Fork in the Road, continued


Sometimes when I’m confused, writing helps me figure out what is going on in my head.  After my mom said we should invite my lady runner friend (her name is Jo, I learned at the race she invited to) over for dinner, I had this very negative reaction.  It came out of nowhere.  Bam! Oh, I didn’t let on, I told my mom the invite is a great idea.  She wanted to get all busy planning the menu and date right away, but I managed to mumble something about needing to work on a school project and scooted away.


Jo’s note to me.

So now I’m in my room, thinking and making a random list of my feelings.  I’m not ashamed of my house or anything.  And I really would like to get to know Jo better.  I think I just want to do it on my own terms, at least at first.  It’s like I don’t want to share her, not yet.

Because she makes me feel special.

I mean, I don’t own her, but running is something between us, just us.

Because maybe this could be my first adult friendship…..

…..which would be good because sometimes my friends at school drive me nuts.

Because I already share EVERYTHING with my family.

Because my wonderful mom will cross examine her because that’s just mom’s style.

Because she seems shy.

OK, and because I am shy and will probably clam up with my family and me all around her.

Because the questions I have for her are most probably not my family’s.

Because she invited just me to her house.

And the house looks like this.F4AC6DFB-5104-4CB0-8C10-58C544AA5213

And she told me to it was ok just to sit in the chair if she wasn’t there.  I think she’s noticed I usually have something to read  stuffed in my pocket, even when I run.

Because I want to figure out how to tell her that she’s inspired me, but without being geeky about it.

Because why she keeps running is something I think about a lot.

Because I want to listen to her.

Because my grandpa told me everybody has a story and each one is different.

Because I need to know the ways hers is unique.

Because I wrote her a poem.

A Theft
Photos in my World Culture book
A girl,  my age,  in a dusty land
Staring into the camera
So serious, so beautiful.
Did she think her soul would be lost?860B227C-E4E3-43F6-8AEA-9DB64B518BD4

Can you capture a little of another’s energy
With just a snapshot?
I think that’s what I was hoping
When I took your picture:
You were running along the bridge.

I had to get home for supper.
It was twilight and you looked as if
You could just keep running into the sky
So strong, so ethereal.
Did you feel me steal those few rays of your soul?

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A Fork in the Road

blues 9

I met, or I guess I should say, ran into, this old lady about a year ago. We actually didn’t run into each other, but we did meet running on the bridge near my house. At first, we just nodded at each other. She was always smiling.   I liked that, ‘cause you know people who don’t run like to rag on runners for looking so pained while running.nod

Every once in a while, we’d be going in the same direction and would race each other a little. She was fast for someone with grey hair!
The first time I saw her was the first time I went for a run. The next day, I went out again, in part to see if she’d be out there. She wasn’t, but I kept running anyway.

I ended up going out for the cross country at school after that and made it, so she’s sorta special to me. Turns out, I like running and am good at it. Coach says if I keep running strong, I have an “excellent shot” at a scholarship.
This development has made my mom most extremely straight fire– so long as the CC team doesn’t get in the way of my grades, of course. She’s been one-tracking on my brother and me going to college: working two jobs, being all over our homework and grades, sticking little ‘motivational notes’ in our lunches. Yes, for true. C5C3C852-05F0-4EDC-8122-9BBC253E7472She finds time to do that last bit real regular.
One day last summer I was on the bridge and I’d forgotten to bring water. (I’m usually not that lame.) I guess I was looking not too smooth.

The lady happened to be running toward me. She stopped and pressed her water on me, saying she’d parked at the foot of the bridge and was only a half mile in so hadn’t touched the bottle. Once she was sure I was not going to keel, she squeezed my shoulder and was off, hurdling up and over.
After that, we kinda stutter-stepped talking with each other from time to time. I handed off a GU to her to repay her for the water (and to show I knew it was important to maintain your balance). A few weeks later, she gave me a race notice, explaining there were running shop gift cards for age group winners.

