First day at #wli12 on Amelia Island

IMG_20121201_160128Wow, it has been a very long time since I have written anything – I am still not 100% in on blogging. Not sure if it’s time or whether the things I might truly want to write about aren’t things I want to share in such a public space. Nonetheless, I am going to try to commit to writing something everyday while here at #WLI12 on Amelia Island, and who knows, maybe it will stick this time!

So I arrived yesterday afternoon to not so warm weather which makes me nervous that even with the ridiculous amount of clothes I brought (ok, my next conference venture has to be one to teach better travel planning/packing) I may not have enough warmish items. AND I forgot a bathing suit so perhaps the workout shorts will become hot tub attire at some point. Anyway, the hotel is beautiful and the view from my room amazing! Last night I explored, went to a demo on making fun cocktails with local fresh ingredients, and had an early dinner with the hopes of doing some work later. When I got back to the room my favorite holiday movie was on – It’s a Wonderful Life – and I thought, yes it is and settled in to watch and work. By 9:15 I woke up from dozing off and decided to make it an early night.

This morning I got up early, went to the gym and after a good workout walked down to the beach where I had coffee and an apple and read for a little while longer. I could get used to this! Today’s plans are fluid before things get started at 5. Brunch plans and time to do some work in a more inspiring setting than usual for a Sunday!

I am very excited to meet all the wonderful women here at #WLI12, some of whom I have connected with already in person or on twitter. I am also excited to teach Twitter 101 to those who want to explore what this social media tool has to offer.  One session tomorrow at 1 pm and another on Tuesday in the late afternoon, and hopefully time to help a few people see the possibilities that Twitter can offer in their work and personal life as a means to connect, gain access to new sources of more immediate information and simply meet some fabulous people in the twitterverse.  Follow the backchannel at #WLI12!

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How has Privilege Benefited You? How Will You Use it?

Day 4 of Blog fest coincided with BSU’s 2nd annual Day of Dialogue focusing on the intersectionality of Race and Gender, so fittingly the topic for this posting is on race, gender and gender identity.

 “It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.”   –          Peggy McIntosh

Throughout the semester our campus has been running a series of programs through our OID and various collaborative partnerships (, which inspired me to write a post last month about social justice ( For today’s post, I want to revisit some of the thoughts I shared last month in that posting, particularly about the responsibilities we have if we have benefited from our unearned white privilege, something all of us who are white HAVE done, whether we see it or not.

Now, I realize that this may offend some people, as might what Peggy McIntosh suggests about our broader society, but understand that I am NOT saying each of us has not worked hard for our accomplishments. I am just saying that without even realizing it if you are, as I am, white we likely faced far fewer roadblocks along the way as we worked to achieve our education, our careers, our homes, our successes, etc., than our non-white colleagues, fellow students, friends and neighbors, even when they are working as hard or harder for the same goals. The same thing can be said if we are male, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle class or wealthy, and so on and so on. Each of us has a number of privileges – or disadvantages – based on a wide array of circumstances over which we had essentially no control and for which we did not have to work.

Does that make us bad people? Does it make us racist (or any other form of  -ist)? Of course it doesn’t, but dealing with privilege isn’t that easy.  As Peggy McIntosh has said, we are taught that racism is about attitude and individual acts of meanness people may perpetrate against other s(what Rinku Sen, our Day of Dialogue speaker, called interpersonal oppression). But the truth is that so much of the racism in our society goes much deeper than that. It is in our structures and institutionalized in our society, a part of the fabric of what we know in our daily lives – and the structures that have enabled those of us with privilege to achieve our goals more easily than those without privilege – and as McIntosh suggests, we are frequently oblivious to it. As Sen told us on Thursday, it is time to look beyond who is racist and look to where acts of racism occur, both big and small, and address those things as we are each able to do.

But how can we do that? None of us have the individual power to create this change do we? Certainly not alone, consider the personal power you hold in any given role you have, and consider where you can make a difference. Those of us with more power can affect bigger change, but we can ALL make a difference in some way. And consider how much more power we have when we work togther.  Consider a few all too common occurances and what you may be able to do differently.

