Marathon Monday – still running, still strong

Right now, runners are lining up on the Boston Common, waiting to get onto buses that will take them to the start line in Hopkinton, MA.  They’re filling the local Dunkin Donuts, snarling morning traffic, and stretching in the sunlight that promises that today will be a great day for running.

It’s hard to imagine that a year ago today, we had just survived one of the weirdest, probably worst weeks in Boston history.  First the bombing at the finish line, then the manhunt that kept us huddled in our houses, trying to leave the streets free for police officers.  And yet, we stayed strong.  We left shoes and roses at the crime scenes.  We paid tribute to the fallen.  And we kept running.

On Saturday, my mom and I ran the first Boston Athletic Association (BAA) event of the year, the BAA 5k.  The race usually has 5,000 people in it – this year it had closer to 10k.  We were still at the start line when they started frantically clearing people out of the way because the winner was about to come in (we left the start 11 minutes after the initial start – he came in at 13:26).  It was a powerful show of the depth and heart of the running community, to have so many people out so early in the morning to jog together.

As we ran down Boylston, I had flashbacks to a place I’d never even been – to what it must have been like for the thousands of people who were on this street last year, leaving their hearts on the pavement and seeing the finish line at the end of the road, only to have their moment of victory shattered.  It was scary to go across the finish line, even on a sunny Saturday.  I can only imagine what it will feel like today.

I am so proud of our city for how we’ve come together in this last year.  So excited for my friends who are finally going to get to finish that final mile.  And so grateful to be a part of a community that isn’t afraid to keep running with our heads held high, no matter what obstacles enter our path.  I’ll be there at Kenmore, cheering you on!

Read my blog post on last year’s Marathon Monday.

Top 13

I know it makes me sound like an old fart, but I don’t care: I don’t know where this year went.

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing the wrong year on letters (yes, I still write letters) and scheming for summer adventures, and now we’re back at the top of the year again, ready to dive into a new 12 months.  Here are some of the moments I’ll remember as we close the book on this journey we called 2013:

  1. Getting to see 4 great friends marry the loves of their lives and start their happily ever afters, and seeing others get engaged and plan their own bashes!
  2. Adventures with Grandma Boo Boo, including sharing our love of crafts with other people in her community and endless shopping trips to Target
  3. Two great visits to California, including an epic road trip down the coast with my sister
  4. Running my first – but certainly not last – half marathon
  5. Sitting on the couch, watching TV for 10+ hours with Katie during the Boston lockdown following the marathon bombing, and running back inside with our froyo when we heard that the suspect had been caught
  6. Finally getting to work with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to do online advocacy for a cure
  7. Winning the World Series and feeling like a united city and a family, instead of a bunch of people who just happen to live near each other
  8. Awesome family vacations from Maine to NH to a cozy Christmas week in our hometown
  9. Saying goodbye to my Grandma Sugarplum, who taught me so much and loved us all endlessly
  10. Going to my 5-year college reunion and realizing, more than ever before, how much my beloved alma mater and the friends I made there mean to me.  Mount Holyoke forever shall be!
  11. Making all sorts of delicious food for my friends, officemates, and family
  12. Seeing the fight for women’s rights unfold across the country, and getting to stand with Wendy and other politicians who were standing up for women – this fight is far from over, and I’m planning to be on the front lines in 2014
  13. Having extraordinary fun with ordinary life – from our annual Oscar party to weekly breakfast with Sara to trivia nights with Katie and the gang to joining TWO social sports teams (volleyball! softball! what will I do in between??) to dinners out with friends, this year has been full of reminders of the joy that can be found in the everyday moments.

All the colors of the wind

Second annual Color Me Rad – check!  Compared to last year, this year’s run at the Brockton Fair Grounds was:

  • More crowded, with waves starting from 8 AM through the afternoon
  • Better organized, with good parking options and clearly marked areas
  • More flexible – they actually invited you to start whenever you were ready instead of making you stick to a certain wave
  • More colorful – the color felt a little bit more spread out than last year, but we got more of it early on and felt like we were really getting the point without trying too hard (no rolling around on the ground this year thank goodness – that stuff took forever to get off of my stomach!)
  • Less crowd-focused at the end – last time, we all finished together and then had a giant party.  Here, there was a host and people dancing constantly, but there wasn’t an all-out bash with group color throwing like there was last time.  Hence, it would have been nice to have a slightly larger team together.
  • Slightly more athletic – this was less winding through a parking lot and more of an actual course.  It felt really easy though (other than mom’s blisters), probably because we were still in good share from our half marathon training.
  • 50% more rad – the mirrored sunglasses, the knee socks, the music – it was all quite fabulous.   Also hoping that their new instructions for keeping the color in actually work (last year they said soak in vinegar and it failed – this year they recommended spray adhesive.  Fingers crossed!).

