Runpreneur Tori Sager of Fellow Flowers Shares Her Chicago Marathon Experience

Tori Sager of Fellow Flowers was "red"y to run the 2013 Chicago Marathon!
Tori Sager of Fellow Flowers was “red”y to run the 2013 Chicago Marathon!

Tori Sager and her business partner Maryellen “Mel” Charbonneau are in the inspiration industry. Their company sells hairpins and t-shirts meant to motivate women on the run. Fellow Flowers goes beyond simply hawking accessories and workout apparel, it creates a space for women to find encouragement and share strength when they need it most—a space Tori tapped into on Sunday when she wasn’t sure if finishing the Chicago Marathon was in the cards for her. Even though she still couldn’t walk down stairs without grimacing, Tori graciously took my call shortly after the race to chat about Fellow Flowers, the meaning of commitment, and other awesomeness.

Thanks so much for speaking with me, Tori. How are you feeling post-marathon?  “Of course—I love talking about running! I’m feeling ok, still walking a little funny and taking the stairs sideways. Ha!”

Was this your first time running the Chicago Marathon?  “No, this was my third marathon, and I’ve only run Chicago, so I’ve done it three times now—in 2011, 2012, and now 2013. I wasn’t sure if I’d be running it this year because I’ve been battling an Achilles injury, but when I heard the date—October 13, 2013, I knew I had to do it. Thirteen is a lucky number for me, believe it or not. I was born on a Friday the 13th, and Fellow Flowers got its start when I invited friends to run a half marathon with me to celebrate my birthday one year. Thirteen of my girlfriends trained and ran thirteen miles with me! We put flowers in our hair to celebrate that run and our company was born!”

Wow! Really? How did running with your friends turn into a business?  “The women who had signed up to run with me didn’t know each other—I was their connection to the group. But over the course of training for twelve weeks an email chain started. Initially my friends were simply introducing themselves and talking about their workouts, but over those weeks something really powerful happened. Suddenly, we were sharing our inspirations for running, motivating each other to keep at it, and honoring our commitment to the race and to each other. Those emails became a safe space for us to honor, share, and celebrate our stories. This was something bigger than me, bigger than simply running for my birthday, and when Mel and I talked about it later, after clipping flowers in our hair for the race, we realized we wanted to build a company that would allow every woman to have that experience—to create a united place to honor, share, and celebrate our reasons to run. Fellow Flowers is the embodiment of that space, and each flower offers its own reason and motivation for running.”

"Bloom, baby. Bloom." With a red Fellow Flower in her hair, Tori had the strength to cross the finish line.
“Bloom, baby. Bloom.” A red Fellow Flower in her hair gave Tori the strength to cross the finish line. (And she looked super cute!)

Which flower were you wearing on Sunday?  “I wore a red flower and a red flower t-shirt with the message, ‘It takes strength to do what you love,’ on the back. I really needed that mantra for this marathon. I spent this past winter trying to heal Achilles tendinopathy, and it flared up again over the summer during marathon training, which made me reevaluate my race goal. I wanted to PR this year, and I was on track to do that, but with a recurring injury you sort of have to step back and rethink things. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I would even make it to the start line. My longest run leading up to the marathon was only 14 miles, and I knew I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, so I decided to just get there and do my best to push through and finish. I needed inner strength for that.”

In the end, were you happy with your time?  “Yes, I’m thrilled that I finished and that I felt strong doing it. The first half was great for me—and if it had just been a half marathon I would have gotten a PR. But around mile 15 I started to struggle. I was experiencing some pain and I could feel a blister forming on my toe, so I made the decision to stop. I rehydrated, ate an energy bar, adjusted my sock, and then started running again. There was an aid station at mile 17, so I stopped again to put Vaseline on my foot. From that point on, I kept running, only slowing down to walk through the water stations. Considering all of that, I’m very happy with my time.”

That’s awesome! A lot of people would have thrown in the towel, but you didn’t.  “Yeah, I’m really proud of myself for running smart, and for taking care of myself—I don’t think I would have made it to the finish if I hadn’t done that. I really leaned on that red flower statement: “It takes strength to do what you love.” The word “commitment” is also connected to the red flower. It’s a very powerful idea to stay loyal to what you said you were going to do, even when you’re no longer in the mood you were in when you set that goal. I was mentally ready to run a marathon, but I wasn’t physically able in that moment, which really put me in a hard place. But I wanted to be true to that commitment.”

