Posted by: hjelen87 | November 20, 2012

Every Mile a Memory: A Decade of Running Statistics

This past September marked the 10-year anniversary of when I started logging my running.  When I started, I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore in South Dakota.  I am now a 25-year-old 3rd year law student in Washington, DC.  Running has been my constant throughout these past 10 years.  Below are some interesting statistics about my past decade of running.

Number of races run: 234

Number of races won: 21

Number of miles run: 15,186.91

Average miles per day: 4.16

Longest single run: 14 miles (2/26/12)

Highest mileage day: July 16, 2008 (15.68 miles between 2 runs)

Highest mileage week: Week of August 21, 2006 (71.61 miles)

Highest mileage month: August 2006 (293.68 miles)

Highest mileage year: 2009 (1,897.10 miles)

Percentage of races I set PRs in: 82/234=35%

Number of states raced in: 12 (+ DC)  (California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin)

Lowest temperature run: -21 degrees, -40 windchill (1/15/09, Arden Hills, MN)

Highest temperature run: 98 degrees (7/4/12, Falls Church, VA)

Pairs of shoes: 32 (4 pairs of spikes, 2 pairs of racing flats, 24 pairs of Saucony Hurricane trainers, 2 pairs of other trainers)

Race distance that I’ve run the most: 1500/1600/mile (72 races)


*800m: 2:13.76 (5/14/09)

*1000m: 3:00.43 (2/23/08)

*1500m: 4:31.35 (5/23/09)

*Mile: 4:58.37 (3/6/09)

*3000m: 10:45.44 (2/6/10)

*3000m steeplechase: 11:50.00 (4/4/09)

*4k: 15:39 (10/8/05)

*5k: 18:47 (11/24/11)

*6k: 22:13.43 (10/17/09)

*10k: 39:36 (11/13/11)

*10 miles: 1:05:43 (10/9/11)

*Half-marathon: 1:33:31 (3/17/12)

Unforgettable memories that running has brought me: innumerable

Posted by: hjelen87 | November 7, 2012

Election 2012: Judgment & Fear


Throughout this election cycle, and more specifically since the results started pouring in yesterday, I’ve seen two disappointing things from people, especially from Christians: judgment and fear.

Facebook is interesting during an election season.  It is an easy way for a person to share their views on issues and candidates, but views are shared through sound bites, which don’t tell the whole story.  A person might say that they voted for a certain candidate, but what is harder to convey via a Facebook status or comment is why, exactly, they voted for that person.  In my experience, it is often more complicated than people assume.  While it’s true that some people vote for a candidate because they agree with all of that person’s views, instead, it frequently involves a precarious balancing act of which issues are most important and which candidate’s imperfect plan might yield the best results.

But what I’ve seen in the past few days has been people making assumptions and jumping to judgment.  I know of someone being chastised for giving up her values after the person made an assumption (which happened to be wrong) about whom she voted for.  I’ve seen sore winners, who attacked the character of those on the losing side and boasted in being better.  I’ve seen sore losers, who accused those supporting the winner of simply following the crowd and having no morals.  It’s interesting how so many people say they are frustrated with politicians for all of the name-calling, and then they do the same thing to those who disagree with them.

As a Christian, I am called to love others, including my enemies.  While I don’t think of those who disagree with me politically as “enemies,” many people do.  And I am not seeing much love.  Paul tells us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2).  We need to stop rushing to judge others based solely upon whom they voted for in an election.  I would encourage you to have a real conversation with someone who voted differently than you.  Ask them to explain why they voted the way they did.  It is easier to love others and avoid judgment when we get away from the computer screen and engage other people face-to-face.  Having a civil discussion with someone who disagrees with you politically might not change anyone’s mind on the issues, but I guarantee it will make it harder for you to judge and name-call.

The second thing I’ve been saddened to see from so many Christians since the election ended is fear.  People are truly afraid that this country is going to be destroyed because Obama won re-election.  I have two responses to this fear.  First, I think many people are believing a lie that the President of the United States is more powerful than he actually is.  While it is true that the President can do a lot, there is so much that he cannot do.  He cannot unilaterally enact legislation.  He cannot overturn Supreme Court cases.  He cannot amend the Constitution.  While he may be able to influence some of these things, people need to realize that in four or eight years, there is a good chance that not much will change.  And while people seem to lament this fact when “their guy” gets elected and isn’t getting anything done, they often seem to forget it when “the other guy” gets elected, thinking that he is going to change everything for the worse.

