Stop and Smell the Roses

I was born and raised in Roseland, where my mother still resides. Upon visiting her last week, I was reminded that the annual “Run For The Roses 5K” is scheduled for this coming weekend, an event that I hold dear to my heart.

As a young girl, this was the very first race I attempted to run, and although I had to walk a good portion of it, I recall the encouragement I received from another runner that day. At the time, I had no idea how to pace myself, but one of the other joggers passing me on the course turned and shouted, “You have a great stride! If you keep practicing, you could become a great runner one day.” Whether I had a good stride or not, there is one thing I am certain of – I never forgot those words of encouragement. Since that inauspicious debut, I have run over 40 marathons worldwide. In my late twenties, I started coaching for the New Jersey chapter of Girls on the Run that sponsor social and sports programs for girls aged 8-14. Their motto: educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. From these girls I learned that, with a little encouragement, we can all accomplish things that may at first seem beyond our reach. The benefits of the sessions extend well beyond the physical realm. Research has shown that girls with positive role models and good self-esteem are far better equipped to combat the peer pressures that bedevil young girls as they enter adulthood. Many times in my life, I have received mentorship from others who cared for me: my mom leading me into kindergarten with her hand on my shoulder; my sister Maureen, proudly walking behind me on a tour of her office as she introduced me to colleagues on visitors’ day; my brother John, showing me how to swim under water in the backyard pool; Walter, my second eldest sibling, encouraging me as I considered the option to attend a college out of state. There was always support, and that was just from my immediate family. But, there were also teachers and friends along the way – all of them ready with a helping hand when I needed it. This is also what I try to do in my coaching practice. Though the setting may be more formalized, the goal is always the same – a gentle and loving push – to help others in discovering and affirming their own inner abilities. I feel grateful to have been given a leg up so often over the years that it is a privilege to pass it on whenever the opportunity arises. So come out and watch the annual “Run for the Roses.” You don’t have to run to participate and enjoy the fun. You can offer water, a smile or a simple word of encouragement. That’s more than enough. Because you never know how far those words can travel.