What I've Learned From Being A Longtime Runner

When I was eight years old, I ran my first ever race. It was a mile long course, up and down Heartbreak Hill in Newton- a section of the Boston Marathon appropriately named for its torturous incline. While this one mile of road wasn't exactly as strenuous as the route the marathoners would take the next day, to me, it was a rite of passage. If I successfully ran and finished this race, I would be just like my brothers- all three of whom were beginning to be serious runners.

I finished the race in nine minutes and four seconds, easily out-sprinting the guy in the Fig Newton costume right at the end.

Prior to my racing days, I was an avid spectator of the Heartbreak Hill Road Race. 

Reminiscing about my days as a young runner, when everyone would get a medal no matter what, I find it hard to believe that I've been running for about 11 years. I can still picture that race in middle school when I broke seven minutes in the mile for the first time, and I still cringe at the memory of my first practice of high school cross country when I threw up and was too embarrassed to tell my coach about it.

Not only do my many memories of being a runner stick with me, but the lessons I've learned along the way- whether learned in my first race or my last- are something that I carry with me in each race and practice as I continue in my running career. Of course, there are countless stories I could tell about how I've learned to become a better runner and better person, but for now, here are just a few:

How to compete as an individual, but also how to work as a team. 

It's an incredibly common misconception to think that cross country and track are purely individual sports. And those who say they aren't team sports clearly don't participate in them. As a runner, you're meant to focus on your own personal growth- namely, improving your personal best time. But, at the same time, you might have to give up your spot in your favorite event (*cough* the two mile) so that someone else can compete because they're more likely to earn points there. And even in cross country, teammates are often physically competing next to one another- pushing each other to go faster or gain on that next opponent.  

Newton South Cross Country.

Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds

Progress can be measured in many different ways.

In one race during my sophomore year of high school, I was competing in the two mile, and went out way too fast for the first half (nearly breaking my personal one mile record) and fell into last place. Much to my surprise I finished the race having reached my longtime goal of breaking 13 minutes. This just goes to show that you can be last, first, or somewhere in the middle, and still be happy with your result.

A pretty decent race, even though this old lady may have out-kicked me.

Your teammates really do become your best friends.

There's something about trekking up an icy hill in the middle of the winter that makes you grow close to those who you endure such physical pain with. You'd think that competition would get in the way of these friendships, but most of the time, that little bit of competition only makes friendships grow stronger. Not to mention, overnight trips are the ultimate bonding experience. From jumping from bed to bed in the hotel rooms just for kicks, to lighting sparklers in Manchester (outside, of course!), to the countless embarrassing mirror selfies in running gear, some of my best memories haven't even been the ones where I've actually been running.

What a fun crew.

Man down. 

A life-changing experience.

It will always be a part of me. 

If I know one thing about running, it's that I'll never want to stop. Whether I'm competing, running for recreation, or doing it for my health, I'll always be a runner.


The Problem with Birthdays as You Grow Up

When I was little, my birthday parties were something I always looked forward to- it was an all-day affair complete with balloons, party games, and goodie bags. My entire class would be invited, and all of the parents would come to ooh and aah over the magical theme party that my mom had spent the week putting together. The spotlight was on me, the birthday girl- as it should be, since it was my special day.

But as I've grown older, I've found my 'special' one day a year to be something that I've dreaded, rather than looked forward to. Unlike when I was in elementary school, I don't count down the days until June 20th or daydream about the many gifts I knew I would receive. In fact, I probably spend more time worrying about whether or not people will remember my birthday than I do building up any excitement toward the day.

One of my early birthday ragers- 'Mr. Sun' was my jam.

There's a certain expectation when it comes to birthdays: that our families will make a huge fuss and shower us with love and affection, that not only will our closest friends wish us a happy birthday, but that even our high school crush who we hardly spoke to will acknowledge our special day on Facebook. We expect birthday shout-outs on every social media platform possible: from Twitter mentions, to Instagram collages, to fleeting snapchat pictures.

Back when I was in elementary school, I didn't have a single worry when it came to my birthday. I knew that everything would be taken care of by my parents, and I didn't feel anxious about whether or not my friends would remember because, at the time, my circle of friends was small, and only existed via face-to-face contact (as opposed to my 900 Facebook 'friends').

The truth is, as you grow up, birthdays simply get harder. Your friends might not have an entire day free to hang out with you, and your parents probably won't throw a princess themed birthday bash for you (if your parents actually do that for you, consider me completely jealous). But that doesn't mean you should just sulk around on your birthday, hoping for someone to make the day special for you.

Some advice my mom is constantly giving me is that you are responsible for your own happiness. This means that no one can make you happy- that you have to find the joy in your own life, and if it isn't there yet, it's up to you to make it happen.

Birthday cupcakes from this weekend (photo courtesy of Haruka).