That helped me convince my mom to pay the entry fee, and gave her bragging rights when I indeed danced through the door with one, and a cool trophy.B72F1156-3EAF-419F-94EA-559BE834FDCB

Mom said I should ask the lady over for supper. That threw me, I admit. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about my home or mom (ok, my brother is only semi-civilized, but he can hold it together for a meal). The lady was just sort of “mine,” which I know sounds crazy.

The next time I saw her, I flagged her over, meaning to offer the invite. Before I could, she handed me a paper. “It’s my address,” she explained. “You could run there.” Then she ran off before I could say anything.

I’m thinking I want to take her up on her invite before I deliver mine.

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Sometime what you’re searching for is right where you left it.

Walking is the new running. At least for me, for now.616BD31A-A72A-485F-A4C5-F378133F7593 After an extended period of self-pity and depression, I dug out my big girl pants. After I washed and ironed them, however, there remained one problem. I couldn’t get them on. It wasn’t that they didn’t fit, just that I could barely move my legs.   Osteoarthritis, which usually develops gradually, had washed over me like a tsunami, taking out both hips within a year.


Thanks to the very adept and compassionate orthopedic-surgeon Dr. Guzman, I am now able to move about the world without crippling pain. He performed a TRHR (total right hip replacement) on me in February, then a TLHR in March. I’m already back to work, walking without a cane, and tracking my distance, e.g., 4 miles Saturday and 4.3 on Sunday.


Isn’t it ironic…….when a Titanium Maniac* ends up with titanium hips?   Because of course one of the few activities not recommended for folks who’ve had THRs is running.  24EC0FDC-F39D-4CAB-A54E-A1FDEC1A887BOver the past year, I’ve been cycling through the 5 stages of loss. [Kubler-Ross] They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

Only recently have I managed to reach “acceptance,” or at least, I think I’m there. Oh, I haven’t closed and locked the door on running. There’s going to be at least one run in my future. I wrote a piece, “Last Things,” wondering if I would recognize my last run. My answer I know now is yes.   I will plan out a walk/run when I’m able, to appreciate running one more time.

And I admit to following (and possibly joining) a group, hiprunners, on twitter. The members are runners who have had at least one THR. I like their attitude and determination. That they fly, or run, in the face of medical advice is perhaps not the wisest choice, but most of them have decided to take their chances.

If I do ever run regularly again, it won’t be a marathon or any type of distance event, it won’t be every day, and it will very likely be much slower. And so I am here on walking’s doorstep, leaning on the doorbell in hopes of being welcomed back. My long-term relationship with walking began back when my mom would put on her flats and invite me along on one of her urban rambles. I loved being with her on these jaunts, idly talking about whatever came into our heads, observing the seasons and scenes around us. After I moved away from home, walking, whether with company or alone, became a daily habit.
…Until I started running in earnest. I scorned walking as running’s poor cousin.  I stopped appreciating it and didn’t write about it.  Now I’m back like an old lover pleading: “I need you.”   To be whole, I have to find something I can do outside that I can love. Maybe walking and I can make it this time. “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” – J.K. Rowling



*Marathon Maniacs is a national running club. You can reach Titanium in several ways. I did it by running 30 marathons in one year.

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Graceful should come naturally,

not achieved after grim struggle

but worn with casual chic

like Audrey Hepburn donning a silk scarf.


Elegance too; seemingly easy

and simple—often cloaking years

of sweat, pain and struggle—

like Misty Copeland, dancing.


Smiling, I approach the winner

while extending my hand.

Proper congratulatory phrases flow

pleasantly from my lips.



But the bit of Welsh (my coalminer grampa)

in me wants not to be pleasing.

It wants to rage against

the inevitable slowing of the pace.



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Now Jodi….

