This post has been pre-written because...

While you read this, we are in Athens, Greece, gearing up for the SOLD OUT official Athens Authentic Marathon THIS SUNDAY!  60,000 runners will be running the various races this weekend, 20,000 of which are running the marathon! That's a lot of runners!


Running Friends Are the Best Friends!

I cannot believe this weekend is finally here! My dear friend, Richard, and I have been planning this trip for over a year! Rich has been my running and destination-race partner since my very first relay back in 2015, and I'm so honored he asked me if I'd like to run the original marathon route!

Group training run back in August
Sera: IllumiNITE Eclipse headband/
Dovetail tee
I'm so excited we convinced our friends Juliette, Eric, and Cybele to join us. Races are much more fun with friends!

And I'm even more excited that my boyfriend, Mike, who has never run more than a 5k race or hiked more than 18 miles at once, agreed to let me train him for his first ever marathon! What better marathon to train for than the original marathon route from Marathon to Athens in Greece!


This is...Dating In Your Forties!

Sera: IllumiNITE Inspire Pullover/
Comet pant
Mike: IllumiNITE Hartford jacket/
Endeavor shorts

I don't know what I was thinking when I said I'd train Mike for his very first marathon! Mike and I have spent hours upon hours of running in the daytime, nighttime, rain, sun, heat, and cold! Long gone are the dress-up dates at fancy restaurants with cocktails and fabulous food! These days, date night consists of running in sweaty, smelly clothing and then devouring massive amounts of food before crashing on my couch to mindless shows. Somehow, we still like each other! Thank god!

I did make one rule while training him. I said: "As your girlfriend, I don't expect you to do whatever I want whenever I want. But as your coach, you better do as I say...or else!"

Mike, being the ever-so-intelligent man that he is, often asks: "Who is speaking right now: my coach or my girlfriend ?" hahahahaha

Friends! Trust me when I say, if you'd like to put the strength of your relationship to the test, train for a distance race together!


Track Us Live!

Sera: IllumiNITE
Savannah short sleeve tee
All joking aside, I feel so blessed to have a partner by my side who is willing to go on new adventures with me! I'm so honored to run by Mike's side on the original marathon route! It will be so amazing! We are not going for speed because we want to be tourists and take tons of pictures along the way! But you can follow our progress by tracking my bib number: 18638 on the official Athens Marathon App!

Mike: IlumiNITE
Sentinel short sleeve tee
And now, without further ado, I present to you our team IllumiNITE race shirts! Thank you, IllumiNITE for outfitting us on race day! Love these colors and the design is so fun! And let's not forget REFLECTIVE, too!

Stay tuned for a recap of Athens Authentic Marathon and other Greece adventures when we return! In the meantime, if you're looking for new running gear, be sure to use my discount code Sera15 at IllumiNITE for 15% off your entire order!

Where are you running this weekend? Comment below!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Just Us Gales: 2019 Cape Cod Marathon Recap

Always running late! That's ME!
I just ran the worst race of my life! And I'm so glad I did! And yes, I want to go back and run Cape Cod Marathon again!

Not all races can be blue skies and rainbows. In fact, I believe that it's the terrible races that remind us that we are stronger than we think, that we can endure so much more than we think we're capable, that we really can accomplish anything we put our minds to.

What made this marathon the worst race of my life?

30 mph gales of wind that knocked my feet together and threatened to tear out my contacts! Freezing cold rain that down-poured, up-poured, and side-poured (craziness!) Giant ocean waves that crashed onto the marathon route and soaked us unknowing racers!


But first, let's talk about what made this weekend so great!
RYH Group Photo!

On Friday, Run Your Health gathered together for poster-making, team-building activities, and a group photo! It was so great to see everyone and connect! My schedule doesn't allow me to socialize as much these days! Thank you, Laura, for organizing such a fantastic weekend!

On Saturday, we all set off to support the Half Marathoners! We had a blast waving signs, high-fiving runners, and dancing in the street as we cheered everyone on! I even ran into my friend Dave Jenness, who I met at this very race a few years ago! That was a great surprise!


Sue from IllumiNITE and me at the Expo
 After the race, I stopped by the expo to pick up my bib and to hang out at the IllumiNITE pop-up store for a bit! It was so much fun helping runners find windproof and water resistent clothes for the incoming storm!

