Christmas is Coming! A Speech for the Women’s 4-Miler Training Program







This was my talk this morning at the Women’s 4-Miler Training Program.

DENISE:  I say “early” you say “often”.  Early!


I have amazing news:  Christmas is Coming!

In fact…it’s exactly 6 months away from today.  I guess it’s more like a reminder because you already knew that.  You don’t need me to tell you that Christmas is coming and I could never talk you into believing that it wasn’t coming — because you know what you know and you don’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about whether Christmas is coming.

The only reason Christmas CAN happen nationally and internationally exactly when it does is that we all agree.  We agree that it’s going to happen.  It’s not random like a storm.  It’s a social agreement.  That’s not dramatic.

We know from watching A Christmas Carol or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life that it’s not about the event…it’s about the attitude.  It’s about beliefs deepening.  It’s about the heart growing three times.  It’s about the attitude of Cindy Lou Hoo.

Let me talk about some people who love Christmas:  KINDERGARTNERS.  They get it.  They remember it.  They’re not afraid to ASK FOR STUFF.

I have a feeling you enrolled in this program because you wanted something. Something about it sounded good, maybe for the simple help of having an appointment to exercise.

For almost three years I was a kindergarten assistant.  I want to share a few stories:

Schuyler grabbed my upper arm with both her hands and squeezed.  Pressing the side of her face into my arm she said, “Ms. Stewart, I love your arms!  They feel like jelly.”  She didn’t know she was supposed to hate my arms like I did, and in her big squeeze she gave my arms more love then I had ever been able to muster.  If you are looking for a safe place for all kinds of bodies, and IF you are looking for self-confidence and support, then click it and put it on your Amazon wish list because this program is Christmas come early — and often.  That’s the catch.  You have to come downstairs on Christmas morning to get your present and you need to come here early…

AUDIENCE:  and often!

Anna was in our class, too.  At this school, the classrooms were connected side-to-side with doors, and teachers roamed freely from classroom to classroom.  Anna watched Mrs. Carrington coming in and out of the connecting door and one day (around the middle of the year) she yelled out, “Hey, I know you!  You’re the lady who lives in the closet!”  That was her story.  That was how she made sense of Mrs. Carrington.  Anna had fresh eyes…ain’t that a great thing to have?

People will say and maybe you have — that weight loss is hard, that consistency with exercise is hard — that eating less flour and sugar is hard — but that’ s an old story and you’re going to need FRESH eyes to see a new story, to make a different connection.  When I saw myself with new eyes, I got serious about exercise, I got serious about eating less, eating healthier and eating with dignity.  I’ve been keeping off 60 lbs. for over 5 years.  If you want a new story — a new beginning, middle and end, then Christmas has come early…

AUDIENCE:  and often.

Nick was smart and impulsive.  He kept getting out of his seat.  I asked him to do the right thing.  I said, “Nick, you need to do the right thing.”  He said, “How do I know what the right thing is?”  I said, “Listen to your heart.” (yes, because I said stupid stuff like that).  He stopped and squinted.  He was really trying.  He looked at me, “My heart is telling me one thing and my head is telling me something TOTALLY different.”  We are fickle like the weather.  Christmas sometimes marks the beginning of bad weather.  We watch the news and we want to know is it going to stick?  Is this going to change my day, my week, my life?  If you want THIS program to change your day, your week, your life…if you’re asking me, “Is is going to stick?” then I tell you that it’s a question of attitude.  Line up your head and your heart.  There’s the drama.  Have you ever been disappointed in a gift?  You know that was all about you and your old stories.

Drew was running all over the room during orientation and like a fool, I was chasing him.  I thought this one is going to be a handful.  I tried to distract him.  “Drew, do you know all the days of the week?”  He stopped cold, turned and said (with a little Tennessee growl) “I know about payday.”  Then I thought oh, I like this kidHe’s going to make me laugh.  This is going to be a good year.  You will have to make each other laugh.  You will have to be loyal to each other and yourself.  You will show up early…

AUDIENCE:  and often!

I love your arms whether they feel like Jello or a box of ammo.  I know you’re just like the teacher in the closet — you have a whole new story if you can see and be seen with fresh eyes, and I know you know what payday is.  I know you know how good it feels when you get what you want.

Yes, Central Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Thank you.

About the Race (registration opened this morning for the event…please click here to go to the race website)

Virginia’s largest all-women’s event is a Charlottesville tradition due to its hospitality to runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. The race is along a scenic stretch of Albemarle countryside and is considered by many women to be their favorite event of the year.

