Embrace Forward Motion

Wellness, fitness & personal growth


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Volunteering at Races: How to Get Involved and Support Runners

Medals at Women Rock 10K. Saint Paul, 2015.

Women Rock 10K Medals. Saint Paul, MN. 2015. Photo Credit: Tali Levin

Volunteers are awesome!

I had competed in half-marathons in years past, but it wasn’t until my first marathon last year that I became truly aware and thankful of everyone who helped me reach the finish line successfully. Since then, I’ve volunteered at five race events in the Twin Cities with three different organizations, and it’s been an absolutely amazing way to grow!

Why Volunteer for Races?

Every runner has a reason for participating in a race. For some, this is their first race, others compete for a personal record time, some do it just for fun, or they may run with a special someone in their thoughts. Of course, there is an endless number of other reasons!

Runners’ goals and aspirations depend on the organization’s staff and volunteers to make race day happen. Without volunteers, there is no race.

With Whom Can I Volunteer?

The Twin Cities hosts three main organizations that orchestrate year-round race series:

  • Twin Cities in Motion
    • Organizes Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and the Red, White & Boom! Half Marathon, among others.
  • Minnesota Running Series
    • Plans Goldy’s Run, Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon and Turkey Trot, among others.
  • Team Ortho
    • Known for the Get Lucky Half Marathon, Minneapolis Marathon and Monster Dash, among others.

There are many other running race organizations all over the country.

Who Volunteers?

People of all ages and backgrounds, runners and non-runners, groups and individuals.

What Are the Perks of Volunteering?

As a volunteer, you can expect to receive:

  • A volunteer shirt or apparel from the organization.
  • Snacks or refreshments (depending on organization and weather).
  • “Bones” per hour of service (Team Ortho Only): Bones act as points that may be redeemed for race entries or apparel.
  • Some leftover food at the end of the race.
  • Plenty of smiles and “Thank You”s from grateful runners and staff!

What Are Typical Volunteer Tasks?

When signing up online, you choose where you want to help and the type of responsibilities you may have:

  • Before Race Day – Prepare race packets; set-up, facilitate and take-down Expo and/or packet pick-up
  • Start Line – Set-up, bag drop, direct runners, take-down.
  • Out on the Course – Be a course marshall (enforce course and direct runners), prepare and hand out water/sports drinks at fluid stops, pass out gels (marathons only).
  • Finish Line – Set-up, prepare and pass out medals, direct runners, hand out food and drinks, give wet towels or Mylar blankets (marathons only), bag pick-up, take-down.
  • Post-Race Party – Set-up, assist in tents and activities, take-down.

How Do I Get Started?

  1. Find a race or organization.
    • Volunteering in the Twin Cities or Minnesota:
      • Follow the links for the organizations listed above and find the Volunteering tabs.
    • Volunteering in other cities:
      • Find the websites to local races you know in your area, or search in Google “(Your State) Marathon” or “(Your City) Running Races”.
    •  Use the Runner’s World Race Finder tool.
  2. Check out the volunteering opportunities for the event.
  3. Sign up and attend individually, with a friend or group!


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DO’s and DON’T’s of Overcoming Injuries: A Personal Discovery

Injuries are unexpected and inconvenient. As a typical 20-something, I sometimes feel like I am invincible. Nevertheless, a recent injury put a halt to my duathlon training. I present to you DO’s and DON’Ts, which I’ve discovered during my recovery, of overcoming injuries, as well as a narrative… because who doesn’t love a good injury story?

Two weeks ago I was out on a training run. Diverting my attention to the side, I stepped where the sidewalk meets the grass. Ungracefully, I fell and sprained my ankle. As I watched my ankle swell up and felt pain in my arch, thoughts of “well, that was stupid” and “there goes my race” flooded in. First lessons:

  • DO watch where you’re going when running.
  • DON’T put yourself down. Recognize mistakes and move past them.

After limping back home a few blocks, I dug up my ankle brace (saved from a previous ankle sprain and foot fracture on my other foot) and RICE’d up my day– Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. And of course, sadly canceled plans and sat at home at a loss of what to do.

  • DO RICE–Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate–the injured limb.
  • DO keep braces, crutches or other injury “accessories”– you may need them again.

A week went by. I used my ankle brace daily, and a crutch the first few days. After talking to trainers and runners, hearing a few “I-wish-I-would-have-taken-care-of-my-injury-when-it-happened-because-now-I’m-doomed-with-weak-joints” stories, and recognizing that I intend to continue running, I set up a visit with the podiatrist.

  • DO go see a doctor if the injury is not improving, getting worse, or you want to figure out what’s wrong exactly and treat the injury accordingly.