“There’s a thing that keeps surprising you about stormy old friends after they die; their silence. -Ben Becht


“It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them, but it takes an entire lifetime to forget them.” -author unknown

Two months ago, my friend died. By now, the world expects I should be “over it.”  Especially because when she died, we lived thousands of miles away.  Even when we were in the same place, the basis of our friendship was work.  Jodi was—and how I hate having to use that word– the Administrator in the PD office where I worked for about 7 years.  She kept me company in irreverent humor; she had the ability to make me laugh no matter how dark the day seemed.  She was smart and did not suffer fools, not even poorly. She had a tender side, witnessed by the many people she quietly befriended throughout her life, including other people and children with cancer, even while fiercely fighting her own.  I still find myself scanning through my Facebook posts looking for one of her wry observations before I remember there won’t be another one.605harleychick-1389573468_140

While she wasn’t a runner, she understood me on a level that at least in part grew from a shared devotion to taking off and going on trips to pursue our respective passions. For Jodi, it was on her beloved Harley, most often with her friend Janice.  I’ve been going back to Rapid in August to visit folks and run my friend’s race for the past few years.  Soon after I returned home in 2014, she was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She has two fantastic sisters and a great mom (Jodi was only 48) and was doing well on a Mayo-designed course of treatment.  I saw her last August and she looked great, had some minor beefs with the med side-effects, but was her usual witty, down to earth and observant self.  We’d been in touch over several things this year and I was looking forward to seeing her again in August.

She wrote something a few years ago, maybe about 6 months before her diagnosis, that captures a bit of her spirit. It’s strangely comforting, along with being good life advice.  (Her last Harley is root beer colored: she called a really good ride “floating.”) harley


April 22, 2014 · Rapid City, SD ·by Jodi McDermand


Tonight was my annual meeting with my financial adviser and I went prepared for the same friendly lecture he gives me every year.

Now Jodi, didn’t we talk about you doing….Now Jodi, why aren’t you….Now Jodi, what happened to you investing…..Now Jodi, you didn’t…..”

“Yeah Joe, I know. I didn’t do any of the things you told me to do or that I said I would.”

Now Jodi tell me, at what age would you like to retire?”

“I don’t know Joe, I haven’t really thought about it.”

Now Jodi, how much do you have in your 401K?”

“I don’t know Joe, I’ve never checked.”

“Now Jodi, what about tomorrow?”

“I don’t know Joe. I’m not really worried about it.”

“Now Jodi, how can you say that?”

“Well Joe, it’s like this. I’ve been paying attention to my life and I’ve decided I don’t want to live it like so many people do. In a hurry for something else to happen – tomorrow, or next week or a year from now. I don’t want to spend my time in a hurry or worrying about things that haven’t happened. Instead I want to focus on today and I’ll worry about tomorrow if and when the time comes.”

“Now Jodi, when you do retire, do you think you’ll have enough money set aside to be able to do the things you enjoy?”

“I don’t know Joe, but what I do know is this: When the time comes for me to retire I will never look back and have regrets about the memories I’ve made getting there. I’ll never regret the money I spent on my motorcycles or all the money it took to keep them serviced.

I won’t look back and say to myself if only I hadn’t wasted all that money on road trips, and the millions trips I took to Yellowstone.

Or, damn it, if only I hadn’t taken that trip to Glacier where I finally got to mark off my bucket list seeing a bear and Floating the Road to the Sun. Or what about that time I Floated southern Utah and spent all that money on a national parks pass but got to witness Zion, Grand Staircase, Capital Reef, Arches and Dead Horse State Park?  And wasn’t that the same trip I wasted all that money but got to Float the Moki under a full moon?

And holy crap!  I spent a ton of money that weekend I rode Idaho! And I want my money back from the trip to WA and Floating the Pacific coast highway!!! Those weekend trips riding to Bozeman to eat at the Naked Noodle were so frivolous of me. And what a waste of money on countless tanks of gas and a ridiculous amount of money spent on tires getting me!!!   Joe, you’re right. If only I hadn’t spent all the money on doing the things I loved, when I was able to do, I’d be able to retire with a ton of money in the bank but absolutely no memories to go with it.  Joe, I might not have much money when I retire but I will have a ton of memories and that will be worth more to me than any amount of money.”

“Jodi, I have to tell you, I have never met anybody quite like you. And please know that is a compliment.” jodi




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Be Extraordinary! (here’s how…)

{Use this code to get 15% the Asheville Full, Half Marathon or both: AMY2017AMAROCKS}

Running more than one race in a weekend. Yes, you can do it.  It’s fun, different and just the thing to shake up your running routine.   Let’s make our paths cross at one.  In 2014, I ran the Asheville Marathon, thanks to my friend Jami.  She told me about it, and our friend Carolyn decided that would be her first marathon.  It was a most excellent choice.

