Race Circuit Retirement

Now that I have officially earned and achieved 26 medals, I announce my retirement from the competitive marathon circuit. This does NOT mean I will stop running. I will continue to run. I will just no longer race on the competitive circuit to earn medals. 

Plus, I will no longer run marathons. I will keep to distances of 5k or 10k. 

I have been very fortunate to have had a successful 16-year running career. I have qualified for Olympic Trials (but not made the Olympics, obviously). I have represented Team USA in Canada. I have earned a prestigious B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) Boston Marathon medal. I have seen many cities across the North American continent by running 26.2 miles through their streets to the cheers of screaming crowds. 

I have run races on my bucket list. I have achieved many goals. While some dreams were realized, others were crushed. It has not been all glory. The marathon teaches you, and sometimes those lessons are through failure and heartbreak.

There have been many race dedications. I have officially had three start line songs. Much as baseball players have walk-up songs when they come up to bat, so do marathon runners have start line songs. For the first half of my running career, it was “Lose Yourself” by Eminem (before it became popular.) For one heartbreaking race, it was “Berzerk” by Eminem. For the second half of my running career, it was “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor. 

After all, not everyone can start to the Rocky theme song. Although, if you run Philly like I have, you will hear it. Guaranteed. You see, Philly is like my first love. Philly was my first half marathon. Then Philly was my first full marathon. You never forget your first. In fact, 8 of my 26 medals come from Philly.

Speaking of Philly, my running tattoo on my right arm is the Philly logo. It has 8 stars. Each star represents one of my Philly medals. I have done the Rocky Run and stood at the top of the art museum steps literally in Sly’s steps, as there are bronze casings in the cement where he stood.

I have raced in wind, rain, snow, and ice. For one race, it was 23F at the start line. It was so cold; the air horn would not work to start the race. They had to get a police officer to discharge his weapon, so we had a shotgun start. Water and Gatorade would immediately freeze if they hit the ground at aide stations. 

I have been quite fortunate through my running career in that I never had a DNF (did not finish). I came very, very close one challenging race, but I DID finish. I did have a few DNS (did not start) due to either finances in being unable to get to the race, injuries, or illnesses. Yet, even with the DNS’s, I managed to bounce back the following season or race. 

You meet the most amazing, incredible people at races. Someone once said, if you want to see the best of humanity, watch a marathon. It is true. From the cheer zones, to the hilarious on course signs, every single person at a marathon is kind. You see people do things you never thought possible, and I’m not just talking about the whole running 26.2 miles part.

While I may have four degrees, I will say that my running career and my 26 medals are what make me the proudest. If anyone asks me what the best thing is I’ve ever done with my life? My first answer will be the cats. My second answer will be my medals. In that exact order.

I retire having achieved the category of Master’s runner. Since I also have a Master’s degree, I guess that makes me a Jill of all trades, master of two? I am retiring at the top of my game, on my own terms. I am not retiring when my health or disability force me. I am fortunate to have been able to continue running through the ongoing pandemic. I am blessed to have reached my goal in achieving 26 medals even with covid all around me. 

Retirement from the professional race circuit, do not mean stop running. I will keep running. But you see, being on the race circuit? I had sponsorships. I had companies who were paying for my race fees and hotel stays so I could race. I was a ranked runner. That is the life I am leaving behind. I am no longer sponsored. I will no longer race or be ranked. I am just going to run For the Love of Running. Honestly, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 16 years, but now I won’t be chasing down the medals.

Running is one of the best ways to explore someplace new. It’s a great way to meet new people. The running community is pretty kind. I am a proud supporter of the Back on My Feet program, that helps homeless people find jobs and housing by engaging them in running programs. 

So, while I am retiring from the race circuit with 26 medals, the running continues. I will continue to lace up and stop out for 3 miles or 6 miles. However, I will no longer toe the start line for races. 

This journey I have been on has been the most incredible of my life. I continue for the love of running. As I have always said, run, walk, crawl or dragged, I will cross the finish line. Rejoice! I have conquered! 

30 Years of Work

This month marks 30 years I have been working. A week after my 14th birthday, I went to the nurse’s office at school and applied for my working papers. I was approved. My first job was delivering newspapers in town. One of the stops on my route was a senior citizen building. They all found it novel to have a paper girl instead of a paper boy.

At age 15, I got a job working at McDonald’s. At age 16, I started working 2-3 jobs while in college. I worked 2-3 jobs for over 20 years trying to make ends meet while I was in school. 

In fact, in the 30 years that I have been in the workforce, the only time I have ever been unemployed were those two months back in 2021 when I lost my job in the pandemic. Other than those two months, I have been working for 30 years continuously. 

Many people retire after 20 years or so. I will not have the privilege of retirement. You see, I am not allowed to collect social security due to my student loans. I’ve been paying into the system for 30 years now, but will never be able to collect benefits due to student loans. 

Even though we pay back our student loans, the government refuses to release the debt. So we pay the student loans two or three times over. When we ask for “forgiveness” for student loans, we are not asking for the government to write off unpaid debt. We are asking them to release us from the loans we have already paid back with interest and yet are still paying. Student loans are America’s way of indentured servitude. 