  • What do you do in a class when someone who is different than the majority seems to be left out when it’s time to form groups? How do you think that student feels? Have you ever thought about it?  Will you step up and pull that person into your group or stay in your comfort zone with your own group?
  • Think about how you feel and what you do when you are walking down the street alone and someone from another race approaches you? What do you do, consciously or unconsciously? Do you think that person isn’t aware of any instinctive reaction of concern? Why are you concerned, if you are? How would you feel if  he/she tightened up walking by you or crossed to the other side of the street out of fear that you might want to cause them harm because you are white? Is it any different? Examine it, own it, be aware of it.
  • What if you witness someone “shopping while black” who is being watched in a store you are shopping in?  Would you say something if you knew that person?  What if you don’t know the person? Are we not complicit in perpetuating this structural racism if we don’t take a risk and speak up? Maybe we won’t change the store behavior at first, but we can raise awareness. How do you think that person will feel to have an ally? I have to confess that I never even understood this problem until my daughter talked about an experience she had with a friend in high school, how uncomfortable she was to realize that only the person of color in her group was being followed by the store clerk.

There are unfortunately hundreds of different things we could consider, and what is important is that we DO consider them. That we learn to recognize what happens around us, what others experience regularly that we might not if we  have more checks in the privilege column than not. As a white person, I MUST consider them, and use the unearned privilege I was born with, and any power I have earned as a result of both that privilege and my own efforts, to find ways to effect change for those with less privilege and power. It is my obligation and the only way I can be part of the solution and not part of the problem through inaction.

It’s impossible to close a post about these issues, at this time without thinking about what Trayvon Martin, and to share this link to a news video in which mothers of color had the courage to share with us the hard messages they deliver to their sons about the way life is… Today….in 2012…in the United States. Watch it and see if it doesn’t make you cry to think how you would feel to have to tell your son, brother, friend what these moms need to tell their sons.

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Lessons Learned…Part 1 (A day 3 Blog fest post for #BSUSMW)

Today is day 3 of Blog fest. The topic is “Lessons Learned – Part 1” and the question is “Who has taught you the most about (something)?” The posting goal is to help others understand what that person taught you.

 There are so many people I could profile who have had profound impacts on me, but I think this week is a very appropriate time to profile one of my former supervisors, retired BSC VP for Student Affairs , Dr. Lynn Willett. Next week at the annual ACPA Conference, Lynn will receive the Esther Lloyd Jones Professional Service Award for her commitment to service and leadership to both ACPA and the profession of student affairs.  While disappointed that I can’t be at the conference to celebrate Lynn’s accomplishments, I’m thrilled to use this post as an opportunity to offer my perspective on why she deserves the award and why she has had a profound influence on me, both as a person and professional.

So today (a day late for posting 3!), let me tell you some of the things I learned from Lynn about being an effective leader in student affairs. While many lessons came through conversations and the generous manner in which she shared herself and her insights, so many more were learned by simply watching her lead with authenticity, integrity, personality, expertise, and compassion.  I had the good fortune of working for Lynn for 9 years, and each year I grew more grateful for this opportunity and what I was learning from her! I can honestly say that her supervision, mentorship and friendship played an invaluable role in shaping who I am as a student affairs professional today. So what did those lessons include?

Well, first is that our most critical job as student affairs leaders, or any type of leader for that matter, is hiring. Bring in talented people whose skills complement that of the other team members. Share your expectations. Train them well and teach them about the organizational culture. Then trust and empower them to do their jobs – their way, based on your clear expectations about expected results.

