Happy freedom day!

My husband and I celebrated the 4th of July this morning with a free five-mile run. It was my first run beyond about three miles for several months, and I’m excited to have done as well as I did. The course meandered through flat, shady neighborhoods where families came out to cheer the runners on. I saw fun costumes—including a guy wearing a tortoise shell back and hare ears on his head. But mostly there was lots of red, white and blue. What a great way to kick off today’s celebrations.

Our garden is celebrating with some natural fireworks (aka agapanthus). Enjoy some shots of them below. They’re the safest fireworks in this drought, but I imagine there will be plenty of real ones later tonight.

I wish you and yours a happy 4th of July! How are you celebrating this day of freedom?

Naturesfireworks2015_1FT Naturesfireworks2015_2FT Naturesfireworks2015_3FT


“USA! USA! USA!” Those chants filled my TV yesterday, as I watched the US team succumb to Belgium in the World Cup round of death. I’ve never been a soccer fan (can’t quite call it football yet), but for some reason, this year, I watched as many of USA’s matches as I could. Maybe it was because of the hilarious commentary from Men in Blazers—a British duo that made me laugh and comprehend and hope for a long Team USA run in this World Cup. They seemed more patriotic about American football than most Americans I know. They made me crave cupcakes, too. (Fortunately, I haven’t caved to that craving yet, as I’m still trying to shed pounds from that cheese-laden trip to Vermont.)

But y’all know by now that soccer isn’t likely to replace my favorite sport: track and field. My husband and I journeyed to Sacramento this past weekend to see the US Track and Field National Championships. This is considered an off year because there are no Olympics or World Championships later in the season. It’s the only year in a four-year cycle that this happens. Nonetheless, we enjoyed attending this championship meet.


The women’s 10,000 meter race. Kim Conley (in the coral shorts, hip 17) won the race.


The men’s 5,000 meters. Bernard Lagat (hip 8, 4th from right) went on to win the race.

Some of the races are harder to cheer for than others. I mean, how do you cheer for one runner when there are three or four you’d love to see win? The men’s 5,000 was like that for me Friday night. If we had stayed for the men’s 1500, that race would have been even harder for me to pick who to cheer for.

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Patriotic running

Happy 4th of July! I know some of my non-US readers won’t be celebrating tomorrow, but for most of my readers, tomorrow is all about red, white and blue; hot dogs, watermelon and potato salad; time with family or friends; and fireworks.

For many of you who run, tomorrow is also about racing hard to earn the aforementioned picnic fare without a guilty conscience. I did my “firecracker” race this past weekend, but I know that – at least here in the South – there are any number of July 4 races before the running calendar goes quiet through the worst heat and humidity of summer.

You know who else is racing hard right now? Our US elite runners. The 2013 US Track and Field Championship happened two weeks ago, and we’re in the process of figuring out which of those championship winners and runners-up will represent the United States in Moscow at the World Championships August 10-18.

It’s not a simple road, but for those who earn a spot on the team, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to do some patriotic running. My husband and I watched a new show called USATF 36, in which gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross talks about putting on the USATF tee shirt for tough workouts: “It’s my inspiration … this is why I do it.” She works hard to represent our country well, and wearing the USA Track & Field jersey reminds her that the end result of representing our country is worth the pain and effort.

There are two other athletes, though, that I want to focus on in particular this week. The first is Leo Manzano.

Leo Manzano carries the flag after making the 1500m U.S. team to the 2012 Olympics

Leo Manzano carries a US flag after making the 1500m US team to the 2012 Olympics

I became a Leo Manzano fan when I saw him run at the 2008 US Olympic Track & Field trials in Eugene, Ore. He runs with heart and with guts. He’s often the shortest guy on the track, but he doesn’t let that hold him back. I’ve forgotten where I read this, but one writer described him as running with “schoolyard abandon.” I can’t tell you often I think of this phrase as I’m out slogging through a run. That expression always makes me smile and makes me try a little harder in my own run. Continue reading

You’ll see these faces again

Happy 4th of July!

What better way to celebrate than with some photos of our 2012 US Track & Field Olympians? The trials were amazing this year: Ashton Eaton earned a world record in the Decathlon, Julia Lucas broke our hearts with a 4th place finish in the women’s 5000 meters, and Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix made history of their own with a tie (to the thousandth of a second) in the Women’s 100 meter final. And their story put track & field in the news for longer than it might otherwise have been.

For ten days, we cheered and cried and gasped and applauded and put ponchos on and took them back off as we watched spellbound to see who would represent the United States in this year’s Olympic games. Here are just some of the faces you’ll see again in London.

The women’s 5000 meter final, early in the race

The winners in the women’s steeplechase: Shalaya Kipp (l), Bridget Franek and Emma Coburn. As the stadium announcer said of the incessant rain, “Every hurdle is a water jump today.”

The men’s 200 meter winners. Wallace Spearmon (center) will have a chance at redemption in this year’s Olympics. In the ’08 Olympics, he had begun a victory lap thinking he had medaled, only to have officials disqualify him for stepping over the lane line.

In her final jump, Brittney Reese had to protest the judge’s initial call that she had fouled. The jump was declared legal, and it gave her the win.

Leo Manzano and Andrew Wheating celebrate making the men’s 1500 team. Both are Olympic team repeats.

From left to right, Shannon Rowbury, Morgan Uceny and Jenny Simpson take a victory lap to celebrate making the women’s 1500 team.

Several US Olympians show off the uniforms they’ll be sporting in the games.

We celebrate our independence from England today, but our best athletes are on the bus headed to London, where they hope to take over and bring home the gold.

Our flag flies over Hayward Field. Happy 4th of July!

How are you celebrating the 4th? And which athletes do you most hope will bring home a medal from London?