You must have felt so relieved to see the finish line.  “Yes, I felt relieved. But I was also really inspired. The last miles of a marathon are just rough. You get to mile 22 and you’re starting to doubt yourself, and then by mile 25 you’re thinking, “Just one mile to go. I can do this! I can finish this!” In those last few miles I came up on a wheel chair participant who was moving fairly slow. He was obviously the last wheelchair, and he seemed to be struggling, it was taking all he could to move those wheels around, and the crowd was going wild cheering for him. I took out my earphones to listen for a bit. His determination was infectious, and I think it gave me and the other runners out there a little extra oomph. It was probably the most emotional moment of the marathon for me, because I knew he would finish and I realized I could finish, too.”

From injured to inspired, you crossed the finish line! What’s next for you?  “My goal now is to heal up again. And as soon as my body tells me it’s ready, I’m going to focus on shorter distances. Realizing that I could have gotten a PR at the half mark on Sunday has me thinking about getting faster. I’m planning to run some 10Ks and maybe a half marathon in the spring. Getting faster and stronger in shorter distance races is what I’m into now.”

She may not have mentioned it during our phone call, but it’s obvious to me that Tori embodies the black Fellow Flower message, “Why yes, I am a force to be reckoned with.” Check out the Fellow Flowers line up of colors to find the one you connect with—I’m a big fan of the purple, “No excuses!”

With marathon season in full swing, I want to know: What keeps you running when the chips seem down?


Healthy Living Summit 2013 Recap: New Blogger Friends!

Just a few of the business cards I collected at Healthy Living Summit 2013
Just a few of the business cards I collected at Healthy Living Summit 2013 #hls13

Last weekend I was in Minneapolis, MN for Healthy Living Summit 2013. It was three days jam-packed with firsts: My first time flying on Frontier airlines (very smooth!), my first time in Minneapolis (what a friendly city!), and my first time at a bloggers summit (so fun!). I learned so much from scheduled seminars and picked up some awesome lessons hanging with fellow healthy living pushers. A few key take-aways:

Healthy living is a come-as-you-are party. Just like runners, healthy living bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, and at HLS13 they covered the spectrum—beginners who’ve recently started to eat better, women who made changes years ago and have shed some serious pounds since, and fitness gurus looking to share their knowledge with the world. That’s good news for anyone hoping to get healthy or healthier—the healthy living train picks you up at YOUR station, wherever your starting point may be.

This photo (taken by a summit sponsor) is a perfect example of the healthy living come-as-you-are party. I’m sporting fitness apparel and Ari and Nicole are decked out in dresses.
This photo (taken by a summit sponsor) is a perfect example of the come-as-you-are party. I’m sporting fitness apparel and Ari and Nicole are decked out in dresses.

Good food doesn’t need to be complicated. In her presentation, “Grow Your Own Food,” Aundra shared her love of gardening and pointed out that anyone can have a green thumb if you start small and plant what you love. And keynote speaker Brenda Langton, an award-winning chef and restaurateur, stressed the importance of using simple recipes to bring out the best in whole foods.

Sunday morning post-run snapshot in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Brittney. This woman is on her way to becoming the most-asked-for PA—she’s still in school and already has job offers!
Sunday morning post-run snapshot with Brittney. This woman is on her way to becoming the most-asked-for PA—she’s still in school and already has job offers!

Running builds relationships. This one is a no-brainer: Anytime you sweat it out with a friend, you’re bonding on a deeper level. The summit culminated with a 5K fun run/walk to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that gave us an opportunity to sightsee and chat about the weekend.

Everyone can contribute to the conversation. Healthy living is a broad category, filled with different strategies and tactics for looking and feeling your best. Here’s a sampling of the awesome bloggers who made it to the summit—check them out for recipes, fitness tips, motivation, and more.

Which healthy living blogs make your favorites list?

Running with the Bride, Adirondack-Style!

A quick selfie with the glowing bride before pounding the pavement.
A quick selfie with the glowing bride before pounding the pavement.

Last week I took a break from my regular California routine to attend a wedding and visit family on the east coast. This wasn’t your typical white-gown-boozy-toasts-rubbery-chicken affair (although, there was quite a bit of booze!). From the pre-ceremony shots of rum and the steel drum player during cocktail hour, to the backyard-style barbecue reception with lawn games (ladder ball, anyone?), my Aunt Kathi and her new husband Will put on the most relaxed shindig Upstate New York has ever seen—and I loved every minute of it!

I’ve been proud of my Aunt Kathi for a long time now, but running with her on Saturday morning before the major festivities got under way filled me with a new appreciation for her tenacious spirit.

