Monday, April 28, 2014

The Run Now Relay -- Now, what am I agreeing to again?

We did it! We ran to Boston!!  And raised more than $63,000 for our partners in the process! 

I am so grateful to have been able to be a small part of this amazing adventure. You can see all our social media and press coverage here: 
http://runnowrelaylive.com/ and just some of the clips are below, including me running in slow motion (which really doesn’t look much different than how I normally look running) somewhere in New Jersey, and me on Good Morning America after no shower and no sleep- exactly how you want to appear on national television!

Good Morning America

News 12 in New Jersey

Times Free Press in Chattanooga 

The whole thing was a whirlwind, but let’s starts at the beginning.

Like most of my endeavors, I said yes to this with little understanding of what I was agreeing to (kind of like when I asked my recruiter after I signed my 
commitment papers for the Navy, how long the commitment is for. His reply began with laughter.) One of the main organizers of the relay - Matt R. - happens to be the father of my college roommates’ children (and, conveniently, also her husband) and he reached out to me in July of last year about potentially joining the team. Below is the timeline of events that ensued:

7/19/13, nearly a year before the run-Matt: "...would you be at all interested in participating (flying back to Cleveland and running the entire route with us)?"

I reply that I'm waiting to see if I got in the Navy and not sure where my life would be come April 2014. We agree that I'll meet up with the team in DC if nothing else. We keep talking for several months and I start to plan a DC run and media presence for the mid-point of the journey. I let him know that I'm up for running half the journey, if they could use me from DC to Boston.

1/17/14, three months before the run -Matt: "Dana, Talked to the planning team at lunch today...and I made a bold proposal of bringing you "officially" on the team...so
, if you are interested, keep reading....Now the Dana I know would NEVER pass up this type of "challenge", but maybe you've grown soft, maybe D.C. has made you a little wimpy . . . OR maybe you'll jump in, pony up ...and help us do some good stuff and run to Boston . . . what do you think . . . the challenge is yours . . . this message will self-destruct in 10 seconds..."

(He had me at "challenge"…)

1/23/14: I discreetly leave my desk to take a "professional" selfie in the bathroom for the Run Now website.

 I am now committed. 

And thus began a tornado of group emails, texts, requests, media inquiries, solicitations, preparations and out of office requests to my clients that simply said "Dana Out: Running from here to Boston." 

But I still didn't know many details. So I proceeded to try to walk the line of "being cool" and being a Type-A personality who ALWAYS NEEDS TO MAKE PLANS, DANG IT!! …I was partially successful.

2/4/14, two months before run -Me: "Hey Matt! I just realized I never asked how long my legs will be, I just blindly said yes haha. Do you know when I'll be running each day? No worries if not..."

2/4/14 -Matt: "Dana, Yes, you should have probably asked.  We have you down for 25 per day."

Heh, heh. Good thing he's kidding! …Right?….

The weeks go on and there's discussions about what we all need to bring to stay fed, hydrated, seen in the dark, and protected from vicious dogs... 
2/22/14: I’m able to attend one meeting in Tennessee, during which the discussion, at one point, turns to whether or not we can pack firearms on the trip. I picture us all getting thrown in jail before I even leave D.C.…

Time marches on and there’s repeated talk of this “being an adventure" and how we all “need to be flexible"… I keep flashing back to my Ragnar relay where all of our vehicles broke down and we were quickly reduced to disoriented shells of ourselves, eating cattle at two in the morning, because we weren't sure what time it was or when we could eat again…

3/12/14, one month out- Matt, casually: "We do not have confirmations on hotel rooms yet, so sleeping arrangements are going to be hit and miss at times!" 

I like adventure. I like adventure. I like adventure……

The team gets their "flight" assignments the week before the run. Each vehicle in the convoy of runners was called a flight. We had 5 total, each needed to collectively run 30 miles a leg. The legs were continuous -, day and night, rain or shine, on flat ground and hills, from Tennessee to Boston - so you may have a leg that starts at 1am then another one that starts at 8pm that night. It might be through a cornfield in West Virginia, or through downtown Manhattan. Since I no longer live in Tennessee, I missed the meeting where flights were assigned. Thus, right before the run started, I still didn't know what flight I was on or where/when/how far I'd be running and whether or not I should pack Kevlar...

