Nowhere to Go but Up

When my mom called me last Saturday morning, she was a jangle of nerves. We were taking the train from Philadelphia to Manhattan that afternoon to tackle the New York City Marathon Training Series 18-Mile Run the next day. It would be her longest training run for her first marathon. It would also be her longest run ever, so the nerves were understandable.

When she asked me how I was feeling, it wasn’t just out of politeness. My grandmother on my father’s side had died two days before. She was 85, and my last living grandparent.

“Like I don’t want to go,” I told her.

“You know, that’s not exactly what I want to hear,” she said.

New York Times, September 21, 2019

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Running

“How’s it going out there?” my mom asked me when I called her the other night from Indianapolis, where I’d stopped on my drive out to Colorado.

“Hot,” I said.

“Here too. But I’m still on my way to the loop. Tonight’s that ‘don’t wear anything’ run,” she said.

“I hope you’re at least wearing pants,” I replied.


New York Times, August 10, 2019

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Why Run Marathons?

When my alarm went off at 4 a.m. last Sunday, I tucked down deeper into my pile of blankets and thought, “I’d much rather not.”

It was the morning of the Philadelphia Marathon, and it would be my 10th full marathon. I ran my first, also in Philadelphia, in 2011.

In between, I’ve run dozens of 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons, two ultramarathons and written a book about running. I’ve switched largely to running on trails now, so why would I pay $143.10 to run 26.2 miles on pavement that morning when I could have just gone out into the woods for a few hours, without a 4 a.m. wake up call, free?

New York Times, November 26, 2018

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My Imaginary State is Better Than Yours

Last summer, I went on a four-month, 16,000-mile road trip (plus flights to and from Hawaii from Las Vegas) to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. When making small talk with strangers, they’d often ask me where I traveled from.

“But you don’t TAWWWWWK like that,” they’d say when I told them I’m from New Jersey while riding on a national park shuttle bus, or checking in a hotel, or sitting at whatever local coffee shop I’d found in Tulsa, Bozeman or Denver.

“I’m from South Jersey. We don’t speak like that there,” I’d reply.

If I tried to just respond first with “South Jersey,” they’d look at me like it didn’t make a difference.

It very much does make a difference, to the point that in 1980, six southern counties in New Jersey voted in a non-binding referendum to split South Jersey off into the 51st state. It was largely a publicity stunt, but one meant to make a point about the organizers’ grievances, one being that state politicians took our tax dollars and flung them north, never to return.

The Outline, July 8, 2018

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How I Became a 37-Year-Old Snowbird

This is how I found myself crying early one morning in January: For the three weeks I had been living in a studio apartment in Daytona Beach, Fla., I had gone running four times a week. On that particular day, I ran down to the beach, turning right when I hit the sand so that I would see the sun rise.

The sight wasn’t new, but on that day I felt so good and warm and light that, just as the sun crested over the waves, that well-worn line from “Annie” blasted through my mind: “The sun will come out tomorrow.” And I burst into tears.

The New York Times, Feb. 28, 2018

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Why don’t romance novels get the respect they deserve?

In college during summer and holiday breaks, I worked in a mall bookstore. Our most popular promotion was a summer one: buy two books, get one free. Romance readers loved it. One afternoon, an older woman filled up a milk crate with books, and told me as she paid that it was “favorite day of the year.”

Our stockroom guy, who liked parachute pants, muttered “loser” when she left.

The Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2018

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Here’s The Deal With Listening To Sad Stuff When You’re Depressed

In January, I fell into a hole, one deeper than the usual series of potholes I hit every year when days are short and cold. No, this was a chasm; a bleak, black pit that swallowed me whole. That’s because this January, I was hit with the double whammy of my dog dying and being forced to sell my house, or else continue living next to the neighbor from hell. In the span of two months, I lost two things that gave me any sense of security — the two things that formed the foundation of what made me feel like I had a place and a home.

Buzzfeed, Oct. 8, 2017

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Memories of a Jersey Shore Town, Before a Boom

On a hot August afternoon in the late 1990s, I waited at Donnelly’s Deli in Avalon, N.J., for our family’s sandwich order. This was a rare treat. We were a bologna-and-cheese-on-white-bread kind of family, loading up the car with beach chairs and boogie boards and a basket of towels for the drive to the Avalon beach from our trailer at a campground a few miles away.

June 16, 2017, The New York Times

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Things I Wish I Had Known When My Dog Died

On Jan. 4, 11 years and 26 days after I walked out of an animal shelter in New Jersey with a little white and brown dog attached to the end of a brand-new leash, she died. On this day, an undiagnosed tumor pressed down on Emily’s brain and told her that she needed to escape, which made her usually soft, cuddly and often napping body go wild, endangering herself and me. The humane thing to do was put her down.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed. But if I could go back in time to console myself, I would tell myself these six things:

New York Times, March 23, 2017

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Crossing the Finish Line 25 Pounds Lighter

On a recent dreary morning I dragged myself to the gym. I’d run two miles in the rain earlier that day and really didn’t want to do my usual 20 minutes of weight lifting. But I showed up anyway and tried to blast myself through my routine with very loud and fast music playing in my ears.

I was about to cut my workout short when a trainer who works at the gym came over to me.