  • A close lesson 1b – surround yourself with people who think differently than you do and who bring different strengths to the table. Whether they are on your work team, on committees, or colleagues you consult with, don’t fall into the comfort of consulting only with those who think like you and will likely agree with you. We all need people who bring different ideas to the table and are willing to tell us when they don’t agree with us.
  • Know yourself. Learn to spend time with you, to consider who you are and what’s important, and to understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Perhaps most importantly, recognize where your line is – the one you are not willing to cross.
  • Lead with your heart, manage with your head, and do both with integrity. Kind of speaks for itself.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously – be willing to laugh freely, especially at yourself. We deal with a lot of serious issues in student affairs that require careful thought and difficult decisions, and we need to give this part of our work the proper level of seriousness.  But that doesn’t mean we need to take ourselves so seriously – don’t lose the joy that brought us to the field in the first place and try to laugh at something every day.
  • Listen more than you talk, and when you talk, ask questions more than you make statements.
  • Don’t be afraid to day “I don’t know. What do you think?” While this is especially true when you DON’T know, it is also important when you DO know, but have the chance to empower your staff to step up and find a solution for themselves.
  • At the end of the day, week, year, career, maintaining your integrity is one of the few things you have complete control over. When you look at the people you admire most, no matter what their role, integrity is probably one of the key elements they all have in common.
  • Talk to students as often as you can, every day is best! There is no substitute for talking directly to students, no matter how large your staff. Be sure they know who you are, that you care about them, that they can trust you and count on you. We all have the power to make a difference in students’ lives every day.

These are just some of the leadership lessons I learned from working with Lynn Willett, and thinking about how to describe these lessons has prompted me to do the same about many others I have worked with, from the first student committee chair I worked with in college to my current VP, but I think I will save that for Lessons Learned – Part 2!”

If you are attending #ACPA12 and get the chance to see Lynn Willett, congratulate her on the Esther Lloyd Jones award and tell her you bring greetings from Bridgewater for those of us who can’t be there!

 Which of these lessons resonates for you?  What lessons have you learned from someone you worked for?

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How do you spell Community? A-C-U-I

We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
— Sandra Day O’Connor

Today is day 2 of BSU’s blogfest and our topic is community.

To me, we are nothing without community, however we define it. This quote by Justice O’Connor really resonates with me and defines community well. What we do as individuals only gains meaning as the result of how it impacts others and by the beauty and complexity of the webs we weave within and between our various communities. The more complex the web and the stronger the threads, the more enduring our contributions become and the more we can say we are actually livong  lives that matter.

Perhaps this is why I was drawn to higher education in the first place – that sense of being part of a strong community that mattered, one that seeks to advance the lives of others and by extension to create better communities both locally and globally. As a student I was drawn into a special community that helped shape the professional and person I would become and this week I have had the privilege of revisiting this community – the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) – once again for its annual conference here in Boston. It has been like coming home. For years I was an active contributing member of this community when my responsibilities lie in campus center and activities work.  This community embraced me when I chose to  enter the profession, and throughout the early years of my career I gave back to the community in a number of volunteer capacities.  As my career responsibilities have changed, I have become involved in other organizations, but my roots remain deeply embedded in ACUI, a professional association that has at its heart the art of building communities on our campuses. A campus center, when done right, is the center of community on any campus.  The condition of the building has no bearing on this fact – it lies in the people, the programs and the services – and the opportunities for student learning that emerge. Once the then-BSC Student Union was known as “the best in the East,” a label most of us would not consider applying to the physical building any longer.

But even with the need for MAJOR renovation – or new construction – the heart of the BSU Campus Center still beats strong. This week its director and assistant director, Ed Cabellon and Beth Goad, are serving as part of the national conference planning team, hosting 1000 colleagues from around the country at this year’s conference, continuing a proud BSU tradition that dates back to the days the building opened. I am proud to work with these professionals and to have passed the BSU torch of ACUI engagement on to them – they are fantastic representatives for our institution!

When I was first starting out in the field 30 years ago, I  made deep and lasting friendships in ACUI Region 1 (New England), and these friendships have endured even though I my go years without seeing my colleagues. This week I have had the opportunity to reconnect with so many old (seasoned?) friends and have been clearly reminded of how deeply the threads are woven when one commits to being part of a community like this, even years after that involvement ends.  For example, today I enjoyed conversations with longtime friends from my early days in this community, while also making a new friend in a young woman from New Jersey who recently started in the field and  with whom I was matched in the mentoring program. My community is now providing  me with the opportunity to offer her what was offered to me by so many veterans when I first started out. This is really what community is all about – it is enduring, organic, nurturing, self-sustaining, vibrant, energetic, and inexplicable.  You only know it when you experience it. It is ever-changing, and yet ever constant.