After a sad divorce several years ago, Aunt Kathi was faced with a broken heart and an unhealthy lifestyle. But she relied on one of our family mottos to help her pick up the pieces: “Every day is a good day.” With that positive attitude she hit the dating scene and joined a gym. Since then, she’s lost over 180 pounds thanks to healthier eating and fitness habits (she wakes up at 5:00 am most days to sweat it out with her friends at Core in Glens Falls, NY!) and she met the new love of her life, Will. (Aunt Kathi enacted another family motto when she took up residence with him: “Daly’s don’t dust; we move.”)

Who says life doesn't give second chances?
Aunt Kathi and Uncle Will share a moment overlooking Lake George. Who says life doesn’t give second chances?

Aunt Kathi and I tackled three miles on a rolling street in the Adirondacks and chatted the entire time about love, life, and making healthy choices. She apologized for her slow speed, but running faster would have meant missing out on a chance to connect and reflect. (Huffing and puffing at a tougher pace has its place, but this wasn’t it.)

There’s a popular saying, “Life doesn’t give you second chances,” and I think it’s a misleading mantra. We are surrounded by shining examples of people who, like my Aunt Kathi, render the statement untrue every single day.

Every day is a good day. Every day you get to wake up and decide how you are going to live your life. Will you choose a loving, supportive relationship? Will you opt for a plate full of veggies? Will you lace up your sneakers and go for that run? Every day is your second chance. Take it!

Where did you run last weekend? Who inspired you to have a good day?

This Isn’t Your Practice Life. (Stop Eating Like It Is!)

This meal took time to prepare (15 whole minutes), but investing in my life makes me smile.
This meal took time to prepare (15 whole minutes), but investing in my life makes me smile.

This isn’t your practice life. I stole that line from a friend’s Facebook status update. She heard an acquaintance say it. He picked it up from a former coworker. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d seen it or heard it somewhere, too. Good advice, packaged nicely into a single-sentence sound-byte, travels fast. But how many of us are actually living this advice?

I spent my last trail run mulling this over. It’s so easy in our work-a-day world to get bogged down with the daily stress of life, to forget about being passionate, and to simply go through the motions. I see clients do it all the time—and I’ve noticed it’s being fed by their eating habits.

They are bypassing the produce department in the grocery store, filling their carts with 300-calorie boxed meals, and thinking they’re making the healthy choice, one that will make their lives easier (and, therefore, happier). But instead of filling up on bliss, they’re feeding into a dull, drab existence. That box—loaded with sodium, colorants, flavorings, and artificial preservatives—isn’t nourishing a bright, positive life, because the ingredients inside are merely pretending to be food.

Many of us sit around and think the world is happening to us. In reality, we are creating our own existence. If you want joy, if you want passion, you need to nourish your body with the most vibrant foods you can buy (I’m talking about vegetables, people!), and create a happy existence from the inside out.

Despite what all those clever marketers want you to believe, there aren’t nearly as many nutrients in packaged, processed items as there are in fresh, whole foods. And there certainly isn’t any joy in nuking your dinner. Just imagine how depressing Thanksgiving would be if the family simply waited 3 minutes for the turkey dinner and then scurried off to the next conference call.

Whole foods take time to prepare. But I believe what you spend in the kitchen will multiply in your soul. You are sending a message to your body that you deserve to be cared for; you deserve to be well fed. In order to go out and do great things, you need to feel great—and that feeling begins by fueling your body with the most nourishing foods possible. This isn’t a practice life, so why are you eating like it is.

How will you nourish your life today?

I Asked A Psychic to Predict My Half Marathon Outcome

The lines don't lie! My hand clearly shows a successful half marathon in my future.
The lines don’t lie! My hand clearly shows a successful half marathon in my future.

A certified trainer who makes his clients squat until it burns, Jerry Hoskey is pretty down to earth—for a psychic. “I’m just a regular guy with a passion for helping people,” he says. “It’s in my blood to serve others and to guide them to be better versions of themselves. I can give readings to my clients if that’s what they want, or we can just hit the gym floor and torch the calories.”

If Jerry doesn’t sound anything like those kooky Caribbean women on late-night infomercials to you, you’re getting the picture. A blond-haired, blue-eyed all-American guy, Jerry discovered his ability to predict future events with ridiculous accuracy when he was in college. But before he could use his talent, Jerry had to get over himself. “I had to get past the idea that I didn’t look or act like the typical palm or tarot card reader,” he says. “I prayed to God and said, ‘Let me be of service, show me what to do, and allow me to be as compassionate and truthful as possible.’”