While at the expo, I got to hear global advocate for amputee rights, Adrianne Haslet, talk about surviving the Boston Marathon bombing and share her journey to recovery and beyond. Then she gave us marathoners a fantastic pep talk. I'll paraphrase because I was so engrossed in her speech I didn't write it down:

Adrianne said that when someone tells you that you cannot do something, they are coming from their own limitations, not yours. Adrianne said to ignore this advice, even if it's your own voice that's speaking. Her words carried me through the last few miles of the marathon on Sunday when everything in my brain told me to QUIT! Thank you, Adrianne, for inspiring us runners!

Saturday night, I had a wonderful dinner with my sponsor Sue from IllumiNITE. It was so great to just sit back, relax, and share stories about running and life! And the food was amazing! We went to La Cucina Sul Mare, who made sure that my meal was Whole30 approved. I'm officially finished with Whole30, but I'm trying to stick to clean eating while I'm training! I highly recommend this restaurant!

Before I knew it, it was Sunday morning! The weather held off for the most part—early on. I walked the mile to the start in my IllumiNITE Windbrite pants, IllumiNITE Featherlike jacket, and IllumiNITE Velocity gloves...and my big, fluffy bathrobe for extra warmth so my muscles could properly loosen up!

Almond-encrusted Salmon and shrimp
on a bed of greens
My goal was to run this marathon under five hours! My fastest Cape Cod Marathon was in 2017 when I did the Chowdah Challenge. I came in at 5:33:06. My fastest marathon ever was Green River in 2018 at 4:38. I knew I wasn't Green River speedy this year, but I felt under five was a good goal to push myself without pushing too hard since I'm running Athens Authentic Marathon just two weeks after Cape Cod.

Then we were off, and I felt the surge of energy from the 1,200 racers and thousands of supporters cheering us on! I hit 13.1 at 2:23, and I was going strong. Most of my miles were under 11:00 minutes (moving time), and I was only walking to quickly eat my fuel! I was set to finish under five!

Then the weather took a drastic turn (as you'll see in the video). Gales of wind hit so hard I could barely run! At mile 24, the conditions got so bad, it was too dangerous for me to run. I had to give in and walk. I was at about 4:30-sh at that point. It was really frustrating to know that the finish line was just 2.2 miles away, but I couldn't get there in under five hours!

Until that point, my IllumiNITE gear kept me warm and protected from the wind. But after walking for a mile, even the awesomeness of my windproof clothing couldn't stop the cold from seeping through. When I finally turned a corner and escaped the gales of wind, I tried to run. My legs locked up from fatigue and cold! I was forced to walk the rest of the way. I cried the last two miles. I questioned the insanity we runners must have to do this to ourselves.

Race Director, Jack Afarian, walks me in
THANK YOU, JACK!
But then, something amazing happened when I turned onto the final stretch and saw that finish line. Despite the bitter storm, the community of Cape Cod stood along the sidelines cheering! Friends screamed out my name! People hooted and hollered and clapped! It was just what I needed to make this final stretch.

And then a man walked over to me. He asked if I was okay. I told him yes, I was just cold. He said, "May I walk you in?"

He told me how proud he was of me finishing. He said I was almost there. I did it! He said a bunch of other encouraging words that I don't remember because I was so miserable and I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other so I could finish! I found out later he was the race director. Thank you so much, Jack Afarian! Your dedication and support and all your hard work is so appreciated! I am honored that you stood outside all day while we ran in this crazy storm and cheered us on to the end.

When I crossed the finish line, my dear friends Rich and Juliette welcomed me in the warmest hug as my friend Dave took video of my finish. Watching that video later, I see that I look so much happier and stronger than I felt inside. Further proof that that little voice in my head that said I couldn't do it is a liar! Thank you, again, Adrianne. I needed your words of encouragement! and thank you Dave for capturing this epic finish on camera!
Grateful Me, the morning after
Thank you EVERYONE for your support!

Juliette and Teresa helped me get food and took me to the medical tent to warm up by space heaters while my friends Kim and Rich got the car for me. A very special THANK YOU to you all for your extra support and care after my race. Your love and support made all the difference to me! It means more than you could possibly imagine. And thank you to everyone else who encouraged me and helped me along the way. Apologies if I missed your name. My brain was not working that well and most of that race is now a blur! But trust me, I appreciate ALL who supported me.