To me, community really is the only reason we matter – it is how we contribute to something greater than ourselves, that then becomes greater because of our contributions.

Find your community(ies). Commit to building them and making them stronger and you will be stronger and better in the process.

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Why I Blog….and Why I Don’t….day 1 of BSU’s Blogfest

So today is the first day of Blogfest and the first set of questions are about why we blog, and what makes for good blogs.  I signed up to participate because I thought maybe doing posts consistently for a week would get me back on track with keeping up the nice shiny new blog I started for the new year. After all, they say repetition is the key to making something a habit, so who knows?

I got started blogging because it seemed like everyone was doing it! They seemed to enjoy it, and I enjoyed reading what they wrote, the tips they shared, the basic stories that shared bits of who they are. So I started a blog sometime over a year ago – before Google+ started, did last year’s blogfest, and then ….fell off the wagon (Okay, maybe writing a dissertation makes it hard to stay on track, but still, I could have kept up once a month, right?).  Anyway, when I decided to get back on track around the holiday….#oneword you know!….my blog was “gone”!  It said I had one, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get into it – google apparently owns the tool I was using and did some funky things because I didn’t link it properly.  So in the end, I gave up and started over on WordPress – harder to use, and still not a pretty site, but I can into it and post and remember my passwords!  Not bad.  I did a few posts early on….but it’s been over a month.

Enter blogfest, so maybe once again I will get back on track.

So, why do I want to blog…maybe I should have a better answer to that question than “because everyone is doing it” if I want to really be consistent!  I think that blogging provides an opportunity to reflect, to think about things more intentionally than day to day life would normally allow and then put those thoughts into words. Depending on the topic, that might mean providing the impetus to commit to something more fully because you make it public, which is a good thing. It also allows you to get feedback from people who can help you think through whatever is on your mind. And sometimes, if you are really thoughtful, you might provide inspiration for others, which is a pretty neat idea. These seem like pretty good reasons to blog, and it doesn’t really take too much time.  So why can’t I figure out how to be more consistent?

As part of my #oneword, thrive, I have been considering this over the last month when I crash for the day thinking that maybe I will get to it tomorrow…(my futuristic?).  I am at #acui12 right now (a shoutout to @edcabellon and @bbgoad for the great job they are doing!) and yesterday’s opening keynoter challenged us to “the 5 day strengths challenge” – to pick a strength and focus on it every day for a week so that we can build on it.  I am going to try, and I think that I will start with strategic, which is also one of my top 5, and for this post will strategize how to be more consistent about keeping up my blog – my intentions were good in January, but not my follow through. I think maybe one of my strengths may also be what makes it hard for me to just write about what is on my mind – I am a pretty private person for an extravert, and what I spend time thinking about most isn’t generally things I want to share with “everyone” (assuming anyone actually reads my blog or not!).  Relator is also one of my top 5, which means that I enjoy finding a connection with someone and building on that connection, and in a blog that other person isn’t really there, so it’s harder for me to imagine that what I am sharing is really helping to create or forge that unique relationship I am seeking to find with each person I get to know.  And yet I love to read other people’s blogs, and most of the time, find interesting new ideas and thing to think about (My learner perhaps?) I don’t usually wonder why they bothered, like I do when I read my own stuff. I often wonder what I could possibly share that anyone would WANT to bother reading, so I don’t …bother….hmm…something to ponder.  I think my achiever expects that all my posts will be “brilliant”, which really isn’t the point, and truthfully, as an achiever and perfectionist, most things are never quite good enough!

So I guess I have figured out how my top five strengths feed into why I want to blog and why I can’t quite keep it going.  It feels a bit too impersonal for someone who prefers one on one communication, even though I enjoy reading others’ blog posts and in many respects too public for many of things I tend to reflect on.  I also feel as if what I have to say isn’t worthy of a blog post, again, despite the fact that I generally find what others say worth the read and likely to make me think. I guess my task today for the Strengths 5 day challenge is to figure out an effective strategy to establish a regular blogging pattern, a way to post once a week after blogfest is over. This is certainly something to ponder, and maybe that will be my post next week – a strategy for weekly blogs from a “blogger want-to-be” who can’t quite keep it going!

