My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he’s nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

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Jim at the Philly Marathon finish, a Boston Qualifier again!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, odds are you’ve heard me talk (write) about my brother in the past. If you’re new to my blog, let me tell you a few things. 

First, his name is Jim Saint-Amour (I call him Jamie but I’m one of the only people in the world that calls him that.)  Second, he’s my younger brother. The baby of the family.  According to my husband, he has two moms, me and our real Mom.  I admit it, I will always worry about him but that’s because I’m older and we’re close in age, only 15 months separate us. Mom always said that, growing up, I’d be the first to get in a fight-to-the-death with him, but I’d also be the first one to stick up for and defend him against anyone outside of our family.  Third, he helped me to finish a marathon back in 2007. When he found out I was going to do it, he offered to run it with me, at my pace, which, believe me, was a LOT slower than his!  He also carried a sign during the entire race, which he’d put over my head whenever we saw crowds, which said “Run Happy:My Sister’s First Marathon” to get people to cheer for me.  I think you need to read this post of mine about that experience, to really see what I’m talking about.  Did I mention he also carried an extra camelbak on his back, just for me, the entire 26.2 miles?  He did. 

While he’s younger, I can tell you that in at least one aspect of his life, I’ve always envied him and looked up to him.  That aspect is his positive, just go-with-the-flow attitude. I’ve always been the one that needs to have things planned out. He’s the one that’s been able to go backpacking across Europe and move cross-country, without having a job lined up, only to have a job on an Australian cruise ship land in his lap 4 days later. (Ah, the life.) 

So, over the past two years, while he was pursuing a job as a middle/high school special ed teacher in inner city NY, I could tell something was off. He was usually very stressed, and he sighed. A lot. So much so that when I visited him last year, I commented on how often I heard him sigh.  Without knowing I’d said something, that same weekend, his friends noted the same thing. 

Well, he decided to follow his heart and leave that job, to pursue a job working in the running/coaching industry full time.  He now works for Urban Athletics in NYC. He works in the store and is also part of their coaching program.  He is RRCA certified.  He does one-on-one training, is the speed-and-form coach at their downtown location, online training, and yes, he does also work with beginners!   

If you read his bio,  you’ll hear about his first coaching experience a few years ago, when he worked with individuals who had never run before.  I met a few of the folks from that program at the Philly expo last November.  Three of them were planning on running the half-marathon the following day. It was clear that they still looked up to him, and he’d helped them to nurture a true love of running, as I discovered at dinner that evening. 

Here’s what I am really happy about. Every time I talk to him now, even if he’s tired, there’s a lift in his voice that’s been back. I know it’s because he’s doing something he truly loves.  I can’t tell you how positive and knowledgeable he is, and how generous he is with that knowledge.  He won’t judge you. He’ll work with you, and you will accomplish your goals, and probably a whole lot more than you thought possible.   

If you’d like his contact information, just drop me a note in the comments and I can give you his personal email address.  Or, of course, you can contact him at the store (I’ m not great with knowing where things are in NY, but I believe this is their downtown location.)

2 World Financial Center
in The Winter Garden
New York, NY 10281
Phone: 212/267-2247

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the photo above is from the 2009 Philly Marathon, where, again, he qualified for Boston in 3:07 and some change.  And he was smiling. 🙂