When I got my race results, I was floored! My marathon time was 5:10:57. I have no idea how I finished so fast, despite walking the last two miles! I am so proud of myself! I may not have met my goal, BUT I still ran my fastest Cape Cod Marathon in some pretty crazy conditions! Also, I'm proud of myself for not quitting BUT making sure I didn't injure myself, which is most important. Yay, ME!

All in all, Cape Cod Marathon weekend was a blast! It is still my favorite race weekend of the year! And now I feel so ready for my Athens Authentic Marathon on November 10th! Stay tuned for our IllumiNITE team race shirt reveal happening in the next few days!

Without further ado, I present to you my Cape Cod Marathon Weekend video!


Where is your next race? Comment below!


Friday, October 25, 2019

Falmouth Bound: Cape Cod Marathon

IllumiNITE Long Sleeve Reflective Women's Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite
IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite

Comet Running Tight
As you're reading this, I am Falmouth bound, and...I am so excited to be running the Cape Cod Marathon THIS Sunday! This is my favorite race weekend of the year, by far! Why, you ask? Because it's truly a weekend-long event!

A Facebook memory popped up the other week, reminding me that just three years ago I had completed my first ever 20-mile run. I was following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Marathon Training Program (I still do!), and 20 miles was the farthest distance I had to run before marathon day. I remember that day clearly. It was rainy and dreary out and my right foot hurt like hell (I had flexor tendinitis), but I was excited. I ran with my coach Laura, my best friend Loretta who got me into this running nonsense (Read my I HATE Running post), and another running friend who was also training for her first marathon. I told myself: If I can run 20 miles with an injury, I can run a marathon. And I did!

IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
Disclaimer: I'm not recommending anyone run with an injury. Injuries are no joke and should be taken seriously. I consulted with my physical therapist first. She put me on a strict no-running until marathon day respite after my 20-mile run. She also said she couldn't medically clear me to run the marathon. BUT she never knew anyone who had permanent injury from flexor tendinitis, so she understood if I chose to run it anyway. She was a runner so she got it. But I digress.

IllumiNITE Long Sleeve  Reflective Women's Piper Tee
IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Reflective Women's Piper Tee
This will be my fourth year returning to Cape Cod Marathon. The first year, I ran the relay. The second year, I ran my first marathon. The third year, I did the Chowdah Challenge, which was my favorite! Thanks to my sponsor IllumiNITE, I'm returning this year to run the new marathon course! I heard this new route is much flatter than the previous course that had 17 miles of rolling hills. Phew! This will be a great training run before my Athens Authentic Marathon in just two weeks, which I heard has hills! I also heard Cape Cod's new course includes more running along the ocean. I LOVE running by water, so this is an added bonus for me.

What do I pack for a New England marathon in October? 

IllumiNITE women's reflective Bling Vigor Singlet in Charcoal
IllumiNITE Bling
Vigor Singlet in Charcoal

& Shortie in Black
Good question! I truly bring enough clothes to start my own pop-up store because New England weather is so finicky, as I've mentioned before. So I bring: 
  • tank top
  • short sleeve shirt
  • long sleeve shirt
  • shorts 
  • capris

  • post-race outfit and Oofos sandals

  • skeleton knee-highs for the Halloween Spirit!


IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance
Softshell Fleece Jacket In Graphite

IllumiNITE Graphic Tees  Grim on Black and Power Stretch Capri
IllumiNITE Graphic Tees
Grim on Black
(post race)
and Power Stretch Capri
IllumiNITE Waterproof Reflective Women's Colorado Jacket in Mimosa Floral
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado
Jacket in Mimosa Floral

IllumiNITE Ambition Reflective Women's Hoodie in Coral Glo Black
IllumiNITEAmbition Hoodie
in Coral Glo/Black

& Unisex All Over Glow Glove
When running distance, it's truly better to be over prepared than freezing cold for miles and miles. I just received my latest IllumiNITE shipment that includes warmer clothes, so I will definitely add the following to my suitcase to be safe:


  • hooded pullover
  • rain jacket
  • heavy duty jacket (for when I'm not racing)
  • gloves 
  • head covering 


IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Men's Reflective Jacket  in Graphite/Flo Lime
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket
in Graphite/Flo Lime
I never truly know what I'm going to wear until the morning of the race! My decision is always based on a combination of the weather, my mood, and what feels most comfortable at that moment. We marathoners are as finicky as fall New England weather, and it's most important to avoid any clothing regrets—the mind gloms onto the zaniest things when running for hours on end.