When it comes to birthdays, I've taken this advice to mean that if I want to have a fabulous day, then I have to do whatever it takes to make it fabulous. This year, that meant organizing a joint-birthday trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with a few friends (and some of our moms), getting a crew of 15 friends together for a late-night bonfire (complete with sparklers), and eating lots and lots of cake with my family.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum- definitely one of my favorite spots in Boston. 

There's nothing wrong with wanting to have a birthday with all the bells and whistles- but you can't expect others to make it happen for you. If you take your one day a year as something that is as special as you yourself make it, then who knows, you might be surprised by the lengths your friends and family will go to make you feel special. 

P.S. I want to give some major shout-outs to all of the people who made my 19th birthday this past weekend so incredibly special. Even though 19 isn't a particularly remarkable age, it had to be one of my best birthdays ever. My favorite moment of the day? When one of my brothers gave me a little chocolate mousse cake during our camp open-house. Definitely one of those little surprises that made me smile.  


My Summer Bucket List

Race more // While I love racing during the school year, summer fun runs are probably my favorite type of races. Despite the insane summer heat, you can't beat the exciting and carefree dynamic of a summer road race. Not to mention, there's always free food! This summer, I've signed up for three races- a 5k, a 5 miler, and a 7 miler. I completed the 5k this weekend and couldn't have been happier with my place! Finishing second in my age group was a big accomplishment for me, even though a few elementary school kids beat me. I'll get 'em next year.

This is my 'Mom please don't take a picture of me right now' face.

Go hiking // Going to school in Scotland has made me a little bit more outdoorsy- just enough to actually enjoy some light hiking. I'm not talking about climbing legit mountains, but I'd totally be down for a fun hike and picnic in the Blue Hills. So who's coming with me?

Go to a drive-in movie // Despite their near extinction in Massachusetts, drive-in movies are not a thing of the past quite yet. To me, they have always seemed like a cliche, yet quintessential, summer outing.

Cook every week // I've already started trying to hone in my cooking skills, but practice really does make perfect. Not only do I want to try out some new dishes, but I also want to repeat some of my favorites so that I can really master them (check out this post for some recipes I've already tried out!).

Pasta with fresh peas and bacon... lots of bacon.

Read a fiction novel // The last time I read a work of fiction for my own personal enjoyment was last summer. Ever since then, I've been all about reading non-fiction- weather it's case-studies for a school essay, or the memoirs of comedy writers. Hopefully, this summer, I can not only read more, but read a wider range of genres.

Get used to driving longer distances // If you've ever been in the car with me, you'll know that I'm an incredibly nervous driver. Once I get behind the wheel, my stress-levels skyrocket. I'm a pretty good driver overall, but I avoid the highway at all costs. It's something about the speed and the number of cars that makes me want to limit my driving to a very small radius. But, this summer, I'm going to challenge myself to drive on the highway so that places like the beach don't seem so far out of reach.

Get published // This one is currently in the works and under-wraps! While I do love writing for my blog, I'm trying to work on expanding my writing experience beyond online-publishing. And hopefully I'll get paid in the process!  


Martha's Vineyard in Pictures

It's no secret that I absolutely love traveling. Is 'professional traveler' a job? Because if it is, then sign me right up.

But the thing is, there's not always enough time in the month to travel somewhere far-off and exotic. You know, one of those places that you can brag to your friends about how you 'found yourself' and reached total bliss.

Let's be real: we're not living in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

Wouldn't be a blogpost without a Mindy reference- can you tell how much I love this show?

However, I do believe that it's entirely possible to have an amazing time traveling somewhere a little bit closer to home, while still having the instagram pics of your dreams (#NoFilter #ButReallyIUsed7EdtingApps).

And for me, Martha's Vineyard always does the trick when I'm feeling a bit sick and tired of being at home, but don't really want to travel too far away. The first time I visited this island off the coast of Massachusetts, I was with two of my close friends. From then on, I fell in love.

Quick side note before I flood you all with pictures: I am so incredibly grateful for the job that my mom has as a travel writer. It means that I get to tag along on all her trips, snapping pictures along the way, and following her around on hotel tours with perky PR representatives. So shoutout to mom for being the best travel writer (and partner) ever!  

Lambert's Cove Inn was probably one of the most fantastic places my family has ever stayed at. It wasn't fancy or flashy, but the grounds of the hotel were incredible- they had seven acres of farmland!

And the best part? These two lil' guys-Ava and Zsazsa. Definitely some of the cutest goats I've ever seen. 

Our first dinner was at the Atlantic- a harborside restaurant and bar that apparently turns into a nightclub past a certain hour. Unfortunately, we didn't stay long enough for me to experience the Martha's Vineyard clubbin' scene with my parents (yikes). 

Despite the lack of dancing, the food was spectacular. Pictured are our appetizers (clockwise from left)- glazed jumbo shrimp, fried bacon, and king crab ceviche. Seafood is always the way to go on the Vineyard.  