Now comes the Asheville Backyard to Biltmore Challenge. This one is going to be special.  I’m really excited about it and hope you will join me.  The half marathon is Saturday, March 11, 2017 and the full is Sunday.   There’s  a cap on the races, and they fill up early, so sign up now.

Situated on the grounds of the Biltmore House, the largest private home in the U.S., this is a truly unique course.   Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park, created the Biltmore Gardens.  We’ll run through those.  Lest that sound a trifle tame, there’s also the striking westside of the course.  You’ll find some rolling hills to conquer, as well as old carriage paths, dirt/gravel and rocky roads.

Trail runners will delight in running on softer surfaces than asphalt and concrete.  Road runners like me can navigate the less civilized stretches so long as we leave our more minimalist shoes at home.  I love the juxtaposition of the cultivated swards of grass with the more natural terrain, complemented by glimpses of horses and farm animals in the meadows.

The Challenge affords us two days to delight in this 8,000 acre estate.  To prepare for it, you just need to tinker a bit with your traditional marathon plan and take into account a few other factors.  Of course, you should have run a few half and full marathons before taking on the challenge.EscapingOrdinary

You want to build your base through the end of 2016.  Challenge training then begins in earnest January 1, 2017.  Run 14 miles that Sunday.  During the week, follow a plan you’ve used with success.  Consider backing off of the more intense speed work: go slower, or decrease the speedy intervals within the same mileage amount.  Continue with that approach for the duration of Challenge Training.

Beginning with Saturday, January 7, run both weekend days, gradually increasing your distances.  That will be our pattern for this training.  Run 6 miles on Saturday and 16 on Sunday, the 8th.  The next weekend, run 8 and 18, then on the 21st, run 10 and 20 on the 22nd.

extra ordinary 3

You, being extraordinary


Cut back the last full January weekend to just 7 on January 28 and 14 on Sunday the 29th.  The following two weekends, run 8 on Saturday but go long on Sunday.  I’m going to run at least 20 on both; I’d say 18 is the minimum.  That brings us to February 18 and 19.  This is the toughest weekend: run 10 Saturday and 22 on Sunday.

After that, taper.  Reduce your mileage as you normally do, but keep on running both weekend days.   During your taper, consider your Challenge Goals.  Going for a PR in both races would be setting yourself up for Major Injury.  So don’t.  The best goal, especially if this is your first challenge experience, is to set a non-time goal.   Always wanted to try run/walking?  Now’s the time.  Incorporate it in your training.  If you don’t run with your phone, try a disposable camera and take shots along the way for your book of Golden Memories.

Just completing a half marathon and  a marathon within a weekend puts you in a special, extraordinary class.  So make your goal to make the most and best memories you can.  Those, along with your achievement, will be yours forever.


‪#‎ama‬  ‪#‎avlmarathon

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Double-dipping: 0f Pirates & Flying Pigs

double-dip-seinfeld (2)Do you double or triple dip?  No, not the kind involving chips that is socially taboo.    I’m referring to running more than one race in a weekend.   A lot of runners in the 50 States Club and Marathon Maniacs have been doing this for some time.  You find two marathons geographically close and take care of two states with one trip. I’ve done this, e.g., Martian Marathon (MI) and Glass City (OH) one weekend, Breakers (RI) and Mystic (CN) on another, the Route 66 Marathon and the Oklahoma Marathon, both in Tulsa, because why not?  With the help of some running friends and a plane ride, also managed Rocket City (AL) and Dallas White Rock (TX) one memorable December weekend .

Then there’s running a 5K the day before a marathon as a little shake-out run.  I just did that in Green Bay last month, at the Cellcom Marathon. The 5K featured lots of kids representing their schools, and finished with the famous loop around Lambeau Field.  This April in Boston, it was meaningful taking part in the Watertown Police “Finish Strong” 5K, a tribute to the community that was locked down while the search for the marathon bombers ensued for several days in 2013.

