Congratulations to Monique Rubin of Mo Travels who is the winner of the a bold pace give-a-way! Monique is also a runner/writer and world traveler. She is an expat from California that now lives in the Netherlands with her family. Check out her travel/running blog Mo Travels. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
As runners we all engage in varying amounts of self-talk. Our inner conversations are amplified in the most defining moments of a race or run and for me sometimes, the only thing that gets me to the finish line. Cami Ostman’s book Second Wind, One woman’s midlife quest to run seven marathons on seven continents is a wonderful peek at the transcript of her inner dialog including an introduction to both the bitchy and wise parts of herself (yes, we all have these). A depressed Cami takes up running after her divorce and vows to take on seven marathons (actually so many more) on seven continents as her quest to heal. This cathartic journey is well documented in rich detail through each country. I enjoyed this book for many reasons. I share her love for running, travel and the relentless analytical quest for personal growth. This is a different kind of running book. There are no tips for better times, training schedules or supplements. This is about appreciating the journey of training, planning and running a race for the quiet lessons it extends. As each race presents an opportunity to run down her fears, she becomes more confident and self-aware. We are introduced to a cast of kind characters who aid her in her travels and offered a feast of cultural insights and natural beauty backdrops. I was reminded of Eat, Pray, Love and Women Who Run with the Wolves as I was reading. I am all for the warrior woman and I felt myself cheering her on in each city.
Running does for many of us, what it did for Cami. We challenge every ounce of our physical selves and by doing so we are forced to take a long, hard (26.2 mile) look at our inner life. I am reminded by this book to stand quietly at the start of my next race so I can perhaps hear the voice of my own warrior woman and what she is trying to tell me. Bravo Cami.
Second Wind was featured in the January issue of Oprah Magazine and noted in the Oprah online book recommendations.
10 questions for Cami Ostman:
1. Running skirt friend or foe?
I like the Nuu Muu exercise dress: http://www.nuu-muu.com/home.html – cute, comfy and covers the bum on days when the bum wants covering.
2. What is your idea of the perfect run? Details please…when, where and with whom?
The sun is shining (rare in my neck of the woods). It’s 72 degrees and the Dave Matthews Band is playing in my ear. My little Boston Terrier, Fuji, is running beside me on the gravel trail that weaves through our town. We stop at a pond at the three-mile point so Fuji can wade in up to her belly and get a drink and then we continue on to Starbucks so I can get a coffee before we make our way back home.
3. Describe your present state of [running] mind and your goals/races for 2011? Is there a marathon out there that really calls to you now?
I had some plantar fasciitis in my right foot at the beginning of the year, so I’ve been working hard at healing. I put in a lot of time water running and biking. I’m feeling great now! I just did two terrific half marathons: the Happy Girls Run in Bend, OR and the San Juan Island Half Marathon at Friday Harbor, WA. Both were fairly hilly, but I felt good after each and very encouraged. As for the marathon that’s calling me… My husband and I were in Punta Arenas, Chile last March, getting ready to fly to Antarctica. While we were there, we stayed for a few days at a hostel where we met two other Americans from Park City, Utah who were involved in organizing the Park City Marathon – http://www.pcmarathon.com/home1.htm. We promised we’d get to Utah to run the race, and it looks like this year we’ll get there. The course runs mostly on trails and has a downhill finish (my favorite kind). I’ve never been to Utah and look forward to the race and exploring surrounding areas.
4. What one training tool/item/gear can you not live without? And if the marathon is the metaphor for life, can you recommend a mantra to race with?
I cannot live without Body Glide. For better or worse I have a hefty bosom and in spite of buying the best sports bras, I still chafe. Body Glide is the only thing that totally prevents this and it’s less messy than Vaseline.
My mantra on a hard run (you know – the kind when you feel like you’re dragging a herd of elephants behind you) is “one step at a time.” I say one word with each step. And this is my mantra for life too. I’m a huge fan of being absolutely in the moment—not worrying about when something (a run or a long day at work) is going to be over or dwelling on the past. On some runs I repeat, “Breathe. Breathe.” It’s pretty basic, but we forget to do it sometimes.
5. Many of the marathoners I know (including myself) are obsessed with their training and diet. There was not much mention of these in your book. What did/do you use as your guide?
I’m not overly obsessed with my diet. Maybe if I obsessed a little more I’d drop five pounds and run a little faster. I eat mostly what I want in moderation. I do cut back on cheese and wine before a race, and I do try to make sure I eat in a balanced way with plenty of veggies and whole foods—and I don’t eat mammals. As I mentioned in my book, my family struggles with obesity, and I’ve always been grateful I figured out by the time I was twenty that if I exercised and didn’t overeat, I wouldn’t have to follow suit. Still, the older I get and the more I see my body changing, the more careful I’m becoming with what I put into my body.
As for my training, my husband, Bill, sketched out my first training schedule. He does a lot of reading about training and nutrition. I appreciated his attention to detail on that first round of training. When you’re first getting started, you’re just happy you can run from the end of the street to the telephone pole, so I needed all the help I could get.
Later I tried the Galloway system, but found that I lost my train of thought when I walked and that bothered me. My basic schedule now is that Monday, Wednesday, Friday I run 4, 6, and 4 miles respectively (sometimes 5, 7, 5). Then I do a long run on one of the weekend days. I gradually increase the length of the long run each week according to what I’m training for. Lately, I’ve been doing speed work and working on my form with a coach, too.