Onward to next year, and to seeing if I can get this dye off of my shorts!

Color Run 2013

Starting summer strong

Summer opens up a million new ways to soak up the sunshine – even as work stays intense, weekends are filled with weddings and traveling, and patios serve up delicious food and drinks.

So I’m keeping moving this summer with some new, some old, and some totally free practices.  Here’s where you can find me this summer:

  • Playing softball with Social Boston Sports – we started the season as a group of free agents, but now we’re “Loose Change,” the friendly, talented, and generally awesome softball players who hit the fields by the Charles every Sunday evening.  After the season ends in two weeks, we’re moving to another field to keep the fun going as a real team!
  • Biking for the first time in years.  just got my biked tuned up and practiced riding it up and down the street today, without worrying about what my neighbors might think about a 27-year-old going in loops like a kid.  Next up, taking it on the bike path (once my lights come in!).
  • Free boot camp and outdoor exercise at Post Office Square – this is the awesome free one that I want to see YOU at!  Sara and I went today and it was awesome – basically group training, if not personal training.  The downtown location is perfect for me, the 7:15 start time gives me time for breakfast and a shower before work, and the trainers are really nice.  Not near you?  How about one of these other awesome outdoor exercise classes throughout the city?  
  • Running!  Just because our half marathon is over is no excuse to stop running.  I have two 5ks coming up, including Color Me Rad in July.  I also got in a good sunset mile run around my neighborhood last week – when the sun stays out so long, I might as well join it!
  • Dancing the night away.  I think I got about a year’s worth of exercise at Katey and Sal’s wedding, between all the shimmying and shaking and grooving.  So much fun, and dancing just makes me want to dance more… more… more!  Let’s dance!

What are you doing to keep moving this summer?

Baby, we were born to run

This spring has been anchored in running.  Run because you’re strong.  Run because you want to feel better.  Run long because you’re sure as heck not running the Boston marathon.  Run in honor of those who were there that day.  Run in the cold.  Run on the bike path.  Run on the rail trail with mom on the weekend.  Run run run run run.

On Sunday, we finally had the run we were waiting for: my very first half marathon.

The start line at the Cox Providence Half Marathon was gray and overcast – we had lots of company at the 14:00 mile marker, including lots of cops in riot gear.  When the race finally started (late), we started out under cloudy skies.

Cox Start Line

But the next three hours got brighter and brighter, metaphorically speaking, as mom and I ran.  Even though the first half was entirely uphill, it was spotted with awesome sights (thanks, dude playing a banjo on the porch!), beautiful houses, our awesome family and fan club who we got to see SIX times between the start and the finish, some friendly competition with some other gals who were running at the same pace as us, and more.

It wasn’t always easy – the hills were killer, and the downhills made my knees ache even as I was grateful for a change.  We got super hungry halfway through (working out for hours can do that to you!) and it rained for a bit.

And yet.

Through the race, I felt stronger with every footfall that reverberated off the pavement.  With every inch behind us, we got closer to this amazing accomplishment.  The area by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s water stop was paved with inspirational posters that literally brought tears to my eyes – notes about how we run because they can’t, how we run because they can, how we run because they – survivors, patients, loved ones – once did.   Because of the 20+ names on my back that spoke to just how much blood cancer can touch a life.  And because 15 years ago this spring, I was a sick, bald kid in a hospital bed who wasn’t sure I would live to have my first kiss, and today I was a successful woman, running a stellar, challenging race.

When we passed mile 10, I took one step further than I’ve ever gone in my life.  And it got better – the final leg of the race course merged with the full marathon course, and we go an extra boost from finishing alongside some quite fast marathoners.

As we got near the finish, we could see the crowd ahead.  All up and down the sidewalk were fellow runners, family members, neighbors, friends, and students, all out to cheer us on.  Their cheers built into a roar of bells and applause and screeches to push us across the finish line.  You might have thought that the area around that yellow line would be a little less populated this time around, but you would be absolutely, delightfully, overwhelmingly wrong.  Instead, people showed the best of themselves, and passed it on to everyone else around them.