Today, celebrities and news media seek him out for predictions and advice, but Jerry still enjoys his one-on-one work as a health and fitness pro. I was so intrigued by his job title when I came across him on a social media site that I reached out to ask how it works. “It’s hard for me to explain it—I just really connect with people,” says Jerry. “I can see the good in them, and I can see what life has in store.”

It’s not always good news. “Sometimes I see negative obstacles or bad events coming up, and I ask God to help me figure out how to tell the person,” Jerry says. “It’s not necessarily a burden. Bad news can also bring about positive changes.”

Curiosity got the better of me when we spoke on the phone about his unique gift. Good or bad, I wanted to know about my upcoming race, The Jungle Run Half-Marathon in Los Gatos. Jerry took a few deep breaths before giving me his thoughts. “I could be wrong,” he said. “But you’re going to have a good race. Still, you should be careful with your ankles—all of your joints really, but your ankles in particular. Maybe you should protect them that day—compression socks could be good, and you should be taking omega-3-6-9 supplements. Are you eating enough protein? It seems like you’re not.”

Future telling aside, Jerry’s fitness background and training make him an excellent mind-body-spirit coach. I’m following his sound advice, stocking up on supplements, and noshing on more protein until July 14. Our chat has turned me inward too, toward my spirit. It has reminded me to worry less and lean on God more. Who doesn’t need that kind of psychic encouragement now and then?

Have you ever wished you could know your race results ahead of time? Would you workout with a psychic fitness trainer?

To Do List: Buy Bananas, Motivate New Runners

It's amazing how a t-shirt and some bananas can kick off a conversation about the ego.
It’s amazing how a t-shirt and some bananas can kick off a conversation about the ego.

I needed bananas, so I stopped by Whole Foods on Tuesday. I thought I’d simply run in, grab what I needed, and get out before being tempted to buying anything else. Instead, I found myself chatting with a woman near the fish counter about her exercise routine. (She noticed my t-shirt—a little black number promoting butt-kicking New York City fitness studio As One.)

When the topic turned to running, she said, “I’d love to be a runner, but I don’t think I can do it.” It’s a typical mental pattern that afflicts runners and non-runners alike. (How many times have you talked yourself out of trying something new?)

That little voice inside of you that says, “But I’ll look stupid,” and asks, “What if I fail?” is your ego—a powerful thing that uses fear to keep you from pounding the pavement. Fear is a pretty darn convincing tactic, but it doesn’t have to stop you. To calm her ego, here’s what I suggested to the woman in grocery store:

Ask yourself three questions Do I believe that I can’t run? Is it really true that I can’t run? Am I going to let these false thoughts hold me back? The answer to all of these should be a resounding, NO! If you can put one foot in front of the other, I promise, you can run.

Acknowledge the fear and go for it The anxiety that you feel before running for the first time is real, and it’s normal. But that shouldn’t hold you back. Just tell your ego, “This is scary, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Say it out loud if it makes you feel good—I do it every time I line up for a road race!

Give yourself a physical out It’s OK to walk when you get tired during a run. In fact, there’s an entire method built around run-then-walk that has been used successfully by thousands of marathon finishers. (Google “running coach Jeff Galloway” for proof.) Plan to run for one minute, walk for two, and then repeat. This will get you (and your ego) started on a healthy new path!

What gets you up and running ? Has your ego ever gotten in the way of your goals?  

This One’s For Boston!

I dedicated this morning's run to all of us, because we were all there and we all belong.
I dedicated this morning’s run to all of us, because we were all there and we all belong.

When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2011, I didn’t think I was good enough to be there. I didn’t qualify for my bib—I got it through the magazine I was writing for at the time, and I felt like a hack when I toed the start line. I wasn’t fast enough. I didn’t train hard enough.

I had a terrible run. The first half downhill ripped up my quads, and then I ran out of steam on the Newton hills, Heartbreak indeed. I finished in 4:23:44, and figured I deserved the slow time and the sore muscles because I didn’t belong there—that was my punishment for pretending that I did.

The pain I felt during those 26.2 miles in 2011 was nothing compared to the shock and sadness that coursed through me yesterday.

I wasn’t there, and yet I was. I’d been following the race all morning—sending positive vibes, cheering on friends from my kitchen table 3, 133 miles away.

I wasn’t open enough to realize it at the time, but Boston did belong to me, and it still belongs to me now. As runners, Boston belongs to all of us.

A course that’s just as hard for the pros as it is for the plodders, Boston is the marathon of marathons. We yearn for it, we’re in awe of it, we push ourselves for the opportunity to tackle it one day, and we’re proud of our friends for achieving the honor of entry.

No matter what brought us to the start line, no matter what happened at the finish, Boston is ours and it always will be. 