What really interests me are the organized running challenges.  One of the oldest is the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa.  When I first ran this, we took on a 5K and 15K Saturday and a marathon Sunday.  imageNow, the marathon’s been replaced with a half marathon and an 8K.  That’s the Ultra Challenge; there are other combinations for those looking for a bit less mileage.   I’ve run the newer version the past couple years; it’s a major event here on the Gulf Coast.  Attracting families, casual and serious runners, the GDC feels as if you’re in a movie: Runners Rule Tampa!  There’s a Pirate Theme, and extra bling to those undertaking any of the advertised race combinations, including a jacket and additional medal.  Check it here: RunForTheBooty .

A new-to-me challenge is offered by the Flying Pig Marathon, in Cincinnati.  Reminiscent of the earlier Gasparilla, the Pig offers the “Skyline 4-Way Challenge.” flyingPigLogoLarge In addition to running the marathon on Sunday, you run a 5K and 10K on Saturday (the 3-Way is the half on Sunday, so you seem to get 2 of the “4-Way” with the marathon distance).   For the greedy, there’s the “4-Way w/ Extra Cheese,” involving a Mile run on Friday evening.  See for yourself: Pig 3 & 4 Way

Even though it’s over ten months away, I’m all registered.  What can I say?  In addition to loving running, I delight in cheese; I even ‘ran’ the cheese department for a gourmet food shop when working my way through grad school in Boston.  Besides, it should be a culinary adventure.  Skyline Chili is chili, cheese and onions served over spaghetti, I am told.  oMy training plan so far is to delay tasting this unique dish until after completing the Challenge.  After all, I have to earn it, don’t I?

While it may seem early to sign up for races in 2017, Challenges seem to have limited spots and may sell out long before race day.   Be bold: double or triple dip.  After all, it’s summer.   Lots of time to train and anticipate the fun in your future.



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imageIf running was scorned,
And people laughed at runners-
I would still go run.

In old clothes, worn shoes,
I sneak out, before the birds
can raise an alarm.
The pre dawn dark cloaks
my lonely loping figure,
seeking the shadows.

Eyes adjusting, there-
Under a palm, another
runner, sprinting hard.


She nods, passes me
a sprig of thyme, symbol of
our alien bond.
We run on. Rooted
in our souls, this need to glide
steps above the earth.


#Orlando  #loveislove  #Pulse

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Last Things

Last things, last times.  Some life events are marked by observances or ceremonies so that you remember them as being “the last.”  You may recall your last day in high school or the last Christmas your kids believed in Santa.  last dayPerhaps you’ve given up a bad habit but still vividly recall your last cigarette, double scotch, trifecta bet or banana split.

There are so many other things or occurrences we enjoy for the last time without the knowledge that indeed, this is the last.  When was the last time you spent a summer afternoon lying the grass looking up at the clouds or the last time you swung on a swing?  The last firefly or butterfly you caught in jar?firefly2

One of my favorite pieces of on running, I Remember Running, was written by Darcy Wakefield.  At 33, Darcy was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a fatal condition.  Before long, she was unable to run.  After recounting some of the places and times she had especially appreciated running in her life, she went on to describe herself as “continuously mourning running.”  Reflecting  back, she tells us she wished she had known those were her last runs because “I would have appreciated every hill, every post-run high, every minute my legs moved in that way we call running.”I Remember Running

Even for those of us who love running, there are days when we head out on our regular route with more of a sense of obligation than of joy.  Sometimes it is because the weather isn’t ideal, or we’d rather stay in bed, or accept that lunch invitation from a co-worker.  Maybe it’s because following a training schedule feels tedious or confining (‘but I don’t want to do speed work today!’)  Still, anyone with a “runner’s soul,” as Darcy Wakefield portrayed herself possessing, will soon miss running if laid up with an injury or otherwise prevented from running for too very long.