4/9/14, one week out- Me, still trying to sound nonchalant: "....I'd love to see what my legs are if you have a chance to send...."

I know he and the other organizers must be losing their mind by this point trying to coordinate everything. But I can't help myself:
4/14/14, two days before I jump in one of the race vehicles: "...Can you send me my leg info?..."

I never did find out. But it didn't matter, because finally I discovered I was in Matt's flight -- which also happened to hold: The Race Horse.

More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Run Now

I mentioned before that I'm about to embark with a relay team running from TN to Boston to raise hope and $$ for Boston marathon bombing victims. I'm crazed trying to get ready to leave TOMORROW (!), but I wanted to leave you with the article I wrote for the Cleveland Daily Banner on why I joined this effort. See below. You can donate and follow our journey live, here: http://runnowrelaylive.com

Boston Strong!

Ayers: ‘I  can keep running’
by DANA AYERS Run Now Relay Runner
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I’ve been a runner for a little over 10 years. I never ran a mile until I was in college in Cleveland at Lee University. And even then, I only remember doing it once — and being really excited about it.

Then, after I left Cleveland in my early 20s, I moved to D.C. and began working as a staffer in the White House. My first year there, President Bush created a 5K race for about 200 people. I decided to do it, because how can you say no to running with Secret Service agents? 

That was my first race, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Running is sneaky. It’ll lure you in before you realize it. I started doing more 5Ks. Then 8Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers [and half marathons]. Finally, four years ago, I finished a full marathon.

And then, I said yes to joining this crazy 1,000-plus mile relay that my friends invented to raise support for the Boston marathon bombing victims.

Here are just three reasons why I keep doing this crazy running thing (and why I’m trading in vacation days, home comforts, space and sleep to become one small link in the Run Now Relay chain):

- Being a “runner” is belonging to something bigger than you. I pass strangers on every run who give “the head nod,” or wave, or yell out support. There is solidarity in the running community and support beyond just running. When you encourage someone at the finish line, you are encouraging them at life in general.

- It is free therapy. I’ve processed work drama, friend issues and heartbreak all out on the trail. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve tripped and fallen, but then I got back up, which taught me I can do that in other areas of life.

- Which leads to my last point: Running makes you feel fierce. When you push through more miles than ever before, or you run in nasty weather when others stay inside in furry slippers, you reach a deeper conviction about your own capabilities.

I remember struggling through a break-up once and a friend spurring me on with, “you ran a marathon, you can get through this!” It made me smile because she was right. Running taught me that I can persevere.

Running has become a companion to me. That’s why when Boston happened, it hit me more deeply than most tragedies. I remember walking into a meeting with my boss, and I was tearing up, just murmuring, “they got their legs … this is a running event, and they got their legs …”

That’s why I’m doing Run Now. If there was a way to rise up in solidarity with the running community that has embraced me all these years, if there was a way to give something to help the bombing victims, I was in. Those bombs attacked my fellow runners. They are the encouraging race supporters I depend on. Run Now stepped up as a response, so I happily stepped up with them.

So what do I expect from this ambitious journey?

I expect more head nods and waves along the way.

I expect some free therapy during stretches of time where it’s just me and the pavement.

I expect days when I’d rather be in furry slippers.

I expect barking dogs, rocky paths, sleep-deprived self-pity and days when my legs feel like they weigh 200 pounds each. I even expect some smelly relay vehicles.

But then I expect to feel the same way I always feel when I’m struggling to get through the annual Army 10-Mile Race in D.C. – and I pass a veteran running on a prosthetic leg.

I’ll feel grateful. I’ll remember why I’m running. I’ll remember what a privilege it is to be healthy enough to run. I’ll be fueled by those who refuse to back down after tragedy.

So yes, having done long road trips and even multi-day relay events, I don’t expect this to be easy or always entirely enjoyable. But I 100 percent expect it to feel meaningful.