I also pack my hydration pack so I can carry:

  • my 2-liter bladder
  • 2 handhelds for electrolyte drinks
  • my albuterol inhaler
  • a second pair of contacts (once, a contact popped out during a 50k! I got it back in, but whoa!)
IllumiNITE Reflective Halo Unisex Knit Hat
IllumiNITE Halo Unisex Knit Hat

  • rewetting eye drops
  • chapstick
  • salt tabs

  • ibuprofen
  • acetaminophen
  • naproxen

My hydration vest also allows me to stow away any layers if I get too hot!

IllumiNITE Hartford Reflective Men's Jacket in Red/Silver
IllumiNITE Hartford Men's Jacket
in Red/Silver
& Endeavor Long Running Short 
I also make sure to pack:

  • Flovent inhaler
  • wireless headphones and back up plug in headphones

  • bacitracin and bandaids

Why do I LOVE Cape Cod Marathon weekend:

2016 Cape Cod Marathon
The Expo is so fun! I always run into all my running friends here because we're all heading to pick up our bibs and our tee shirts. Cape Cod Marathon shirts are my fave race shirts ever! I wear them all the time! The Expo also has vendors galore! So if race jitters made you forget to pack something vital, don't worry! You can easily find what you need at the Expo!

I love exploring all the various running essentials and discovering new products to try. This year, I'll be hanging out at the IllumiNITE pop-up store, so come on by and say Hello! I'll show you my favorite products and chat about all things running—and whatever else you'd like to discuss!

Run Your Health Cape Cod Crew
The Running Community is strong! About 30-50 people from my very first running group, Run Your Health, come together this weekend to run. It feels like we're taking over Falmouth. Relay teams, half marathoners, full marathoners, and yes, even the Chowdah Challenge runners. Our families and friends cheer us on with the signs we make Friday night! And we eat pre-race and post-race meals together. I don't get to run with this group often anymore because I moved to another town, so I really cherish seeing so many RYHers in Falmouth! I've also made quite a few running friends while running Cape Cod Marathon, including @trainerhelice and @2018bostonmarathon4dad and @btrfli4u. We stay in touch via social media throughout the year to keep us motivated. It's great to maintain a strong online running community to stay inspired!

The Falmouth Community is so supportive! I've run many, many races, but the Falmouth community is by far the most supportive of race communities! Hundreds, maybe thousands, of residents line the streets on the course offering water, oranges, Halloween candy, and other refreshments to us runners. Many of them dress up in costumes, play music, dance, and cheer us all on! One guy even let us runners pose on his lawn with his elaborate Halloween display. Falmouth residents, I love you!



The Food is the best! I'll admit, when I first heard that clam chowder was served at the end of the marathon, my stomach felt a bit queasy. But come race finish, when you're stomach is rumbling and your sweat is running cold now that you've stopped moving, hot clam chowder is just what you need—followed up with those amazing apple cider donuts! Cape Cod Marathon has the best post-race food I've ever had in America! I must give a shoutout to all the Falmouth restaurants who gracefully handle feeding the thousands of people all weekend. Food has always been superb and service has always been provided with a smile!



IllumiNITE Long Sleeve
Piper Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite

Comet Running Tight

What distance will you be running this weekend and where? Leave a comment below!

And don't forget, if you'll be at Cape Cod Marathon, I'll be at IllumiNITE at the Expo on Saturday or somewhere along the marathon route on Sunday! Please find me and say HI!

IllumiNITE photos by Matt Francis Photography

Friday, October 18, 2019

I HATE Running! The Makings of an Ultra Marathoner



As I gear up for not one, but two marathons just two weeks apart in two different countries, I think back to how it all began...

I first started running because my best friend Loretta stopped being social, and I missed her terribly. 

"If you want to hangout," she said, "you need to run with me. I'm training for my first marathon."

"I hate running," I said. But I joined her the next Saturday morning at a nearby parking lot to give it a try. To my surprise, a bunch of people in real athletic wear were gathered around stretching and doing high knees and butt kicks. I felt so out of place in my beat up walking shoes and old sweats.

When it was time to run, I told Loretta: "We're taking walk breaks as often as I need them." 