Doctor’s advice: Ankle ligaments will take six weeks to heal completely, and the plantar fasciitis should be relieved with stretching. Until then, no running, no biking, no race. Of course I tried to bargain on the biking, but she remained firm with her answer. After giving it some thought, I decided: I’m planning on keeping a well-working ankle for the next 70 years… relatively, six weeks is not that long.

  • DON’T rush your healing time. Cutting off recovery and rehab time will highly increase chances of reinjury.
  • DO think of your recovery time as an investment: one extra week now may translate to an extra year for your limb to properly work years down the road.
  • DO recognize your body has limits. Respect them.
  • DO be realistic about safely resetting goals.

If I had to pick my top two lessons from this experience, these are it:

  • DO stay positive.
  • DO embrace this time as an opportunity to explore new areas of personal growth and wellness.


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Best Urban Trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Summertime is great for exploring the outdoors! The Twin Cities are well known for their beautiful urban landscape, with an abundance of vitalizing parks, trails and bodies of water.

Here is my selection of the Best Trails in Minneapolis and St. Paul for every mood. If you are looking to be by…

The Lakes

  • Check out the Chain of Lakes. Among the lakes, Lake Calhoun is the biggest (and seemingly with the highest number of active people) in Minneapolis. Looking for something calmer? Explore Lake Harriet–family friendly, with shade under trees and lake views throughout. Rest by the Lake Harriet Bandshell for food, and free movies and music in the summer.

    Chain of Lakes

    Chain of Lakes

The Mississippi River

  • Go see West River Parkway (Minneapolis side)–beautiful stretches between Broadway St. and Plymouth Ave., and south of Lake St. to Minnehaha Falls Park.

    West River Parkway

    West River Parkway

  • Try Mississippi River Boulevard (St. Paul side). Enjoy scenic views of the river between Franklin Ave. and Summit Ave. Be sure to stop at the landscaped rest area where Summit Ave. meets the Boulevard for amazing panoramic views, a historic monument and hidden dirt trail and waterfalls down by the river.

    Mississippi River Boulevard

    Mississippi River Boulevard

A Residential Area

  • Go for a stroll on St. Anthony Parkway in Northeast Minneapolis. Suburban feel in an urban landscape. Winding off-road trail and sidewalk, plenty of green to catch your eye and quiet neighborhood. Make a stop at Deming Heights Park to reach the highest elevation in Minneapolis. (The St. Anthony Parkway bridge on the west end of the Parkway will be under construction from Aug. 2015 to summer of 2017; plan for an alternative connecting route if coming from the west.)

    St. Anthony Parkway

    St. Anthony Parkway

Minnehaha Creek

  • Run on the Minnehaha Parkway trails. A hidden urban escape with fluid, gentle water sounds. The tree canopy makes it easy to forget you are in the middle of the city. Great connecting route between Lake Harriet, Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Falls.

    Minnehaha Parkway

    Minnehaha Parkway

Open Prairie Fields

  • Ride on the Cedar Lake Trail. Parts of the trail accommodate pedestrians and cyclists with three separate parallel lanes, including one-way bike lanes in each direction. Fast commute. with ample sun and open space. Bring your own water supply in the summer; there are only a few water sources available. Connect with the Kenilworth Trail for a tree- and shade-filled oasis that leads to the Chain of Lakes.
Cedar Lake Trail

Cedar Lake Trail

Kenilworth Trail

Kenilworth Trail

The Middle of the City

  • Go on the Midtown Greenway. Although not very scenic, it gets you where you need to go. With many street exits in the middle of Minneapolis, the Greenway starts at W. River Pkwy., stretches past Lake Calhoun and merges with the Cedar Lake Trail.

    Midtown Greenway

    Midtown Greenway


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National Running Day: Why Do We Run?

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Every first Wednesday in June is National Running Day. This year, it’s today–June 3rd.

This day showcases the love runners have for running and expands national awareness of the running community.

The theme this year, as organized by National Running Day with their logo (above), is to have runners complete the sentence “I run…” and post it on social media with the hashtag #NationalRunningDay. This can take the approach of “I run because…, in order to…, so I…”, among others.

Whether you are just starting a wellness routine (not even necessarily running) or have been maintaining one for a while, I encourage you to think about why you do it. Get specific about why you favor certain activities over others, and decide what effect those reasons have on you on your personal growth–in mind, body and/or spirit. For example:

  • If you bike every day to lose weight, why do you want to lose weight? Which feelings are you trying to attain?
  • If you like outdoor runs better than running on a treadmill, what is it about the freedom of the outdoors that sparks your enjoyment?

Identifying and evaluating the basics can allow us to refocus and reassess that which fuels our motivation. Ultimately, recognizing why we do what we do can give us a renewed drive to pursue growth and keep us moving forward.