My second response to this fear is that, if you believe that an almighty God created the universe and everything in it, and if you believe that the Bible is true, then why are you so afraid of one person getting elected President of one country for four years?  The Bible says “Do not fear” many, many times (see, e.g. Isaiah 41:10).  It also says “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).  So I would encourage you to remember that God is the all-powerful, omnipotent, infinite creator of the universe, and that Barack Obama (along with every other politician) is a man.  And as it says in Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”


Let’s face it: Metro drives us all crazy most of the time.  But in a spirit of looking on the bright side, I’m going to focus on things that I’ve been able to practice in the copious amount of time I spend on the Metro every day.

1. Good balance. At 5’2”, I’m not really able to reach the top bars on the Metro trains.  And heels are clearly a bad idea (see #9). So in those times when I’m shuffled to a place where there is not a bar within reach of me, I’m forced to “Metro surf,” which really helps me perfect my balance.

2. Patience!  This pretty much goes without explaining, but Metro has a tendency to make you wait…for the bus, for the train, for the train to start moving again when it has stopped, for the construction to be done (it’ll never happen).  All this waiting has given me a chance to develop a ton of patience.

3. Avoiding eye contact with strangers who are right in my sight line.  I am always amazed at how so many people can be packed into such a small space, and nobody is looking at anyone else (but see #4).  You would think I would have completely memorized the Metro map because of how many times I’ve intently studied it, just to avoid looking at any person standing or sitting around me.

4. People watching without getting caught.  There are lots of crazy characters on the Metro, so sometimes it’s hard to help looking at some of them.  You just have to know how to do it without them noticing.  Sunglasses are helpful for this.

5. Taking up as little space as possible.  I’m a pretty small person to begin with, but when riding in a packed Metro car, I still always feel like I’m in everybody’s way.  I’ve been practicing blending into the glass separator things.

6. Keeping a steady hand on a moving train.  I spend a lot of time on the Metro, and in law school, time is of the essence.  So doing some reading on the train is sometimes necessary.  But of course, in law school you can’t just read the book, you have to highlight.  After some very squiggly lines early on, I’ve gotten pretty good at highlighting a straight line while the train is moving.  The same goes for doing crossword puzzles.

7. Being courteous to people even when they are driving me crazy.  You have no idea how many times I have wanted to shove tourists out of the way for standing on the left side of the escalator.  But in my effort to show Christ’s love to everyone I encounter, I have had plenty of practice resisting the urge to be rude to people, even when I think they are being rude to me.

8. My Spanish. I personally love the incredible linguistic diversity I encounter on the Metro every day.  And while some may call it eavesdropping, I find that trying to see how much of someone’s conversation I can understand in Spanish is great practice.

9. Always remembering to bring flats.  I love heels.  But I once wore a really tall pair of them on the Metro and had to stand on my way to school, and I learned my lesson.  My legs were honestly more sore the next day than after a track workout.  So now I will always remember to bring a pair of flats for my travels.

10. Overcoming my claustrophobia.  Getting stuck in a tunnel in an enclosed train is a great time to practice not hyperventilating.  Bonus points if the AC isn’t working in the car.

11. Being comfortable having no personal space.  Touching other people is inevitable during rush hour, so you just have to get used to it.

12. Catching up on sleep at random times, while not missing my stop.  Yep, I’m one of those people who sleep on the Metro on a semi-regular basis.  There’s just something about the way the train rocks back and forth that can lull a sleep-deprived law student into dreamland.  For me, the trick to not missing my stop is not allowing myself to sleep on the train when I’m really tired, because then I know I probably wouldn’t wake up for my stop.  I have yet to sleep through my stop, so it’s worked so far!

Posted by: hjelen87 | July 20, 2012

Team USA-No Matter Where They Were Born

Me & LagatMe & Manzano

*Update: about a month after I wrote this post, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet both Bernard Lagat (left photo) and Leo Manzano (right photo, with the Olympic silver medal he won in the 1500m), both of the immigrant Olympians I had talked about in this post!

When I was a sophomore at Bethel University, I was the top 1500-meter runner on my track team. Then, my junior year, a transfer student came, and she was really fast. She quickly took my place as the fastest miler on the team, winning multiple national championships in the process.

I’ll admit to having felt a little bit frustrated because she came in from the outside and passed me up. But training with her is one of the key reasons I was ultimately able to finish sixth at the national meet, good enough to earn All-American honors. She pushed me to become better. She gave me someone to chase. She brought more attention to our school and our team, resulting in more fast recruits. In short, she made me and our whole team better.