Loretta and I at my first half marathon:
Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon 2016
My first "birthday" race.
"Okay," she said. She may have rolled her eyes.

"And you better not leave me," I said.

"I won't," she said.

"And don't expect me to run more than three miles. Ever. I HATE running," I reiterated.

"Okay," she said, this time with a smirk. And she kept her word...mostly.

When I first started running, I ran about 30 seconds and walked two minutes. Loretta did not complain once, even though I was being a terrible sport. So, I came back each Saturday to spend time with my bestie. I noticed how happy and excited the other runners seemed, and that confused me. We're running...for no reason...what's there to be happy about? But their joy became contagious. I decided to try harder to see what all this "happiness" was about. Over time, I was able to run longer and farther before taking a walk break. People noticed and congratulated my tiniest accomplishments. I'd never belonged to any club before. And I had to admit, it was more fun than I expected. Shoutout to Run Your Health!

But then, Loretta did the most despicable thing. She volunteered me for a relay marathon team at the Cape Cod Marathon. Before I could protest, the relay team captain threw her arms around me and exclaimed her excitement. The team couldn’t race without a fifth person. I knew I couldn’t let these people down. I had no choice but to run.

"You were going to the Cape to watch me run my marathon anyway," Loretta said. "You might as well run, too."

Shooting out the gate with all the other runners
Cape Cod Marathon and Relay 2015
Loretta waving to me as we ran
the beginning our first race together
Cape Cod Marathon 2015























My leg of the race was the first three miles, and I got to shoot out the gate with all the other relay runners and marathoners alike. The vibrating energy of the crowd was exhilarating, and for the first time, I felt like I was a part of something greater than life. Those three miles were excruciating. I had only run three miles without stopping once before, but I was determined to do my best, so I ran for my life. When I saw my teammates at the transition point, I felt like a rockstar. They were jumping up and down—cheering for me. FOR ME! And that was it, I was hooked.

Cheesing it with my first marathon medal
Cape Cod Marathon 2016

I bought a real pair of running shoes from a running store that fitted me for the perfect fit. Then:

Marathon Relay, turned into 
5ks, turned into 
10ks, turned into
Half Marathons, turned into 
Marathons, turned into 
Chowdah Challenge (half marathon on Saturday/Full on Sunday), turned into
Ragnar Reach the Beach (2-day, 200-mile relay race), turned into 
Trail and Mountain races, turned into 
Ultramarathons!

And now I’m running in multiple states, in other countries, on multiple continents.




Loretta ran right by my side through my first half marathon AND my first marathon. We ran side by side for Ragnar’s Reach the Beach for some of our legs, and she even ran on a few trails and mountains with me. Life gets busy, and Loretta and I don’t run together as often as we used to. Part of that is because our schedules don't always mesh, our running goals don't always match, and she isn’t too fond of trail running...or ultramarathons. But that’s okay. I still feel her energy and inspiration with me on every run.

Loretta and I celebrating after finishing my first marathon
Cape Cod Marathon 2016
Running has changed my life in ways I could never imagine. It’s given me the chance to see pieces of the world I would never see whizzing by in a car. It’s lessened my anxiety and increased my happiness tenfold. It’s helped me realize that I can overcome other obstacles or hardships in my life. I’ve learned nothing is impossible; some things just take more effort or patience or time or education.

I'm so excited to be running Cape Cod Marathon in just eight days! Especially since it's the race that sparked my love of running! 

Still, ask me on a bad run day, and I’ll tell you: “I HATE running.” But I also LOVE it. And I can’t imagine experiencing life without it ever again.

Is there something you thought you didn't like but learned to love once you gave it a real shot? Leave a comment below!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Wearing Pride: Westfield's 350th Race Series

westfield 350th jacket series group photo
350th Race Series Group Photo
I am a Westfield native, through and through, and I now have the jacket to represent my hometown!