How To Meditate While Running

To learn more about meditating on the run, check out Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham.
To learn more about meditating on the run, check out Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham.

Looking for an activity that will help you be present and lead to more serenity in your life? Many experts will point you to a yoga studio and call it a day, but mat-based workouts and seated breathing sessions aren’t the only pathways to a state of bliss.

Believe it or not, you can meditate on the move. In fact, the rhythm and discipline of running offers an ideal space for your mind to fully connect with your body. Lace up your sneakers and see for yourself!

Step 1. Start small If you’re new to running or to meditation, don’t expect to run a marathon or attain enlightenment your first time out. Pick an obstacle-free route with little traffic, take off at an easy pace (you should be able to hold a conversation), and plan to meditate for no more than five minutes. You can build up from there as your mental and physical endurance improves.

Step 2. Set your gaze Hold your head up in a relaxed position and allow your eyes to settle on the path about three to four paces ahead of you. You’ll be able to see what’s in front of you (no tripping!) without being distracted by all the sights.

Step 3. Focus on your breath Match your footfalls to the tempo of your breathing, aim for three steps with each inhale and two for each exhale. As you get the rhythm, notice the space between inhaling and exhaling. Train your mind to go to that space, where time seems to stand still for a moment.

Step 4. Let thoughts float by Concentrate on your breathing and empty your mind, allowing any nagging thoughts to pass through without turning your attention to them. Don’t be discouraged if your mind wanders to deadlines at work or if you find yourself noticing a cute pair of shorts on the path ahead. Like seated meditation, running mediation takes practice to master. Be gentle with yourself, refocus on your breath, and try again.

Step 5. Finish with a smile Congratulate yourself for setting the intention to improve your health and wellbeing. No matter how far you run or how long you are able to stay in a meditative space, simply trying is an accomplishment.

Have you ever tried to meditate while running? Think you’ll try it now?

Originally posted on MindBodyGreen

Oh Hi There, Incredible Running Path Near My New California Home!

My first run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail in sunny California! It was too warm for this vest, but I need the extra pockets. in the vest, so I
My first run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail in sunny California! It was too warm for this vest, but I needed the extra pockets.

The best thing about moving to California so far has been the discovery of the most amazing running path half a mile from my apartment. I can drop into the Los Gatos Creek Trail near its 7 mile point (it’s 10 miles end to end) and then connect to a couple of others, creating a long out-and-back route that I can’t wait to tackle!

Yesterday I went for my very first run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. It wasn’t exactly pretty (I’m talking about the way my body felt—darn butt acted up thirty minutes in; the appearance of the path itself was quite lovely), but there is so much potential here I practically cart wheeled back to my place. I’m really looking forward to getting stronger, building up the miles, and gaining speed on this trail!

California, you and I are going to be great friends!

Have you discovered any new paths lately? What’s your favorite running route?

Goodbye, New York City!

Running with my Achilles buddy Jim. He made running feel important.
Crossing the finish line of the 2007 NYC Half Marathon with my Achilles buddy Jim. My heart (and hair!) has grown a lot since then.

My gluteus medius injury is almost healed and I should be out there in Central Park getting my road legs back. But I’ve been avoiding it. Not because it’s cold, or because I’m scared it will hurt, but because I’m afraid I’ll cry. I’m not running because I know when I head to Central Park for a run, it will be my last.

Michael K. Farrell and I decided it’s time for a life shake up, so we’re moving across the country to San Jose, CA. It’s exciting! I’ll have a new city to explore and there will be new roads (and trails!) for my sneakers to fall in love with. I’m eager for the adventure, but moving is bittersweet.

I’ve spent more than a decade here in the Big Apple. This is where I became a “real” runner. I completed my first half marathon here with my visually-impaired buddy Jim. Guiding him around Central Park, through the streets of Times Square, and down the West Side Highway in the New York City Half Marathon gave my running meaning, and a sense of purpose. (The New York chapter of Achilles International has been my family ever since.)

I did my first 26.2 here, too. There’s nothing like running through Brooklyn, Queens, up the streets of 1st Avenue to the Bronx, and then back into Manhattan to Central Park—it’s magical.

Kim NYC Marathon Finish
All smiles at the finish of the 2009 ING New York City Marathon.

Yes, I’ll come back to visit—and I might even do a familiar 6-miler, but it won’t be the same. The city will feel different, foreign, and I will suddenly be one of those wide-eyed tourists that all New Yorkers love to hate. It makes me a little sad. But with sadness, there always comes a glimmer of hope.

Farewell, New York. I’m off to make a brand new start of it somewhere else.