New York Times, October 8, 2015

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The stick shift: a love letter to a fun but fading American driving style

Last August, I flew from Philadelphia to Ft Worth to buy my dream car: a 2002 Jeep Wrangler. TJ model, soft top, cherry red, no rust and, of course, a manual transmission. “Of course” is, in part, tradition. Is a Wrangler really a Wrangler if it’s an automatic? No, not really – and I felt that way even though I had never driven a car with a manual transmission before. I wanted to become a member of this shrinking club: that of the stick shift driver.

The Guardian, August 18, 2015

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Extra incentive to finish the New York City Marathon

After I dressed for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, made sure I’d pinned my bib on straight, and put Clif Shot Bloks, ChapStick, and a $20 bill in my pocket, I took a Sharpie out of my backpack and wrote the number 261 on my right wrist.

“What’s that?” my mother asked.

“I’ll tell you later.”

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 9, 2014

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It’s All Good

“We are famileeee!” the silver-haired volunteer yelled, singing along with Sister Sledge’s disco classic as it pumped out over two speakers. He was standing on the side of Martin Luther King Drive in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, swiveling his hips to the beat, and holding out a plastic bottle of water for me.

Runner's World, June 2014

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Running as Therapy

I started distance running in 2007 because, in the short space of six months, the person I was dating left me for another woman, I bought a house (a rash decision) and my grandfather died.

I did not handle this well. As I was helping my mother pack up her parents’ house, I found myself too drained to move and lay down on the floor and sobbed. My mother suggested I try therapy. I signed up for a 10-mile race instead.

New York Times, March 20, 2014

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Shore Trip Confessional: Altercation on the Garden State Parkway

Last week I played hooky from my day job and drove to Cape May. The goal: Lock myself into a hotel room facing the ocean and work on a possible book project while enjoying what I consider a profound luxury — room service.

I was more than halfway there, on the Garden State Parkway just over the bridge between Ocean City and Sea Isle, when the front passenger tire blew. I pulled off to the side of the road, and after the shaking in my hands stopped, reached into my wallet to pull out my AAA card.

Philadelphia Magazine, March 26, 2014

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When a Woman Runner Becomes Men’s Target

My favorite thing to wear for cold-weather running is a pair of violet capri-length tights that I bought for $10 at the Nike Outlet in Atlantic City. The material is sweat-wicking, and the bottom-leg elastic is snug but not so tight that I can’t slip a pair of knee-high compression socks under them. This setup is more comfortable for me than ankle-length tights.

They are perfect for running, but when I wear them I become a target. My rear end was smacked by a group of men passing me on my way to the gym; a cluster of teenage boys paused while shoveling snow to give me their opinions of my butt; and two men in a City of Philadelphia vehicle yelled out of their window how they thought I filled out my colorful pants. (Yes, I reported this to the city. No, there was no follow-up).

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 17, 2014

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I Dream of Conniff

We weren’t allowed to listen to Christmas music in my family until our Thanksgiving dinner. Then we would play two albums in quick succession:Christmas with Conniff and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, both sung by the Ray Conniff Singers. These albums — vinyl, of course — would continue in constant rotation through New Year’s Day, along with John Denver and the Muppets, Anne Murray, Elvis, and a compilation from a variety of artists put together by the ladies of Avon cosmetics.

The Magazine, December 24, 2013

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Naked Face

…I still felt left out, already slightly behind the puberty curve. I wore a bra and deodorant even though I didn’t need them. I hadn’t gotten my period yet, and there was no reason to shave my legs. Makeup was one part of womanhood that didn’t need my body’s internal clock to forge ahead, and I could not participate. Even the Girls Scouts had marked proper makeup application as an essential life skill.

The Magazine, January 21, 2014

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Waking Up with Eczema

During my latest eczema outbreak, the routine was typical. I wake up and remove from my hands the white cotton socks that prevent me from scratching overnight, then press a tissue to my closed eyes to remove the pus and blood that have accumulated in the folds of my eyelids. In the bathroom, I try not to dwell too long at the sight of myself in the mirror before patting my skin dry and slathering it with lotion. I wrap bandages over the raw and weeping patches in the crooks of my elbows — a stopgap, really, since the bandages will soak through in several hours. I take Benadryl to calm the itching, and ibuprofen to temper the swelling and pain, before heading to meetings in an antihistamine haze. I hope no one stares, but they do.

New York Times, December 15, 2011

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What a Cow Taught Me About Running

What’s running rock bottom? For me, it was being passed by a cow in a half marathon. The cow was ambling beside a fence, and she outpaced me on only about 100 meters. Still, she did it.

Until then, I’d been running for about five years. I was an O.K. runner, better than most. I didn’t expect to be offered a Nike sponsorship anytime soon, but I usually placed in the top three of women in my age group for local races. Prizes included a gift certificate to a taco joint called Macho Taco, a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Shoes and a gaudy trophy with what looks like a man on the top. Nothing fancy, but validation that I was doing something right.

New York Times, August 18, 2011

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The Cost of Bliss? $1.15 a Cup

This year, there will be no more trips to Wawa. There will be no more $1.15 mornings and, sometimes, afternoons. This year, I am giving up coffee. I will take that $1.15 and buy myself something nice. That’s $8.05 a week, as much as $35.65 a month, and $419.75 a year. I could buy a winter coat, memory for my computer, a new TV. For myself, for the money, for the TV, I will break the $1.15 bind.

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 2005

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