As the Olympics start this year, the United States counts many “transfers” — immigrants from all over the world who are now U.S. citizens — among its top athletes. Some people may feel threatened by these immigrants because they are potentially taking the place of others who were born here. But I think our immigrants make us better, just like my transfer teammate made me better. They continually push us to do better, work harder and find new ways to improve.

Leo Manzano, who will represent the United States in the 1500 meters, is among our immigrant athletes whose parents brought them here when they were young. Manzano’s father, Jesus, first came to America in search of work and a better life for him and his family. Eventually, his wife and children joined him in the United States — Leo came when he was 4.

Jesus gained legal residency under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, but it would take 10 years for the rest of the family to gain legal residency. Leo became a citizen in 2004 and represented the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics. This year, he won the Olympic Trials in the 1500 meters for another chance to represent the country that allowed him the opportunity to pursue his dream of running professionally.

Other athletes grew up in another country, including Bernard Lagat (running the 5000 meters at the Olympics), who previously represented his native Kenya before becoming a U.S. citizen. Lagat chose to become a naturalized U.S. citizen even though it meant missing out on the 2005 World Championships because of rules governing a change of nationality.

These are just two examples of the many immigrants (38, by my count, from 30 different countries) who will be proud to represent the United States when the Olympics start next week. And I will be proud to watch Manzano, Lagat and the rest of Team USA, no matter where they were born. America continues to be a nation of immigrants, where we accept and embrace those willing to pledge allegiance to this great country — including immigrants who continually challenge, push and improve us.

*This post was written for the National Immigration Forum blog and can be found here.

Posted by: hjelen87 | June 22, 2012

On Running, Passion, and Always Coming Back

“If you love something, let it go.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.” -Anonymous

In college, our coach made us take 2 weeks off of running at the end of every cross-country and outdoor track season.  And a lot of us hated it.  There is something about being forced to give something up that just makes you want it more.  At the end of those two weeks, I was always raring to get back at it.  Looking back, I can appreciate the importance of those 2-week breaks.  Since I’m not in college anymore, I don’t have set “seasons” for running.  I haven’t even really had “goal” races that are the main thing I am training for.  In college, we were always pointing for something.  Qualify for nationals.  Win conference.  Become an All-American.  Our whole season would be focused on these goals, and then when the season was over, whether or not those goals were accomplished, we would take our 2 weeks off, and then we would start again.

At first, after graduating from college, it was a little bit freeing to not have the pressure of always working toward something specific in my running.  I didn’t have to worry about getting injured, because if I did, I would just take as much time off as needed to get healthy and then I would start again.  I didn’t have to worry about having a bad race, because it didn’t really matter, didn’t make a difference for anything in the future.  It was just a race.

I took some time completely off, then some time just running whenever I felt like it.  But soon, I realized I didn’t like being a “recreational runner.”  Running just for the sake of running.  When I say I love running, what I really mean is that I love training.  Racing.  Competing.  Pushing my body to its limit just to see how far and how fast it will go.

Recently, I took some time off of running.  I’m not forced to take breaks anymore, but I’ve learned to impose them on myself.  They are my way of making sure that running is not just something that I feel like I should do, not just some addiction that I have, but something that is my passion.  I take as much time off as I need to get the fire back.  And before long, I start to miss it.  To miss training.  To miss being able to do something that most people can only dream of doing.  I know I will come back to it.  I always do.  Almost every competitive runner that I know always comes back to it.  It is our passion.  And once you find that passion in your life, you can’t give it up.

“The fire’s returned, I’m letting it burn; there’s nothing better in the whole wide world.” –Remedy Drive-“Heartbeat

Posted by: hjelen87 | June 13, 2012

You Know You Don’t Own a Smartphone When…

Zach Morris Cell Phone

I tend to hold out for a long time on joining new technological trends.  Mostly this is simply due to the fact that I don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford high-tech new stuff and data plans.  It is also partly because I don’t like to get things just because everyone else has one.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I was a freshman in college (which was in 2005, when 69% of the population owned a cell phone [cite], and I’m sure a much higher percentage for people my age).  I never sent a text message until late in my sophomore year of college (2007).