6. I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bill. I think many runners experience that back/front of the pack dynamic at some point and your willingness to let him shine elsewhere in the race stood out for me (and yet another metaphor on relationships). Was he always supportive of you writing this book and documenting your relationship and do you think you would have gone on this quest had you not re-connected with him?
Reconnecting with Bill definitely influenced my taking this direction in life. I think every relationship is mutually influential, and I’m so grateful Bill challenged me to try long distance running! As for whether or not he was into my writing about our personal struggles and shining moments, all I can say is that Bill is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He was always on the side of my writing what was true and meaningful to me, but there were a few times when he said, “Do you really have to tell everyone THAT?” And most of those things I took out—but not all of them.
On the same subject, if I could brag about Bill a little bit: He qualified for the Boston Marathon four times last year! He’s a terrific runner in his age group and I’m incredibly proud of him. We approach running from very different angles and love it for different reasons, but we’ve learned to appreciate each others’ perspectives.
7. I have known many runners who have made it through tough times (divorce, death, illness and even menopause) by “running through it”. What do you think is it about running that facilitates healing?
Running takes you from “here” to “there” in a very literal way. It requires a person to breathe during times when there is a lot of breath holding. Running engages the whole person, allows for introspection and makes space for processing difficulties. As I wrote about in the book, it offers rich metaphors that lend themselves to insights about how to move forward or find your pace or move through pain. All of this is not to say there aren’t similar healing qualities embedded in other activities, but running is simple. You just put on your shoes and go. The simplicity and basic-ness of it is reassuring.
8. The people that you encounter in each marathon resemble rich characters in great novels in that they act as the catalyst for the protagonist’s epiphany. From the Australian threesome, to the man in Yellow Coat (savior!), is there one person who had the greatest impact on you?
Well, Mel of the Marathon Maniacs from the Whidbey Island chapter stands out. I was so powerfully impacted by his story. He was running into his seventies with a cracked hip and this amazing, peaceful attitude. I’ve seen him many times since that first encounter. He just keeps going. Almost every time I show up to a marathon in Washington State, he’s there. And he doesn’t care at all how long a race may take him; he just slogs along perfectly content to be running, even if it takes all day.
Since I wrote about Mel, I’ve had other people contact me and tell me that they know him or they’ve run with him at some point during a race and that they’ve been challenged by his steadfast commitment to the sport, too. Then on New Years Eve this last year I volunteered for a race. I was staffing the sign-in table when Mel walked up to pick up his number. I didn’t know if he knew I’d written about him so I said, “Hey Mel, I wrote about you in my book.” He said, “Oh, I have it in the car. Will you sign it for me?” And I thought, OMG my hero wants me to sign a book for him! How awesome is that?!
9. The dominant thread of facing, and then conquering your personal fears through each race experience is inspiring. Have you received feedback from your readers on how your book has impacted their own running journey?
Yes. And that feedback has been one of the most meaningful things in my life. I’ve had people write and tell me that they bought running shoes for the first time in thirty years. Several women have identified with Julie’s story of losing 130 pounds and have told me their own stories of weight loss. And many readers have written to me about their journeys through divorce or losses and how running has kept them sane.
As a family therapist for the past twelve years, I’ve tried to help people through hard times and encourage them to take care of themselves. It’s been incredibly gratifying to be able to achieve that goal through the publishing of the book and through sharing my own foibles.
10. You mention your writing group at the end of the book. Can you tell us a little more about them, the writing process and how writing played a part in your journey towards healing and becoming the person you wanted to be? Will you keep writing? A destination marathon travel guide perhaps?
Oh, good plan. I like the idea of a destination marathon guide! I’ll get on top of that ASAP.
In terms of writing, I’ve been a writer all of my life, but most of it has been academic. I’ve kept my creative writing pretty private over the years, but when I started writing about running, things came together. I took a memoir writing class from novelist, Laura Kalpakian. She likes to say that I was the only memoir writer she’d ever met who was writing about something I hadn’t completed yet. I wrote this book AS I did the marathons. The fascinating thing about doing it that way is that all my self-definitions were being constructed more consciously than usual. I would sit down and think, “What did this race teach me? Who taught me that? What is the message I’m supposed to take from this?” While I do that generally in my life, I don’t usually have to figure out how to articulate those lessons to an audience. It was very profound.
My writing group was a small group of women who stayed together after the memoir class was finished, and they were/are like the backbone of my writing practice. They expected me to produce manuscript on a regular basis, and they served as my first audience. I owe a lot to them. There are different kinds of writing. Journaling is very personal and mostly never meant to be read by others; writing for an audience is a different and challenging experience. I would encourage women who are secret creative writers to find a class or group that will make them stretch to share their work.
Extra credit: We are all readers and I must ask…What are your favorite books and what should we be reading now?
I always have more books going than I can name, but right now I’m reading two in particular. One is by Marshall Ulrich called Running on Empty. I met him at the Boston Marathon Expo when I was there with Bill a couple of months ago. This book is his very personal story of what running has meant to him. He’s an ultra runner and in a totally different league than most of us, but he’s also a very down-to-earth man.
The other book I’m reading is put out by my publisher, Seal Press (books “by women for women”) called My So Called Freelance Life by Michelle Goodman. Michelle is funny and easy to read, but extremely practical in her advice about how to strike out on your own as a creative professional.
This year so far, I’ve also really appreciated Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and (for the millionth time) The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Thank you Cami!
Special thank you to my sister Rachel Allen who contributed questions to this interview.