 As part of its 350th birthday celebration, Westfield, Massachusetts, put on a race series where runners received a commemorative jacket upon the completion of five races. This series was a tricky one for me as I traveled a lot this spring and summer when most of the races took place. But as a native of Westfield—born and raised—I knew I needed that jacket, so I did everything in my power to make it happen!

gordy's first race sera rivers westfield ma
At the start line
Gordy's First Race 2019

westfield state college indoor track all-comers meet sera rivers
WSU All-Comers Meet 2019
photo credit: Heather Nunley
Every year, I run Gordy's First Race to start off the New Year running, so signing up for that one was a no-brainer. It helps me stay pretty tame on New Year's Eve, and it gives me an immediate goal for the new year. I was so grateful that the weather was mild this year! It was great to catch up with my running friends and start my new year off right! Then, in February, I ran the Indoor Track All-Comers Meet at Westfield State College, which challenged me like no road race ever has! I'd never sprinted before, so I was surprised to discover how fast I could potentially be if I ever get my asthma under control for longer distances!


sera rivers westfield half marathon
Westfield Half 2019
Photo Credit:
Kimberly Perron-Burke
In June, I ran the Westfield Half Marathon just a couple weeks after my Chesterfield Gorge Ultramarathon, so I focused on maintaining a moderate speed throughout the hilly 13.1 miles. It wasn't my fastest half-marathon, but I'm pretty proud of the consistency of my pace, which I often struggle with.

Three races down and just two more to go! I was getting excited! I had planned on running one of the Monday night runs in Stanley Park sponsored by Empire One Running Club. With all my travel over the summer, I made a plan to run the first Monday in September so I could qualify for the jacket. The original postcard I had received—way back when—stated that the park runs ran through September. But when I went online on September 1st to check the race's start time, I discovered the Monday night races had ended in August! 

Nooooooooooooo! 

Sera rivers brown bear invitational
Brown Bear Invitational 2019
Photo Credit: Mike Rose
I had worked so hard to make sure I could run FIVE races, and I needed that jacket. I emailed the series director, Vanessa Diana, right away and explained what happened. I even shared a screenshot of the postcard. I'm so impressed at how quickly she responded. She said they had sent out updated postcards. (I must have dismissed the second one.) But...then she informed me that a new race had been added to the series and there was still time to sign up! Phew! She saved the day! Thank you, Vanessa!

 So....

In September, I ran the Brown Bear Invitational 6k, which took us through my favorite woods in Stanley Park. I focused on speed as I hopped over tree roots and rocks and tried to keep up with all the 20-year-old college kids who left me inhaling their dust a half-mile in. It's humbling to watch an entire pack of runners disappear in such a short amount of time. I had to keep reminding myself: Sera, you're not 20 anymore. I'm quite proud of my time. I ran 9:41 minute miles, which is pretty speedy for me when running a trail race. And I'm super grateful to my boyfriend for cheering me on while I ran my heart out. It kept me moving! His picture of me crossing the finish line truly sums up the amount of effort I put into this race. I was dying!

westfield 350th jacket series group photo
Westfield 350th Race Series Group Photo
I'm behind the sign to the left of 1669
Before I knew it, it was October. And that meant the final race of the series. And jacket pickup! Run Stanley took me on a different route through the woods of Stanley Park. It was a nice recovery run after running 18 miles the day before. Kids raced, dogs raced with their owners, and then us 5k runners raced. There was music blasting, and physical therapists gave out free pre- and post-race massages. And I was ever so grateful for the post-race apples, as I was still on the WHOLE30 and couldn't eat the typical post-race carbs. Those apples tasted divine! It was so wonderful to see my Westfield community all come together to celebrate Westfield's 350th birthday!

westfield 350th jacket series
Wearing Westfield Pride with my Run Your Health crew
I love my jacket so much! I want to wear it everywhere. But what I love even more about this race series is that I revisited so many childhood memories as I explored the various streets, parks, and woods in my hometown—running by the very swing set my dad pushed me on when I was little, racing down the same streets my friends and I raced our bikes, trotting past my fourth grade teacher's home, plodding up the hill that eventually led to my first boyfriend's house. Each and every memory, even the sad ones, makes me proud to have such a strong history with my hometown.

sera rivers eighth grade westfield middle school
8th Gr. Westfield Middle School
My last year in Westfield
Before I moved back as an adult
This race series reminded me that Westfield is where I first learned about the world, both the good and bad, where I first fell in love and where my heart broke over and over again, and most likely, where I broke some hearts too. It's where I daydreamed of traveling far, far away and never coming back, and it's where I came back to raise my own son. And it's where I joined my very first running club, Run Your Health, where I found my love for running.

Westfield is where I call home, no matter where I reside. So I wear my jacket proud!

Happy 350th Birthday Westfield!

Have you ever ran a race series for a jacket? Share your story in the comments below!

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