My current technology holdout is the smartphone.  As of earlier this year, a majority of cell phone users in the U.S. now have smartphones [cite].  I certainly don’t feel like I need one, and I know I can’t afford one right now, but there are definitely times I wish I had one and times I feel left out without one.  So on that note, I give you…

You Know You Don’t Own a Smartphone When…

1. You kill time waiting for things by deleting texts (because of your old-school text storage limit), randomly flipping through your contact list, and if all else fails, just pushing random buttons to look like you’re busy.

2. When trying to figure out how to get somewhere, you pull out an actual, physical map.

3. You carry around a digital camera and an ipod, in addition to your (non-smart) cell phone.

4. You actually have to print out things like tickets and coupons.

5. You didn’t know what Instagram was for longer than you’d like to admit.

6. You know exactly who to call when you need to look up some information and you don’t have access to a computer.

7. You carry your laptop with you everywhere.

8. It is a common occurrence for you to be sitting at a table twiddling your thumbs while everyone else with you surfs the internet/checks their e-mail.  At these times, you often resort to pushing random buttons on your phone, just to feel included (see #1).

9. When not at home/work, you are unreachable via e-mail.  You often come home/to work to find a full inbox, including long conversations that happened in your absence and frantic e-mails wondering where you are and why you aren’t responding.

10. When your computer is not working or is being fixed, you are completely cut off from internet access.

11. You always seem to be the last to find out big news.

12. You have to wait until you get home to share photos or let your friends know what you’ve been up to (oh, the horror!).

13. You often get frustrated when your friends are too busy on their phones to talk to you. (Research shows that even though non-smartphone users are still able to send texts, they do so at a much lower rate than smartphone users [cite])

14. You only pay about $20/month for your cell phone bill (you’re jealous, right?) (see “How Much Will Your Smart Phone Really Cost?”)

15. You have no way of letting all your Facebook friends know where you are at all time (I know, how do I survive?!!).

16. You know all the best places near your home/work/school to get free wifi (no 4G for me!).

17. You have never played Angry Birds.

18. You sometimes arrive at an event, only to find that the time or place has been changed last minute and the host let everyone know via e-mail or Facebook, assuming that everyone would get the message on their smartphones.

19. People always see the terrible/embarrassing photos of you that others post on Facebook, because you are unable to untag yourself immediately.

Anyone have any other good ones?  Leave them in the comments.

(And yes, if you can’t tell, I like statistics, and law school has me citing everything)

Posted by: hjelen87 | March 10, 2012

Fortunately, Unfortunately


Fortunately, Unfortunately: My Journey to California

Fortunately, I had a weeklong spring break.

Unfortunately, it costs money to travel places.

Fortunately, I had frequent flyer miles and a friend who lives in California who I could stay with.

Unfortunately, I had to fly out of Dulles, and none of my roommates could take me.

Fortunately, there is a metrobus that goes to Dulles.

Unfortunately, it was super crowded and took a long time to get there.

Fortunately, we made it to the airport on time.

Unfortunately, there were tornadoes in Cincinnati, where I was connecting through.

Fortunately, they said the tornadoes wouldn’t affect our flight.

Unfortunately, the flight was delayed, for reasons other than the tornadoes.

Fortunately, we made it safely to Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, I missed my connecting flight to LA.

Fortunately, they said they would put me on another flight to LA.

Unfortunately, I had to wait in an insanely long line to book another flight.

Fortunately, I met some nice people in line.

Unfortunately, the flight that they originally booked me on wouldn’t get to LA until 7:30pm the next day.

Fortunately, the attendant found another earlier flight for me.

Unfortunately, that flight was already booked by the time he tried to get tickets for me.

Fortunately, one of the people who I’d met in line was also going to LA and his attendant had found a flight through another airline.

Unfortunately, it still didn’t leave until the next morning.

Fortunately, the airline paid for me to stay at a hotel that night.

Unfortunately, it would take a really long time to get my checked bag that night, and I would only have about 4 hours of sleep as it was.

Fortunately, they said they would switch the bag to my new flight.

Unfortunately, I barely got any sleep that night because I got to the hotel late and my flight left at 6am the next morning.

Fortunately, the beds were comfortable.

Unfortunately, when I went to check in the next morning, they couldn’t find a ticket for me.

Fortunately, they finally found me a ticket.

Unfortunately, I had to fly to Dallas first and then connect to LA.

Fortunately, I made my connecting flight to LA that time.

Unfortunately, my phone inexplicably died during the flight.

Fortunately, I had my charger with me, and that worked.