In case you are not familiar with the Strengths model, here is a link to the 34 strengths: ,,%20Teaching%20and%20Learning%20-%20K%20Coufal%20-%20Reference%20Card%20handout.pdf.  Each of us has a “top 5” –  I  referenced mine throughout, but they are Learner, Futuristic, Achiever, Strategic, and Relator.

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African American History, Social Justice and Groundhog Day….Huh?

Last week we kicked off our programming for African American History month with a video showing of A Time for Justice ( ) and  a lunchtime discussion. Even though this documentary covered events in the civil rights movement that I was already familiar with, it was a thought-provoking and emotional event –  one that served as the perfect beginning to highlight our efforts to emphasize that this month must be about more than a celebration of Black History.  It needs to be a call to social justice and a time to remind us all, particularly those who benefit from our white privilege, that despite the progress we have seen, we still aren’t there yet. Being reminded of the horrible things that happened to people of color in our country in the not so distant past should serve as a reminder that there is still so much more work left to do. There are still many injustices left to address.

Last week was also groundhog day…now you might ask what this has to do with African American history and social justice.  But as they often do in early February, one or more channels showed the film, Groundhog Day, and I ended up seeing parts of it again.  It’s an annoying movie really but it still makes such an awesome point – How many of us wouldn’t like the chance to do things over again when we get them wrong? …. and again…and again until we get them right?

Would we be more willing to take action to stop an injustice, or even just an unkindness, if we weren’t afraid of making a mistake that couldn’t be fixed?  If we knew that tomorrow we would get a chance to try again –  the slate would be wiped clean, our mistake would be forgotten, and we could try  to get it right again –  would we be more willing to take a risk and be the one to take action?

Would we speak up for someone who needed us to do so? Would we  use our own privilege to fight against the injustices those with less privilege face on a regular basis? Would we be willing to be the kind of strong white ally our brothers and sisters of color need us to be?  The straight ally our GLBTA sisters and brothers need?  The able bodied ally our brothers and sisters with physical or mental challenges need us to be?

I would like to think so – to think that if the fear of making a mistake was removed and we knew we could try again,  that more of us would be willing to step up.

BUT the truth is that we DO  get a chance to do it all over again every day.  And I would suggest that not forgetting… remembering the past we are trying to change….the mistakes we’ve made personally and collectively… and trying again anyway is the only way can we get it right.  Taking action in spite of or because of our fear of doing something stupid, of not saying the right thing, of not being able to make a difference can be a very empowering experience.

I think the only way we fail is when we don’t try.  This month let’s all look inside ourselves and determine how we can use our privilege – whatever it is – to benefit someone who is less privileged.  If we make a mistake, let’s say “I’m sorry”,  learn from it and try again.

How can you use your privilege? How can others use theirs to lift you?

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So How is the #Oneword going? Better than resolutions usually Do!

So it’s been about two weeks since I chose my #oneword – Thrive. It seems like time to reflect a bit on how it’s going….what am I doing to thrive? What does it mean to me to thrive…what does it look like… feel like ?

Given the newness of my focus on thriving, the last couple of weeks haven’t been too bad!  I am getting back on the health/fitness wagon, have been making great progress on the writing front, and have worked on getting myself organized at home.  I’m even making time to unwind and to do a little pleasure reading every night before I go to sleep. It feels pretty good – a sense of balance and accomplishment.

But the year is young, the semeseter is just starting – and the #sadoc clock is ticking, ticking closer to the deadline to graduate in May!  Work stress is likely to pick up very soon, so the key is going to be figuring out what I can do to ensure I can thrive in spite of, because of all that is happening.

So, what  are some steps I can take to make sure I stay on track with my effort to thrive this year?