Mom and I crossed the finish line at 3:05:50 – much faster than we expected, with an average pace of 14:11 (including a bathroom break!).  We ran into the arms of our loving family – Kat, Dad, and Wes – and smiled through our sweat.  “We actually did it,” we said to each other, holding our weird anchor medals in our hands.  “We finished!”

Half marathon May 2013

This was my first half marathon, but it’s certainly not my last.  This confirmed the one thing that I was actually afraid of in this whole process – the concept that I can truly do anything.  And now, I have no excuse not to try.

Thank you for all your support this year – I can’t wait to tell you about the next adventure… just as soon as I decide what it is!

IMG_4321

The big finale – half marathon tomorrow!

After five months of training, our half marathon is tomorrow. As we near the finish line (literally), I wanted to share some amazing numbers with you:

259+ miles – that’s how far my mom and I have run since we started our training. We ran on ice, on treadmills while watching “Survivor” (me), on the beach, on the rail trail between meetings (mom), and together along the Charles River on Marathon Monday.
13:04 - that’s my fastest mile to date – I expect to finish the half at about a 14:30 pace, but it’s clear that we’ve gotten tons stronger since we started in January.
13.1 - that’s how many miles we have ahead of us in Providence.
10% - that’s the likelihood of rain during those miles, down from 50% earlier this week.
$7,000 - that’s the amount that YOU have helped us raise to help find a cure for blood cancers. It’s been incredible to have your support for this cause, and we’ll be thinking of all of you as we race on Sunday.
15 years – that’s how long it’s been since I was diagnosed with Leukemia. At this time 15 years ago, I was entering my third month of treatment. My hair was starting to fall out, and our family had lost all sense of normalcy.

But TOMORROW, just 15 years later, we’re going to write a new chapter by finishing the Cox Providence Half Marathon together – with our team, our support crew, and YOU.

Thanks again for all your support – it’s not too late to donate if you’ve been waiting for the right time! Every dollar gets us closer to a cure.

We’ll “see” you at the finish line!

Why I run

A phone call at 2:00 AM is never good news.  An ambulance ride in a snowstorm rarely leads to a good vacation.  And being delivered to the hematology-oncology department usually means you’re in for a long haul.

Fifteen years ago this week, I embarked on the adventure known as cancer when I was diagnosed with ALL – acute lymphocytic leukemia. It turned out that my limp wasn’t just from a ski injury, those dots on my arms weren’t just a reaction to the winter cold, and my lip didn’t start bleeding just because I smacked it with a sled (though it certainly didn’t help…) – they were all the signs of something much more dangerous.

My diagnosis at CHaD (the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth) kicked off a new normal for me and my family.  We spent weekends – and holidays – in the hospital.  I missed a full quarter of sixth grade.  All my hair fell out, and I spent my week at Girl Scout camp coating my head in sunscreen.  I moved two steps forward – returning to the softball sidelines and helping with costumes in the school play – and two steps back, missing classes for weekly shots and monthly spinal taps.  I made new friends along the way, and had to say goodbye to far too many.

When I got diagnosed, all I could dream of was a day when I would have hair again (and no bangs, thank god).  When it wouldn’t be a challenge to walk across the room or eat the same meal as the rest of my family.  When my skin, and my mouth, and my poor stomach would all belong to me again.  I could barely imagine that some day I would leave home for college, where I would row on the crew team – that I would get to travel to far off lands on my own – that I would move to Boston to have new adventures every day - that I would be able to put this cancer crap behind me.

And the truth is, you can’t.  I’ve been cancer free for more than a decade.  My doctor doesn’t even care that I had it once because it’s medically irrelevant (she literally made me carry my chemo records back home because they just don’t matter anymore!)  But it’s a solid part of who I am, why I strive to appreciate every day in this amazing world, and why I’m training to run my very first half marathon this spring.  Donate now >>

My mom and I are joining the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and training for the Cox Providence half marathon on May 12, 2013.  It’s a challenge unlike anything I’ve ever undertaken, and we’re going to be racing the clock to finish before the course closes.  We’ll be running in honor of that day 15 years ago – and for Brian, for Granddaddy, for Mike and Danae and everyone else along the way.  Running for a better future – and present – for people dealing with blood cancer.

Please – whether you were there or were hearing this story for the first time – make a gift to support a better life for people with blood cancer.

I’m here today and able to run because of the love that surrounded me in my darkest hour, because I had the good fortune to get cancer in 1998 and not 1968, and because of the kind of research that LLS makes possible.  Every dollar will go to support this cause – whatever you can give will make a difference.

Mom and Sal text

 15 years down, 13.1 miles to go!  Add your support now >>