  • 3,500 Runners and Walkers
  • 4-Mile Course
  • Garth Road @ Foxfield
  • Labor Day Weekend -
    September 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

The Women’s 4-Miler Training Program

Denise Stewart entertains ladies in walking/running training, Summer 2008

The Women’s  4-Miler Training Program

A Woman and her race-training program go down memory lane:

Race day, 2003:  attending only as a spectator, I drove out to the Foxfield grounds and watched a good friend run the Women’s 4-miler.  Thought it was an incredible event.  My friend ran very quickly.  I was impressed and promised myself I would never stand on the sidelines again.  But, I was very out of shape.

Summer 2004:  had forgotten all about big promise when a friend invited me to do the Women’s 4-miler training program.  She told me just to show up at the UVA track with $15.  I showed up.  She patted the little seat on the bleachers.  She had actually recruited about 6 women to come.  I was impressed.  I wore two sports bras to contain “the girls”.  Good strategy except that I could barely breathe.  Bought a better bra and settled into running every Saturday, a longer distance every time.  I completed the weekly schedule for running and I did the reading.  I listened to the speakers there every Saturday, and I didn’t debate whether I would go every Saturday.  If I wasn’t out of town, I rolled my fine self out of bed and I went.

Race Day 2004:  Overdressed and got too hot, but I finished in 45 minutes or so.  I sprinted at the end.  Call me crazy.  The people waiting in the chutes asked, “Are you okay?”  We had to go to Lowe’s on the way home, and I was walking around that place with my red face thinking…I am the most athletic woman on the planet.

Summer 2005:  Signed up and did the training again.  I had lost 25 pounds over the past year.  Running was easier.  Loved the speakers, loved the music, the port-a-potties, the gifts, the energy, the reverence, the way I ran into people from all these different circles of my life.  Kept little gems of tips, like the one track coach who told us that she tells her runners to pretend like they are running with two small handfuls of potato chips, and that they can’t crush the chips.  It keeps you from clinching your fists while you run.  I still think of that.

Race Day 2005:  Had to go to a bachelorette party in Florida, so I did the early “race” that the training program holds for ladies who can’t be there for the real race.  I was so happy to get an official time, to have a payoff for all the training.

Summer 2006:  Got serious this summer about the running schedule, attending strength training classes and eating right.  Dropped 15 pounds over the course of the summer.  My third summer of participating in the training, and I still lived for the little things: the moment you know you’re in the home stretch, the prizes, when they call out and ask who is the youngest, who is the oldest, who just got married, who’s been married forever…

Race Day 2006:  My college roommate come down from Pennsylvania to run the race with me.  We rocked it although I wanted to die near the end.  We finished in under 37 minutes.  I felt bad to the bone.

Summer 2007:  Doing the training this summer I had revelation after revelation:   I do better with a cup of coffee before I run.  Breakfast has to be about an hour before or I get the acidy burps.  I do better with a schedule and regular running times.  I like sprinting at the end.  I like picking someone to pass and gradually overtaking them.  I don’t like almost throwing up.  I like running in the mornings with a group or by myself.  I don’t have any close friends that have suffered with breast cancer yet.  But, I am young.

Race Day 2007:  Running the last mile, the motivational mile, the mile that has been dedicated and decorated to honor survivors and victims of breast cancer is a powerful thing.  Seeing women of all ages and sizes and capability out there running is a good thing to witness.  There is nowhere else to be Labor Day weekend in Charlottesville.

Summer 2008:  Joan Esposito, head Pink and coordinator for the training program asked me to speak one Saturday at the training program.  I thought…she is crazy, but it turns out they enjoy my story and my sense of humor and my cartwheels.  I still did the training program and it kept me running all summer.

Race Day:  Put myself in a pace group that was too slow for me, and I spent a lot of time weaving and dodging and trying to pass people without tripping them or me.  Won’t do that again, but I had a wonderful time running the race.

Summer 2009:  Spoke again to the training group.  Party on.

Race Day:  Just went and watched this time.  It was my most meaningful athletic experience ever.  Ever.  Seeing so many women that I know running and walking and together was so cool.  Seeing so many fathers and children on the sidelines is powerful.  And I could drink as much coffee as I wanted and then wait for the port-a-potty after the race had started.

Summer 2010:  Volunteering for the first time to be a Pink Lady, which means I help train others for the summer.  Life is good.  Come join me.  All women look good in pink.

If you would like to participate in the Women’s 4-miler Training Program  as a participant or a volunteer, (starts on Saturday, June 19, 2010), please check out their website at  You can pre-register.

Denise Stewart is the owner of Wellness Charlottesville, LLC.  She is a wellness coach, a writer and an actress.