The only way to retire if you have student loans is to try to save money in a 401k. But really, with student loan payments taking 30% of your income, who can save money in a 401k? We are not allowed social security payments for retirement or for disability. I feel terrible for all the people with long covid who are denied disability benefits because they owe student loans. This is how the system works in America.

This year I celebrate 30 years of work in America with no end in sight. Or is there?

Given we are living in a genocide, I am going to be outrageously optimistic and say I am hoping to live to see age 60. The government wants me dead, so trying to live and survive for 16 more years is quite ambitious. However, given the rapid decline in American life expectancy, I feel that age 60 is a reasonable goal. After all, America is doing everything it can to kill off people over age 65 and those with disabilities.

So while I “celebrate” 30 years of working, I am hoping to be able to work for 11 more years. At age 55, I intend to retire and spend 5 years not working before I die at age 60. I think I deserve that. 

Of course, my real goal is to outlive the cats. I need to be able to take care of them and keep them together. Given their current ages, I think my goal of living to see age 60 to outlive them is quite reasonable. 

While student loan payments have been paused, I have been putting my money into my 401k. When I reach age 55, I plan to withdraw all the money and leave the country. Once the cats are gone, my goal is to travel. I will have 5 years to enjoy before I die.

Of course, you know how the best laid plans are always waylaid. This is my optimistic goal. 

After 30 years of work, I can only hope to work 11 more years. It’s possible that death or disability will cut my work life short and I will never experience retirement. I will never be able to travel or visit other countries if America continues on its current downward trajectory.

But today, I celebrate 30 years of work with the thought that I will only work for 11 more years and then can take 5 years of enjoyment before death. This is the best America has to offer. My dream is to outlive the cats and hopefully be able to travel out of country before I die. 

School’s Out Forever!


“If you’re not building the future, you don’t believe there is a future.” – OITNB

I never planned for life after college. I loved being in school and spent a grand total of 30 years in the organizational silo that is the education system in this country. School was something I was good at; it was an escape from a shitty childhood that I honestly never thought I would survive. I never planned for life after college because I did not think I would live to see life after college.

After four degrees, I am officially done with school, and I have been enjoying my retirement these past few months working at a job I enjoy, and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I have not really had any distinct direction. This time has been perhaps the closest thing approximating a vacation I have ever experienced.

After what seemed like a lot of bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary aggravation, my diploma finally arrived today from my most recent and final degree. Not only do I feel a huge sense of relief, but I also have a sense of closure. I have never felt this sense of closure upon obtaining any of my other diplomas; that is partially how I know and am so sure that this is, in fact, the final degree. I have a sense of peace I have not had when completing any other degree.

While my formal education may be complete, I am now a student of the world and continue to learn from books, people, and experiences that surround me. I used my formal education to help me navigate the world of hard knocks and have lived to tell the tale. I quite literally have this great big world at my feet.

Everyone has been asking me about my plans. Thus far, I have had none. I have had ideas. I may teach. I do not feel like teaching right now. I enjoy my job and am enjoying the newfound freedom that I have now that I am not in school. I have joined both a book club and a writing club so that I am still engaged in intelligent conversation on a regular basis with people who are stimulating and authentic.

In addition to my vague notions of potentially teaching on the collegiate level sometime in the future, I also have dreams of travel. I have a passport that has never been stamped. I ran a marathon in Canada shortly after a passport was required for Canada, before the introduction of “enhanced driver’s licenses” for those residents in border states, yet Canada does not stamp the passport. I have a desire to see the world beyond my own country. We only get one life and it is very short. I want to make the most of it while I am here.

My dreams of travel have also been vague. I keep saying that I want to backpack through Europe. I do. It also seems unattainable to a small town girl who never thought to survive childhood and finish school.

I have decided to come up with a three-year plan and to choose a specific destination and start making plans for travel. I figure that if I can put my dreams down on paper and start crunching numbers, then I have a more concrete goal of the amount of money I need to save to fund my trip, as well as a destination, and an anticipated travel year.

I have chosen a three-year plan instead of a five-year plan because that is when I turn 40, and I want to do it big. I am starting to think of how I really want to retire in life in 30 or 40 years after I am done working and not just done being a college student. I am thinking of all the things that I want to see and do and trying to come up with a concrete way to make that happen. I am now planning for a future that I never thought I would have.

School may be done for me. I have finished all of my degrees. I will never stop learning. I love to learn and I know that travel will only help to broaden my horizons. While I look to and build the future, I am enjoying my present. I now have time to read all the books I wanted to read but did not have time to read when I was in school. I now have time to do all the things that I want to do and did not have time to do in school because I was always rushing from home to work to class and trying to fit in all my housework and other obligations between homework and paying bills.

School may be out forever, but I am now building a future. While I have a bunch of fancy degrees, perhaps the greatest thing I have learned in my 30 years of education is that I have a future and it is mine for the choosing. It seems like it took an awful lot of education to learn one simple thing, but I am grateful. I would not change a thing or want it any other way.