  • Touch the dissertation every day for at least an hour.  If I am too tired to write, I’ll edit or check APA formatting or improve a table.  Every day until it’s done.
  • When time is tight &  I can’t do a 45 minute workout, I’ll settle for 30 minutes
  •  Read for fun every night before I go to sleep, even if I only last for 10 minutes– currently it’s Clash of the Kings so this one might take a while!
  • Listen to books on tape from the libray  in the car- that’s an hour a day back and forth from work to get to bookds I haven’t had time for during 8 years of doctoral work!  Recently it’s been Freakanomics and The World is Flat.
  • Keep a running list of “to do” notes in a common place, like Dropbox – big things & little things; stuff that will take some time & stuff I can do in 15 minutes; important things & mundane, but necessary ones.
  • Check at least one off every day – make it mundane if time is tight – the satisfaction of something done is important!
  • Plan out the menu for the week & bulk cook– it will be easier at the end of the day and healthier by far
  • Do something for myself each month…facial, pedicure, massage…just because!

What are you doing to thrive?  What are you doing to live your #oneword in 2012

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Thrive – my 2012 #oneword

Choosing my #oneword for 2012 wasn’t easy, which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows my “P”, learner, achiever self! I was looking for a word that would speak to my need to reach the finish line on the dissertation front without falling further behind on my health efforts than I have over the last few months.  I also wanted a word that – when considered – would remind me that balance has always been the key to my success at work, at home and personally.  And a word that would remind me to reach further, and set new goals for myself for 2012, goals that are a stretch, but attainable.  Tall order for one word! But after pondering a few, I chose THRIVE – a word that seems rich in potential and meaning and capable of encompassing all I wanted in my #oneword.

The more I looked at THRIVE, the more it seemed to be just perfect!  Consider:

  • To thrive is to grow vigorously or flourish, while to NOT thrive is to fail. Failure is an option that an achiever like me would find completely unacceptable!
  • To thrive is to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances. Despite or because of circumstances!  This resonates with my strategic nature – the idea that circumstances don’t matter, are not an excuse. You either rise above them or turn them to your advantage. I like this!
  • Thrive is derived from Middle English, or the Old Norse, probably to “grasp”.  To “grasp” resonates well!  To seize what I need, what I want in order to …thrive.  Not an easy concept, but one to work on. 

In choosing my #oneword I wanted something challenging and complex, something I could sink my teeth into this year.  Thrive….I think I found it! It’s a word to grow with throughout the year.

What do you think?

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I am going to say it out loud….. I am a runner!

It’s been a while since I posted, but that’s usually how it is. I have been building another site, more as a web page than a blog, but even that is still “under construction.”  And I have been thinking about this post for a while, since the day after the Harvest Moon to be exact….the day I actually ran a full 5K –  on the treadmill, with the crowd and the finish line in my head, but still…a 5K!

I have always been a walker, albeit a FAST one, if you ask anyone who ever goes to the mall with me and gets left in the dust! My workouts  have included lots of intervals and wind sprints, and over the summer I was building up the percentage of each workout that was legitimately “running” but saying it was 50-50 was really a stretch.  Mid-summer I decided I was going to run a 5K before year-end  and felt both excited and kind of afraid to say it out loud because that would mean really committing to it and maybe failing.

But last month I was driving to the gym early in the morning and saw a really spectacular sight. The full harvest moon was setting to my right and the sun coming up on my left – it was very beautiful and surreal, and  the contrast was striking. I felt… in the middle…on the cusp of something and that morning I decided it was time to see if I could really do this.  So I hit the treadmill and set out to run a 5K on the spur of the moment. No one would know my goal and after all, there is only about 5 people in the fitness center on any morning at 6:30 anyway, so why not?  I did it!

I ran 3.1 miles in 38 minutes and lived to tell about it!

Since then I have been routinely doing 3 plus miles 3 times a week, but found that it is a LOT harder outside than it is inside, on the treadmill. I haven’t been able to run the full distance outside. Nonetheless, I have signed up for the first 5K I intend to RUN rather than walk, and I am going to say it out loud, even though I am really terrified I won’t be able to actually run the whole thing on November 7….

…I AM A RUNNER and I like it!

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