While I know that some run in my future will be my last, I am hoping it is in the far distant future.  In the interim, I try to remember to appreciate each day I am able to run.  Some days, when I particularly relish a run with a running buddy, I’ll tell them if that was to be my last run, I wouldn’t change a thing.  It’s my way of appreciating the gift.  Running makes my life more balanced and joyous.  Not running makes me crabby and sad.   speedsters

After she could no longer run, Darcy  Wakefield goes down to the beach near her home one night, takes off her shoes, and starts moving along the cold sand in circles.  She relates that if you had seen her, you wouldn’t have called what she was doing running.  Still, it was good enough for her, she explains.  She then goes on to confide what she was thinking that night as she gave thanks for what she was doing:  “We are so lucky to be able to do this, all of our nerves and muscles working together as we move ourselves forward to do this thing we call running.”

Lucky us, indeed.

Darcy’s Obituary

[A longer version of this piece was previously published in the Rapid City Journal and in A Passion for Running, by Scott Ludwig, 2009 iUniverse publishers.]

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Justifying My Love

untitledWhen you say you love running, you create an immediate problem for yourself.   Well, you do if make it a public statement.  Chances are one of your non-running friends will–in the very near future–point out that she saw you running the other day and “you sure didn’t look like you were loving it!”  A laugh that will no doubt sound somewhat snarky to you may follow her comment.


Then there’s this:

The trouble with loving running is that you don’t love every run.  For me, there are three main categories of runs I don’t love.  Pretty crazy: I love running yet admit that not only are there times I don’t, there are whole classifications of those times.  And they are:

1.  External factors.   Most of the time, this is weather.  Yesterday, I indulged myself and lingered over Saturday morning coffee, the paper and my cats.  Paid for it by running 15 miles on a sunny, 80 degree mid morning Southwest Florida day.  Sure I found things to appreciate, the birds swooping over the ponds and canals, Scott Simon’s interview with musician Olga Bell [Tempo OLGA] and the water bubblers at the park.  The poetry of running was not, however, keeping time with my sodden footfalls.
Another external factor is the annoying running companion.  You know, the whiner who complains, the celebrity-in-his-own-mind who relates his PRs to you, mile by excruciating mile, and the needy, troubled soul who seems to have mistaken you, a runner, for his psychotherapist.

2. Internal factors.  These runs are the ones where I’m not 100%, but not injured or ill enough to scrap the run entirely. IMG-20150516-WA0000 Instead of losing myself in the flow, I’m constantly monitoring my scratchy throat, or worst, that hamstring that seems to be ok but is letting me know we better stay in the slow lane if we know what’s good for us (and want to run tomorrow.)   And of course, who hasn’t had one of those moments on an otherwise, until-then delightful run when your mind abruptly cuts to its index of public bathrooms/construction sites with porta potties?

3. The mind/body connection.  Most of the time, running improves my mood.  If I’m happy, it just gets better.   Crabbiness is best dissipated by running.  I can usually outrun out the demons, or at least get a perspective on them that shrinks them down to size after six miles or so.  Solutions to problems often begin to appear once I’m moving.   But, every once in a while, there’s an issue that is bigger than the run.  433735f4eecf1d48d6cad0b27ed5e500 (2) When I can’t resolve or it or get past it, whatever IT is, the run can feel like a chore.

While I haven’t figured out how to be 100% in love with every run, I still love running.  Like all relationships, there are moments when you may not be in love with your partner, child or critter, but you still love them, even at their most exasperating.

And indeed, there are some at least partial solutions to the above.  Weather is weather, of course.  Pay attention to the forecast, plan and wear clothes designed for the climate.  As for the annoyance factor, a fellow runner I was chatting with just before Grandma’s Marathon in 2014 advised always having your earbuds at hand.  This allows you to smile graciously, plug in and say: “I’m just going to listen to some music now.”

When your body is talking to you, be smarter than I have been.  untitled (2)Slow it down to a walk, enjoy your surroundings, relax.  Repeat until that voice is a whisper (or you find the bathroom.)  As for the major stuff?  Meditation, bubble baths, chocolate and seeing a professional are all good.  And know that not all runs are easy; you don’t need to love every one to love the sport.  Be open: tomorrow’s run may make you feel you can fly– and fall in love all over again.

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Marathoner, Detroit native, Red Sox Nation member, lover of all things "all singing/all dancing" and glad you're here. Friends with Coco, Caroline and Simon (2 cats & the Eclectus Parrot).

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