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!


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!

My heart belongs to Boston

This is my city.  My library at Copley Square with the beautiful courtyard.  My land of parks scattered with historical plaques and uneven bricks.  My running trails, my ancient subway.  My marathon.

This morning, my mom and I went running for our half marathon training.  We had 10 miles to do – my longest run yet.  When I mapped it out last night, my route had us going along the Charles, through the city – and either starting or finishing at the marathon so we could cheer on the friends and strangers who were taking on those daring 26.2 miles this year.  When she got here today, we decided to scrap that plan – we would instead head downtown and run along the river and then home.  We would cheer on the runners in our hearts and with our steps.  And when we got home, we would head over to see how our friends were doing.  But at the end, we were so exhausted that we stayed in my neighborhood for a celebratory late lunch, and we had just returned to my apartment when we heard the terrible news from Copley Square.

The people who were crossing the finish line at that hour – 4 hours+ into the race – were not elites. They weren’t in it for the glory.  They were in it for charities, to prove something to themselves and to the world.  And the people who were there cheering them on were heroes – the people who don’t just clap for the professional runners who make the sport exciting, but who instead opt to be there for the people who need them most, who need that cheer to propel them across that finish line.

The idea that someone would take this day, this remarkable moment of people coming together and surrounding each other with friendly competition, tributes to athleticism and endurance, testaments to challenges and triumphs – and turn it into a tragedy baffles me.  We are better than this, humanity is better and we can do better.  The pictures of people running toward the blast, helping runners, picking each other up off the ground, prove this.  I am grateful that my loved ones are safe following this terrible violence, but I know there are people still waiting for news or dealing with this tragedy personally.

What we lost today at that finish line was a sense of security, balance, and peace that should come from a unifying event like this.  But what we gained was resolution – we will look after each other, we will carry on, and together, we will take on the evil in the world and drive it out with good because really, there’s no other choice.


If you’re in Boston for the marathon and need help, please leave a comment below and I’ll do what I can!


Join me: Quiz for a Cure!

What’s better than helping cure blood cancers?

Curing blood cancers WHILE drinking beer WHILE playing pub trivia right in your own city!

Join me for a night of Geeks Who Drink Trivia to benefit my race for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Trivia is free, and for $5 a person you can win cash prizes and support my race for LLS.  It’s the perfect win-win-win-win all night long!

What: Trivia to benefit cancer research
Where: Hong Kong, Harvard Square
When: March 26 – trivia starts at 8:00, I recommend getting there by 7:45.  I’ll be there before then!
Questions? Leave me a comment here!

Hope to see you there!

PS: Want to know more about why I’m running in the first place?  Read more here!

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 >>

Lollipop moments

I am on my way back from a week at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, one of my favorite places on earth.  Highlights of the week include being made fun of by 14 year old girls for having rabbit eyes (what would that even mean??) – I didn’t care as long as they laughed together! – seeing some of my ladies zip down from the top of the tower, and ruling over some pretty controversial games of mafia (alien abduction style) and silentball.  It was a fabulous week as usual, and the tone was set perfectly when we watched this video before the session.

Check it out and let me know if it moves you as well.  Have you been the creator of a lollipop moment?  Do you owe it to someone to tell them that they’ve been responsible for a lollipop moment for you?

This video may be only 6 minutes long, but it made me want to be a better leader, a better person – it was a bite-sized reminder that small acts DO make a difference, and that we have the power inside ourselves to create them.  So I’m heading home with a lollipop in my bag (literally), and hoping my campers feel the same way.

Say something nice

Happy 2012!  I am living the good life in DC this week, so I haven’t been around to blog about my holidays or my hopes and dreams for this brand new year, but I promise I’ll get to that soon.

Here’s some goodwill to end your first week of 2012 on a high note.  A friend from camp included this in an email because it ties back to camp’s positive spirit and ability to make every situation one for positive change.  May it inspire you to say (or do) something nice to someone else today!


Camp is where the heart is

Imagine a place where the unthinkable becomes reality. Where anything, absolutely anything, is possible. Where the fish are always biting, the spotlights are always shining on you, and everyone is singing the same song (ignore the fact that it’s in wildly different keys).

That place exists in Ashford, Connecticut, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to go there. And recently, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp got some national coverage in a way in whole-heartedly deserves.  [Click here for the video.]

At twenty-five, I still dream of returning to camp. Helping kids who are having a hard time make their dreams come true, giving them the power they lose when they’re sick, being part of a group hug when someone takes a risk and finds out that they are capable of even more than they ever imagined: if there is a better feeling in this world, I haven’t found it yet.