I’m already inspired by the efforts of the relay organizers to come up with such a crazy idea. I’m inspired by the lengths to which some of my teammates have gone in order to train for this; some had never run more than a couple miles before. One is determined to run a marathon each day of the journey, and another has gotten up at 1 a.m. just to make sure he logged his miles. They’ve all worked to make sure we raise money — and awareness — for the victims.

That kind of dedication and humanitarianism is exactly what I’ve come to know as a hallmark of the running community. There were stories last year of Boston marathoners who continued to run several more blocks after finishing just so they could donate blood to the victims at the nearest hospital. That is the spirit of the running community I love.

That is the spirit I see in this team.

I can’t take away what happened last year in Boston, but I can stand in solidarity with runners and with the victims. I can do what those blood-donating marathoners did last year in order to help: I can keep running.

Read more: Cleveland Daily Banner - Ayers I can keep running 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy Laurel Resting

I was hanging out with old friends this weekend, including the Goldfish Poodle, and we were talking about our jobs, and lives, and goals, and at some point - someone candidly admitted that they just "didn't have much of a work ethic right now."

To which I immediately jumped in with a "Right? I want to rest on my laurels. Laurel resting. That’s what I want."

My friend Gina had never heard the expression, so she asked what a laurel was. "Like the Laurel tree?"

Me and Goldfish Poodle: "No! That's stupid."
Him: "..It's like resting on your accomplishments..."
Me: "...It's like resting on your hips...wait. It's accomplishments? I thought it was like - haunches...." *starts gesturing to hip area*

Gina was not convinced. So we looked it up.

And it definitely is related to the Laurel tree. And not at all about haunches.

 laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen...In common modern idiomatic usage it refers to a victory. The expression "resting on one's laurels" refers to someone relying entirely on long-past successes for continued fame or recognition..." 

Well, in any case, the thought of resting was really what I was going for.

I get overwhelmed sometimes in D.C. because it's always about the next thing. "Great project - how are you going to make it better?"  "Bigger?" "What innovations are you adding next?" "Let's make sure you are stretching this year...."


I'm so sick of stretching. I'm already stretched, people. I'm 73 minutes into a Bikram yoga class, stretched, ok? How about giving me a second to just be. In all my stretchy, flexibleness. How about just maintaining whatever thing it is I've been working on building, and not immediately think about how to improve or change it. How about I stop rolling for two seconds and let myself gather moss. How about some moss-gathering as a goal?

And when I talk about laurel resting, it's not that I think I have all these...laurels. To sit on. I'm not saying I have these major achievements that will keep me "relevant" or " successful" for years to come. I just mean - is it so bad to not have a near-term plan for growth or expansion?

I'm also not saying it's a good idea to just become apathetic and complacent, but how about maintaining the status quo briefly, just to re-energize? And furthermore, how about we stop for a second just to bask in the completion of the last thing?

I read this the other day and it explained my thoughts well:

5 Ways To Make Your Life Something To Look Forward To Again                               "...Our minds will be too busy thinking ahead, moving on to the next task without enjoying the moment we’re living in. Our minds need time to reflect on what is happening and on what just happened. Without reflection, we lose joy and excitement. We enjoy most things after the fact. Don’t take time to enjoy them after the fact and you won’t be as excited for them the next time around. You’re excited for the joy and happiness you experience, not the actual activity." - Elitedaily.com

Exactly. And that's why I just paid good money to voluntarily buy a cap, gown, and hood, and plan to take off a day of work to walk across a stage somewhere in Baltimore next month. To honor the fact that I gave up my social life, and at times my sanity, for two years to complete an advanced degree.

No, it wasn't a graduation requirement, and yes I've already walked across a stage for high school and under grad. And heck, I've never even been to the main campus of my graduate school Johns Hopkins University since I took courses at their satellite campus in D.C. But you know what? This is the only time I'll ever get my first Masters (probably only Masters - DON'T YOU PRESSURE ME INTO ANY OTHER DEGREE, YOU STRETCHY, FORWARD MOTION-OBSESSED WORLD), so that deserves some pomp and circumstance.

Perhaps I'll even make my Out Of Office email message something like: 
"Currently resting on my laurels. Please try to make someone else stretch today."

I suggest you give your laurels a good sitting on today as well. We've all earned it.