The next morning we walked less than a mile down to the beach. I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful beaches I had ever been to! (Check my instagram for a pic) In this shot, my parents are looking especially artsy. 

The highlight of the trip? Renting bikes and taking what has to be the smallest ferry in the world to Chappaquiddick Island (try saying that five times fast). Chappy is a small, remote island just 527 feet off the coast of the Vineyard, made famous (or, really, infamous) by the driving incident of Ted Kennedy in 1969.    


The second we got on the island, we made a b-line for the MyToi Japanese-style gardens. The whole space was just breathtaking.  

We finished off the day with a walk down to one of my favorite spots- Lighthouse beach. It's a quiet little beach with a picturesque lighthouse that just screams 'New England.' And the best part? A guy proposed to his girlfriend right in front of us!

We ended our trip on the highest possible note with a stop at the Bear In Boots gastropub in Falmouth (just minutes from the ferry port). The food was exceptional. From fresh takes on old classics- like the stack of fried green tomatoes- to amazing comfort food- pork chops, anyone?- the Bear In Boots really hit the spot. Oh and did I mention that the desserts were absolute perfection? On the left are chocolate blood-orange beignets (a special for National Doughnut Day) and on the right is my personal favorite dessert of all time, molten chocolate cake, with homemade ice cream. 

While we didn't travel too far from home this vacation, it really felt like we were a world away.   


My Shopping Philosophy

Shopping is a science. It's not something that you can or should do will-nilly, because not only does it affect you aesthetically, but it also affects you financially.People tend to think that I spend a whole lot of money on my clothes because I shop at 'expensive' stores. But let me tell you a little secret...

I almost never pay full price. For anything. 


Crazy stuff, I know. Let me add in this little disclaimer before I begin: my mom does still pay for my clothes. I know a lot of 18 year olds don't have that 'luxury,' but this doesn't mean that I can have free reign with my mom's credit card. Shopping for clothes with my mom has taught me a lot about shopping strategically. I've learned that, above all, buying a few good quality pieces that last a lifetime will save you more money in the long-run than buying a lot of clothing that you'll just throw away.  

Phew. That was a long disclaimer. Anyway here are my tried and true tricks for being a serial shopper:

Consider Value // This is rule #1 of smart shopping. Firstly, make sure you look at the label of the garment. Is it silk? Cotton? Polyester? Certain materials are worth more than others, because they are natural and hold up much better than synthetic fabrics. For me, if an item of clothing is polyester (a cheaper fabric), I won't be willing to spend as much as I would for something made of silk.

You also should take value into account by considering how often you think you'll wear the piece- for example, it makes sense to spend more money on classic top that you'll wear for years than a trendy shirt in this season's print that might be out of style in a few months.

Shop Often // One of my best friends always laughs at me for how often I go shopping. Sometimes, I'll even go to the mall more than once a week. But does that mean I'm buying something every time I make a trip? Absolutely not. About 70% of the time I come back empty handed. I shop as often as I do to "haunt" favorite items. Unless what I want is a must-have, I always wait for the item to go on sale before swiping the card.

But shopping often doesn't always have to mean going to the mall. Because, trust me, that can get pretty exhausting. It also means finding clothes online and checking back on favorite items to see if the price has changed, or if I can find the item elsewhere for less.

Use Special Discounts // Coupon codes are usually for everyone, and are easily displayed at the top of most websites. But want to be a super-insider? My two favorite discounts are the student discount and the birthday discount. Not every store does this, of course, but some of my favorites do. At J. Crew, you can get 15% off year-round (24/7!) by simply showing a college ID at the register. Another favorite discount comes when you sign up to be an Anthro member at Anthropologie (it's free) and you'll receive a 15% discount for any one purchase during your birthday month.

Use Gift Cards // According to a Business Report by TIME, $2 billion worth of gift card money goes unredeemed each year. I don't understand how people go without using gift cards. It's like free money! Even the ones that don't particularly interest you- use them! I almost never buy anything from Amazon. But when I receive a gift card for the site, I always try to put it to good use. My favorite thing to buy from Amazon? Stationery. Because at heart I'm actually a middle aged woman who appreciates nice paper goods.

Shop the Kids Section // Okay, this one comes with fair warning. This is only applicable if you are smaller than average (like me, of course). But boy have I saved a lot of money shopping the kids section. I usually shop there for pants and jeans, and sometimes even dresses. My favorite sites for quality kids clothes that fit well and don't look babyish are Boden and Crewcuts. I don't fit into adult jeans, so these sites are gold-mines. Just make sure what you're buying doesn't look too young (it'll be our little secret).

These children are more fashionable than I am.

If you love it, buy it // You can spend all day agonizing over whether or not you should buy that gorgeous dress, but if the dress makes you happy, then you should buy it. Simple as that.



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