Unfortunately, my baggage was not in the baggage claim area with the rest of my flight.

Fortunately, my bag was at LAX at 9:45am.

Unfortunately, when I talked to the airline attendant and she checked on my bag, she said it wasn’t there and wouldn’t arrive until 7:30pm.

Fortunately, when we got to my friend’s apartment, we discovered that my bag was already in LA.

Unfortunately, my friend lives a ways from LAX and we didn’t want to drive back to get it.

Fortunately, they were able to deliver my bag to me that night.

And that is the story of my journey to California.  And fortunately, the rest of the trip went much more smoothly!

[Based on the children’s book Fortunately by Remy Charlip]

Posted by: hjelen87 | February 20, 2011

Bridge Run

Nearly every time I go on a run here, I wish I had a camera with me.  So one day I decided to bring one along.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.  Check out my facebook for the rest of them.

Posted by: hjelen87 | December 23, 2010

Wonderful Counselor

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve written!!  Well I made it through my first semester, including finals, and we’ll see how successful I was when grades come out, which won’t be until late January or early February.  Finals time was much busier than the rest of the semester, hence my lack of blog posts.  But now I’m home, which is really nice!  It’s great to see friends and family who I haven’t seen in awhile (although it feels like it’s only been a few weeks!).  And I am getting some well-needed rest, although I’ve spend a good chunk of my time here working on applying to jobs for next summer…the law school responsibilities never end.

In honor of Christmas, I thought I’d reflect a little on one of the things that Jesus is often called-Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6-“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”).  “Counselor” can mean a lot of different things, and most people usually think of a counselor as like a psychologist, someone who listens to your problems and gives advice.  But attorneys are also called counselors, and Jesus fits that role in a few ways.

First, attorneys as counselors give advice about legal problems, helping their clients through hard times.  Jesus does the same thing, if you allow Him to.  He will help you through tough times, and through the Bible and other people, He will give you advice about what to do in those troubled times.

The other important way that Jesus is like an attorney is that He represents us before the judge.  God is the ultimate Judge.  Satan is the prosecutor, throwing constant accusations at us.  But thankfully, we have Jesus as our defense attorney, representing us.  And He not only stands before the Judge and speaks about why we should not be punished, but in the end, He offers to take our place.  Because the truth is, we deserve punishment.  God is just and we are sinful, and therefore we should be punished.  But Jesus offered to stand in our place.  He took the punishment for us and in the process wiped our slate clean, so that now we can be pronounced innocent.  It no longer matters what the prosecutor says about us-we are free because of our Wonderful Counselor.  And that is what Christmas is really all about-Jesus was born for the purpose of representing us and standing in our place, so that we can go free.

Posted by: hjelen87 | October 29, 2010

Running out of my comfort zone

In High School, my cross country coach, Mr. Greeno had this saying that he put on our shirts, itineraries, etc. and said a lot-Run Out of the Comfort Zone.  Running out of your comfort zone is really the only way to improve-if you just run within your “comfort zone” all the time, you will never get any faster.  The problem with running out of your comfort zone is that, well, it’s not comfortable.  It’s not easy.  Running out of your comfort zone doesn’t come naturally-we have to push through pain.  But if you consistently run out of your comfort zone, it starts to get bigger.  And then the pace that was out of your comfort zone before becomes easy, and you have to go faster to run out of your comfort zone.  That is the way that we improve.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about my “comfort zone” lately, not in terms of running, but in life.  Coming to DC, where I barely knew anyone, was not a comfortable thing to do.  And law school isn’t often within my comfort zone.  Sometimes it is hard to be in a place where I’m not completely comfortable yet.  But when I question why I am doing this, why I’m sticking it out and pushing through the discomfort, I realize that the same principles that apply in running apply to this as well-you can’t grow and learn until you get out of your comfort zone.

In law school, when students ask questions, often the professor will turn the question back on them.  Now this can get very annoying, and certainly uncomfortable when you ask a question because you don’t know something (which is generally why we ask questions).  But it does force you to learn, to find the answer on your own.  And then the next time, you know how to find it, and it’s not outside your comfort zone anymore.  And every time I go somewhere new in this city, or talk to someone I haven’t talked to before, it gets less uncomfortable, until eventually, I find that I feel like I belong here, and the city itself (or most of it) is within my comfort zone.  My life is not comfortable much of the time, but it’s better that way.  I’m growing, learning, expanding my horizons, and every day my comfort zone gets just a little bit bigger.

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